Tag Archives: Avengers

Today’s Super Comic — The Avengers #144 (1976)

A former romance comic protagonist becomes a superhero in Avengers #144. Or she gets the super-powered costume, at least.

The Avengers, with tagalong Patsy Walker, had been captured by the Squadron Supreme (Marvel’s stand-ins for the Justice League, but evil). This issue sees them trying to escape the Brand Corporation complex—and being a fictional corporation, you can safely assume it’s up to no good.

The fun comes from the interplay between the characters, with the highlight being the casual camaraderie between Captain America and Iron Man. But the big development arrives when longtime superhero fan Patsy gets a chance to become one herself, despite the objections of her protectors. It’s a wish-fulfillment moment free of angst or melodrama, and it introduces an upbeat heroine to the Marvel Universe. You know right away that Hellcat will add something fresh to the mix. (And yes, Patsy is the comics version of the character we saw in Jessica Jones on Netflix.)

Meanwhile, other Avengers wrap up a storyline set in the Wild West. All sorts of craziness can peacefully coexist in Marvel Comics.

The issue is an excellent reminder about how innocently fun comics can be.

Writer: Steve Englehart

Penciler: George Perez

Inker: Mike Esposito

Cover: Gil Kane

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Marvel Unlimited; Comixology; included in Essential Avengers vol. 7 (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 8 and up

Today’s Super Comics — Captain America Reborn #1-6 (2009-10)

Of course Captain America wasn’t staying dead. We already knew that outcome, but what matters is how they get there. And Captain America Reborn nails it, using Cap’s long history to remind us why he’s such a great character.

Steve Rogers has become unstuck in time. He’s being flung back and forth throughout his past, reliving World War II battles, Avengers battles, family moments, his time on ice, etc., and he has to follow the script in every situation. He has some ability to act, but the wrong action could wreck the timestream. It’s quite the elaborate trap.

In the present, Bucky Barnes, Sharon Carter, Falcon, and several Avengers navigate the dual threats of the Red Skull and Norman Osborn (the latter leading a government-sponsored team of villainous Avengers at this point) as they try to save their friend.

This miniseries sustains strong momentum throughout. Ed Brubaker’s script keeps everyone in character at all times, and Bryan Hitch’s art provides a grand sense of scale. It’s all epic without ever losing sight of the individual actors within.

The essence of Captain America is this: He always finds a way, no matter the odds stacked against him. And that’s what we see here.

This isn’t the end of Brubaker’s run on Captain America. However, my year of daily reviews has only twenty-some days left, so this seems like a good stopping point for this particular series. But it’s definitely been worth rereading.

Writer: Ed Brubaker

Penciler: Bryan Hitch

Inker: Butch Guice

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Marvel Unlimited; Comixology; Captain America Reborn (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 13 and up

Today’s Super Comic — Runaways #12 (2006)

In which Wolverine gets punched out by an 11-year-old girl. And that pretty much sums up how fun this Runaways storyline is.

Issue #12 concludes a four-parter that brought the West Coast teens to New York City. Cloak & Dagger, Marvel’s original teenage runaways, need help. Cloak has been framed for attacking and hospitalizing Dagger, and the Avengers (I mean New Avengers) are after him for questioning. The Runaways (though they don’t actually call themselves that) pursue the actual assailant in a new-to-them setting.

Here, the Marvel Universe serves as a playground for the reader, but the book never neglects its main characters. Writer Brian K. Vaughan continues to deepen and flesh out each character while teasing future plots, building something new within an existing framework. He already did the hardest part by successfully introducing an entirely new cast of characters into the MU and getting readers interested. By this point, creative momentum is working in the book’s favor.

And it’s a joy to read.

Writer: Brian K. Vaughan

Penciler: Adrian Alphona

Inker: Craig Yeung

Cover: James Jean

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Marvel Unlimited; Comixology; included in Runaways vol. 5: Escape to New York (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 12 and up

Today’s Super Comic — Black Panther #8 (1999)

Flexibility with continuity can be a good thing when done right, especially when characters are appearing in stories over the course of multiple decades. What made sense in the 1960s may not make as much sense by late 1990s, such as a sovereign monarch choosing to join an American superhero team.

Black Panther #8, which features Avengers guest stars and flashbacks inspired by the classic 1968 Captain America #100, makes sense of T’Challa’s counterintuitive decision to leave his throne to gallivant as a superhero, and it does so by adding context and motivation that rightfully put the Black Panther’s monarchial role in the forefront. (I’m about to spoil it.)

So back in Captain America #100, Cap was so impressed by the Panther that he invited him to join the Avengers. T’Challa accepted, and thus began the Wakandan king’s American adventures. In the fast-paced, make-it-up-as-you-go style of 1960s Marvel Comics…sure, why not? But in 1999’s Black Panther #8, writer Christopher Priest considers that moment with the benefit of hindsight and takes a more modern approach.

