Monthly Archives: July 2016

Today’s Super Comics — The Avengers #165-166 (1977)

Avengers_Vol_1_165The Avengers vs. Superman! Well, okay—the Avengers vs. Count Nefaria with Superman-like powers!

The Avengers #165-166 feature all-out action against an immensely powerful foe who craves even more power, and defeating such a menace will require nothing less than the teamwork of Earth’s mightiest heroes. The problem—or another problem, rather—is the internal tension that puts the Avengers off their A-game. It wouldn’t be a proper Marvel comic without feuding heroes, now would it?

It’s nothing deep, but it sure is fun. The cliffhanger at the end of #165 really lets you know that action is about to hit full-throttle. The classic art by John Byrne doesn’t hurt either, nor does the good old-fashioned script by Jim Shooter. And being a classic comic, it’s great for kids!

Writer: Jim Shooter

Penciler: John Byrne

Inker: Pablo Marcos

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Marvel Unlimited; Comixology; The Essential Avengers vol. 8 (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 8 and up

Today’s Super Comics — The Guild #1-3 (2010)

TheGuild1I’ve never been a gamer, unless you want to count late 1980s Nintendo. I’m certainly a total stranger to the modern world of online roleplaying games. Nevertheless, I enjoyed Felicia Day’s web series The Guild when I first came across it, so when Day wrote a Guild prequel miniseries with Dark Horse Comics, I had to check it out.

I’m glad I did. The Guild translates into the comics medium fantastically well, and it was a given that Day would have an excellent handle on the characters she created. The book shares the show’s sense of humor while fleshing out the main character in a way a series of online shorts lacks the time to. And we get to see more of the game’s world, free of budgetary restrictions!

The miniseries focuses on how the depressed, socially awkward Cyd Sherman discovers gaming as an escape from the disappointments of reality. She’s got a jerk boyfriend who takes her for granted, she’s stuck in a dead-end job, and her father is making her see a therapist. But an online fantasy world provides her with an outlet to have fun and connect with strangers she (in theory) will never have to meet.

The whole thing feels like a great indie comic, which is fitting for an adaptation of an independently produced web series.

Writer: Felicia Day

Artist: Jim Rugg

Publisher: Dark Horse Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology; The Guild vol. 1 (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 16 and up

Today’s Super Comic — Guardians of the Galaxy #12 (2014)

Guardians of the Galaxy 12The problem with crossovers if sometimes you’re not reading both or all series involved, which then requires a decision. Do you spring for the extra books and potentially feel coerced into buying them? Or do you just skip them and try to make sense of a partial storyline?

I’ve gotten pretty good at the second option over the years. It’s not ideal, but it works well enough. One recent time was when All-New X-Men and Guardians of the Galaxy, both written by Brian Michael Bendis, crossed over for “The Trial of Jean Grey.”

I read the X-Men parts as they came out and enjoyed those issues, even with the other half of the story missing. But thanks to Marvel Unlimited, I’ve finally caught up on the other half, and it’s also full of good stuff.

A particularly strong part was Guardians of the Galaxy #12, during which young, time-displaced Cyclops learns his father is not dead, and present-day Corsair experiences a second difficult reunion with his son. Also, the Shi’ar confront young Jean Grey with the horrors she will someday commit as Phoenix. It’s an interesting sci-fi conundrum—is someone culpable for crimes they haven’t yet committed but are destined to?

My only quibble is that the story demotes the Guardians to guest stars in their own book. But it’s a solid X-Men story.

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis

Pencilers: Sara Pichelli and Stuart Immonen

Inkers: Sara Pichelle and Wade Von Grawbadger

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Marvel Unlimited; Comixology; Guardians of the Galaxy/All-New X-Men: The Trial of Jean Grey (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 11 and up

Today’s Super Comic — Doctor Strange #4 (2016)

Doctor Strange 4Something is killing Sorcerer Supremes…and books. Books are also dying from mystical causes—Doctor Strange’s books, at least.

