cover image Messages in a Bottle: Comic Book Stories by B. Krigstein

Messages in a Bottle: Comic Book Stories by B. Krigstein

Bernard Krigstein, ed. Greg Sadowski. . Fantagraphics, $35 (272p) ISBN 978-1-60699-580-8

Best known for his work with EC, Krigstein’s stories are sometimes epic and sprawling, sometimes compressed and confined. The consistent intensity and thrill of his work comes from his many innovations in composition and panel arrangement, as well as the varied, occasionally ghoulish, line work with which he crafted some of the finest minimelodramas ever committed to newsprint. This volume, compiled by Sadowski (Four Color Fear: Forgotten Horror Comics of the 1950s, Setting the Standard: Comics by Alex Toth 1952–1954), provides a judicious overview of Krigstein’s output. Although it includes many of the EC stories for which he is best known (including the legendary Holocaust-themed “Master Race”), Sadowski also culls material from Atlas Comics and other freelance work from Krigstein’s heyday in the 1950s. Twenty of the 41 stories included in the collection have been recolored by their original colorist, EC’s Marie Severin. Her crisp new watercolors are a minor revelation, not only as an attraction in themselves, but because they allow for clearer reading of Krigstein’s lines. His mastery of chiaroscuro, and his dramatic composition and layout, applied across a very wide range of subject matter, are what make this gorgeous collection so essential. (Feb.)