* NOW WITH STAR RATINGS (ala Wrestling Observer Newsletter PPV reports) *
NEW! HOW I RATE THE COMICS VIA THE GRANT MORRISON SCALE
***** All-Star Superman, We3
**** Zenith, New X-Men (the early issues), Batman Inc., Batman & Robin, Dare, Arkham Asylum, The Filth
*** Seven Soldiers, Seaguy
** Final Crisis, Flex Mentallo
* Marvel Boy
DUD (or lower) Nameless, later New X-Men
HAVING watched Spider-Man: Homecoming and Guardians Of The Galaxy 2 on the big screen recently, then perusing a bunch of Marvel titles like Avengers Arena last month in a separate project, THIS MONTH I decided to make it a Marvel-exclusive month (well, with a couple of exceptions). Apart from reading a shitload of Secret Avengers, this is all very random, but at least I knocked off some comics that have been sitting in my unread pile for nearly THIRTY YEARS.
1. The Fantastic Four Pop-Up Book (Candlewick Press, 2008) ****
I love 3-D pop-up books and this chunky book – featuring original 1960s text and artwork by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby – is really cool. I have the other two books in the series (X-Men and Spider-Man), but I think this volume is my favourite.
2. The Defenders #55 (Marvel, 1978) ***
Writer: David Anthony Kraft/Artists: Carmine Infantino and Klaus Janson
3.-5. The Defenders #112-114 (Marvel, 1982) **½
Writers: JM DeMatteis and Don Perlin/Artists: Don Perlin, Mike Gustovich and Sam de la Rosa (interiors); Brent Anderson (#112 cover); Don Perlin and Steve Mitchell (#113 cover); Don Perlin and Al Milgrom (#114 cover)
6.-10. Quasar #13-16, 27 (Marvel, 1990-91) ***¼
Writer: Mark Gruenwald/Artists: Mike Manley and Dan Panosian (#13-15 interior); Mike Manley, Dan Panosian and Keith Williams (#16 interior); Greg Capullo and Keith Williams (#27 interior); Jim Lee (#13 cover); Todd McFarlane (#14 cover); Mike Mignola (#15 cover); Steve Lightle (#16 cover); Dave Hoover (#27 cover)
Several years back, I reread Mark Gruenwald’s classic Squadron Supreme maxiseries from 1985 and the not-quite-as-good sequel Squadron Supreme: Death Of A Universe (1989). I decided to buy any title featuring the super-team from Marvel’s version of Earth 2. So I picked up this Defenders arc that depicted the events that led to the original maxiseries (where the Squadron take control of the planet and force Utopia on an unhappy populace). These three issues feature the usual overwrought Marvel writing style and some truly abysmal art by Perlin and Gustovich. Still, it’s the Squadron and even though they come across as evil Overmind’s patsies (in fact, the Squadron have always been a bunch of losers, come to think of it), it was cool to read what was essentially the prequel to the far superior maxiseries.
The four-issue arc in Quasar depicts the Squadron survivors after the events of Death Of A Universe when they return to Earth, only to find they’re on OUR Earth. They encounter Quasar, take residence at Project Pegasus and get mind-controlled (again). This cosmic arc features a murder mystery (who is killing multiple Watchers?), the return of Overmind, The Stranger and a slew of guest stars who are being experimented on by The Stranger including Jack Of Hearts, Ego Prime and more.
The Squadron have a cameo in #27 but thankfully they’re not mind-controlled in this ish.
11.-14. The X-Men vs The Avengers #1-4 (Marvel, 1987) ***
Writer: Roger Stern/Artists: Mark Silvestri (#1-3), Keith Pollard (#4) and Josef Rubinstein (#1-4)
These were, I think, the oldest unread comics in my collection. Yep, 30 years. So, was it worth it? Well, yes...in the end. This is one of the first miniseries Marvel did and it’s really an excuse for their two big teams to fight each other. Sadly, both incarnations of the teams are pretty lame. This is The Avengers during their Dr Druid, Captain Marvel (Monica Rambeau version), Black Knight, She-Hulk, Captain America and a not-so-powerful Thor phase. The X-Men are Wolverine, Dazzler (!), a depowered Storm, Havok and Rogue. Oh... and this was period when Magneto was a good guy, even though he was a mass murderer.
Anyway, his past comes to haunt him when The Avengers come to arrest him (and the Soviet Super Soldiers arrive to assassinate him for sinking a Russian submarine and destroying a Russian city). Inexplicably, The X-Men defend him. After three convoluted issues, Magneto eventually goes on trial in an international court and is INEXPLICABLY found not guilty of mass murder. Why? Because it’s decided that Magneto was a country (representing mutantkind) and was at war with humanity. So that justifies killing a bunch of civilians. Um...okay. That aside, the ending is very downbeat as Magneto realises that his court victory has only stirred up further anti-mutant hostility and could lead to war between the two species. Considreing how formulaic and, at times, stupid writing, Stern finishes the miniseries with some quiet poignancy.
