Sunday, January 30, 2022

Killraven by P. Craig Russell

 Okay, I missed this one entirely, and just a coupla years after Craig's amazeballs TBG cover.  In my defense, though, in 1974 I was liv'n out Curt's role in American Graffiti, say'n goodbye to the high school gang, and heading off to college


  1. This is one of my absolute favorite comics series (AMAZING ADVENTURES 18-39, 1973-1976, and then KILLRAVEN Marvel Graphic novel 7, August 1983).

    Issue 18 is by Gerry Conway, Neal Adams and Frank Chiaramonte, that apparently Neal Adams dithered on for 2 years doing the first 11 pages, so Roy Thomas took it away from him, and had Howard Chaykin do pencils on the remaining 9 pages, all inked by Frank Chiaramonte. A nice beginning.

    Then the series flailed around a few issues without direction.
    19 is Conway, with Chaykin/McLaughlin art.
    20 is Wolfman, with Trimpe/Giacoia art.

    McGregor begins scripting with issue 21.
    21-24 are McGregor, with Trimpe art.


  2. 25 is where it really starts to get interesting, McGregor, with Buckler/Janson art (an interesting contrast, to see one issue by the artist who did most of McGregor's JUNGLE ACTION Black Panther series that ran concurrently from 1973-1976. Craig Russell also crossed over and inked JUNGLE ACTION 13, so you got to see the reverse, how the Killraven artist handled McGregor's Black Panther for an issue)

    26 is McGregor, with Colan/Adkins art.
    It's interesting that with issues 25 and 26, both Buckler and Colan were going to be the regular series artist, but then for some reason moved on to other books. But still two good issues, as both McGregor's lyrical writing and the art on the series continued to evolve into something great.
    But neither Buckler or Colan worked out for the long run, maybe just because McGregor and Russell were meant to do the series together.

    Issue 27 is McGregor, with Craig Russell/Jack Abel art.
    Issue 28 is the first that blew me away, McGregor, with Russell's first issue doing both pencils and inks. Breathtaking. Among the best issues for me were 27-32.

    Issue 30, amid a multi-part continuing story, was a fill-in issue, because McGregor and Russell were both notoriously late on deadlines, so much of the issue is Trimpe art reprinted from issues 23-24, but with 6 gorgeous and beautifully written new McGregor/Russell pages.

    Issue 33 was another fill-in, this time by writer Bill Mantlo, and art by Herb Trimpe / D. Bruce Berry, a less impressive offering.

    34 was by McGregor/Russell in top form again, a climactic issue, built up to since issue 25.

    35 is McGregor, with Russell layouts, and Giffen/Abel finished art. Despite a change in the art, another consistently good story.

    36 is McGregor, with Russsel pencils, decoratively finished by Sonny Trinidad, in another milestone story, very well written, further developing the series, as Killraven grows in his telepathic ability to see through the Martians' eyes, and one Martian sees through his.

    37 is McGregor, with Russell/Abel art, in a storry that is both funny and intelligent, is a partial flashback to the very beginning years earlier, of how Killraven and Old Skull first met. With each issue, the writing and art continue to evolve, and 36 and 37 are two of my favorite issues.

    38 (another missed deadline and fill-in issue !) is by Mantlo, with Giffen/Milgrom art. A story that is a half-dream visit by Killraven to an alternate Earth future, that introduced the Arno Stark future Iron Man and surreal half-dream versions of a dozen other Marvel characters. A surprise issue by Giffen is not a disappointment. It wasn't McGregor/Russell, but it was a good and interesting fill-in issue.

    Issue 39 is the last McGregor/Russell issue, and you can see Russell's art style start to pull in a new direction. While clearly McGregor was caught off guard with the cancellation this issue, it still comes to a satisfying conclusion, while leaving the main plot threads unresolved. That was where it left off in 1976.

  3. McGregor went on to do work for Warren, in stories given color when reprinted by Eclipse in NIGHTMARES 1 and 2 (1985). With gorgeous Paul Gulacy art.
    And with Paul Gulacy in that interim period, McGregor also did another of my favorites, the SABRE graphic novel for Eclipse (1978).

    McGregor also did what I think is Michael Golden's first published work in MARVEL CLASSICS COMICS 28, Dec 1977, a backup story, "The Cask of Amontillado". All three Poe adaptations that issue are by McGregor, but this one stood out.

    Also for Eclipse, Russell did his beautiful NIGHT MUSIC graphic novel, where you saw his work fully evolve.

    And most beautiful for me, Roy Thomas and Craig Russell's adaptation of Moorcock's ELRIC in 1982 (Marvel Graphic Novel 2).
    It was also partially serialized before that in EPIC ILLUSTRATED 3 and 4, but only half the story appeared there, before finished in the graphic novel.

  4. But McGregor and Russell for years wanted to finish the Killraven story, which finally was concluded in the Killraven graphic novel in 1983, 7 years after the original series.

    You can see by the way it was broken into chapters, it was originally intended to be serialized in EPIC ILLUSTRATED. But then it was decided, I think wisely, to run the entire story as a graphic novel. Which concluded the plot threads of the original series, of Killraven's lost brother. It's a good story and satisfying in most ways, but without spoiling it, some elements are changed, particularly the visual appearance of Killraven.

    And just a few years ago, as soon as the Marvel Masterworks hardcover of the series was offered, I advance ordered it immediately.
    When this series first ran in AMAZING ADVENTURES from 1973-1976, it was set in the far-flung future of 2018.
    And I thought it was really cool that the hardcover was released in Oct 2018, the exact time the future epic was set in !
    I went through the hardcover page by page with the original, and the colors and art are very faithful to the original. But with the offset printing, looking at it side by side and panel by panel with the original issues, you can see details not as visible in the comics version. So I'm really glad I picked up the hardcover.

    It also for the first time includes in one volume the series and the later 1983 graphic novel.
    To nitpick, I was disappointed that the 8-page introduction had a number of typos.
    A minor complaint.
    But it still has photos of McGregor and Russell, and McGregor's 50-year-old handwritten outline of the plot threads he planned for future issues, and part of his typed script of issue 31.
    So overall, I'm very pleased with it.

    My biggest complaint with DC collected editions is they change everything, and overpower the original work with all kinds of annoying design elements that intrude on the work being reprinted. Despite being much more of a DC man, I've always been much more pleased with Marvel's reprint editions.

    One other item I forgot to mention: just before Russell started on the series with issue 27, he did two issues of Morbius vampire stories in FEAR 23 and 24 (August and October 1974), right before AMAZING ADVENTURES 27 (November 1974). A sample of Russell on a different fantasy series, and showing him evolving to peak form, right before he started on Killraven.

    Some might say that the series is uneven, because it was handled by so many artists and writers, but I enjoy seeing how it evolved, and how it for an issue or two might have been handled by others, before finding its way to McGregor/ Russell greatness.

    AMAZING ADVENTURES 18-39 issues (1973-1976) :

    I included tons of links, so anyone who hasn't seen this stuff before can sample what they're missing.