Tag Archives: Mark Waid

Today’s Super Comics — Flash #62-65 (1992)

Superhero comics certainly offer plenty of escapist fun for readers. But in the stories, particularly in the old-school comics of many years ago, the kid sidekicks were the ones who got to live the escapism…and the young readers could simply plug themselves into the role and imagine themselves battling crime alongside the older hero.

The Flash acquired his own sidekick early on—Kid Flash, who was actually Wally West, the nephew of Flash’s girlfriend Iris West. After Barry and Iris both died, Wally grew up and took on the Flash mantle, and he became a better developed character than Barry Allen ever was at that point.

When writer Mark Waid began his superb run on the title in issue #62, he started at the beginning, by flashing back to Kid Flash’s origins. In a four-part story, we meet 10-year-old Wally West, who’s spent his life in a small town with cold, distant parents and little to look forward to…until one summer when his super-cool aunt Iris invites him to spend a few months with her in Central City. Wally would choose his aunt over his parents any day, but he’s especially excited because Central City is the home of his hero—the Flash!

It starts as pure wish-fulfillment. Not only does Wally get to meet his hero, but a freak accident grants him the same powers. He enjoys the best summer of his life, with the problems of home too far away to matter.

But his escape will have to end eventually, and he’ll have some growing up to do.

It’s the quintessential sidekick story—wish granted, everything seems wonderful, but problems haven’t really gone away, have they?

An excellent start from Waid, and the best was yet to come. As I’ve mentioned before, this series played a huge role in hooking me on comics when I was a kid. It holds up remarkably well. Kid-me had good taste.

Writer: Mark Waid

Penciler: Greg LaRocque

Inker: Jose Marzan Jr.

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology; included in The Flash by Mark Waid Book One (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 9 and up

Today’s Super Comics — Fantastic Four #67-70, 500 (2003)

Doctor Doom finally figures out how to one-up Reed Richards in Fantastic Four #67-70 and 500. And yes, those numbers are correct. Marvel likes to have it both ways with numbering—reboot for a new #1 to designate a jumping-on point, then revert to the original numbering for anniversary issues.

Anyway, there’s one subject area where Reed is in over his head. He can’t comprehend magic. The world’s smartest man is an idiot when it comes to sorcery. But Doom understands the fundamentals, and as the son of a gypsy, it’s an established part of his heritage. So in his ongoing quest to humble Mr. Fantastic, Doom rejects science in favor of magic and strikes at the Fantastic Four through their children.

There are no higher stakes than imperiled children. Not even saving the whole world or universe reaches that level, because the scale is too grand to remain relatable. But your kids are in trouble? We can all understand that terror.

The script by Mark Waid nails the characterization of both Doom and Reed, particularly how arrogant they can both be. The storyline shows how they’re perfect antagonists for each other. They reflect each other’s strengths and weaknesses, and their conflict has always been personal. Appropriately for an anniversary issue, there’s history here, and the feud escalates to the next level.

Marvel has published many superb Fantastic Four stories over the decades, and this is in the top tier. And it begs the question—why isn’t Marvel currently publishing Fantastic Four comics?

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 11 and up

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