Monthly Archives: May 2016

Today’s Super Comics: Daredevil #227-233 (1986)

Daredevil_Vol_1_227Frank Miller has written some great comics over the years…and some that, well, simply aren’t eligible for this series of only positive comics reviews.

But when he’s on, he’s one of the best in the business. And this Daredevil storyline, Born Again, is Miller at his best, producing one of the greatest comic book storylines ever to grace the newsstands—especially with the excellent work of artist David Mazzuchelli that perfectly fits the gritty world of Hell’s Kitchen.

The idea is simple: Daredevil’s ex-girlfriend Karen Page sells his secret identity for drug money. This information finds its way to the Kingpin, who then uses it to ruin Matt Murdock’s life. And things had already been going rather lousy for Matt in the preceding issues.

Writers are generally supposed to make characters’ lives hell, and yeah, Miller seems to have received that memo. Daredevil gets broken down so he can build himself back up. Events strip him to his essence, allowing us to see what kind of man he truly is.

And DD isn’t the only one in crisis. Karen is on the run, and Daily Bugle journalist Ben Urich gets in over his head while trying to investigate the Kingpin. Seven issues of nonstop momentum—tense and gripping the whole way.

If you’ve enjoyed Daredevil’s Netflix series, you’ll definitely want to check these issues out.

Writer: Frank Miller

Artist: David Mazzuchelli

Publisher: Marvel

How to Read It: back issues, Marvel Unlimited, Daredevil: Born Again (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 15 and up

 

Today’s Super Comic: Ms. Marvel #6 (2014)

MsMarvel6Marvel Comics made lots of headlines when the new Ms. Marvel was announced, as the series features the company’s first Muslim superhero. That’s nice, but it would’ve been meaningless if the book wasn’t any good.

Now that I’ve finally gotten around to checking out the first six issues, I’m happy to say it’s great. This book is ridiculously fun.

Kamala Khan is an Avengers fangirl turned superhero, and this Jersey City teenager is still getting the hang of her new powers as the second storyline begins. She’s very likable, and as an outsider who’s just trying to do the right thing, she fits the classic wish-fulfillment trope the superhero genre often excels at. And her stretchy/shrinky powers are not only visually interesting, but they suit the awkwardness of the teenage years.

Of course, every superhero needs a great nemesis, so Ms. Marvel gets…Thomas Edison…a genetically engineered bird-man named Thomas Edison. It’s kind of perfect, actually.

And she gets her first superhero team-up in this issue, and the interaction between the two is nothing short of delightful. She’s enjoying every second of it, and therefore the reader is, too.

More comics need to be like this. It’s great for middle school readers and still plenty of fun for adults.

Writer: G. Willow Wilson

Artist: Jacob Wyatt

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: back issues, Marvel Unlimited, Ms. Marvel vol. 2: Generation Why (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 11 and up

Today’s Super Comic: Action Comics #761 (2000)

Action761Superman and Wonder Woman meet Thor! Okay, not Marvel’s Thor, but Norse mythology happens to lie within the public domain, so they can get transported to Valhalla and meet a different interpretation of Thor.

But that’s actually the least of what makes this single-issue story so fantastic. It opens amid an ongoing subplot at the time in which the public suspects there might be a “Mrs. Superman” and is speculating about who this lucky lady might be. Lois—his actual wife at this stage of continuity and keeper of his secret identity—teases Clark about the whole thing and tries to get him to name someone whom Superman the icon would marry, hypothetically. Clark insists there couldn’t possibly be anyone other than Lois. And then Wonder Woman drops by.

But when Wonder Woman gets sucked into a centuries-long war among gods in another dimension and Superman is dragged along, he demonstrates what an exceptionally decent hero he is, and writer Joe Kelly expertly delineates Clark’s relationship with Lois and his friendship with Diana. He’ll fight by Wonder Woman’s side until the end of time if needed, because she’s his friend, and even after centuries of seemingly endless war, he’ll remain faithful to Lois, because she’s his love. (And he also vows never to take a life during this whole thing, because he’s also that kind of hero.)

A complete, epic tale of love and friendship spanning centuries—in a mere 22 pages. Fantastic stuff.

Writer: Joe Kelly

Penciler: German Garcia

Inker: Joe Rubinstein

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues

Appropriate For: ages 10 and up

Today’s Super Comic: New Mutants Special #1 (1985)

In which I review one comic a day, every day — but only the good ones. If you don’t have anything nice to say…

New_Mutants_Special_Edition_Vol_1_1_WraparoundTaking characters out of their element can yield great results when executed properly. And New Mutants Special #1 nails it.

The X-Men have had many spinoffs over the years, but the New Mutants were the first “second” team of mutant characters at Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters. And they were meant to be students first and foremost, not superheroes. These were young teenagers learning to control their powers in a world that fears and hates them.

So this story scatters them across an entirely different world…Asgard. Yes—Thor’s Asgard, the mythical Norse realm full of gods and goddesses. In this extra-sized special, writer Chris Claremont gives each individual New Mutant ample focus as they’re separated across different regions of this fantastical realm full of creatures and characters they never expected to meet. Some of the mutants initially enjoy the experience while others find themselves in troublesome predicaments, but strong characterization drives everything.