15. The Incredible Hulk #183 (Marvel, 1974) ***
Writer: Len Wein/Artist: Herb Trimpe
16. The Incredible Hulk #397 (Marvel, 1992) ***
Writer: Peter David/Artist: Dale Keown and Mark Farmer
17.-20. Hulk vs The Thing (Marvel, 1999) ****
- originally published in Fantastic Four #25-26 (Marvel, 1964), Fantastic Four #112 (Marvel, 1971), Marvel Feature # 11 (Marvel, 1973)
Fantastic Four #25-26: Writer: Stan Lee/Artists: Jack Kirby and George Roussos
Fantastic Four #112: Writer: Stan Lee/Artists: John Buscema and Joe Sinnott
Marvel Feature # 11: Writer: Len Wein/Artists: Jim Starlin and Joe Sinnott
21. Thing and She-Hulk: The Long Night (Marvel, 2002) *
Writer: Todd DeZago/Artists: Bryan Hitch and Paul Neary, Ivan Reis and Randy Emberlin (interior); Bryan Hitch and Paul Neary (cover)
Messy, dumb comic that sees Thing and She-Hulk save an underground train from Dragon Man and vampires. Poorly written and with too many TYPOS!!!
22.-25. The West Coast Avengers #26-29 (Marvel, 1987-88) ***½
Writer: Steve Englehart/Artists: Al Milgrom and Mike Machlan (#26-27, 29); Al Milgrom and Dave Hunt (#28)
I loved the “Who Remembers Scorpio?” storyline that ran in The Defenders #46-50 in 1977. And I dug the Zodiac cartel (12 villains who dressed like the signs of the zodiac) in Avengers #120-121 in the mid-70s. This sequel (of sorts) is marred by some cack-handed art by Milgrom (whose ubiquitous but unwelcome hackwork was a depressing part of Marvel during this era). But the storyline is pretty cool with the original Zodiac being slaughtered by a new Zodiac comprised of LMDs and led by a Jake “Scorpio” Fury LMD. The only survivor is the original Taurus who goes to the West Coast Avengers for help. It’s a pretty cool storyline.
26. Avengers West Coast #69 (Marvel, 1991) **½
Writers: Roy and Dann Thomas/Artists: Paul Ryan and Danny Bulanadi
27. I Am An Avenger #1 (Marvel, 2010) ***
28.-29. Hercules: Fall Of An Avenger #1-2 (Marvel, 2010) ***¾
Hercules: Writers: Greg Pak and Fred Van lente/Artist: Ariel Olivetti
ATLAS: Writer: Paul Tobin/Artists: Reilly Brown, Jason Paz and Terry Pallot
Remember when Hercules died? Nah, me neither. Which is sad because I actually read the issue in which he kicked the bucket. Anyway, he was dead here, but he’s all better now. I only bought these books to read the ATLAS back-up tale anyway.
30. Marvel Team-Up #54 (Marvel, 1977) ***
Writer: Bill Mantlo/Artists: John Byrne and Mike Esposito (interior); Gil Kane (cover)
31.-34. Heroes of Power: The Women of Marvel All-New Marvel Treasury Edition (Marvel, 2016) ****
- originally published in Gwenpool #1 (Marvel, 2016), Edge of Spider-Verse #2 (Marvel, 2014), Ms Marvel #1 (Marvel, 2014), Captain Marvel #1 (Marvel, 2012) and material from FCBD: Civil War II (Marvel, 2016)
Writers/Artists: various (interior); Joyce Chin (cover)
35.-39. Spidey: All-New Marvel Treasury Edition (Marvel, 2016) ****½
- originally published in Spidey #1-3 (Marvel, 2015), Spider-Man #1-2 (Marvel, 2016)
Spidey: Writer: Robert P. Thompson/Artist: Nick Bradshaw
Spider-Man: Writer: Brian Michael Bendis/Artist: Sara Pichelli
I’m crazy about the revival of the Marvel Treasury Edition. And they’re not overpriced either. Lovely stuff seeing the oversized artwork and reading some tales that I normally might not have bought.
40.-43. Thunderbolts #15-17, 25 (Marvel, 1998) ***½
Writer: Kurt Busiek/Artists: Mark Bagley and Scott Hanna (#15-17); Mark Bagley, Bob Wiacek and Al Vey (#25)
I bought these because they feature the Great Lakes Avengers, my second-favourite Avengers after the 1950s Avengers.
