Detective Comics #442 (1974)

The DC 100-page super spectacular has to be one of the nicest packages ever for comic books. 100 pages of comics for 60 1974 cents (or $2.29 in 2004 dollars) is an awfully damn good deal for any reader. And behind a wonderful Jim Aparo cover is one of the best-edited comics ever.
Archie Goodwin was one of the great comics editors, and he shows his brilliance here. In his short run on Detective, he presented work by some great artists, but none were better than the legendary Alex Toth. "Death Flies the Haunted Skies" has some absoluetly breathtaking artwork. Okay, I stand corrected for my post this weekend. Pat Boyette may be the poor man’s Alex Toth, but there’s a reason Toth is the master. His ability to do a lot with job a little is just astounding. There’s a scene set in a burning building. Toth just uses some thick squiggly lines to show the fire, but somehow, amazingly, they are resonant and interesting and still convey exactly what they’re supposed to be. Amazing. (This one is reprinted in the Batman in the ’70s paperback)
Next up in this seven-story anthology is a Newsboy Legion story by the legendary team of Joe Simon and jack Kirby. Yeah, that Jack Kirby. This is primo action stuff, with every scene practically bursting with energy. Golden Age Kirby is even more primal and intense than Silver Age Kirby. Maybe it’s Simon’s influence, or maybe it’s Kirby’s comparative youth, or maybe it’s just the times, but this stuff is pure intensity.
If Kirby and Toth aren’t enough for you, how about something quieter, a solid Silver Age Hawkman yarn? Too quiet? How about primal early Carmine Infantino on Black Canary. What he lacks in grace at this point in his career, Infantino makes up for in chiarusco intensity. Or you want later Infantino, try the Elongated Man tale that comes next. Of course, this being Batman comics, we get a cool ’40s Batman and Robin yarn. It’s wacky and fun in that Golden Age way.
Speaking of ’40s stuff, next is a Doctor Fate piece by Howard Sherman. Fate was a character who was seldom reprinted in the ’70s, and he really comes across as a mystical avenger in this tale. The story’s innocence and wackiness really work in it favor.
But if you want something more modern (well, modern for thirty years ago, but you know what I mean), try the backup Manhunter piece "To Duel the Master" by Goodwin and the amazing Archie Goodwin. At that time, Goodwin was a rising young turk in comics due to his wonderful page layouts, unique style and terrific intensity. This secret agent series was a real tour de force for him; the series positively pulses with energy and thrills. Simonson is experimenting in nearly every panel, and, amazingly, everything works beautifully. It’s breathtaking in every way.
They just don’t make comics like this any more. But then again people like Archie Goodwin are awfully hard to find.

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