Today’s Super Comic — The Incredible Hulk #271 (1982)

My year of daily positive comic book reviews is almost up! The final ten reviews begin here! (Not top ten; the randomness continues.)

In the comics, the original Guardians of the Galaxy had an entirely different lineup from the movie cast, and the film’s characters all had separate comic book introductions. Rocket Racoon debuted in The Incredible Hulk, in an issue that’s so delightfully ridiculous.

Hulk finds himself transported to an alien world, where he’s greeted by a talking racoon and walrus. The racoon totes a laser gun, and the caption introduces him as “Rocket Racoon, guardian of the Keystone Quadrant” (still working his way up to guarding a whole galaxy).

And if his name reminds you of a certain Beatles song, that’s apparently by design. The issue title, after all, is “Now Somewhere in the Black Holes of Sirius Major There Lived a Young Boy Name of…Rocket Raccoon!” Plus, the plot entails a Gideon’s Bible, and Rocket has to save his girlfriend Lylla.

In addition to the Beatles references, we’ve got killer clowns, deadly rabbits, and Keystone Quadrant Kops. The main villain is a mole.

The issue shows how comics work wonderfully as a vehicle for unbridled imagination. Sure, this isn’t sophisticated literature, but consider it from the perspective of a kid reading it in 1982. It’s creative fuel for a young reader. In retrospect, the issue reminds us that not all comics need to grow up. Providing goofy fun for kids is always a worthy cause.

By the way, contrary to his cinematic counterpart, here Rocket self-identifies as a racoon.

Writer: Bill Mantlo

Penciler: Sal Buscema

Inker: Jim Novak

Cover: Al Milgrom

Publisher: Marvel Comics

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

Appropriate For: ages 8 and up

Today’s Super Comic — Nova #1 (2013)

nova-1-2013Marvel is on a roll with the teen books lately. I’ve previously praised the new Ms. Marvel and Spider-Man a few times each…but now it looks like, as Yoda once said, there is another.

I’m not overly familiar with Nova. I could pick him out of a lineup. I could tell you he has something to do with an outer space–based police corps of the same name, not entirely unlike the Green Lantern Corps. I’ve seen this young new Nova in All-New, All-Different Avengers. And that was the extent of my knowledge as I began Nova #1.

We begin on Earth. The previous Nova—now working as a high school janitor—tells his son Sam stories about his glory days saving the galaxy as a member of the Nova Corps. Naturally, Sam thinks he’s making it all up—his unreliable father is no hero in his eyes. And Sam is feeling stuck in his small hometown, hoping to escape someday.

It’s a great entryway into the fantastical outer space adventures to come, making it all seem too good to be true.

The book includes many essential ingredients of a successful teen superhero book. We’ve got the bleeding of fantasy into reality, a flawed but good-hearted parent who isn’t making the teen’s situation any easier, and a powerful desire to escape life’s limits and do something amazing. We also get a cameo by some of the Guardians of the Galaxy, which certainly doesn’t hurt.

Very strong start here.

Writer: Jeph Loeb

Penciler: Ed McGuinness

Inker: Dexter Vines

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Marvel Unlimited; Comixology; included in Nova vol. 1: Origin (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 11 and up

Today’s Super Comic — Guardians of the Galaxy #1 (2015)

guardians-of-the-galaxy-1I’m still not a fan of Marvel’s habit of renumbering their titles every couple of years or so. But if they must, this was a reasonably appropriate point to give Guardians of the Galaxy a fresh start.

A few months or so have passed since the conclusion of the previous series, and the Guardians’ lineup continues to add representatives from various regions of the Marvel Universe. They’ve had Spider-Man’s Venom (Flash Thompson) for a while. The X-Men’s Kitty Pryde joined late in the previous run. And now the Fantastic Four’s Thing has left Earth and begun guarding the galaxy (if you want to know what time it is in space, he’ll be happy to answer). Combined with the Guardians’ regulars, this series should never lack for clever banter.

And meanwhile, Peter Quill is king of Spartax, which isn’t the most suitable role for him, thereby producing an entertaining situation for the reader.

I liked the previous series, but I’m greatly enjoying this latest iteration. The humor is stronger, the action is more fun, and the cosmic plots feel more exciting. Now if only there was some way to work in a ‘70s soundtrack, we’d be all set.

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis

Artist: Valerio Schiti

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Marvel Unlimited; Comixology; included in Guardians of the Galaxy: The New Guard, Vol. 1: Emperor Quill (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 12 and up

Today’s Super Comic — Guardians of the Galaxy #26 (2015)

guardians-of-the-galaxy-26This is a fun premise: Peter Quill is elected president of a whole planet—without his consent. So now he must decide whether he, as a guy who loves to rail against the establishment, is the right guy to lead the establishment. And meanwhile, the Guardians enjoy the presidential treatment.

It’s a relatively quiet issue compared to what comes before and after. Always nice to sprinkle some of those in and let everyone, including the reader, have a chance to catch their breath.

As an added bonus, the X-Men’s Kitty Pryde has joined the cast…which seems somewhat random, but more Kitty Pryde is always welcome. (First, Bendis paired her up with Spider-Man when he wrote Ultimate Spider-Man, and now he pairs her up with Starlord. Quite the wingman, that Bendis.) She’s not new to space adventure, but she brings a fresh perspective to the team.

All in all, a good time.

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis

Artist: Valerio Schiti

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Marvel Unlimited; Comixology; included in Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 5: Through the Looking Glass (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 12 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