All Time Comics: Crime Destroyer #1
Written by Josh Bayer
Art by Herb Trimpe, Ben Marra and Matt Rota
Lettering by Rick Parker
Published by Fantagraphics
‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10
Depending on how old you are, All Time Comics: Crime Destroyer #1 may be kitschy and retro or, for a crowd more connected into comic books of old, it may be how comic bookss are supposed to be done. The team of Josh Bayer, Herb Trimpe, Ben Marra, Rick Parker, and Matt Rota create this comic as if almost nothing happened in the development of comic books after 1976. This issue, the first in a line of superhero titles from Fantagraphics (who ever thought we’d be writing or reading those words?) is a throwback to Bronze Age of comics as superheroes started to develop things like social consciences and PTSD-driven backstories. Crime Destroyer, a veteran who couldn’t escape the war even when he came home, is a ridiculous looking hero with giant fists where shoulder pads would have once been. But the creative team never treats him as a joke or as a ridiculous knock-off of any number of ridiculous knock-offs.
One of Marvel’s working-class artists of the 1970s who passed away in 2015, Herb Trimpe fell out of favor as the original wave of the Image aesthetic swept through comic books. Marvel and Trimpe misguidedly tried to change his style to make himself into a Rob Liefeld clone on a Fantastic Four comic in the mid-1990s. That was a sad end to the career of the first artist to draw Wolverine in a comic books or who launched Marvel’s G.I. Joe series. All Time Comics: Crime Destroyer #1 provides a much more fitting and better capstone to his career as Bayer’s script allows Herb Trimpe to be Herb Trimpe. Trimpe, inked here by Ben Marra and colored by Matt Rota, gets to produce one last time the type of comic book that he excelled at- a very straightforward superhero comic. With just the right amount of Jack Kirby-influence showing through, Trimpe, Marra, and Rota create a comic that looks the way that they did 30 years ago.
Trimpe's layouts and pencils play with the drama of superheroic action. He doesn’t shy away from any of the ridiculous melodrama of the capes and cowl scene. Instead, this is treated with all of the seriousness of an issue of The Incredible Hulk, meaning it is treated professionally and competently. No matter how Marvel tried to turn Trimpe into the next Image-like artist, Trimpe was never a showy artist. The Trimpe on display in All Time Comics: Crime Destroyer #1 is the same Trimpe that produced hundreds of issues of superhero fare during his career. Ben Marra’s sharp inks add a slick edge to Trimpe’s panels while Matt Rotta’s over-saturated and flat colors provides a pink and purple flair to nearly every page, unlike anything that’s been seen in comics for a long time.
The story of the Crime Destroyer feels as much of a bygone time as the art does. Josh Bayer channels his inner Steve Gerber and Gerry Conway to produce a story about a Batman-like crusader of the night, complete with its own analogs for Superman and Jimmy Olsen. Filled with thought balloons and captions, Bayer even follows through with the old patterns of giving you everything you need in this issue to know what’s going on.
All of this information is woven into the narrative of the story. You get the origin of Crime Destroyer. Through plenty of exposition and backstory, you get a good handle on his relationships and what they mean to him. This is scripting from back in the days when it was believed that every comic book could be someone’s first comic book. Bayer’s writing in this is stylistically antithetical to what we’ve grown accustomed to narratively from Marvel and DC over the past 20 years where all of those elements of the monthly comic book were jettisoned in the name of cinematic realism (there are no thought balloons or captions in the movies) and in writing that was clearly aimed at being collected in the trade paperback book.
By revisiting all of these old elements of comic books, Bayer, Trimpe, Marra, Rota, and Parker create a low-tech comic book that revels in its retro approach to superhero comics in 2017. It’s fascinating to watch today’s comic creators trying to recapture the feeling of old comic bookss as they’re adding to the traditions that they’re trying to faithfully recreate. All Time Comics: Crime Destroyer #1 is right there with Ed Piskor’s Hip Hop Family Tree or Tom Scioli and John Barber’s Transformers vs. G.I. Joe as a modern comic that lovingly and unironically recaptures the spark of older comics. All Time Comics: Crime Destroyer #1 is a comic book unlike most today and one that would have been perfectly at home on the newsstands when such things still existed.