Tag Archives: Mark Waid

Today’s Super Comics — JLA #43-46 (2000)

In which it’s confirmed that the Justice League’s most dangerous member is…Batman.

Mark Waid took over the writing on JLA with #43, and he kicked off with a superb four-part storyline that pitted the team against Ra’s al Ghul at his smartest. Ra’s, with his focus on reducing the global population in order to “save” the planet, is a great choice for a JLA foe, and his scheme here is a clever one—broadcasting a signal that interferes with the brain’s ability to comprehend the written word and, later, the spoken word. Rid humanity of language, and the resulting disasters will thin out the population in no time.

He knows beforehand the JLA will oppose him, and he’s not overly familiar with most of the members, except for Batman. And he’s well aware of Batman’s weaknesses.

The plot gets going right away when Bruce Wayne discovers his parents’ coffins have been stolen, which is a perfect way to keep Batman distracted for a while. Then Ra’s al Ghul’s daughter Talia and his men proceed to enact Batman’s emergency protocols against each member of the JLA, one at a time. Turns out Batman has maintained files on how to non-lethally incapacitate his teammates, such as dosing Aquaman with a fear toxin to make him terrified of water and making the Martian Manhunter flammable. Secretive soul that he is, Batman has neglected to ever mention this project to any of his teammates who have placed their trust in him.

That’s the true brilliance of Waid’s story—the main obstacle to thwarting a global threat is a protagonist’s own fatal flaw. It’s a great way to keep character at the center of the story without interfering with the stars’ respective solo series.

And didn’t I just recently say that Batman was a jerk during this time? See?

Writer: Mark Waid

Pencilers: Howard Porter and Steve Scott

Inkers: Drew Geraci and Mark Propst

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology

Appropriate For: ages 11 and up

Today’s Super Comic — Fantastic Four #64 (2003)

Love and mathematics save the day in Fantastic Four #64, and that’s basically the Fantastic Four in a nutshell.

One of the reasons why Mark Waid and Mike Wieringo’s Fantastic Four run works so wonderfully is because they focus on the FF as a family, and they do so without skimping on the imaginative action/adventure. Other super-teams might be like a family, but the FF legitimately are one.

And in this issue, the family dynamic plays into the plot. Reed and Sue’s young son Franklin accidentally creates a sentient mathematical expression while fiddling with his father’s advanced computer because he was trying to make himself smarter so his parents would love him more. The sentient expression wants to use Reed to create a balanced equation, so it attempts to “subtract” everything and everyone from his life until they are equals.

Math is not for the faint of heart.

Yes, it can be a little goofy, but it’s also genuinely heartfelt and relatable. That’s the balance a great Fantastic Four story strikes (and one none of the movies managed).

Writer: Mark Waid

Penciler: Mike Wieringo

Inker: Karl Kesel

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Marvel Unlimited; Comixology; included in Fantastic Four by Waid & Wieringo Ultimate Collection, Book 1 (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 9 and up

Today’s Super Comic — Black Widow #6 (2016)

Back in the ‘60s, Black Widow was introduced as an enemy for Iron Man. So it’s fitting that Black Widow #6 puts them at odds once again, as we (and Tony Stark) learn that she once targeted someone very important to him back in her less scrupulous days.

The issue rejects the usual “heroes fight over a misunderstanding” pattern and instead offers twists that are in character for both Natasha and Tony. And it’s not the usual sort of “misunderstanding” in play here—the Widow’s guilty. But there’s more going on than just one painful revelation.

So the story’s great, and I also continue to enjoy writer/artist Chris Samnee’s visuals. He captures exactly the right tone, and the facial expressions bring the scenes to life.

At this point, I think it’s safe to declare this the Black Widow’s strongest solo series to date.

Writers: Chris Samnee and Mark Waid

Artist: Chris Samnee

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: recent back issues; Marvel Unlimited; Comixology; included in Black Widow vol. 1: SHIELD’s Most Wanted (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 12 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 Comic — Legion of Super-Heroes #1 (2005)

The Legion of Super-Heroes is one of those franchises I sampled a few times but just couldn’t get into. It probably had to do with the incredibly large cast—there were so many colorful characters, but no real focal point to latch onto (in the random issues I read, anyway). I could never find my way in. Until the 2005 reboot, that is.

The top-notch talent of writer Mark Waid and artist Barry Kitson gave us a 31st century for the 21st. In this version of the future, Earth is a utopia…and the youth are bored out of their minds. The rebellious young Legionnaires crave independence and seek to recapture the spirit of the heroic age from the distant past (our present). In the case of issue #1, that means everything from stopping a malfunctioning giant robot to aiding rebel forces on a war-torn alien planet.

