Tag Archives: Kurt Busiek

Today’s Super Comic — Iron Man #1 (1998)

Every so often, a long-running comic book series just needs to get back to the basics…and Iron Man definitely needed that by the late ’90s.

Marvel killed Iron Man a few years earlier and replaced him with a teenage version of himself from an alternate timeline. Then that teen version died along with the rest of the Avengers in the “Onslaught” crossover, leading to the Heroes Reborn stunt in which popular Image Comics creators reimagined and relaunched the Fantastic Four, Avengers, Captain America, and Iron Man in a separate, new continuity. Then a year later, after that had run its course, those characters were restored to the proper Marvel Universe and relaunched with new first issues.

Seemed like as good a time as any to have the real Tony Stark return. The details are sketchy as to why and how the adult Stark returned rather than the teen version…and I’m okay with that. Why dig the hole any deeper? The creative team had an opening to efficiently get back on track, and they seized it in the relaunched Iron Man #1.

Of course, Tony Stark can’t just waltz back from the dead and reclaim his company as if he hadn’t been killed and replaced by his younger self for a while. A competitor had bought out Stark Enterprises, so the big question for the first issue is…will Tony try to reclaim his company? Or will he start something new?

The script by Kurt Busiek gets at the heart of the character. Tony Stark is always trying to build both himself and the world around him into something better. Here, he needs to figure out how best to do it.

Oh, and an unseen old foe wants to kill him. Got to have that physical peril thrown in there, too.

A fine restart all around, and a much-needed one at the time.

Writer: Kurt Busiek

Penciler: Sean Chen

Inker: Eric Cannon

Publisher: Marvel Comics

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

Appropriate For: ages 11 and up

Today’s Super Comic — Marvels #1 (1994)

Marvels depicts the dawn of the Marvel Universe from the perspective of ordinary people, particularly one ordinary photographer, Phil Sheldon. The world is changing in unexpected ways, making everything seem both scary and grand.

The painted art of Alex Ross adds the necessary sense of realism, as much as “realism” can apply to things like a combustible android and amphibious man.

The first issue focuses on Marvel Comics’ Golden Age, beginning with its earliest characters—the Human Torch and Namor the Sub-Mariner. Both initially appear as frightening figures, not heroes, especially when the two battle each over New York City, leaving all sorts of destruction in their wake (fun fact: the first comics crossover was a battle between the Torch and Namor in 1940). Captain America’s debut, however, causes far less concern and far more excitement.

All the while, plain normal Phil has to figure out what place a regular man has in this strange new world.

When you’ve been reading superhero comics year after year, you can easily start taking the concepts for granted—yeah, of course a person can fly, why not? But Marvels offers a fresh perspective, allowing everything to seem new and exciting again. Read all four issues.

Writer: Kurt Busiek

Artist: Alex Ross

Publisher: Marvel Comics

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

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 — Superman: Secret Identity #1-4 (2004)

superman-secret-identity-1“Real-world” takes on superheroes come with substantial risk—extracting all the wonder and escapist fun right out of the story. But when done properly, as in Superman: Secret Identity, the opposite occurs, and it’s like we’re reading about a flying man for the first time…because in the world of this story, it’s unprecedented.

The miniseries takes place in a world just like ours, one in which Superman is nothing more than a fictional character. The protagonist has the misfortune of being named Clark Kent, and boy, does he never hear the end of it. Then one night, for no apparent reason, he suddenly has all of Superman’s powers. Now…what to do with them?

Writer Kurt Busiek is a master of grounded superhero stories that feel all the more magical because of their earthy roots. Similarly, artist Stuart Immonen displays a rough-hewn style that looks relatively “normal” and down-to-earth, which only serves to heighten the grandeur when Clark takes to the sky or performs some other extraordinary feat.

The story feels like it’s occurring in our world, and its characters look and sound like people who would fit right in with life as we know it. There’s just one super-powered person added to it.

Writer: Kurt Busiek

Artist: Stuart Immonen

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology; Superman: Secret Identity (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 12 and up

Today’s Super Comics — The Avengers #19-22 (1999)

Avengers_19_1999I enjoyed the Avengers: Age of Ultron film a great deal, but with all due respect, these four issues by Kurt Busiek and George Perez comprise the greatest Ultron story ever produced.