And Arthur Adams’s pencils and layouts provide a suitably epic feel to the proceedings. The book is a treat to both look at and read.

This was a special that earned the label. Classic stuff. My favorite New Mutants story.

Writer: Chris Claremont

Penciler: Arthur Adams

Inker: Terry Austin

Publisher: Marvel

How to Read It: back issues; Marvel Unlimited; included in X-Men: The Asgardian Wars (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 10 and up

Today’s Super Comic: Invincible Iron Man #3 (2015)

Every day for the next year, I will briefly review one comic book – but only the good books. Sometimes individual issues, sometimes full storylines or trade paperbacks. Sometimes recent offerings, sometimes old. But all will be worth checking out. For the benefit of parents, I’ll recommend what ages the book is appropriate for. I won’t bother giving a star or letter-grade rating. If it’s included, it’s at least a B+ book. So whether you’re a casual comics read, a serious fan who may have missed something, or the parent of a young reader trying to navigate this crazy world, hopefully you’ll pick up some good tips over the next 365 days. And these will be free of major spoilers.

So, the Marvel Cinematic Universe managed pretty well by starting off with Iron Man, so I’ll go with that…

Invincible_Iron_Man_3Iron Man and Doctor Strange bond over their facial hair. This was long overdue.

Brian Michael Bendis has been one of the most reliable writers in the industry for over 15 years now, and he’s not losing any steam. He perfectly captures Tony Stark’s voice; the Robert Downey Jr. influence is on display here and an excellent match for Bendis’s talky style. The conversation between Stark and new romantic interest Amara Perera is fantastic and ends with a terrific punchline.

David Marquez’s art also suits the book exceptionally well. He draws expressive characters and kinetic action. Whether people are talking or fighting, the book moves.

The storyline involves two classic villains—Madame Masque and Doctor Doom—and magic, which will no doubt pull Iron Man out of his element in entertaining fashion as events unfold.

This is a comic that knows how to have fun, and I’m looking forward to the next issue hitting the Marvel Unlimited library. (Marvel Unlimited lags several months behind the direct sales editions.) If they keep this quality up, I might even spring for the trades or floppies.

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis

Artist: David Marquez

Publisher: Marvel

How to Read It: Recent back issue; Marvel Unlimited; included in Invincible Iron Man Vol. 1: Reboot (HC)

Appropriate For: 13 and up

Avenging The Fantastic, Part 12: Meet the Falcon…And His Falcon!

Continuing the read-through of as many Avengers and Fantastic Four–related Marvel comics as possible!

Books Read

Avengers #64-72; Fantastic Four #82-93; Thor #160-171; Incredible Hulk #116-124; Captain America #114-119; Captain Marvel #15-19; Iron Man #15-20; years: 1969-70.

Avengers_Vol_1_71The Revolving Door of Avengers Mansion

Captain America, Iron Man, and Thor are back in action…at least part of the time. And the Black Knight becomes an official Avenger though not an active one, as he resides in England, which would be quite the commute.

The Dawn of the ‘70s

As this read-through finally hits the 1970s, and after we’ve all been subjected to the super-serious monstrosity known as Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, let’s appreciate how nice and innocent these old comics are. True, they are infected with the prejudices of their era (i.e. no shortage of sexism), but otherwise they depict many fine role models for the children who were reading them back in the day. These characters always try to do the right thing and make their world a better place. In the Marvel Comics Universe, superheroes err, but they tend to find their way back on track.

In DC’s rush to copy the success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and establish a different tone from the MCU, they’ve given us a Superman who’s not very heroic and a Batman who’s willing to indirectly kill criminals, and that’s a loss for today’s kids. Adults can enjoy superheroes, too (as I certainly do), but we shouldn’t take the classics away from children.

These comics, for all their faults, depict superheroes as originally intended, in colorful, action-packed stories that excite the imagination and encourage us to be the best that we can be. But enough with the soapbox—on to the comics!

Thor_Vol_1_168The History of Galactus – Thor #160-161, 168-169

Some stories can only be told in the comic book medium—stories such as a big world-eating guy fighting a sentient planet. Galactus squares off against Ego the Living Planet, with Thor and others caught in the middle, and it’s epic indeed. Totally ridiculous, yes, and no other medium could do it justice, but it works wonderfully as an action-packed comic.

The fight puts Galactus on Odin’s radar, so shortly later he sends Thor to find and battle Galactus. But since we’ve just had a world-shattering Galactus fight, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby give us something different—the origin of Galactus. Turns out, Galactus is tired of fighting, and he just wants to tell Thor how he came to be. Why now and why to Thor? Because he’s Galactus, and his prodigious mind is such that we cannot comprehend, so don’t question anything that seems convenient or coincidental.

Anyway, Galactus is the sole survivor of his planet, Taa. Weird radiation happened. The Watcher observed it all and was tempted to stop this destructive being from coming into existence, but ultimately the Watcher takes his watching seriously. So if countless planets need to get eaten, fine, so long as the Watcher never interferes. Again, it would probably make sense to minds less mortal than ours. Continue reading