Tag Archives: Peter David

Today’s Super Comic — Supergirl #18 (1998)

supergirl_vol_4_18Comics get a bad rep for printing covers that have nothing to do with the contents of the story, and that’s often deserved. But with Supergirl #18…yes, she does sprout fiery angelic wings while battling classic JLA villain Despero.

You can’t say Peter David’s Supergirl series doesn’t distinguish itself from Superman’s multiple titles. Spirituality is a major theme, and one that doesn’t play well in Superman stories (personally, I’ve never been a fan of applying Jesus imagery to Superman). It works excellently with this version of Supergirl, though. David gradually unveils the series’ mythology over the course of the run, leaving plenty of room for mysteries and surprises.

Fans of David’s X-Factor no doubt recall Layla Miller, the ultra-precocious young girl who “knew stuff.” Well, this series gives us her precursor—a friendless orphan named Wally who claims to be God. It’s been a long time since I’ve read this, and I don’t recall what exactly the deal was with him, but I’m curious to rediscover that answer. Issue #18 features a wonderful moment that humanizes the boy (who, under a lesser writer, could easily have become insufferable).

This issue also further develops the familial relationship between Supergirl and Linda Danvers’s father. Though, yes, Supergirl technically is Linda, but not exactly…and they also seem to be something else…

So it’s not the most accessible title, which explains why this version of Supergirl eventually faded away in favor of the original. (Also, the original version always returns…maybe a few months later, maybe a few decades later, but always. It’s one of the immutable laws of comics.) Nevertheless, if you read this title from the start, it will reward you.

Writer: Peter David

Penciler: Leonard Kirk

Inker: Cam Smith

Cover: Gary Frank and Cam Smith

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology

Appropriate For: ages 11 and up

Today’s Super Comic — Supergirl #14 (1997)

supergirl_vol_4_14One of the problems with these all-positive daily reviews is I wind up sampling a great series I haven’t read in years, and then I want to re-read the entire run. I can’t re-read them all, but I am enjoying rediscovering whatever full runs I can squeeze in.

And one I’ll want to make time for is Peter David’s excellent Supergirl series. For evidence of its strength, observe issue #14, in which Supergirl endures a tie-in to a subpar company-wide crossover without any dip in quality. (“Genesis” was a late-90s DC crossover that will not appear among these all-positive daily reviews.)

David doesn’t bog the book down in “Genesis” details—that story is just where Supergirl is coming from and where she’s going to. But her own book’s storylines continue apace, and we get good forward momentum here. A new character (derived from a classic one) is hinted at, and Supergirl makes an important decision involving all four of her parental figures.

A rewarding aspect of this series is that it truly feels like one large story told over many issues. It strikes a nice balance between novel and episodic storytelling, and David has plenty of experience with both. Throughout the series, both Supergirl and Linda Danvers grow as a single entity much more than either would have as separate individuals, and in this issue the character development progresses with the decision to tell the Kents and the Danverses about her dual identity. Both couples love her, but their reactions are worlds apart, setting up drama to follow in future issues.

So yeah, this may be one of the series I have to see through…

Writer: Peter David

Penciler: Leonard Kirk

Inker: Cam Smith

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology

Appropriate For: ages 11 and up

Today’s Super Comic — Supergirl #1 (1996)

supergirl_vol_4_1Peter David’s terrific run on Supergirl wasn’t like any other Supergirl before or since. This Supergirl wasn’t Superman’s younger cousin from Krypton—only one Kryptonian allowed at this point in DC’s history. So instead, she was a, um, blob of alien proto-matter that fashioned itself as Supergirl. She also spent some time as Lex Luthor II’s girlfriend before coming to her senses.

As a blob of alien proto-matter, she didn’t have much of a life. So David gives her one in #1—someone else’s. Supergirl merges with a young woman she failed to save from an evil cult, acquiring all her memories as well as influences from her personality. The blob of alien proto-matter essentially solidifies into Linda Danvers, and Supergirl’s life is now hers and vice versa. Problem is, Linda might not have been a purely innocent victim.

