Tag Archives: Paul Smith

Today’s Super Comics — The Golden Age #1-4 (1993-94)

The Golden Age has a reputation as being Watchmen-lite, but I have to disagree. The two miniseries share some surface similarities. They both examine old-school mystery men through a more adult lens, and Cold War paranoia factors into the plots. But whereas Watchmen deconstructed the genre, The Golden Age also reconstructs it.

After World War II, the members of the Justice Society of America, as well as most other masked heroes, go their separate ways to lead normal lives, with varying degrees of success. Writer James Robinson puts the focus squarely on the people behind the masks, fleshing out characters who had received little development previously.

It’s a large cast, mixing recognizable characters such as the original Green Lantern and Hawkman with obscure ones such as Captain Triumph and the Tarantula. Prominent roles also go to Johnny Quick, Liberty Belle, Hourman, Starman, the original Atom, Robotman, Johnny Thunder…and so many more. In all cases, the miniseries humanizes them and makes each character its own. This isn’t some company-wide crossover with a million guest stars shoehorned in; rather, it’s a complete story that designs each character to serve the larger arc.

The former Mr. America turns to politics, becoming a senator and spearheading a new program of government-backed superheroes with open identities. The new age requires a new type of hero, one without masks or secrets, and answerable to his country. But, of course, the people claiming to have no secrets are the ones with the most to hide.

The climactic action pulls the superheroes and mystery men of yesteryear out of their retirements or semi-retirements. They leap into action, functioning as individuals but showing no regard for their individual well-being.

And the action is incredibly well-choreographed, with lots of characters having specific, important beats to play out. Artist Paul Smith draws it all fluidly, incorporating the best elements of 1940s comic book art—particularly the rough-hewn, innocent purity of amazing super-feats—and tempering it with modern layouts and expressive faces.

The story breaks down these classic characters, but then builds them back up into heroes, showing how they’ll always be needed, no matter how times change. It strips away their innocence, reveals their flaws, and makes their heroic actions all the more meaningful.

Writer: James Robinson

Artist: Paul Smith

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology; JSA: The Golden Age (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 15 and up

Today’s Super Comic — Uncanny X-Men #173 (1983)

Uncanny_X-Men_Vol_1_173Even though it came out the year I was born, this is the issue that got me hooked on X-Men comics, and I hadn’t even realized what a pivotal issue it was.

The 1990s cartoon had already reeled me in, but the first couple of early ‘90s X-Men comics I tried left me cold. Then I came across this issue reprinted in ­X-Men Classic, and it did the trick.

Most of the focus is on Wolverine and Rogue while the rest of the team is incapacitated. Though Rogue had officially joined the team a couple of issues earlier (while Wolverine was away in his own miniseries), the others didn’t readily accept her, on account of the fact that as a member of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants she had drained the memories and powers out of their friend Carol Danvers (the original Ms. Marvel and current Captain Marvel). Understandable.

But here, Rogue has the opportunity to do something heroic for possibly the first time in her life, for the one person who was treating her with kindness. And the moment Wolverine shows he accepts her as an X-Man should look familiar to anyone who’s seen the first X-Men movie.

Chris Claremont has written many years’ worth of X-Men comics, but this storyline ranks among his best writing. And he’s aided by the clean, dynamic pencil work of Paul Smith.

An X-Men classic indeed.

Writer: Chris Claremont

Artist: Paul Smith

Inker: Bob Wiacek

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Marvel Unlimited; Comixology; Essential X-Men vol. 4 (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 10 and up