I was surprised to learn that Fantagraphics Books announced through a press release sometime late last year that they were going to publish comic books set in a new shared superhero universe.. Entitled “All Time Comics,” this imprint/universe would see the release of six comic books, each a stand-alone story featuring featuring a particular superhero or set of superheroes.
The hook with All Time Comics is that each title is a mash-up of and throwback to classic 1970s comic books, especially those published by Marvel Comics. The first such title is All Time Comics: Crime Destroyer. It is written by Josh Bayer; drawn by Herb Trimpe (pencils) and Benjamin Marra (inks); colored by Alessandro Echevarria; and lettered by Rick Parker.
All Time Comics: Crime Destroyer #1 is set in Optic City, a sort of fictional recreation of the rundown, in-a-malaise New York City of the 1970s. Crime Destroyer, a superhero whose uniform shoulder pads have two large fists perched on them, is inside “The Penitentiary.” He is there to see an old friend and former military buddy, “Titan,” who wants Crime Destroyer to find a family member named “Anji.”
It seems that Anji has disappeared, which she often does, but this time, she is apparently under the sway of rising cult leader, “The White Warlock,” leader of the “Wotan Cult.” Crime Destroyer is ready to rescue Anji and deliver some serious beat-down to this cult and its leader. However, local superhero, “Atlas,” does not want Crime Destroyer (who is from “Swan City”) operating in his city, Optic City.
THE LOWDOWN: All Time Comics: Crime Destroyer #1 is a retro comic book. It reminds me of the kind of comic books the late, great Jack Kirby, who practically co-created the Marvel Universe in the 1960s, produced in the 1970s. An example would be Kirby's own mid-1970s run on Captain America for Marvel Comics. I think that All Time Comics: Crime Destroyer #1 is also quite similar to Marvel Comics titles produced in the 1970s and early 1980s that are either influenced by or are pastiches of Kirby's 1970s's comic book output. Marvel Two-in-One Starring The Thing comes to mind, especially those issues produced by writer David Michelinie and artist and Kirby-copycat, Ron Wilson.
The artist for All Time Comics: Crime Destroyer #1 is the late Herb Trimpe, who drew this comic book before he died last year. Trimpe, who drew the first comic book appearances of Wolverine of the X-Men, produced quite a bit of comic book art that was clearly influenced by Jack Kirby. The art here is a bit rough around the edges and is quite chunky, but it also reminds me of the art the late Spain Rodriguez drew for his Underground Comix comic book, Trashman.
Here, Trimpe's pencils are perfect for this gritty and grimy tale of Crime Destroyer, a superhero that blends elements of Marvel Comics' urban superheroes/anti-heroes Luke Cage and Blade. However, there is just a hint of cinematic hero, Mad Max, which gives this story a trashy, post-apocalyptic aura. I still have not made up my mind if Ben Marra's inks help create such an aesthetic or works against it.
I do like Josh Bayer's storytelling. Bayer does not take his story too seriously, but does take the comics to which he is honoring seriously. This comic book is funny and action-packed, and the villain is a metaphor for the kind of people who are real threats to our real world. By the end of this comic book, I really did want more of Crime Destroyer.
All Time Comics: Crime Destroyer #1 is not perfect, but I find myself still thinking about it. Part of me does want more, and it is up to the readers to decide if they want more comic books like All Time Comics: Crime Destroyer #1, even if only for a little while.
I READS YOU RECOMMENDS: Fans of funky 1970s comic books will want to All Time Comics: Crime Destroyer #1.