Today’s Super Comic — Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars #1 (1984)

marvel_super_heroes_secret_wars_vol_1_1This is one that works much better with kids. When I first read Secret Wars as a middle schooler, I thought it was among the coolest things ever. When I reread the miniseries as an adult, I was far less impressed, but it’s not without its charms.

The concept is simple. An infinitely powerful entity called the Beyonder summons a bunch of superheroes and a bunch of super-villains to a distant galaxy and plops them onto a bizarre patchwork planet. He tells both sides they must slay their enemies, and all they desire will be theirs.

The appeal, then, is also simple. It’s like playing with all your favorite toys at once. You get to watch the Avengers, X-Men, Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, and Hulk all interact over the course of 12 issues as they face some of their more well-known foes. It’s like Battle Royale or The Hunger Games, but with superheroes and far less bloodshed.

Writer Jim Shooter made some good choices with the set-up that’s outlined in #1. He has the Beyonder group Magneto among the heroes, because in Magneto’s mind he is a hero to his fellow mutants. Doctor Doom quickly asserts himself as the chief antagonist, putting himself above the mandated fray to embark on his own personal quest for power. And the world-devouring Galactus, who has often been portrayed as a force of nature above personal conflicts, is present among the villains as a powerful wild card.

Marvel also made a good call during the original execution of this miniseries in 1984. The participating characters ended an issue of their respective regular series by entering a mysterious portal. Then Secret Wars #1 came out. Then in the next issue of those regular series, the characters return to Earth, and some changes have occurred, big and small. For example, Spider-Man has a nifty black costume made of an alien material, and She-Hulk has replaced the Thing in the Fantastic Four. So what exactly happened between issues? Read the rest of Secret Wars to find out! I was too young to read in 1984, but I imagine it sparked a fun How did we get here? type of curiosity.

So, yeah, it’s basically just a fun wild ride for kids, but I absolutely ate it up when I was the right age. Marvel team-ups are often great, and this is a super-sized mega team-up.

Writer: Jim Shooter

Penciler: Mike Zeck

Inker: John Beatty

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Marvel Unlimited; Comixology; included in Secret Wars (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 8 and up

Today’s Super Comic — The New Avengers #11 (2016)

new-avengers-11-2015Well, this certainly has some twists to it.

This is still recent, so I won’t give anything away. But I’m not sure where it’s going exactly, and it’s a delightful change of pace.

Writer Al Ewing makes great use of Sunspot (Roberto Da Costa), a character we’ve been half-expecting to grow up into a super-villain since he was a teenager in the original New Mutants. Now he’s the Supreme Leader of A.I.M.—formerly the villainous Advanced Ideas Mechanics, now the ostensibly heroic Avengers Ideas Mechanics. Ambiguity suits him.

Roberto’s got some big plan in store for the world, and it’s been fun watching the pieces slowly unfold. The endgame is probably benevolent, possibly not.

I’m genuinely curious to see where this is going. And issue #11’s final page only has me more curious.

The book’s got a good sense of humor, too. It sometimes leans a little immature, but that also suits Sunspot…and it’s better than a comic taking itself too seriously, in any case.

Writer: Al Ewing

Artist: Gerardo Sandoval

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: recent back issues; Marvel Unlimited; Comixology

Appropriate For: ages 12 and up

Today’s Super Comic — The New Avengers #1 (2015)

new-avengers-1-2015I’m skeptical about the need for multiple Avengers titles. In recent years, we’ve had All-New All-Different Avengers, New Avengers, Uncanny Avengers, Young Avengers, Avengers A.I., Occupy Avengers, and of course, just plain old Avengers. To be fair, we’re not at ‘90s X-Men levels yet, but one solid Avengers team should suffice.

Then again, a spinoff can always justify itself with an interesting premise that distinguishes it from the parent title, and that’s what we get in the latest iteration of New Avengers.

I missed whatever story led into this, but apparently Robert DaCosta, formerly the founding New Mutant called Sunspot, is now a billionaire and running the formerly (?) villainous organization A.I.M. But instead of being Advanced Idea Mechanics, it’s now Avengers Idea Mechanics and has its own team of Avengers.

The roster features several characters I’m not overly familiar with, which is why I almost overlooked this series. We’ve got Songbird, formerly of the Thunderbolts; Wiccan and Hulking, formerly of the Young Avengers; White Tiger, formerly more of a street-level vigilante type; Squirrel Girl, formerly of the very obscure Great Lakes Avengers; and a Power Man I’ve never seen before who definitely isn’t Luke Cage. And then there’s somebody I actually am very familiar with, Hawkeye, who is primarily serving as a not-secret spy for SHIELD (an open and honest spy is a nice inversion of the team-traitor trope).

