Tag Archives: Mark Waid

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

Today’s Super Comic — Kingdom Come #3 (1996)

kingdom_come_3In the third issue of Kingdom Come, Superman doesn’t want to adjust to a changing world, but Captain Marvel couldn’t adjust. Superman strives to maintain peace, but Wonder Woman is prepared for war, if necessary.

The inclusion of Captain Marvel (Shazam) is an excellent choice. He truly is DC’s most innocent superhero. He’s a child who can transform into a super-powered adult, but he’s still a child at heart. But this miniseries is set in the future, and Billy Batson is all grown up…and the manner in which he’s grown up reflects the world around him. He simply doesn’t fit in this darker age, leading him into Lex Luthor’s thrall. His cheesy smile has never been creepier.

The conflict between Superman’s idealism and Wonder Woman’s pragmatism is especially well-handled, and it’s all the more interesting because it’s a conflict between two people who respect each other a great deal.

Tensions escalate throughout the issue. We get some relief as Batman has his Awesome Batman Moment. But this is all about putting all the chess pieces in place for the climactic battle, and it features many excellent moments along the way, including this fantastic quote from Superman to Batman:

“The deliberate taking of human—even super-human—life goes against every belief I have—and that you have. That’s the one thing we’ve always had in common. It’s what made us what we are.”

I will savor re-reading the final issue.

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

Today’s Super Comic — Kingdom Come #2 (1996)

kingdom_come_2Another issue that’s just as good, if not better than I remember.

This is the “gathering of forces” issue. Superman rebuilds the Justice League. Batman and a few other non-powered ex-Leaguers make their own appeal to the younger generation. Lex Luthor and a cabal of old villains are up to something. And the antiheroes continue to do whatever they damn well please…but with significantly tougher opposition now.

The key to the issue’s success is the focus on varying worldviews. Superman and Batman’s argument, which involves not a single punch or blast of heat vision, is far more compelling than anything seen in the Batman v Superman movie. Wonder Woman, who’s serving as Superman’s right hand, also sees things differently than the Man of Steel due to her experience as a warrior.

And then there’s Magog, the “superhero” who precipitated Superman’s retirement. Magog took it upon himself to kill, rather than apprehend, the Joker; Superman wouldn’t stand for such a blatant disregard for the law and human decency, so he took Magog to court. And Metropolis and its citizens sided overwhelmingly with Magog. He was the future, and Superman was the past.

But “new” doesn’t always equal “right,” and as we saw in #1, Magog’s carelessness resulted in the deaths of a million innocents. And his genuine remorse in this issue adds just enough depth to his character.

“They chose the man who would kill over the man who wouldn’t,” Magog says, “and now they’re dead.”

As I suggested yesterday, this is one of the greatest Superman stories ever told.

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

Today’s Super Comic — Kingdom Come #1 (1996)

kingdom-come-1I haven’t read Kingdom Come in many years, so I figured it was time to see how well it holds up.

Exceptionally well, judging from the first issue. Mark Waid wrote it and Alex Ross painted it, so that was a pretty safe bet.

It’s set in the DC Universe’s possible future, in which the younger generation is running amok without understanding the true meaning of super-heroism. The Justice League generation is all either retired or focused solely on their respective home turfs. And we view it all through the eyes of an ordinary preacher, whom the Spectre has recruited as his human anchor.

This is, first and foremost, a Superman story, and one of the great Superman stories. In this world, Superman has been gone for ten years, and the void is tremendous. We see the importance of his ideals in their absence. It feels especially relevant these days, since Superman has been largely missing from his own movies—well, the last two have had a grim fellow who looks like him, but that’s about it.

This Superman isn’t exactly a happy sort either. He’s a Superman who’s lost his way and needs to get himself—and the world—back on track. As contradictory as it sounds, he’s out of character in a way that demonstrates a superb understanding of his character. At this point, how he got there and how he recovers isn’t fully apparent.

And I have to praise Ross’s art, of course. The level of detail is phenomenal—far beyond the capabilities of mere mortal comics. (That’s no slight against any other artist. It’s the benefits of the painted medium combined with Ross’s mastery of his craft.) So much care has gone into countless character designs and set designs—look at all the Easter eggs in the Planet Krypton diner, or the tiny skull in the Spectre’s eye, and how Superman’s presence instantly evokes a sense of grandeur.

I’m going to take this series one issue at a time, one day at a time. It’s worth the attention.

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

Today’s Super Comic — Black Widow #2 (2016)

black-widow-2The first issue dropped us in the middle of an intriguing scenario, without all the facts—Black Widow on the run from SHIELD, and not even she’s not certain she’s doing the right thing…whatever it is she’s doing. The second issue remains coy, but it reveals just enough more to further intrigue us.

Superheroes need weaknesses and flaws, because what’s the point of a protagonist who’s invincible? Or one who’s so formidable that she’s practically unstoppable and solutions come too easily? And Black Widow is easily among Marvel’s most formidable non-powered characters, but she also has her own special version of kryptonite—her own past.

It’s a great weakness for a character to have (well, it benefits the reader, not the character, of course). It raises the stakes in a personal way, much more so than a glowing space rock ever can (no offense, Superman).

So far, this series appears to be leveraging that weakness to thrilling effect.

Writers: Chris Samnee and Mark Waid

Artist: Chris Samnee

Publisher: Marvel Comics

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

Appropriate For: ages 12 and up

Today’s Super Comic — Super-Soldier #1 (1996)

super-soldier-1You’d think having Marvel and DC characters duke it out over the course of a four-issue miniseries would be enough of a gimmick, but the publishers didn’t. In the middle of DC vs. Marvel, the companies’ respective characters fused together as the universes combined into Amalgam Comics.

