Adam Graham's Blog: Christians and Superheroes - Posts Tagged "bronze-age"

Book Review: Essential Marvel Two-In-One, Volume 1

Essential Marvel Two-in-One, Vol. 1 Essential Marvel Two-in-One, Vol. 1 by Len Wein

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When the Fantastic Four was born, it was thought that if any character would break away for a solo career, it'd be the young and handsome Johnny Storm. Yet, the public had other ideas, it was the human brick monster the Thing who sold the most toys and starred in three Comic book series as well as a limited edition run "Freak Show."

This book marks the start of the Thing's first series, Marvel Two-In-One, like the all ready existing Marvel Team Up series starring Spider-man, each issue featured a team up between the Thing and another Marvel character.

This book collects Marvel Feature 11-12, Marvel Two-in-one #1-#20 and #22-25, Annual #1, Marvel Team Up #47, and Fantastic Four Annual #11: nearly 600 pages of Comic book action.

The try out for the the concept was in Marvel Feature #11 and #12. For the first audition, Marvel led off with the fan favorite fan match up: The Thing and the Hulk. After a pre-requisite fight, they teamed up to fight bad guys who had manipulated them into fighting so they could wager on the fate of the world. This was followed by a team up with Iron Man in Marvel Feature #12.

With the success of these two issue, old Ben Grimm was set for success in Marvel Two in One. It would begin as a bi-monthly series and continue that way until Marvel Two in One #15, when it’d become a monthly.

There are many writers on the series. Steve Gerber wrote issues 1-9, Chris Claremont wrote issue #10, Bill Manlo scripted #11 and 12, 14-19, 22-24 as well as Marvel Two in One #47 with assists from Roy Thomas and Jim Shooter on a few issues. Thomas wrote issue #20 as well as the Annual. And #13 was written by Len Wein and Issue 25 by Marv Wolfman. A lot of cooks stirring this pot and that’s before we start to list all the artists.

In addition, comic book stories were getting shorter. Gone were the 23-page stories in early Fantastic Four magazines. Most of the stories in this book are told in 18 pages and the last few in 17. This can lead to rushed stories.

That said, the book has some pretty good stories. The best are the fist nine written by Stephen Gerber who does a good job capturing the wonderful character of the Thing including his compassion. He begins Issue #1 heading Florida to fight Man-thing for stealing his name but upon learning the poor man-turned-into beast’s story, he has a more compassionate reaction. He also takes to carrying for the overgrown alien child Wundaar as a foster parent of sorts for several issues. His compassion is further shown in comforting Valkryie who questions whether she’s in even real after the end of Issue 7. Grimm responds, “Paper dolls don’t cry. Only us real people got that problem.”

The rest of the stories manage to capture Grimm’s can do determination and indomitable courage. One of the best examples of that is the Two Part team up with Thor in #22 and #23 that has Ben Grimm battling Seth.

Some critics knock the book for having the Thing team up with D-listers, but really he has a pretty solid list of partners including: Submariner, Daredevil, Iron Man (twice), Thor (three times), Captain America (twice), Doctor Strange, and Spider-man. And not every story with a lesser known character was a bad one. My favorite stories in the book:

1) Issues 4 and 5: Captain America and the Thing travel to the time of the Guardians of the Galaxy and team up with them to fight for freedom.

2) Issues 6 and 7: A surprisingly moving story about a magic harmonica and two people haunted by a painful memory with Doctor Strange.

3) Issue 10: This Chris Claemont tale with Black Widow is wonderful. The two really wonderfully together to save the world from one of Black Widow’s old cohorts.

4) Issue 13: Team up with Power Man to fight a dangerous monster.

5) Issue 17 and Marvel Team up #47: Spidey and the Thing battle Basilisk Just a great story.

6) Issue 22 and 23: With Thor battling Seth with all humanity at stake.

7) Issue 24: Black Goliath-Never heard of this character but it was nice to run into him in an overall somewhat generic story.

8) Issue 25: A team up with Iron Fist as they’re brought into a troubled country

On the negative side, some comics I didn’t like:

1) Issue 3: A real head-scratcher. Daredevil appears in a story that seems to barely forward a continuing story going on in Daredevil and the rest of the story finishes up in Daredevil. Kind of pointless really.
2) Issue 11: Battle with Golem, a pointless story that wraps up a previous story no one cared about in the first place. Also, violated an established precedent. Ben Grimm has been shown to be a celebrity superhero yet when he boards a train to Florida, everyone switches sides of the train. Some, I could see. Everyone, not really. It seems to be an attempt to make the Thing relatable and to show solidarity with people being picked on for being different. That should be done in a way that’s not totally nonsensical.
3) Issue #18 with the Scarecrow, the continuation of yet another horror story the Thing doesn’t belong in and nobody cared about in the first place.

