I received this book as a Christmas gift (2016). Actually, I picked it out myself and handed it over to my generous wife for wrapping. I had mulled a long time in Sheffield Space Centre before eventually settling on this item. I am gradually training myself to enjoy old comics reprinted in these bulky volume forms, but I find I read more avidly if the volume in question is a medley of issues from various series. (How else explain my embarrassing penchant for the Women of Marvel trade paperbacks?) What also attracts me to this new wave of collections is the fact that DC uses medium grade, ‘comicky’ paper in them, i.e. not the shiny white stock they used in their hardback ‘Archives’ reprints.
Volume 2 opens with a selection of Simon/Kirby stories reprinted from the Prize Comics’ Black Magic series, which ran from 1950 to 1961. Joe Simon revived Black Magic for a nine-issue run (1973 – 1975) during a short-lived editorial return to DC Comics. According to Paul Levitz’s The Bronze Age of DC Comics, some hair-styles and clothes were modernized in the reprints. Since I only have one issue (# 5) of the 1970s series, most of these stories were new to me and I devoured them like a hungry Simon/Kirby-fed wildcat.
In one of the Black Magic stories reprinted here, ‘The Angel of Death’, a lethal malady is plaguing a small French town. Each of the victims claim that before succumbing to the illness they saw ‘the angel of death’. Local doctor, Jean Lescoux, tries to get to the bottom of the matter. One evening, the doctor and some other residents spy a large flying figure silhouetted against the full moon. Lescoux consults with Professor John Langford, who is in charge of excavations being carried out in the ancient hills just outside the town. Lescoux has read in the newspaper about ‘interesting findings’ made by the Professor’s team. Living fossils have been unearthed – creatures embedded in amber for millions of years. One of these creatures resembled a gigantic mosquito. The block of amber in which it had been encased was accidentally shattered by the electrical charge of a live-wire dropped by one of the workmen.
The townspeople hunt the surrounding countryside for the escaped creature. After 3 days, a man known locally as ‘Loud Marius’ (on account of his propensity for telling tall stories) delivers a sack to the mayor’s house. The sack contains the dead body of the monstrous creature. Marius had shot the thing upon discovering it in his wood-shed. Sadly, this event ruins Marius’ career as town liar, ‘for no lie he could devise would ever match the astounding truth which sprawled at his feet’.