The focus here seems to be on big science-y scenarios—comic book science, of course, which tends to be more science-fantasy than science-fiction, but either can be lots of fun. The main villain, appropriately, is an evil version of Reed Richards from the now-defunct Ultimate Universe.

The first issue lays out the basics, but I get the feeling there’s more going on, which will be revealed in time. Always a good impression to leave with the reader—that’s an excellent way to bring me back for more.

Writer: Al Ewing

Artist: Gerardo Sandoval

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Marvel Unlimited; Comixology; included in New Avengers vol. 1: Everything is New (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 12 and up

Today’s Super Comic — Marvel Adventures: The Avengers #13 (2007)

marvel-adventures-avengers-13I’m always happy to see when the major comic book publishers remember that children might want to read comics, too. About a decade ago, Marvel launched its all-ages Marvel Adventures line with that thought in mind. These stories were set outside Marvel’s main (and increasingly convoluted) continuity. They were simpler, cleaner, and more accessible to anyone of any age picking up any random issue.

These Avengers were some of the company’s most recognizable characters—Captain America, Iron Man, Spider-Man, Hulk, and even Storm and Wolverine from the X-Men. And they stuck closely to their original molds. No major reinterpretations here, just faithful adherence to each character’s core essence. With one big exception.

In Marvel Adventures, Janet Van Dyne did not become the incredible shrinking Wasp. She instead grew into the role of Giant-Girl, which was a very smart decision on Marvel’s part.

Issue #13 reveals Giant-Girl’s origin, and does so with good humor and nice inversions of classic tropes. No dark past or death of a loved one motivates Janet to help others. Rather, the fact that helping others is the right thing to do motivates her. And when Dr. Henry Pym presents her with size-changing technology and suggests shrinking to insect-size, she discovers a more practical application.

So we’ve got a great role model in a story that’s good, clean fun. There’s not much for adults, but it’s a comic you can give your kids without reservation.

Writer: Jeff Parker

Penciler: Leonard Kirk

Inker: Terry Pallot

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Marvel Unlimited; included in Marvel Adventures: The Avengers vol. 4: The Dream Team (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 7 and up

Today’s Super Comic — Damage Control #1 (1989)

damage-control-vol-1-1-1989It’s good not to take yourself too seriously, and Marvel certainly doesn’t in Damage Control, the miniseries that answers the question, “Hey, who cleans up after those big epic super-battles?”

That would be Damage Control, of course. They’re basically like a Public Works crew coming in after a severe storm to clear debris and get the roads back in working order—only it’s a private company, they come in after the Avengers and the like save the day, they have a lost-and-found full of rather distinctive items, and every so often one of their employees randomly acquires super-powers.

In the first issue, the Avengers and Spider-Man topple a skyscraper-sized robot in NYC, and now its inert body is just sprawled out across the city, lying atop and between buildings and impeding the flow of traffic. So Damage Control must figure out how to get rid of it. And poor Spider-Man is trapped in the robot’s head, so they’ve also got to figure out how to get him free. Just a day in the life…if you live in Marvel’s New York.

The writer/co-creator is the late, great Dwayne McDuffie, who went on to write for the excellent Justice League cartoon, so I’m not surprised that this is good fun.

Excellent concept, highly amusing execution.

Writer: Dwayne McDuffie

Penciler: Ernie Colon

Inker: Bob Wiacek

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Marvel Unlimited; Comixology; included in Damage Control: The Complete Collection (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 10 and up

Today’s Super Comic — The Vision #7 (2016)

vision-7The Vision takes a break from the present by delving into his past—specifically, his romance with the Scarlet Witch.

Their history is long, convoluted, and messy (it includes imaginary children, for example). But writer Tom King condenses it into the most relevant points, showing us the general shape of the relationship’s rise and fall through a handful of meaningful moments, including some directly inspired by past Avengers comics (including one I reviewed over the summer).

But this comic isn’t rehashing the past for nostalgic reasons; the past informs the present. The life Vision strove for with the Scarlet Witch is pretty much what he’s trying to accomplish with his current artificial family. Things didn’t work out with Wanda, so Vision’s analytical mind learned from the experience and attempted to correct the variables that proved unworkable.

And it all comes together in a final page that’s either incredibly creepy or kind of touching. I’m leaning toward creepy, and I’ll definitely keep reading.

Writer: Tom King

Penciler: Michael Walsh

Cover: Michael Del Mundo

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: recent back issues; Marvel Unlimited; Comixology

Appropriate For: ages 14 and up

Today’s Super Comic — Invincible Iron Man #11 (2016)

invincible_iron_man_vol_2_11This sure is a consistently entertaining series. I worry that Civil War II might have derailed it (I haven’t read that far yet), but it makes it through the second story arc with the quality intact.