The Avengers were relatively new at the time—an autonomous, unsupervised, unregulated group of powerful individuals claiming to have everyone’s best interests in mind. But Wakanda already had a history of unwanted and destructive foreign interference, so how could T’Challa be certain the Avengers wouldn’t pose a threat to his nation? And here he had an opportunity to infiltrate their ranks and take their measure firsthand. Thus, he joined the Avengers thinking first and foremost of his nation’s security.

Sometimes, retroactive tweaks to continuity (retcons) wind up convoluting the backstory or muddying things up, but this is an example of a retcon that enriches and deepens what came before while creating tension for present stories. The revelation is true to the character and therefore credible. Exactly how to do it right.

Writer: Christopher Priest

Pencilers: Joe Jusko and Amanda Connor

Inker: Jimmy Palmiotti

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Marvel Unlimited; Comixology; included in Black Panther by Christopher Priest: The Complete Collection Vol. 1

Appropriate For: ages 14 and up

Today’s Super Comic — All-New, All-Different Avengers #13 (2016)

This was an interesting way to tie into the Civil War II crossover. The larger storyline centers on a debate about using precognitive powers to prevent crime and disasters before they happen. All-New, All-Different Avengers #13 spins that off into a time-travel tangent.

The issue stars only one Avenger, the Vision, and the script reads like it could’ve been part of his solo series, putting us firmly in the artificial man’s logical brain as he works through a moral conundrum.

One of the Avengers’ greatest enemies, Kang, comes from the future. Whenever he strikes, he has the advantage of history on his side, thereby imperiling not only the Avengers, but also the entire world and future generations. So, Vision wonders, why not use time-travel against the time-traveler? Why not locate Kang as a baby and remove a tyrant from history? What’s one innocent life vs. millions?

The dilemma isn’t original by any means, but it’s a reliable one and it suits the Vision’s character. And it’s not resolved in this issue, so I’ll be curious to see how it plays out.

Writer: Mark Waid

Artist: Adam Kubert

Cover: Alex Ross

Publisher: Marvel Comics

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

Appropriate For: ages 12 and up

Today’s Super Comics — Avengers Forever #1-12 (1998-1999)

This was a fun idea for a time-traveling team book. In Avengers Forever, it’s not just an Avengers team traveling through time—it’s an Avengers team with representation from different eras, past, present, and future. A multi-temporal lineup.

And it’s an interesting lineup: Captain America at his most disillusioned, the present-day Wasp to provide leadership, an unhinged and untrustworthy Yellowjacket, a past Hawkeye from right after a classic story, and others.

The plot involves ones of the Avengers’ most prominent enemies, Kang the Conqueror (also a time-traveler, naturally), as well as Rick Jones, professional supporting character. Rick was around when the Avengers first formed, and he’s participated in several key moments in Marvel history, so he’s well utilized in a book that delves into large chunks of Avengers continuity.

The interactions between time-displaced Avengers make the book an entertaining read, but this isn’t a series for anyone new to comics. Given the density of continuity references at times, the book works much better for already-established fans. And I, as an already-established fan, enjoyed it tremendously.

All together, it’s an impressive feat from writers Kurt Busiek and Roger Stern (plotting it out must have been taken, well, forever), and artist Carlos Pacheco is in top form with his reliably dynamic pencilwork.

Writers: Kurt Busiek and Roger Stern

Penciler: Carlos Pacheco

Inker: Jesus Merino

Publisher: Marvel Comics

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

Appropriate For: ages 11 and up

Today’s Super Comics — The Ultimates #1-13 (2002-03)

ultimates_vol_1_1The original Ultimates series basically asked, “What would the Avengers be like in the real world?”

They’d be really messed up people, apparently, and hardly straightforward heroes.

Written by Mark Millar, it’s a more cynical take on the team than I’d normally like, but as a change of pace, it’s excellent and full of interesting ideas. The reinterpretation of Thor is particularly amusing—it’s ambiguous whether he’s actually the son of Odin or just a delusional hippie who happens to have powers. Also, when the team battles the Hulk in New York City, collateral damage is shown to be a real concern; super-action has consequences. And at one point, Nick Fury suggests Samuel L. Jackson should play him in a movie, several years before Jackson cameoed in the first Iron Man.

Artist Bryan Hitch creates exactly the right visual tone for this down-to-earth series. The art is detailed, and people look like people rather than cartoons.

The series is easily the second-best usage of Marvel’s Ultimate Comics imprint (after Ultimate Spider-Man, of course). Let’s just be thankful these aren’t the Avengers of the proper Marvel Universe or even the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Writer: Mark Millar

Penciler: Bryan Hitch

Inker: Paul Neary

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Marvel Unlimited; Comixology; The Ultimates: Ultimate Collection (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 15 and up

Today’s Super Comic — Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars #1 (1984)

marvel_super_heroes_secret_wars_vol_1_1This is one that works much better with kids. When I first read Secret Wars as a middle schooler, I thought it was among the coolest things ever. When I reread the miniseries as an adult, I was far less impressed, but it’s not without its charms.