Issue #4 continues the compelling first storyline of the latest series to chronicle the adventures of Stephen Strange. Problems mount in Doctor Strange’s weird world, and this time the threat isn’t just to the regular world…it’s to magic itself.

Another excellent issue by Jason Aaron and Chris Bachalo. Bachalo in particular is perfectly cast as the artist here. I’ve always enjoyed his distinctive, fluid style, and it especially suits the world of magic. He makes great use of each page’s limited space.

I’m ready for the next issue to hit Marvel Unlimited.

Writer: Jason Aaron

Penciler: Chris Bachalo

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: recent back issues; Marvel Unlimited; Comixology; Doctor Strange vol. 1: The Way of the Weird (HC)

Appropriate For: ages 13 and up

Today’s Super Comics — Superman/Shazam: First Thunder #1-4 (2005)

Superman Shazam First ThunderSuperman and Captain Marvel meet for the first time! Well, the latter needs to be called “Shazam” on the covers because of trademark issues, but he’s Captain Marvel throughout the interior pages.

Written by Judd Winick and drawn by Joshua Middleton, First Thunder is an entertaining look at an early period in both heroes’ tenures, full of magical monsters and giant robots in need of smashing. The characterization is spot-on throughout, giving us fun interactions between the two leads as they bond over their unconventional career that so few can relate to. They don’t fight each other over any petty misunderstanding, but rather they become fast friends who enjoy teaming up.

And toward the end, the book takes a turn into genuinely heartfelt territory, and it sticks the landing with a fantastic final page. Appearances and powers aside, Captain Marvel is still just a kid, so Superman needs to be the adult.

A great, quick read for fans, young and old, of either character.

Writer: Judd Winick

Artist: Joshua Middleton

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology; Superman/Shazam: First Thunder (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 10 and up

Today’s Super Comic — Silver Surfer #14 (2015)

Silver_Surfer_Vol_7_14The Silver Surfer has always looked like a really cool character, but I could never get into his stories. Lots of potential, but always too powerful, too detached, too inhuman. I liked him as an occasional guest star in other Marvel books, but that was about it.

It could just be that I just sampled the wrong issues. Entirely possible. So when I saw the relaunched series written by Dan Slott and drawn by Mike Allred, I decided it was time to check in again.

A good decision. Slott’s take on the character reminds me of Doctor Who, which never hurts. The Surfer has a human companion named Dawn, and she provides exactly the balance the Surfer has needed all these years, as well as the fresh set of eyes through which to view the wonders of the universe.

Issue #14 is as cosmically big as some of the modern Doctor Who finales, in that the Surfer and Dawn are tasked with rebuilding the universe. Yes, the whole universe. Apparently, Doctor Doom did something in a big crossover event that destroyed everything, but those details aren’t relevant here. This book focuses on rebuilding.

Dawn gets to reconstruct Earth, which isn’t exactly an easy task. Meanwhile, the Surfer reconstructs everything else…but maybe some editing might be worthwhile?

Great concepts, great imagination, great art. This is definitely a Silver Surfer worth checking out.

Writer: Dan Slott

Penciler: Mike Allred

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Marvel Unlimited; Comixology; Silver Surfer vol. 3: Last Days (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 12 and up

Today’s Super Comics — Flash #74-79 (1993)

Flash_v.2_74I originally read Flash’s “The Return of Barry Allen” storyline back when it was just coming out and I was 9 years old, not long after I started reading comics in the first place. And it was the first comic book storyline to truly wow me—it may have made the difference between comics being a passing fad and something I’d still be reading nearly 25 years later.

At this point or shortly beforehand, I learned that the Flash I had just started reading, Wally West, wasn’t the original. Rather, he was the former sidekick Kid Flash all grown up and carrying on the legacy of his uncle Barry Allen, who died saving the universe several years earlier.

And in this storyline, Barry has apparently returned from the grave, which should be a dream come true for Wally. But Barry seems…different.

This isn’t some basic good vs. evil struggle. It’s about the balance between idolizing your hero and becoming your own person, about the importance of protecting a legacy, and about how it feels when your role model doesn’t live up to your expectations. The story may be called “The Return of Barry Allen,” but it’s really about Wally West growing up a little bit more.

