Today’s Super Comics — Wolverine #1-4 (1982)

wolverine_vol_1_1Wolverine has starred in many, many solo stories over the years, but his first miniseries remains the best.

A good rule for a spin-off is to place one familiar character in an unfamiliar setting with unfamiliar characters. That’s basically what we get here (though Wolverine’s girlfriend, Mariko, was already introduced in Uncanny X-Men). The result is something that feels like a true Wolverine story, not an X-Men story starring only Wolverine.

Wolverine’s internal tension drives the story as much as external forces do, as his bestial impulses conflict with his desire become a man worthy of Mariko’s love. And actual character growth occurs—not something comics were known for at the time.

The miniseries features some of Chris Claremont’s strongest writing and some of Frank Miller’s strongest art. The two bring out the best in each other as they show Wolverine striving to be his best—and stumbling quite a bit along the way.

And only forward momentum carries the series—no convoluted backstory cluttering things up. You can enjoy this book without ever having touched an X-Men comic.

Writer: Chris Claremont

Artist: Frank Miller

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Marvel Unlimited; Comixology; Wolverine (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 14 and up

Today’s Super Comic — Uncanny X-Men #183 (1984)

uncanny-x-men-183One of the nice things about comics—if a character acts like a total jerk, someone like the Juggernaut comes along to beat him senseless.

Uncanny X-Men #183 expertly blends soap opera and comic book sensibilities into a memorable outing. Colossus breaks Kitty Pryde’s heart (though seriously, that was a creepy relationship—he was 19 and she was 14…creepy), so Wolverine takes him out to a bar to chat man-to-man (with Nightcrawler tagging along/chaperoning). And by sheer random happenstance, the Juggernaut is there and Colossus bumps into him. Barfight ensues.

A nice touch on writer Chris Claremont’s part is having Wolverine decide to keep himself and Nightcrawler out of the battle—let Colossus endure the punishment he deserves for his heartlessness and maybe learn a lesson in the process.

It’s a classic issue, and the sort the X-Men excel at. Not every battle is about good vs. evil.

Writer: Chris Claremont

Artist: John Romita, Jr.

Inker: Dan Green

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Marvel Unlimited; Comixology; included in Essential X-Men vol. 5 (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 10 and up

Today’s Super Comics — Age of Ultron #1-10 (2013)

Age_of_Ultron_Vol_1_1I finally got around to reading the miniseries from which the last Avengers movie took its name, and yeah, other than the title and threat of Ultron, not much in the way of similarities.

Age of Ultron the comic begins as a post-apocalyptic tale featuring several Marvel superheroes striving to do whatever they can for a world that’s already ended. And it shifts gears into a time-travel adventure starring the odd-couple pairing of Wolverine and the Invisible Woman (a brilliant pairing, as they’re total opposites in so many ways—shame there wasn’t more time to spend with them). And it somehow winds up being a story about the importance of one deeply flawed man—Ultron’s creator, Hank Pym.

And even with the time-travel shenanigans and the inevitable reset to undo the apocalypse, events have consequences for the present-day Marvel Universe.

It’s not the movie, but it does feel like a big-budget superhero film in comic book form, with lots of favorite characters (and alternate versions of such) each getting time to shine. Nowhere near perfect, like the movie, but it’s lots of fun regardless, also like the movie. (So maybe there are more similarities.)

Different artists contributed over the course of the series, but the differences in their styles feel appropriate, never jarring. Bryan Hitch sets the tone in the first half—the man draws a great apocalypse. And, of course, Brian Michael Bendis wrote the entire series, and at this point I’m convinced he’s a comic book savant.

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis

Artists: Bryan Hitch, Brandon Peterson, Carlos Pacheco

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Marvel Unlimited; Comixology; Age of Ultron (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 14 and up

Today’s Super Comic — Uncanny X-Men #173 (1983)

Uncanny_X-Men_Vol_1_173Even though it came out the year I was born, this is the issue that got me hooked on X-Men comics, and I hadn’t even realized what a pivotal issue it was.

The 1990s cartoon had already reeled me in, but the first couple of early ‘90s X-Men comics I tried left me cold. Then I came across this issue reprinted in ­X-Men Classic, and it did the trick.

Most of the focus is on Wolverine and Rogue while the rest of the team is incapacitated. Though Rogue had officially joined the team a couple of issues earlier (while Wolverine was away in his own miniseries), the others didn’t readily accept her, on account of the fact that as a member of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants she had drained the memories and powers out of their friend Carol Danvers (the original Ms. Marvel and current Captain Marvel). Understandable.

But here, Rogue has the opportunity to do something heroic for possibly the first time in her life, for the one person who was treating her with kindness. And the moment Wolverine shows he accepts her as an X-Man should look familiar to anyone who’s seen the first X-Men movie.

Chris Claremont has written many years’ worth of X-Men comics, but this storyline ranks among his best writing. And he’s aided by the clean, dynamic pencil work of Paul Smith.

An X-Men classic indeed.

Writer: Chris Claremont

Artist: Paul Smith

Inker: Bob Wiacek

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Marvel Unlimited; Comixology; Essential X-Men vol. 4 (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 10 and up