In #11, Rhodey and the Avengers track down the missing-in-action Tony Stark, who’s gone undercover to investigate a new threat. Meanwhile, the task of saving Stark’s company from its own board falls to one Mary Jane Watson. And a teenage girl tests out the Iron Man–like suit of armored tech she built in her dorm room.

A lot going on, all of it fun, and enough remains unresolved to make a compelling case for reading #12.

It’s no secret that the aforementioned teenage girl, Riri Williams, will be taking over the book as Iron Maiden (while Doctor Doom becomes the Infamous Iron Man). Tony Stark is pretty inimitable as Iron Man, so I’m wary of replacements. But Riri, if approached as a new character rather than “the new Iron Man,” does show potential. A genius teenager who literally builds her own powers is prime comic book material. So I’ll keep an open mind.

In any case, Invincible Iron Man has been a thoroughly enjoyable read through this point.

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis

Artist: Mike Deodato

Cover: Mike Deodato and Rain Beredo

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: recent back issues; Comixology; included in Invincible Iron Man vol. 2: The War Machines (HC)

Appropriate For: ages 12 and up

Today’s Super Comic — All-New, All-Different Avengers #12 (2016)

all-new-all-different-avengers-12-coverAll-New, All-Different Avengers might just be the best team book currently on the market. The superheroics are solid, and the roster has great chemistry. Except for Iron Man and Vision, none of these characters is the first-generation version of the brand, but each one feels legit.

Issue #12, written by Mark Waid, showcases inventive action, as the team battles a powerful threat in the Negative Zone—but, due to Marvel physics, only one Avenger can be in the Negative Zone at a time, thereby requiring a tag-team strategy.

Meanwhile, the new Wasp bonds with the original, and I’m pleased to see the book forgo any petty squabbling or contrived tension between the two. While Janet Van Dyne will likely always be the best Wasp, this new version shows tremendous promise. She’s eager, she’s sincerely interested in doing the right thing, and the Avengers’ world is new and exciting to her. She has to potential to serve as a fresh viewpoint into the well-established Marvel Universe. Best of all, she’s not a replacement.

This series was well worth springing for the trade.

Writer: Mark Waid

Artist: Mahmud Asrar

Cover: Alex Ross

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: recent back issues; Comixology; included in All-New, All-Different Avengers vol. 2: Family Business (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 11 and up

Today’s Super Comic — All-New Hawkeye #6 (2016)

all-new-hawkeye-6The Jeff Lemire/Ramon Perez run on All-New Hawkeye comes to a satisfying conclusion in #6 (which should really be #11, but maybe smaller numbers sell better).

The issue’s highlight is the flashback showing the moment when the Avengers, particularly Hawkeye, first inspired the second Hawkeye, Kate Bishop. And the scene is nicely placed after an amusing present-day conversation between Clint Barton and his brother Barney, in which Barney rags on him for being the Avengers’ token normal guy. But Hawkeye’s ability to hold his own among Earth’s Mightiest Heroes without any powers, just a bow and arrows and skills—that’s what inspires young Kate.

The unconventional friendship between the two Hawkeyes has formed a great heart for the series, and it pays off wonderfully here.

Writer: Jeff Lemire

Artist: Ramon Perez

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: recent back issues; Marvel Unlimited; Comixology; included in Hawkeye vol. 6: Hawkeyes (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 13 and up

Today’s Super Comic — New Avengers Annual #1 (2006)

new_avengers_annual_vol_1_1Sweet Christmas, that Luke Cage Netflix series was excellent. So was the Jessica Jones series.

And oh, look, here are they both are in comic book form…getting married. That’s nice for them.

New Avengers Annual #1 is a good example of how to do a wedding issue right—basically, have the wedding itself take up very little of the overall comic. A full-length wedding issue is almost a no-win situation in superhero comics. Super-villains could crash the festivities, and they have, but that’s far too predictable these days. The ceremony could proceed smoothly, which has also been done, and while it’s nice to see likeable characters interact in a happy setting, it tends to be a tension-free affair.

So despite the wedding-themed cover, this annual largely focuses on an unrelated battle between the Avengers and an especially powerful foe, as they employ both brains and brawn to take her down. The battle ties into ongoing arcs and it’s a fun romp on its own.

As for Luke/Jessica, their relationship had evolved since Jessica’s introduction a few years earlier, and the wedding ceremony is merely the epilogue to an arc that had already reached a satisfactory conclusion. They have a nice ceremony surrounded by friends, and Jessica has her moment to be Jessica (written perfectly in character, of course, with the character’s creator writing the issue). And you have an entertaining, notable annual that shows how comic book characters’ lives aren’t static like they were in the olden days.

And nice Stan Lee cameo, by the way.

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis

Penciler: Olivier Coipel

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Marvel Unlimited; Comixology

Appropriate For: ages 12 and up