IDW's reprinting of the last great American newspaper adventure comic strip--Secret Agent Corrigan (aka X-9)--continues with the second volume in the ongoing series, which will reprint every strip by the team of writer Archie Goodwin and artist Al Williamson. This volume--which showcases more than 800 strips, from September 1, 1969 through April 8, 1972--features a number of my all-time favorite X-9 stories, which run almost back-to-back-to-back: "The Most Dangerous Game" story (in which Corrigan and a mob witness are stalked by a hunter on a private island), "The Lost World" sequence (in which Williamson unleashes his incredible dinosaur drawing prowess while he and Goodwin ape Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's timeless story; this story arc is Williamson's finest work on the strip, I think), and the movie studio story which features noted movie serial expert Alan Barbour as R. Barcroft Baxter, a producer with mob ties and designs on taking over a studio. In the late '60s and early '70s, Barbour was a well-known writer in fan circles for his excellent books on serials, including Days of Thrills and Adventures and Cliffhanger: A Pictorial History of the Motion Picture Serial. (Williamson would use that title--Cliff Hanger--in a back-up strip he did in the Pacific Comics series, Somerset Homes, in the 1980s.)
This group of stories also includes the introduction of Phil Corrigan's mortal enemy, the evil Dr. Seven, who appears in two continuities. Best of all, this is Goodwin and Williamson at their very best in their run on the strip. Williamson's art is crisp and dynamic, and Goodwin continues his amazingly succinct but perfect writing. The strip flows like no other (with the possible exception of Leonard Starr's incredible Mary Perkins On Stage) with almost none of the stop-start recap problems of other daily strips. Goodwin and Williamson didn't have to contend with a Sunday strip, which is often a major traffic stop in other story-strips. X-9 was a six-times-a-week daily, and as such a showcase for Williamson's black-and-white virtuoso style.
There are at least two weeks in this book which are drawn by someone else, however. The week of April 26-May 1, 1971 (pages 184-185) look like Williamson, but aren't signed by him. Maybe he just provided inks, or someone else inked over him. I would guess it's George Evans, who eventually took over Corrigan from Al, but I'm no expert. Later in the book (pages 234-235), the strips for October 18-23 are also unsigned and bear some resemblance to Williamson's work, but are also by someone else. Even cartoonists take vacations.
The book also contains a wonderful introduction by Anne T. Murphy, the widow of Archie Goodwin. It's a candid and honest look at the lives of two comics industry wives, herself and Cori Williamson, Al's widow. It puts to rest a number of misconceptions about Goodwin's early career before comics, a few of them unfortunately perpetuated in the first volume of X-9.
On a personal note, I was pleasantly surprised to see myself quoted on the back cover of the dustjacket of this volume, with something I wrote on the first volume of this series (click here to read that review). "Each strip is almost a comics haiku, perfect in every way...Goodwin and Williamson were never better together, even when they journeyed to a galaxy, far, far, away." I had to go back and check to see if I actually wrote that--I did--because that "comics haiku" sure doesn't sound like me. To be quoted is an honor, but especially on this strip. I remember reading it on a daily basis in my hometown newspaper--the Tamaqua Evening Courier--before its sad demise. The paper's presses were dying--as was the paper itself--and the reproduction sometimes looked like a stick was drawn through tar, but I could read it. Now when I read these strips--and realize I was a sophomore and junior in high school when they came out--I can finally appreciate both Goodwin and Williamson's work to its fullest intent. These strips look amazing in this book and reading them in this format makes it seem like an entirely new experience. I can't wait for the next volume, even though--sadly--I know it has to end sometime.