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June 2, 2011

Dark Horse Reviews: Mighty Samson Archives Vol. 3

Mighty Samson: Dark Horse Archives Volume 3
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Writers: Otto Binder and Jack Abel
Art By: Jack Sparling and Jose Delbo
Cover Paintings By: George Wilson
Introduction By: Dylan Williams

The third volume of Dark Horse’s Mighty Samson archive collection is out now and filled with page after page of awesome goodness. This latest volume collects the end of the amazing Otto Binder/Jack Sparling run on the series, issues #15-20, and starts the new run with Jose Delbo doing art and Jack Abel writing issues #23 and 24 (note issues 21 and 22 are not included due to them being just reprints, already collected in the previous two volumes of the archive collection).

Otto Binder ends his tenure on Samson writing some of the best tales since the first issue of his creation, delighting readers of all ages. Sparling’s art which we have come to love looks amazing, with the highlight being some really great giant monster designs. In issue #15, Queen Tera is back on the job and spreading her reign the smart way: by teaching this new world about gold and currency, enslaving the people through money; but aside from that, in this super-smart issue (that has more subtext than you’d expect from a Gold Key book at the time) we get plenty of action, bugs, and the giant monster fun we’ve come to expect in Mighty Samson.

Issue #16 brings us the story of a battle around Radio City and the people who live in its ruins, as well as a fire breathing dragon that lives beneath and an oddly huge alligator-like creature outside of it; basically there are fights afoot everywhere. Coolest part of this issue, though, isn’t the endless action, which was nicely done, but Binder finally gives us a peek at Mighty Samson’s home and its post-end of the world-meets-Tarzan vibe, which is fun and gives any reader of the series something they’ve been wanting to see. Issue #17 is pure adventure, in which we get problems with killer plants and the battle against the best giant monster of this collection: a living demon-like dinosaur skeleton creature. Issue #18 is impressive and has a smart story penned by Binder once again, as winged mutants begin to take over N’Yark as the obviously superior-evolved species when compared to humans. During the invasion, one of their finest warriors Hawkarr begins to fall for Sharmine, but their leader King Zorr won’t hear of it. Of course Samson can’t help but be jealous, as well. Love triangles, peril, doom, and high flying adventure all lay within the pages of one of the finest issues of this series. Issue #19 gives us a great flood consuming N’Yark, and Samson becoming separated from the Doctor and Sharmine, and his quest to reunite with them. Issue #20 gives us a bittersweet end to Binder’s run, as Samson and his friends battle against a race of undersea dwellers who attempt to invade and destroy the humans in N’Yark.

After this we get a break between issues. Binder ended his run in 1969, but it’s not clear if it was due to low sales or the death of his daughter in an accident, as he retired from writing after that sad incident. In 1974 they’d relaunch the series, at first with two issues of reprints (as mentioned their stories published in previous collections of this archive series), and then with a new team. In issue #23, Abel writes and Delbo does the art. Samson in the book gets a new costume to wear (Sharmine gets new clothes as well) as he battles a baddie tribe that turns out to be in trouble with a gigantic invisible ant ravaging their homes for an unknown reason. There is this fantastic sequence of him fighting this winged panther, between all the story packed in these pages, as well. The final issue of the collection, issue #21 is a “sign of the times” issue with the gang ending up in the ruins of China Town, and Samson having to fight a Kung-Fu master (and a giant flying shark). Certainly the popularity of karate movies and martial arts comic books are the driving force behind this issue, but it certainly works and gives us a new story to the mix of Mighty Samson tales instead of rehashing a previous idea. The writing is not as strong as Binder’s, and the art is a change from the 1960s issues, but certainly to get more Samson-action is a delight, and the stories are not bad at all, just kind of hard living in a legend like Binder’s shadow.

Dark Horse has given Mighty Samson another grade-A collection, complete with excellent colors and reproductions, including all the amazing covers and bonus pages with facts about lost civilizations and dinosaurs, that were originally in the issues. If you are a Gold Key or Mighty Samson fan, or just looking for some amazing unearthed material that deserves some justice finally, pick up this awesome hardcover collection, which is out now. Check below for a preview of some of the amazing reprint action going on:

Drew McCabe
drew@comicattack.net

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher for review.

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