Monthly Archives: October 2016

Today’s Super Comic — Green Arrow #26 (2003)

green_arrow_vol_3_26In the early-to-mid 2000s, the defining Green Arrow writer was Judd Winick. Kevin Smith had brought the character back from the dead, and Brad Meltzer wrote a solid follow-up to that storyline, but Oliver Queen’s second lease on life didn’t get any true forward momentum until Winick took over with #26 and guided the Emerald Archer through a nice long run with lots of character development.

With the first storyline acting as the “pilot,” Winick focuses on Green Arrow’s core essence—he’s the swaggering rich guy who looks out for the little guy. He also happens to be several years older and less prone to Batman-like brooding than that young Green Arrow you see on the television (not a criticism of the show, which I enjoy—just noting they’re different).

An impending new business development threatens innocent Star City residents with eviction, so Queen steps up in their defense. We meet a new character who will play an important role in the storyline, and a monster comes out of nowhere. All the while, Winick keeps the tone fun, and Phil Hester’s art is clean and engaging.

If you ask fans to identify the definitive Green Arrow run, you’ll likely get several different answers, including “none of the above.” But this was a consistently strong one that’s worth a look.

Writer: Judd Winick

Penciler: Phil Hester

Inker: Ande Parks

Cover: Matt Wagner

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology; included in Green Arrow vol. 3: Straight Shooter (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 12 and up

Today’s Super Comics — Flash #80-83 (1993)

flash_v-2_80I know too much pointless trivia. I’m watching the latest episode of The Flash on TV, a new character is referred to as “Frankie,” and I instantly realize, “Oh, that’s obviously supposed to be Frankie Kane, a.k.a. Magenta, ex-girlfriend of Wally West back when he was Kid Flash and hanging out with the Teen Titans.” The TV version has a different backstory, of course, but yeah, the show captured the spirit of the character well.

I first came across the character from her guest appearances in Flash #80-83, the last three issues of which also feature guest appearances by Nightwing (Dick Grayson) and Starfire. It was a nice partial reunion of the greatest Teen Titans team, a good reminder about the longtime friendship between the original Robin and the original Kid Flash, and an excellent way to infuse some tension in the relationship between Wally West and Linda Park (whom we also met a version of in the TV show a while back).

Wally and Frankie were childhood friends and teenage sweethearts, and in #80 Frankie unexpectedly arrives in town, her magnetic powers wreaking havoc on her psyche (as they had since her debut in The New Teen Titans 11 years earlier). Between a super-powered ex, an alien princess, and a guy who grew up with Batman, Linda begins wondering how her ordinary self fits among Wally’s Superfriends. Meanwhile, Flash tries to help his old best friend through a crisis of confidence.

It’s a solid storyline of love, friendship, and action that raises the stakes at the end with a literal ticking clock.

Also, this is artist Mike Wieringo’s first storyline on the title, and his clean, kinetic style is a perfect fit for the character right from the start.

Writer: Mark Waid

Penciler: Mike Wieringo

Inker: Jose Marzaz, Jr.

Covers: Alan Davis & Mark Farmer

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology

Appropriate For: ages 10 and up

Today’s Super Comic — Supergirl #14 (1997)

supergirl_vol_4_14One of the problems with these all-positive daily reviews is I wind up sampling a great series I haven’t read in years, and then I want to re-read the entire run. I can’t re-read them all, but I am enjoying rediscovering whatever full runs I can squeeze in.

And one I’ll want to make time for is Peter David’s excellent Supergirl series. For evidence of its strength, observe issue #14, in which Supergirl endures a tie-in to a subpar company-wide crossover without any dip in quality. (“Genesis” was a late-90s DC crossover that will not appear among these all-positive daily reviews.)

David doesn’t bog the book down in “Genesis” details—that story is just where Supergirl is coming from and where she’s going to. But her own book’s storylines continue apace, and we get good forward momentum here. A new character (derived from a classic one) is hinted at, and Supergirl makes an important decision involving all four of her parental figures.

A rewarding aspect of this series is that it truly feels like one large story told over many issues. It strikes a nice balance between novel and episodic storytelling, and David has plenty of experience with both. Throughout the series, both Supergirl and Linda Danvers grow as a single entity much more than either would have as separate individuals, and in this issue the character development progresses with the decision to tell the Kents and the Danverses about her dual identity. Both couples love her, but their reactions are worlds apart, setting up drama to follow in future issues.

So yeah, this may be one of the series I have to see through…

Writer: Peter David

Penciler: Leonard Kirk

Inker: Cam Smith

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology

Appropriate For: ages 11 and up

Today’s Super Comic — All-New Hawkeye #6 (2016)

all-new-hawkeye-6The Jeff Lemire/Ramon Perez run on All-New Hawkeye comes to a satisfying conclusion in #6 (which should really be #11, but maybe smaller numbers sell better).

The issue’s highlight is the flashback showing the moment when the Avengers, particularly Hawkeye, first inspired the second Hawkeye, Kate Bishop. And the scene is nicely placed after an amusing present-day conversation between Clint Barton and his brother Barney, in which Barney rags on him for being the Avengers’ token normal guy. But Hawkeye’s ability to hold his own among Earth’s Mightiest Heroes without any powers, just a bow and arrows and skills—that’s what inspires young Kate.

The unconventional friendship between the two Hawkeyes has formed a great heart for the series, and it pays off wonderfully here.

