‘Adventures into the Unknown! Archives Volume 3:’ Advance Hardcover Review

Dark Horse Archives does such a spookily fantastic job of recapturing the past with their third volume of American Comics Groups’ Adventures into the Unknown! that the more you read of the horror anthology, the more you feel as if you are being transported back to the 1950s, and for many of us, that is an adventure into the unknown!  In his excellent forward, comics historian Michael T. Gilbert paints a picture of the difference between pre- and post-Comics Code stories, and how delectable and exciting it was for a kid to get his hands on any of these early horror comics, before the most terrifying thing became the industry’s zealous censorship.

If all of this sounds a bit sensational, that’s because it is, and it fits right in with the stories in this deluxe hardcover collection.  The stories that American Comics Group was telling in Adventures into the Unknown! were meant to SHOCK! and AWE! you, to make you GASP! and, at times, even make you LAUGH!  These were tales told in broad, colorful strokes, and the narration, inner monologues, and dialogue are verbose, as was the style of the era.  This particular volume is from the year 1950, and that year is visible in many of the then-contemporary tales, both through the art and the writing. 

While these fantasy and horror stories may seem tame by today’s standards, back in the 1950s they were daring and thought (by at least a few) to be scandalous enough to be brought to court, and to dictate government sanctions over an entire industry.  But, that is me talking too much about the horse, and not enough about the rider.  Is that a strange, possibly fabricated idiom?  You betcha, it is!  And, it’s right at home among these clever, imaginative, and sometimes downright salacious stories – the first story in this collection involves a man falling in a love with a panther he’s turned into a beautiful woman, and Cat People it is not!  These stories run the gamut from bizarre, frightening, and melodramatic to tongue-in-cheek and hilarious, and they often even teach a lesson (in one way or another) – which isn’t too much of a stretch when a fair amount of the main characters are ne’er do-wells or selfish, greedy, and crazed bad eggs you don’t really care much for from the start, and so comeuppance is an oft-used, but always as an intriguing, plot device.

Adventures into the Unknown! Volume Three collects issues 9-12 and gives you a real BANG! for your buck, as each issue of the anthology is a whopping 52 pages long!  Adding variety to the anthology are one-page short prose stories and quick “true” ghost tales, which perfectly break up the longer stories.  Dark Horse Archives reprints the comics in their entirety, including all of the '50s-centric ads, which gives the book a wonderful authenticity.  To remind you that you’re reading from a veritable piece of history, unchanged since it was created, there is even a disclaimer at the beginning stating that these stories were a product of their time and may not meet current standards for political correctness.  But, the times are what they were, and nostalgia is 20/20, and unearthing this time capsule is still an absolute treat! 

If you were a kid growing up in the '50s, then Adventures into the Unknown! Volume Three may be an enjoyable and entertaining trip down memory lane, or a chance to read the comics you weren’t allowed to all those years ago!  If you weren’t around yet in the '50s, then this book shines a light into the fantastical storytelling from a bygone era and provides a taste of classic horror, fantasy, and science-fiction, SENSATIONAL all!  To turn the pages of this book is to go on adventures into memory, into nostalgia, into history, and even Adventures into the Unknown!

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