The Legion isn’t just a superhero team; it’s a community and a way of life for these young people. And that community angle allows the book to turn its abundant cast into a strength.

The series takes its time introducing the cast and allows different characters to come into focus in different issues. The first issue has a bit more work to do, and we see several Legionnaires in action, but two characters in particular provide focal points.

The Invisible Kid is the new recruit who allows us to see the Legion through fresh eyes—a standard but effective issue-one strategy. More interesting is the leader, Cosmic Boy, who’s trying to play nice with the United Planets council, in defiance of his own individualistic streak. It’s a superb inner conflict that sets the tone for the series.

So yes, that one time I got into the Legion of Super-Heroes…it started right here.

Writer: Mark Waid

Penciler: Barry Kitson

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues; included in Legion of Super-Heroes vol. 1: Teenage Revolution (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 11 and up

Today’s Super Comic — Black Widow #5 (2016)

The current Black Widow remains a quality action series five issues in.

Momentum continues to build. The tension escalates. The stakes feel higher with every issue. And it’s all done in exactly the right tone, and with the right ambiguity, for its title character. I’m genuinely curious to see how this wraps up.

Yet another reminder that there really should be a solo Black Widow movie by now. But at least we have this excellent comic.

Writers: Chris Samnee and Mark Waid

Artist: Chris Samnee

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: recent back issues; Marvel Unlimited; Comixology; included in Black Widow vol. 1: SHIELD’s Most Wanted (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 12 and up

Today’s Super Comic — Black Widow #3 (2016)

black-widow-3Time to rave about the current Black Widow series again.

Issue #3 demonstrates how this is truly an artist’s book, and indeed, the artist is also the co-writer. Appropriately for a visual medium, Chris Samnee tells the story largely through pictures as we follow Black Widow from New York to Russia and deep into her own past.

But this series isn’t structured around cool images—it’s a story ideally suited for its character, and it knows it doesn’t need to be talky to get the job done. Natasha isn’t exactly a chatterbox herself, so the approach fits especially well here.

A great series so far. I’m ready for more.

Writers: Mark Waid and Chris Samnee

Artist: Chris Samnee

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: recent back issues; Marvel Unlimited; Comixology; included in Black Widow vol. 1: SHIELD’s Most Wanted (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 12 and up

Today’s Super Comic — All-New, All-Different Avengers #12 (2016)

all-new-all-different-avengers-12-coverAll-New, All-Different Avengers might just be the best team book currently on the market. The superheroics are solid, and the roster has great chemistry. Except for Iron Man and Vision, none of these characters is the first-generation version of the brand, but each one feels legit.

Issue #12, written by Mark Waid, showcases inventive action, as the team battles a powerful threat in the Negative Zone—but, due to Marvel physics, only one Avenger can be in the Negative Zone at a time, thereby requiring a tag-team strategy.

Meanwhile, the new Wasp bonds with the original, and I’m pleased to see the book forgo any petty squabbling or contrived tension between the two. While Janet Van Dyne will likely always be the best Wasp, this new version shows tremendous promise. She’s eager, she’s sincerely interested in doing the right thing, and the Avengers’ world is new and exciting to her. She has to potential to serve as a fresh viewpoint into the well-established Marvel Universe. Best of all, she’s not a replacement.

This series was well worth springing for the trade.

Writer: Mark Waid

Artist: Mahmud Asrar

Cover: Alex Ross

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: recent back issues; Comixology; included in All-New, All-Different Avengers vol. 2: Family Business (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 11 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 — Kingdom Come #4 (1996)

kingdom_come_4Kingdom Come arrives at a perfect conclusion.

The Superman in this miniseries has been one who’s lost his way. He still wants to do the right thing, but his previously impeccable judgment is impaired. This is the issue to address how he let that happen and how to right the course…but only after he reaches his breaking point, brought upon in part by his own incredible sense of responsibility.

Wonder Woman, too, has strayed, and her arc comes to a head in an excellent confrontation with Batman. And Captain Marvel is extremely well cast as the one character who is both superhuman and human.

The two-page spread early in the book showcases Alex Ross’s amazing artistic talents. He crams so many characters on the battlefield, with every bit player and background actor engaged in a specific action against a specific opponent. Throughout the book, each page is a phenomenal work of art.

Writer Mark Waid clearly understands superheroes’ two most important roles—to fight always for life, and to inspire. Unless they do those two things, they’re not truly superheroes. This series is ultimately all about superheroes becoming heroic again, and while I’ve never ranked my favorite comics, Kingdom Come would easily fall in the top ten. Probably top five.

Writer: Mark Waid

Artist: Alex Ross

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology; included in Kingdom Come (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 12 and up