So, if you were ever wondering, “Hey, what if Superman and Captain America merged into one character?” … well, writer Mark Waid and artist Dave Gibbons answered that twenty years ago in Super-Soldier #1.

A rocket crashes to Earth in the 1930s, but the alien infant within doesn’t survive. Scientists use its cellular samples to create a “Super-Soldier” formula, which they give to an ordinary recruit, granting him powers far beyond those of mortal men. Like Captain America, Super Soldier got trapped in ice before the end of World War II and spent decades frozen. When he awakens in the present, kryptonite radiation in the atmosphere continually weakens him, like it would Superman. He works for the Daily Planet with star reporter Sharon Carter, and his arch-nemesis is Lex Luthor, the Green Skull.

Basically, it’s professionally produced fanfiction. But it’s fun to visit this alternate reality for an issue, and everyone involved clearly enjoyed making the book and building its fake history. There’s even a letters page with imaginary longtime fans expressing their excitement about the new Super-Soldier series after its long hiatus.

Super-Soldier was one of 12 Amalgam one-shots, and Marvel and DC produced a second wave the following year. There’s no need to ever revisit the gimmick, but it worked because great effort and skill accompanied the high concept.

Writer: Mark Waid

Artist: Dave Gibbons

Publisher: DC Comics (on behalf of Amalgam Comics)

How to Read It: back issues; included in The Amalgam Age of Comics (The DC Comics Collection) (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 9 and up

Today’s Super Comic — Black Widow #1 (2016)

Black-Widow-1Black Widow #1 certainly doesn’t make the mistake of starting the story too early.

Page one gives us the hook—Black Widow is now an enemy of SHIELD. But writers Mark Waid and Chris Samnee wisely withhold the full explanation this issue. Instead, they treat us to Natasha’s thrilling escape from SHIELD, showing off her skills and resourcefulness and letting Samnee’s art tell most of the story.

It’s a great scenario for the character. It puts her in opposition to her allies…but maybe secretly doing it for their benefit? That mystery and ambiguity suits her. We truly don’t know if Natasha is doing the right thing, and she might not either.

I’ll have to read the next issues when they arrive on Marvel Unlimited…or maybe grab the trade paperback when it comes out. The first issue did its job—it sold me on the series. More, please.

Writers: Mark Waid and Chris Samnee

Artist: Chris Samnee

Publisher: Marvel Comics

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

Appropriate For: ages 12 and up

Today’s Super Comic — Fantastic Four #60 (2002)

FantasticFourV2n60The movies don’t do the Fantastic Four justice, which is a shame because when done right the concept facilitates pure, unbridled fun.

Writer Mark Waid and artist Mike Wieringo kicked off an exceptional run on Fantastic Four with a promotional 9-cent issue that encapsulates what makes the FF great. It reads almost like a mission statement, though it’s done in a thoroughly entertaining manner.

Reed Richards hires a PR firm to reinvigorate the FF’s celebrity brand…which is of course odd that he would care about such a thing, thereby providing interesting subtext to the issue. So a publicist shadows the FF for a week, observing not only their wild adventures, but also how they relate to each other as a family. And the publicist learns what the real-world movie producers apparently never did.

The Fantastic Four aren’t actually superheroes, not primarily. They’re explorers who pioneer the unknown and chart the new. Reed’s scientific genius will result in the discovery of a new dimension, and his family will have his back as he explores it, hoping to glean new knowledge that can help build a better tomorrow. And the adventures are frequently crazy and colorful, and always starring four people who care a great deal about each other (even despite tendencies to bicker). This issue glimpses several wild situations, whetting the reader’s appetite for the fun to follow in subsequent stories.

And at the end, the reveal about why Reed would care about his family’s celebrity status shows a perfect understanding of the character.

Judge the FF on this, not the movies.

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 — Captain America: Sentinel of Liberty #11 (1999)

Captain_America_Sentinel_of_Liberty_Vol_1_11Sometimes a completely goofy book hits the spot.

Sentinel of Liberty was Captain America’s answer to Batman’s Legends of the Dark Knight, an opportunity to tell out-of-order tales from various points throughout Cap’s long career. Unlike Batman’s book, Cap’s didn’t last long, but it featured entertaining stories by Mark Waid and various artists.

The silliest entry in the series was by far #11, which takes us back to an equally silly (if less intentionally so) Silver Age story. Back in 1963, before Cap was revived in the then-modern era, Marvel tested him out by having a Captain America imposter face off against the Human Torch in Strange Tales #114. And let’s just say, that’s not a comic that will appear in this series of positive reviews.

Sentinel of Liberty #11 has fun with the Silver Age story. Lots of fun. The issue is framed around the present-day Human Torch recounting the “classic” adventure to a disbelieving Cap (who of course was still on ice as it was all going down…there’s a visual representation in case you had forgotten). The Torch is treated as an unreliable narrator, though he’s amusingly accurate in his recollections, right down to his girlfriend calling for someone to “send some new linoleum over right away,” the Torch getting trapped in an asbestos-lined van, and the expensive lengths to which the Cap imposter goes to rob banks.

Not every comic needs to strive to be The Best Ever. It’s perfectly okay to merely deliver unpretentious, good-natured fun. And this one does so with excellent cheer.

Writer: Mark Waid

Pencilers: Walter McDaniel and Anthony Williams

Inkers: Whitney McFarland and Andy Lanning

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: back issues

Appropriate For: ages 9 and up