Writer: Jeff Lemire

Artist: Ramon Perez

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: recent back issues; Marvel Unlimited; Comixology; included in Hawkeye vol. 6: Hawkeyes (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 13 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 — The Sandman #8 (1989)

sandman-8There are lots of ways for a character to make a great first impression on me. One foolproof way is by referencing Mary Poppins.

And that’s how we meet The Sandman’s personification of death. In Neil Gaiman’s world, Death appears as a lively teenaged girl, and she’s the older sister of the series’ protagonist, Dream. No Grim Reaper clichés here.

Death debuts in #8, which is when the series truly started becoming amazing. Dream has just completed a quest that defined the series’ opening arc, and now he’s feeling adrift and purposeless. So his sister comes along to check on him, and he tags along as she goes about her routine of guiding the newly deceased into the afterlife, reminding Dream of his own responsibilities. Gaimain makes the right call in not showing us Death’s realm; instead, we just see her kindness and tact as she greets diverse people who are all about to embark on the same journey.

It’s an excellent issue that stands on its own while also promising the greatness to come throughout the rest of the series…and the also-excellent Death spinoff miniseries.

Writer: Neil Gaiman

Artist: Mike Dringenberg

Inker: Malcolm Jones III

Publisher: DC Comics (Vertigo)

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology; included in The Sandman vol. 1: Preludes & Nocturnes (TPB)

Appropriate For: ADULTS ONLY

Today’s Super Comics — Batman and the Outsiders #1-2 (1983)

batman_and_the_outsiders_vol_1_1The early ‘80s was a golden age for team books. Uncanny X-Men, The New Teen Titans, The Avengers, and Justice League of America were all putting out excellent stuff at the time. But that clearly wasn’t enough, so along came Batman and the Outsiders.

The series was built in the same mold as New Teen Titans, but with mostly adults. It took a few established characters (Batman, Black Lightning, and Metamorpho) and teamed them up with a few newcomers (Halo, Katana, and Geo-Force), and the stories drew inspiration from the characters’ diverse backgrounds while the reader had fun watching these distinct personalities interact. The main difference was that one character got top billing, and of course he did, because he’s Batman.

The team forms in the first two issues, and it comes together organically, with each character drawn to the conflict for his or her own reason. Batman has a nice little mini-arc, as he swiftly progresses from team member to loner to team leader.

Batman’s resignation from the Justice League is particularly well done. Bruce Wayne’s right-hand man, Lucius Fox, gets kidnapped in the war-torn country of Markovia while on business, so naturally Batman wants to gather his JLA teammates and stage a rescue. But the JLA’s hands are tied—the State Department fears the Markovian situation would escalate if troops or superheroes got involved, so Superman promised the JLA wouldn’t intervene. But Batman has a friend to save, so if the JLA’s rules get in the way, then it’s time to quit the JLA and go save his friend.

The scene illustrates how Batman’s morality is either more complex or more simplistic than the rest of the League’s, depending on your point of view…which in turn demonstrates how comics were beginning to tackle more mature themes at this point (while remaining appropriate for and still largely aimed at kids).

If you’ve enjoyed other ‘80s team books, this one’s well worth tracking down, too.

Writer: Mike W. Barr

Artist: Jim Aparo

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology; included in Showcase Presents: Batman and the Outsiders vol. 1 (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 10 and up

Today’s Super Comics — JLA #16-17 (1998)

jla_vol_1_16The Justice League and the Avengers love changing their lineups. It’s a staple of both franchises. They also both like to shake up their rosters in issue #16, apparently. But whereas the original Avengers #16 replaced the old guard with mostly new members, the ‘90s Justice League reboot instead doubles its membership in JLA #16.

So we’ve got fourteen JLAers, plus the party-crashing Catwoman, and about a hundred reporters aboard the Justice League’s moon-based headquarters. And of course a new villain strikes and starts taking the team down one member at a time.

This villain, Prometheus, instantly appears to be a formidable and credible threat. His motivation is sketchy, but in writer Grant Morrison’s defense, he is juggling a ton of characters in the course of two issues and still manages to give everyone time in the spotlight.

The plot is pretty basic, but it’s really all about showing off the new team and introducing a highly skilled and intelligent new villain to DC’s ranks. And in that regard, it succeeds in being tremendous fun. Prometheus may be underdeveloped here, but he certainly shows potential. Maybe one of those CW shows might want to consider using him. Just a totally random thought there.

Writer: Grant Morrison

Pencilers: Howard Porter and Arnie Jorgensen

Inkers: John Dell and David Meikis & Mark Pennington

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology; included in JLA: The Deluxe Edition vol. 2 (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 11 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 Comic — Runaways #9 (2004)

runaways_vol_1_9Yeah, I’m still re-reading Runaways. I was overdue for it.

The action takes a break in #9, and we get an issue of the kids hanging out in their new hideout…with a guest, a teen they recently met who’s also eager to escape his evil parents. What a coincidence! Of course, this being a story, the odds of a new character not introducing conflict are slim. And remember one of those great Pixar rules—coincidences are great for getting characters into trouble, not out of trouble.

Meanwhile, the evil parents continue searching for their kids. What distinguishes this from the typical villains-pursuing-heroes fare is that they actually do care about their kids. Their judgment is clearly atrocious or they wouldn’t be villains, but like all parents, they desire only the best for their children.

And if you ever want to study up on amazing cliffhangers, this series has some lessons for you.

Writer: Brian K. Vaughan

Penciler: Adrian Alphona

Inker: Craig Yeung

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Marvel Unlimited; Comixology; included in Runaways vol. 2: Teenage Wasteland (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 12 and up