Yeah, not the easiest version of Supergirl to market, but still a great run of comics nevertheless. You need to start with #1, though, which does an excellent job doling out just enough exposition to intrigue the reader as it introduces us to Supergirl’s new secret identity, leaving ample room to cover in future issues. A focus on mysticism and religion helps to distinguish Supergirl from Superman’s titles, and it truly is a unique incarnation of the character. She’s two people in a single body—one person good, and the other considerably less so.

It’s not what you’ll see on television this fall, but it’s a compelling Supergirl in its own right.

Writer: Peter David

Penciler: Gary Frank

Inker: Cam Smith

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology; included in Supergirl by Peter David vol. 1 (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 11 and up

Today’s Super Comic — The Incredible Hulk #348 (1988)

Incredible_Hulk_Vol_1_348The Hulk was gray for a while in the late ‘80s, but the change wasn’t purely cosmetic. His transformations were no longer triggered by anger, but by daylight and nightfall. Hulk and Banner were still two distinct, opposing personalities, but the Hulk stopped being a mindless monster. Though still far from a scientist, the Hulk now possessed rational thought and craftiness, and he could hold down a job as a Las Vegas enforcer known as “Mr. Fixit.”

But among all those changes, the core essence of the character remained. The Hulk wants two things above all else—to keep being the Hulk, and to be left alone. And now he has the means to build a life for himself without having to be on the run all the time, and he can devise ways to keep Banner under control because he knows when the transformations are coming. It feels like progress (for the Hulk if not for Banner), but nothing can be too easy, of course.

In #348, an old enemy, the Absorbing Man, comes to town, hired to put down this new Mr. Fixit guy. And of course he strikes in daytime. So the Hulk has to fight off this reminder of his old life while the sun continuously threatens to bring Banner back. He has to bury himself under layers of clothing or keep to the shade, all while trying to defeat this intrusion into his new life. Like any good comic book fight, this one has stakes beyond just winning the battle.

Peter David had a lengthy run writing the Hulk, and he kept things remarkably fresh and creative throughout, all while staying true to the concept.

Writer: Peter David

Penciler: Jeff Purves

Inker: Mike & Val Gustovich

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Marvel Unlimited; Comixology; included in The Incredible Hulk Visionaries –Peter David vol. 2 (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 10 and up

Today’s Super Comic — X-Factor #14 (2007)

X-Factor_Vol_3_14The X-Men titles weren’t in their strongest state a decade ago, but hands-down the shining light of the bunch was Peter David’s superb X-Factor. And the book continues to hold up as one of the best X-series since the late ‘70s/early ‘80s glory days, largely due to David’s masterful scripting.

X-titles excel when they focus on a core cast, rather than an ever-sprawling society of mutants, and X-Factor showcases a specific grouping of underutilized second-stringers. David finds the untapped potential in each one, especially the ostensible lead, Jaime Madrox, the Multiple Man. The result is a fantastic ensemble that drives multiple ongoing storylines.

Issue #14 exemplifies the book’s strengths. It kicks off a new storyline in which Madrox resolves to track down his various duplicates who have gone astray during his quest to accumulate diverse knowledge and life experiences. But as it sets up that storyline, it checks in on the various subplots, mining ample humor from a soap opera situation involving Madrox, Siryn, and Monet and resolving a Guido subplot in an unexpectedly touching way.

It’s a book with tremendous tonal agility. Artist Pablo Raimondi paces the “talking heads” scenes perfectly, as he skillfully uses silent panels to allow the comedic beats to land.

While #14 is a great example, you should really start with the Madrox limited series that piloted the book, proceed to #1, and read through the end. It loses a little bit of steam in later storylines, but David’s entire run, regardless of artist, includes not one bad issue. Truly one of my favorite X-books of all time.

