Today’s Super Comic — Spider-Man #6 (2016)

Even with a Civil War II tie-in, Spider-Man remains strong. It always helps to have a Jessica Jones guest appearance.

However, Jessica is ultimately a small part of issue #6. Iron Man swoops in and steals a chunk of page-time with his current moral conundrum. I’ve read only the first three issues of Civil War II on Marvel Unlimited, so I’m reserving overall judgment, but it’s at least stronger than the original (many like the original story, but I’m not a fan; the movie’s great, though). Basically, there’s an Inhuman who can see the future. Captain Marvel wants to use the young man’s powers to preemptively avert disaster, but Iron Man foresees a slippery slope in going after criminals before they strike. It’s a solid sci-fi premise.

So Iron Man poses his conundrum to young Miles, and Miles, in turn, poses it to his father. The latter interaction is what helps this tie-in be successful, as it facilitates a nice father-son moment. Miles’s family life grounds the series in a relatable, human foundation…even when his grandmother does things like hiring a private investigator to find out if he’s on drugs.

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis

Artist: Nico Leon

Publisher: Marvel Comics

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

Appropriate For: ages 10 and up

Today’s Super Comics — Power Man and Iron Fist #1-4 (2016)

power_man_and_iron_fist_1I initially overlooked this series. Judging from the first storyline, that was a mistake.

Power Man and Iron Fist manages to be consistently amusing while maintaining a strong heart at its core. Ultimately, it’s a series about friendship—that of the two title characters, and that of the two antagonists, one of which also happens to be a longtime friend and colleague of Luke Cage and Danny Rand.

The dynamic between Luke and Danny is as great as you’d expect for two characters with a lengthy history. Danny wants to renew their old partnership. Luke does not. Jessica Jones especially does not (she and Luke have been married for some time in the comics; here, she’s just a recurring cameo, but even her brief appearances are always welcome). Also great is how the heroes’ error in judgment sets the plot into motion.

I hadn’t realized that Mariah Dillard, Alfre Woodard’s character on the Luke Cage Netflix series, had a comic book counterpart, one who apparently answers to the name “Black Mariah” (yeah, that sounds a bit dated). The two versions of the character have practically nothing in common, other than both being criminals. Still, the comic book version works well in this medium and this story (nickname aside).

I’ll be sure to check out #5 when it hits Marvel Unlimited.

Writer: David Walker

Artist: Sanford Greene

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: recent back issues; Marvel Unlimited; Comixology; included in Power Man and Iron Fist vol. 1: The Boys Are Back in Town (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 12 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

Today’s Super Comics — Alias #1-28 (2001-04)

alias 1Yeah, I’ll just go ahead and declare the entire Alias series as fantastic. And for non-comic readers, this has nothing to do with the Jennifer Garner television show, but it is the source material for the also-excellent Jessica Jones series on Netflix.

With Jessica Jones, writer Brian Michael Bendis has created one of the most fascinating Marvel characters of all time. Jessica gets more character development in 28 issues than many characters receive over the course of decades.

And while the series would be riveting as just a character study, the plots are great, too. The comic is actually more episodic than the Netflix series while still retaining a strong overall arc. It shows private investigator Jessica Jones working unconventional cases in the dark corners of the Marvel Universe as she tries to distance herself from her traumatic superhero past.

Michael Gaydos’s gritty art style creates the perfect atmosphere for the stories, and for the flashbacks to Jessica’s “Jewel” days, we get another perfect artistic fit—Mark Bagley, bringing a cleaner, brighter style that suits the more innocent days.

The first issue has the distinction of being the first Marvel comic book to employ the F-word, something the Netflix series didn’t even do. I point that out as a warning – THIS BOOK IS NOT FOR CHILDREN. I repeat, do not let your kids anywhere near this one. Dark stuff takes place in these issues.

Not one issue missteps, though. Bendis and Gaydos (and Bagley) demonstrate superb tonal agility throughout, and they deserve credit for an extraordinarily difficult achievement—they created something new and fresh within a decades-old fictional universe.

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis

Artists: Michael Gaydos, with flashbacks by Mark Bagley

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology; Alias and Jessica Jones: Alias trade paperbacks

Appropriate For: ADULTS ONLY!