44. Captain America And Citizen V Annual (Marvel, 1998) ***¼
Writers: Kurt Busiek and Karl and Barbara Kesel/Artists: Mark Bagley, Greg Adams and Scott Hanna
45.-47. Citizen V And The V Battalion #1-3 (Marvel, 2001) ***¼
Writer: Fabian Nicieza/Artists: Michael Ryan and Sean Parsons
48.-51. Citizen V And The V Battalion: The Everlasting #1-4 (Marvel, 2002) ***¼
Writer: Fabian Nicieza/Artists: Lewis LaRosa, Jim Royal and friends (#1-3 interiors); Klebs Junior and Udon Studios (#4 interior); Mike Deodato (covers)
Baron Zemo, Baron Von Strucker, World War Two, blahblahblah...
52.-63. Thunderbolts: Ultimate Collection (Marvel, 2011) *****
- originally published in Thunderbolts #110-121 (Marvel, 2007-08) and material from Civil War: The Initiative (Marvel, 2007)
Writer: Warren Ellis/Artist: Mike Deodato (interiors); Marko Djurdjevic (covers).
Civil War: The Initiative artists: Marc Silvestri and friends
Ellis does what he does best. He gets in, writes mature, gripping and intelligent comics for a couple of arcs (if we’re lucky), then gets the hell out to make his successor look crap by comparison. This version of the Thunderbolts is truly horrific, capturing superheroes using extreme force at the be
hest of their boss, Norman “Green Goblin” Osborne, in the aftermath of Civil War. Bullseye has never been so terrifying. Fantastic, fantastic comic.
64. The Incredible Hulk #269 (Marvel, 1982) ***½
Writer: Bill Mantlo/Artist: Sal Buscema (interior); Al Milgrom (cover)
The first nine issues of The Rampaging Hulk were some of my favourite Marvel mags in the 70s. The B&W magazine depicted untold tales of the Hulk from the early days of his career, depicting the green giant’s earliest meetings with The Avengers, The X-Men and more. Sadly, Marvel decreed after the run ended that the issues were non-canon, then tried to ignore them. But Bill Mantlo felt a compulsion to explain away this continuity discrepancy through a story arc (starting in Hulk #269) where Krylorian techno-artist Bereet (who was a major character in The Rampaging Hulk) had created a movie about the Hulk’s life. The events that took place in The Rampaging Hulk were actually scenes from the film. It’s kinda clever, actually. If Bereet’s name sounds familiar to modern readers it’s because her character has a cameo at the start of the first Guardians Of The Galaxy movie as Peter Quill’s fling.
65.-91. Secret Avengers #12.1.-37 (Marvel, 2011-13) SEE BELOW
I finally got around to finishing this rather excellent offshoot of the regular Avengers series, which had a strong spy/black ops feel to it despite the range of different writes working on it. It’s a credit to th ewriters that despite having to stay connected with the regular Marvel Universe (and all those damn crossovers), it retained a high standard throughout.
Breaking the series down:
#12.1.-15. Writer: Nick Spencer/Artists: Scott Eaton and Jaime Mendoza (#12.1, 15 interior); Scott Eaton, Jaime Mendoza ande Rick Ketcham (#13-14 interior); Mike Deodato (#12.1 cover); Adi Granov (#13-15 cover) ***½
Spencer’s final few issues suffered due to working on the sub-par Fear Itself event. Probably the strongest issues are the point-of-entry #12.1 with the Secret Avengers trying to save an undercover informant after he and hundreds of other informants are exposed by US Agent. I also liked the Black Widow solo tale in #15 that tackles the hairy subject of all those superhero resurrections in the Marvel U.
#16.-21. Writer: Warren Ellis/Artists: Jamie McKelvie (#16 interior); Kev Walker (#17 interior); David Aja and Raul Allen (#18 interior); Michael Lark, Stefano Gaudiano and Brian Thies (#19 interior); Alex Maleev (#20 interior); Stuart Immonen and Wade Von Grawbadger (#21 interior); John Cassaday (covers) *****
And then Ellis comes along and takes the series up several notches. Hard-hitting, high-tech action, fascinating concepts, razor-sharp dialogue... My personal favourite is #20 when the Black Widow survives a mission that sees her fellow Avengers killed by being thrown back in time. She spends months (years?) setting up everything to save the Avengers when she reaches that moment in time again. Intricate, ingenious. This entire arc is perfection.