Writer: Peter David

Artist: Pablo Raimondi

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Marvel Unlimited; Comixology; included in X-Factor vol. 3: Many Lives of Madrox (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 13 and up

Today’s Super Comic — X-Factor #87 (1993)

X-Factor_Vol_1_87One of the most memorable issues of X-Factor, and it’s just a bunch of talking heads. But it’s a bunch of talking heads written by Peter David, so rest assured it’s going to be entertaining.

The premise requires a great writer to pull it off—the members of X-Factor individually meet with a psychiatrist, and each character’s vignette spells out what makes him or her tick.

It shouldn’t work. It could easily have become 22 pages of dry, on-the-nose descriptions. But David builds clever conversations that illustrate each character in an engaging way. And in this manner, Quicksilver explains his arrogance, Strong Guy explains how he hides his pain behind jokes, the Multiple Man explains his fear of loneliness, and so on.

All this telling is what any writing class would tell you never to do, but X-Factor #87 proves to be the exception due to the exceptional execution. It’s about how the characters go about explaining themselves, not just the explanations themselves.

David’s original run on X-Factor ended much too soon. Thank goodness he got another shot years later.

Writer: Peter David

Penciler: Joe Quesada

Inker: Al Milgrom

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Marvel Unlimited; Comixology; included in X-Factor Visionaries – Peter David, vol. 4 (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 11 and up

Today’s Super Comics — Madrox #1-5 (2004-05)

Madrox_Vol_1_1Before 2004, if Marvel were to put out a miniseries focused on Madrox the Multiple Man, my first thought would not have been, “Yes, I must buy that!” But Peter David excels at finding approaches to often-overlooked characters that make them incredibly interesting.

Jamie Madrox, longtime bit player among the numerous X-Men titles, can create a seemingly endless number of duplicates of himself. So you could use him as a one-man army, or perhaps kill off one of his duplicates to demonstrate a villain’s power. But David went with a more imaginative take.

If a man can create independent, sentient copies of himself, then those copies can go off and pursue paths the original man would otherwise never have time for, all those “roads not taken.” Those duplicates can then reintegrate with the original, who can benefit from their memories and experiences. Madrox isn’t just the Multiple Man—he’s the multiple-choice man who can almost always select “all of the above.” And of course, “all” doesn’t necessarily mean only good choices.

In this storyline, Madrox is trying his hand at being a private eye, and one who’s as noir as he can manage. He’s not exactly a hardboiled kind fellow, so opportunities for humor abound.

Beginning with this miniseries, David turned Madrox into one of Marvel’s most fascinating characters, mutant or otherwise. This story served as the pilot for a new X-Factor ongoing series, which maintained the superb quality for years. Fantastic stuff.

Writer: Peter David

Artist: Pablo Raimondi

Inker: Drew Hennessy

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Marvel Unlimited; Comixology; Madrox: Multiple Choice (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 14 and up

Today’s Super Comic: Aquaman #46 (1998)

Aquaman46How talented a writer is Peter David? He made Aquaman into a formidable, compelling character. Under David’s watch, Aquaman never felt like a joke, even though his series retained plenty of humor. (You can always count on Peter David to bring a strong sense of humor to his books.) Aquaman is king of the seas—ruler of the majority of the planet—and these storylines never forgot that.

This issue, #46, marked the end of David’s run on Aquaman, and it’s a solid finale to the best string of issues Talks-To-Fish-Man ever had. For the final story, Aquaman partakes in a classic trope—going to Hades. He does so to rescue his enemy Poseidon, whose son Triton is causing troubles in Aquaman’s home Poseidonis.

But getting to Hades…yes, Aquaman allows Triton to kill him in the off-chance he will wind up in Hades, and will be able to return, because that’s the only way to save his kingdom. Pretty bold move for a character typically ridiculed as a useless Fish Whisperer.

David’s Aquaman was a king first and a superhero a distant second. And the character benefited tremendously from that approach. You wouldn’t want to mess with this Aquaman.

Writer: Peter David

Penciler: J. Calafiore

Inkers: Peter Palmiotti, Mark McKenna

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues

Appropriate For: ages 11 and up