While it was an okay story, the biggest disappointment was the Liberty Legion Story in Annual #1 and Issue #20 by Roy Thomas. After the entire FF went back to help the Invaders in the superb Fantastic Four Annual #11, the Thing goes back to finish the job and teams up with the Liberty Legion. The story has potential, but it also highlights the challenge of the Liberty Legion: we don’t know anything about most of them so we have to spend a lot of time establishing who they are. Thus the Annual dragged on and on in an interminable story. Fewer character, at least in this story, might have made Ben Grimm’s time travelling adventures a lot more fun.

As an aside, Issue 21 is not in this collection as it teamed Ben up with Doc Savage and those rights are no longer held by Marvel. I bought this issue online for a pretty inexpensive price. The Doc Savage Issue had great art and was a fun story that true fans of Doc or the Thing should get their hands on, but it’s not really necessary to get it to understand the book.

Overall, not a perfect book, but if you want some great Bronze Age stories of the Thing filled with splash pages of him shouting, “It’s clobberin’ time,” than this is a worthwhile read.

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Published on February 01, 2014 19:56 Tags: bronze-age, marvel, the-thing

Book Review: Essential Iron Man Volume 5

Essential Iron Man, Vol. 5 Essential Iron Man, Vol. 5 by Mike Friedrich

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book goes back to Marvel's Bronze Age by collecting Iron Man (Vol.1) Issues 62-75, 77-87, Annual #3 and covers for reprint Issues of Iron Man #76, Iron Man Special #1 #2 and Giant Sized Iron Man #1.

Mike Friedrich's had been on since Iron Man #48 and I hadn't thought too much of his early run, but it really does come together in this book as Friedrich tells some great Iron Man stories, and these are probably the best issues of Iron Man since Archie Goodwin worked on the book years before. Friedrich's writing brought the book back from being every month to being an actual monthly.

Some of the highlights of Friedrich's run include Iron Man v. Dr. Spectrum (Issue 63-66), the War of the Supervillains (Issues 67-71, 73-75, 77, 80, and 81). The stories have great action and the War of the Supervillains is particularly an underrated arch. While the War didn't have Marvel's heaviest hitters such as Doctor Doom, the Red Skull, and Doctor Octopus, that actually works in the story's favor as if any one of those villains had been in the storyline they'd be expected to triumph. Instead, we get a wonderfully evenly matched still formidable group including the Mad Thinker, MODOK, the Mandarin, and the Yellow Claw.

Friedrich was concerned about many cause of the big causes of the day but managed not to be as pushy and preachy about his personal beliefs as were other authors of the time. So when Tony returned to Vietnam to search for a lost POW, it didn't have the political punch of what other Marvel authors would have done. Tony Stark had shifted away from weapons manufacturing, but for the most part Friedrich kept the political on the downlow which is quite welcome. Friedrich did also make use of Happy and Pepper Hogan. Early on, their relationship with each other as well as Tony seemed strained as Happyas growing jealous of his wife travelling all over the country with Tony while he stayed in New York and even served divorce papers but Friendrich back off on the melodrama later on in the book.

While Friedrich was pretty serious, he could also have fun and this book features Iron Man #72 which is one of the most fun Marvel books of the 1970s I've seen. Iron Man decides to go to San Diego Comic Con and hilarity ensues. He even tries to buy the latest issue of Iron Man with his Avengers credit card.

Len Wein wrote issues #82-85 as Friedrich's short run successor and doesn't acquit himself well. He re-established in New York after Tony have wandered for several years. He also introduces Michael O'Brien, the brother of the Kevin O'Brien, a brilliant scientist who was Tony's friend but went insane as a result of wearing the Guardsman uniform. Michael is a cop and he blames Tony for Kevin's death. The concept was never that great and the character would spend a year skulking around Iron Man comics. There was a decent story involving the Red Host in Issues 82 and 83. Then (for the third time), Happy Hogan is critically injured and Tony Stark tries the same process on Happy that's twice before turned him into the Freak. Friedrich had Stark try the process on another old friend back in Issue #67 with the same result. Trying it again was just silly, particularly so soon after it failed. Still, it wasn't horrible, just not great.