The concept is simple. An infinitely powerful entity called the Beyonder summons a bunch of superheroes and a bunch of super-villains to a distant galaxy and plops them onto a bizarre patchwork planet. He tells both sides they must slay their enemies, and all they desire will be theirs.

The appeal, then, is also simple. It’s like playing with all your favorite toys at once. You get to watch the Avengers, X-Men, Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, and Hulk all interact over the course of 12 issues as they face some of their more well-known foes. It’s like Battle Royale or The Hunger Games, but with superheroes and far less bloodshed.

Writer Jim Shooter made some good choices with the set-up that’s outlined in #1. He has the Beyonder group Magneto among the heroes, because in Magneto’s mind he is a hero to his fellow mutants. Doctor Doom quickly asserts himself as the chief antagonist, putting himself above the mandated fray to embark on his own personal quest for power. And the world-devouring Galactus, who has often been portrayed as a force of nature above personal conflicts, is present among the villains as a powerful wild card.

Marvel also made a good call during the original execution of this miniseries in 1984. The participating characters ended an issue of their respective regular series by entering a mysterious portal. Then Secret Wars #1 came out. Then in the next issue of those regular series, the characters return to Earth, and some changes have occurred, big and small. For example, Spider-Man has a nifty black costume made of an alien material, and She-Hulk has replaced the Thing in the Fantastic Four. So what exactly happened between issues? Read the rest of Secret Wars to find out! I was too young to read in 1984, but I imagine it sparked a fun How did we get here? type of curiosity.

So, yeah, it’s basically just a fun wild ride for kids, but I absolutely ate it up when I was the right age. Marvel team-ups are often great, and this is a super-sized mega team-up.

Writer: Jim Shooter

Penciler: Mike Zeck

Inker: John Beatty

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Marvel Unlimited; Comixology; included in Secret Wars (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 8 and up

Today’s Super Comic — The New Avengers #11 (2016)

new-avengers-11-2015Well, this certainly has some twists to it.

This is still recent, so I won’t give anything away. But I’m not sure where it’s going exactly, and it’s a delightful change of pace.

Writer Al Ewing makes great use of Sunspot (Roberto Da Costa), a character we’ve been half-expecting to grow up into a super-villain since he was a teenager in the original New Mutants. Now he’s the Supreme Leader of A.I.M.—formerly the villainous Advanced Ideas Mechanics, now the ostensibly heroic Avengers Ideas Mechanics. Ambiguity suits him.

Roberto’s got some big plan in store for the world, and it’s been fun watching the pieces slowly unfold. The endgame is probably benevolent, possibly not.

I’m genuinely curious to see where this is going. And issue #11’s final page only has me more curious.

The book’s got a good sense of humor, too. It sometimes leans a little immature, but that also suits Sunspot…and it’s better than a comic taking itself too seriously, in any case.

Writer: Al Ewing

Artist: Gerardo Sandoval

Publisher: Marvel Comics

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

Appropriate For: ages 12 and up

Today’s Super Comic — The New Avengers #1 (2015)

new-avengers-1-2015I’m skeptical about the need for multiple Avengers titles. In recent years, we’ve had All-New All-Different Avengers, New Avengers, Uncanny Avengers, Young Avengers, Avengers A.I., Occupy Avengers, and of course, just plain old Avengers. To be fair, we’re not at ‘90s X-Men levels yet, but one solid Avengers team should suffice.

Then again, a spinoff can always justify itself with an interesting premise that distinguishes it from the parent title, and that’s what we get in the latest iteration of New Avengers.

I missed whatever story led into this, but apparently Robert DaCosta, formerly the founding New Mutant called Sunspot, is now a billionaire and running the formerly (?) villainous organization A.I.M. But instead of being Advanced Idea Mechanics, it’s now Avengers Idea Mechanics and has its own team of Avengers.

The roster features several characters I’m not overly familiar with, which is why I almost overlooked this series. We’ve got Songbird, formerly of the Thunderbolts; Wiccan and Hulking, formerly of the Young Avengers; White Tiger, formerly more of a street-level vigilante type; Squirrel Girl, formerly of the very obscure Great Lakes Avengers; and a Power Man I’ve never seen before who definitely isn’t Luke Cage. And then there’s somebody I actually am very familiar with, Hawkeye, who is primarily serving as a not-secret spy for SHIELD (an open and honest spy is a nice inversion of the team-traitor trope).

The focus here seems to be on big science-y scenarios—comic book science, of course, which tends to be more science-fantasy than science-fiction, but either can be lots of fun. The main villain, appropriately, is an evil version of Reed Richards from the now-defunct Ultimate Universe.

The first issue lays out the basics, but I get the feeling there’s more going on, which will be revealed in time. Always a good impression to leave with the reader—that’s an excellent way to bring me back for more.

Writer: Al Ewing

Artist: Gerardo Sandoval

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Marvel Unlimited; Comixology; included in New Avengers vol. 1: Everything is New (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 12 and up