The Avengers are best when the stakes are huge and personal, and that’s what we get in the “Ultron Unlimited” arc. Ultron is taking another shot at his usual goal of replacing organic life with robotic life. But this time includes some twists. He actually does destroy an entire small country as his opening salvo, which gives tremendous gravity to the proceedings. And he kidnaps his “family” so that he can use their brainwaves to generate unique personalities to animate the robotic life he wants to take over the world.

So…that “family.” Stay with me here… Hank “Ant-Man/Giant Man” Pym created Ultron, so Ultron perceives Pym as his father and the Wasp as his mother. Ultron in turn created the Vision, a “son,” and he based his brain patterns on the then-late, since-resurrected Wonder Man, so Vision and Wonder Man are kind of like brothers. But Wonder Man also has a biological brother—the villainous Grim Reaper. And at some point along the way, the Vision married and later divorced the Scarlet Witch, adding her to this twisted family tree as well.

Only in comic books. Or soap operas. Maybe Game of Thrones.

But roughly 35 years of continuity build-up pays off with these four issues of epic, character-driven action. This story is well worth tracking down.

Writer: Kurt Busiek

Penciler: George Perez

Inker: Al Vey

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Marvel Unlimited; Comixology; Avengers: Ultron Unlimited (TPB); Avengers Assemble Vol. 2 (TPB, by Busiek)

Appropriate For: ages 12 and up

Today’s Super Comics — Superman #650-653 and Action Comics #837-840 (2006)

Superman_v.1_650About a decade ago (oh, dear … where did that decade go?), DC Comics launched a gimmick that actually led to a bunch of interesting and/or great stories. Gimmicks, on account of being gimmicky, tend not to always do that. But “One Year Later,” in which every DC Universe title jumped ahead one year in their shared continuity, opened up many story possibilities that aren’t always possible in ongoing comic book series.

Such as this terrific Superman story. At the start, the world hasn’t seen Superman in a full year. He’s lost his powers and is living as plain old Clark Kent—and enjoying the change of pace and the chance to be the best reporter he can be, relying on only his human skills.

Sometimes the best ideas are the simplest. Show us a world that’s been missing its Superman for a while, and show us how special and grand it is when he returns. And it is all special and grand, because it’s Superman done right.

This is how you do the world’s original superhero. Skip the recent movies and read this instead.

Writers: Kurt Busiek and Geoff Johns

Artists: Pete Woods and Renato Guedes

Publishers: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology; Superman: Up, Up, and Away (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 9 and up

Today’s Super Comics — JLA/Avengers #1-4 (2003-04)

JLA_Avengers_1_CoverTwo major comic book movies this year have featured superheroes facing off against each other. Batman vs. Superman in one corner. Captain America vs. Iron Man in the other. And one of those movies was even good.

But in terms of sheer scope, both are downright pedestrian compared to the JLA/Avengers miniseries, the intercompany crossover that had been in the works for many years before it finally materialized thirteen years ago.

Marvel and DC could have phoned this one in and still sold a ton of copies, but instead they called in the big guns: Kurt Busiek and George Perez. Busiek is a fantastic superhero writer who understands the genre better than most. And if there’s a better artist than Perez when it comes to drawing crowded pages full of classic superheroes, well, that would be news to me.

So yes, JLA/Avengers is the ultimate comic book summer blockbuster. It offers no new insights about these characters, but why would it? The fun is seeing our favorite Avengers and Justice Leaguers interact, and sounding and behaving in-character as they do so. The book performs that task wonderfully, but it does go the extra mile by contrasting these two great superhero universes. The most interesting part is how the Justice League views the Marvel Universe as practically dystopian while the Avengers view the DC Universe as nearly utopian.

But seeing, for example, Superman going into battle while carrying Captain America’s shield and Thor’s hammer? It’s not high art, but it’s Superman going into battle carrying Captain America’s shield and Thor’s hammer. And really, that’s what it’s all about.

A grand fun time.

Writer: Kurt Busiek

Artist: George Perez

Publishers: DC & Marvel

How to Read It: back issues; JLA/Avengers (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 10 and up