With these issues, I learned that comic books could be so much stronger than Saturday morning cartoons.

Writer: Mark Waid

Penciler: Greg Larocque

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology; Flash: The Return of Barry Allen (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 9 and up

Today’s Super Comic — JSA #69 (2005)

JSA_Vol_1_69What a great concept for a team-up—the Justice Society of America and…the Justice Society of America!

The storyline by Geoff Johns takes advantage of DC Comics’ long history by having the current-generation JSA members travel back in time to 1951 to meet their first-generation counterparts…right as they’re disbanding. They’ll all have to work together to prevent a villain from wrecking the timeline, like villains tend to do. (Oh, and Rip Hunter is the one who gathers the present-day team and sends them back in time, which naturally reminded me of the TV show DC’s Legends of Tomorrow.)

Issue #69 is the second part of the story, but the first with the modern team navigating the ‘50s. In classic team-book fashion, they split up and individually track down their counterparts, thereby putting each JSA member in a different scenario. Stargirl meets the original Starman in a mental hospital. The era’s horrible segregation laws interfere with Mr. Terrific’s pursuit of his predecessor. Sand finds not only Sandman, but also himself at a uniquely terrible point in his long life. And so on.

Good stuff indeed. The generational approach suits DC’s original super-team.

And the cover features painted art by Alex Ross, so there’s that, too. Alex Ross is always a plus.

Writer: Geoff Johns

Penciler: Don Kramer

Inker: Keith Champagne

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology; included in JSA vol. 10: Black Vengeance (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 13 and up

Today’s Super Comic — X-Factor #87 (1993)

X-Factor_Vol_1_87One of the most memorable issues of X-Factor, and it’s just a bunch of talking heads. But it’s a bunch of talking heads written by Peter David, so rest assured it’s going to be entertaining.

The premise requires a great writer to pull it off—the members of X-Factor individually meet with a psychiatrist, and each character’s vignette spells out what makes him or her tick.

It shouldn’t work. It could easily have become 22 pages of dry, on-the-nose descriptions. But David builds clever conversations that illustrate each character in an engaging way. And in this manner, Quicksilver explains his arrogance, Strong Guy explains how he hides his pain behind jokes, the Multiple Man explains his fear of loneliness, and so on.

All this telling is what any writing class would tell you never to do, but X-Factor #87 proves to be the exception due to the exceptional execution. It’s about how the characters go about explaining themselves, not just the explanations themselves.

David’s original run on X-Factor ended much too soon. Thank goodness he got another shot years later.

Writer: Peter David

Penciler: Joe Quesada

Inker: Al Milgrom

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Marvel Unlimited; Comixology; included in X-Factor Visionaries – Peter David, vol. 4 (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 11 and up

Today’s Super Comic — The Adventures of Superman #472 (1990)

Adventures_of_Superman_472The early 1990s was not a stellar era for comic books, but Superman fared better than most, primarily because the writers demonstrated an excellent understanding of his character.

This shows in the “Krisis of the Krimson Kryptonite” arc, an old storyline I’m just now reading for the first time thanks to a local comic store’s going-out-of-business sale. The story centers on a familiar trope—Superman loses his powers! Oh, no!—but the trope is used to reveal character as much as it’s used to create obstacles. What kind of man is Superman beneath all those amazing super-powers?

According to The Adventures of Superman #472, which is the second and most recent part of the story I’ve read as of this writing, Superman is a guy who will stand up to a rampaging, super-strong maniac, regardless of the personal risks. He’s a guy who isn’t too proud to ask for help. He’s a guy who still worries about his friends, despite his own major problem.

This Superman is just as super whether he has powers or not—which is exactly right.

The Christopher Reeve is strong in this one, and it’s a solid read for Superman fans young and old.

Writer/Penciler: Dan Jurgens

Inker: Art Thibert

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology; included in Superman: Krisis of the Krimson Kryptonite (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 8 and up