Today’s Super Comics — X-Men #188-193 (2006)

And now—Rogue’s turn to head an X-Men squad! X-Men #188-193 sets up her unconventional team with her as their unconventional leader, and it was a promising start that regrettably didn’t last long. But during that short span of time, writer Mike Carey and artist Chris Bachalo did some of their best X-work.

Mutants were facing extinction (kind of like now, but this was another time they were facing extinction), so another, long-dormant race of super-powered people arises to supplant both mutants and humans. But that’s not really the interesting part. As is often the case with the X-Men, it’s all about interesting characters bouncing off each other.

Carey handles Rogue’s characterization well. She’s matured quite a bit since desperation first drove her to the X-Men years ago…and since Mystique brought her into the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants before that. Rogue is presented here as a creative thinker who’s comfortable with moral ambiguity, leading to assemble a team that mixes X-Men stalwarts like Iceman and Cannonball with potentially reformed enemies like Mystique and at least one definitely not reformed enemy like Sabretooth.

It’s a natural evolution for the character, and Rogue can certainly carry the top spot. Plus, Carey injects just the right amount of humor throughout to keep things fun. A solid X-book all around.

Writer: Mike Carey

Penciler: Chris Bachalo

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Marvel Unlimited; Comixology; included in X-Men: Supernovas (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 13 and up

Today’s Super Comics — Death: The High Cost of Living #1-3 (1993)

death_the_high_cost_of_living_vol_1_1Neil Gaiman does Death Takes a Holiday in his distinctive Neil Gaimany way.

Death, or Didi, is an off-kilter teenaged girl who gets to be mortal one day a century. She befriends a depressed young guy with the unfortunate name of Sexton. A very old madwoman seeks Death’s help in finding her heart. And a blind, creepy guy wants Death’s sigil.

And by the end, it’s all remarkably uplifting.

“It always ends. That’s what gives it value.”

Though this is a Sandman spinoff, Death: The High Cost of Living stands entirely on its own. I can’t say for certain, but it might even be more effective without prior knowledge. There’s almost nothing in these three issues that’s blatantly supernatural. The fantasy elements exist entirely on the periphery, which you hardly even realize until after the fact because everything feels so magical. If you read just this story, you might almost believe that Didi is merely a troubled girl who has retreated into the delusion that she’s Death.

An excellent read from the early days of DC’s Vertigo imprint.

Writer: Neil Gaiman

Artists: Chris Bachalo and Mark Buckingham

Cover: Dave McKean

Publisher: DC Comics (Vertigo)

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology; Death: The High Cost of Living (TPB)

Appropriate For: ADULTS ONLY

Today’s Super Comic — Generation X #18 (1996)

generation_x_vol_1_18I probably could’ve pulled off this yearlong series of positive comic reviews with X-Men books alone.

The X-Men had about a million spinoffs in the ‘90s, and one of the better ones of that era was Generation X. It brought us back to the X-Men’s roots as a series about teenage mutants learning to control their powers in a highly specialized educational environment. But Professor X wasn’t teaching this latest generation—stalwart X-Man Banshee (Sean Cassidy) and former villain the White Queen (Emma Frost) had that job.

Though the book is ostensibly about the teens, the dynamic between these two very different teachers is one of the best parts…as #18 demonstrates, when Emma telepathically compels Sean to walk off a plane at 30,000 feet in the air (it’s okay; he can fly). Her well-intentioned drive to keep her students safe, combined with her less rigid morality, make her a compelling character and one who plays well off of Banshee’s more traditional superhero type. Instead of spy vs. spy, we’ve got teacher vs. teacher (and teacher vs. students).

And artist Chris Bachalo is in top form here, with creative layouts and memorable images. A scene of Banshee breaking out of Emma’s spell is especially well done, though there isn’t a weak page in the book.

Writer: Scott Lobdell

Penciler: Chris Bachalo

Inker: Mark Buckingham

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: back issues

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 Comic — Doctor Strange #3 (2015)

Doctor Strange 3Writer Jason Aaron and artist Chris Bachalo continue to have fun with Doctor Strange. Looks like they’re getting the character in good shape for this year’s movie.

The visuals take the lead in the current series’ third issue, the latest available on Marvel Unlimited (not really “unlimited” then, is it?), as monsters chase Doctor Strange’s astral form across New York. It’s a great way to showcase Strange’s resourceful and knowledge while letting Bachalo cut loose with imaginative pages.01

And it continues to set up a larger plot involving some not-nice people wanting to kill all magic, so that should be fun, too.

This creative team is the first to get me interested in an ongoing Doctor Strange series. Well done.

Writer: Jason Aaron

Penciler: Chris Bachalo

Publisher: Marvel Comics

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

Appropriate For: ages 13 and up