#21.1.-37. Writer: Rick Remender/Artists: Patrick Zircher (#21.1 interior and cover); Gabriel Hardman (#22-25 interiors); Arthur Adams (#22-25, 29-37 covers); Renato Guedes (#26-28 interiors); Alan Davis and Mark Farmer (#26-28 covers); Matteo Scalera (#29-32, 34-37 interiors); Andy Kuhn (#33 interior) ***¾
And the series winds up with several arcs in a more traditional “Avengers vs several Big Bads leading to the Ultimate Big Bad storyline”. Remender was on the road to being a great writer during this run and there are a lot of great ideas on display, including the rise of an army of mechanical life forms called “The Descendants”, the death of Antman and his being replaced by an evil LMD, the first use of Venom as a “good guy” now that he’s operated by Flash Thompson, the introduction of the undead Avengers, “The Celestial”, on Earth-666, the new Masters Of Evil (containing hundreds of super-villains...this was explored further in Avengers Undercover), The Abyss and more.
There’s a lull during a less-than-stellar AvsX crossover seeing the brief resurrection and death of the original Captain Marvel in #26-28, but it’s back to greatness from #29 onwards.
92.-102. Secret Avengers #1-11 (Marvel, 2013-14)
Writers: Nick Spencer (#1-9); Ed Brisson (#10-11)/Artists: Luke Ross (#1-5, 8, 10-11 interiors); Butch Guice and friends (#6-7 interior); Butch Guice (#9 interior); Tomm Coker (#1-4, 7 covers): Nic Klein (#5-6, 8, 10-11 covers); Alex Maleev (#9 cover) ***¾
A fascinating concept that barely lasted 16 issues: a team of Secret Avengers work for S.H.I.E.L.D., but their work is so top secret that they have their memories wiped after every mission for national security reasons. A.I.M. as an independent nation, the Avengers undertaking political assassinations, Taskmaster as a good guy (sorta) and Mockingbird trapped in a middle-aged henchman’s body. Very cool.
#10-11 is an Infinity tie-in and deals with two very regular people affected by the Terrigan Mists and becoming Inhumans, one good and one not-so-good.
103.-107. Secret Avengers Vol. 3: How To Maim A Mockingbird (Marvel, 2014) ***½
- originally published in Secret Avengers #12-16 (Marvel, 2014)
Writer: Nick Spencer and Ales Kot/Artists: Butch Guice (#12-14 interiors); Luke Ross (#15-16 interiors); Butch Guice (#12-16 cover)
M.O.D.O.K. steals the show in this final arc.
108.-111. Union Jack #1-4 (Marvel, 2006-07) ****
Writer: Christos Gage/Artists: Mike Perkins and Andrew Hennessy
112.-117. Runaways: Pride and Joy (Marvel, 2009) ****¾
- originally published in Runaways #1-6 (Marvel, 2003)
Writer: Brian K. Vaughan/Artist: Adrian Alphona
118.-122. Deadpool The Duck (Marvel, 2017) ****
- originally published in Deadpool The Duck #1-5 (Marvel, 2017)
Writer: Stuart Moore/Artists: Jacopo Camagni (interiors); David Nakayama (covers)
123.-128. Jessica Jones Vol. 1 (Marvel, 2017) *****
- originally published in Jessica Jones #1-6 (Marvel, 2017)
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis/Artists: Michael Gaydos (interiors); David Mack (covers)
129.-134. Rocket Raccoon And Groot Vol. 1: Tricks Of The Trade (Marvel, 2016) ****
- originally published in Rocket Raccoon And Groot #1-6 (Marvel, 2016)
135.-142. Guardians Of The Galaxy: Guardians Of Infinity and Guardians Of The Galaxy: Tales Of The Cosmos (Marvel, 2016) ****
- originally published in Guardians of Infinity #1-8 (Marvel, 2016)
143.-149. Great Lakes Avengers: Same Old Same Old (Marvel, 2017) ****
- originally published in Great Lakes Avengers #1-7 (Marvel, 2016-17)
Writer: Zac Gorman/Artists: Will Robson (#1-3,5-6 interiors); Jacob Chabot (#4 interior); Will Robson and Scott Hanna (#7 interior); Will Robson (covers)
I ALSO READ SOME NON-MARVEL STUFF
150. Bankshot #1 (Dark Horse, 2017) ** 1/2
Writer: Alex de Campi/Artist: ChrisCross
151. WWE Kids #121 (DC Thompson, 2017) **** (for mag and tip-ons) DUD (for strip)
Writer/Artist: unknown (probably too embarrassed to put their names to it)
I love this mag to bits for the cool tip-ons (posters, stickers, toys, etc), but Superfan is the most obnoxious comic strip ever created. That kid deserves the most painful death known to man. And his parents need a backhander each for their shitty parenting.
152. Stratu’s Diary Comics May 2017 (self-published, 2017) *
153. 21 Years of Microcosm Publishing (Microcosm, 201?) ***¼
Writers: Joe Biel and Elly Blue/Artist: Peter Glanting
I received this free with my copy of Xerography Debt #41. It’s the history of this Portland, Oregon-based book company and a mini-history of publishing in America since 1900. Kinda cool A1 folded, full-colour comic.