Bill Manlo filled in for Friedrich on Issue #78 and the result was a classic. In the comics, Stark had shifted gradually into new areas of research until it was announced that Stark was no longer making weapons. It was a jarring shift from the original concept that was never explained...until Issue 78 in which in this "untold Tale of Iron Man," Manlo tells how Stark came to stop seling weapons after a visit to Vietnam and an encounter with the harsh reality of war and the failure of his weapons. Its propoganda but it's brilliant and it gives a great explanation of who the character is in a tale that packs a punch. While I prefer Stan Lee's original vision as it created true diversity of thought within the Marvel universe rather than left wing hegemony, this issue was a masterpiece of writing and the most important issue in the book. Manlo also took over for Wein as a stopgap before Archie Goodwin resumed writing Iron Man and wrote Issues #86 and #87 which, after thirteen years, retooled the throwaway Tales of Suspense villain Jack Frost into the powerful Iron Man villain Blizzard.

Annual #3 was written by Steve Gerber and was a team up with Man-thing. Gerber's work on Man-thing was well-known and if there's one flaw to this story, it's that it feels like a Man-thing in which Iron Man's guest starring rather than vice versa with a very strong horror element. It also features Gerber's trademark flourid overwriting. Though to be fair, it works better on Man Thing since we're dealing with the actions of an unthinking beast. The Annual is okay for it is, but not all that great.

The art in the book ranges from satisfactory to very good. George Tuska was one of Iron Man's great early artists and he has the character down flat and the Issues he drew were a joy (#63-72, #78, 79, 86, and 87). Aside from Sal Busceama (Annual #3), the rest of the art is just about average.

Overall, while not a golden age for the Golden Avenger, these stories are definitely a step up from those collected in the prior Essential volume. While some issues are better than others, there's not a bad issue in this book and there are actually some great and underrated stories in here. This is definitely worth a read.

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Published on November 24, 2014 19:24 Tags: bronze-age, iron-man

Book Review: Essential Amazing Spider-man, Volume 6

Essential Amazing Spider-Man, Vol. 6 Essential Amazing Spider-Man, Vol. 6 by Gerry Conway

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book sees us swing fully into the Gerry Conway era on Amazing Spider-man and for many, it includes the event that many say launched the Bronze Age of Comics. This book collects Amazing Spider-man #114-137, Giant Sized Superheroes #1, and Giant Sized Spider-man #1 and #2.

The book kicks off with #114 and #115 which continues a previous story arc about a gang war between Doctor Octopus and Hammerhead. The book also establishes a long time problem of Aunt May staying on as Doc Ock's housekeeper much to Peter's distress.

Issues #116-118 reprints and revamps a story from the magazine size Spectacular Spider-man #1 featuring the story of a reform mayoral candidate and a strange man-monster pursuing him. The action is a good and the story is decent as far as it goes. The story creates a minor continuity issue since the name of the candidate wasn't changed. Still, the result isn't bad.

Issues #119 and #120 have Peter Parker going to Canada to investigate a strange letter sent to Aunt May that may tie into the reason for Doc Ock's interest in her. While in Canada, he fights the Hulk. The story is good and a nice crossover that takes Spider-man out of his element and allows him to meet up with General Ross. The action is good and my only problem with it is that Spidey's attitude is a bit inconsistent with what was betrayed in Annual #3 when he chose to let the Hulk go out of compassion even though it cost him his first chance to join the Avengers.

Issue #121 is the big one. It's, "The Night that Gwen Stacy Died." which is one of the seminal events in Spider-man history and the history of comics in general with many saying that Spider-man #121 marked the start of the more serious Bronze Age of comics. Clearly, the biggest reason for the death of Gwen Stacy is that the author didn't know what else to do with her. Dating back to Issue 111, Conway had done very little with this relationship, so her death was necessary.

However, Conway goes beyond necessity and creates a masterful story that acknowledges the real impact of what happened when she perished as a result of Spider-man's fight with the Green Goblin. The reaction is realistic and completely believable. The emotions are handled appropriately and with great sensitivity, adding depth to Spider-man character.

The one unrealistic part was Gwen dying before Spidey's web hit her. This was retconned to her dying as a result of her spine snapping when the web grabbed her close to the ground.

At any rate, Issue #122 has the follow up death of Norman Osborne and also begins to see the development of Mary Jane Watson as a character which Conway also does in a very subtle intelligent way throughout the book.

Issue #123 has J Jonah hiring Luke Cage to go after Spider-man and is really a showcase for that character that works pretty well. Issues 124 and 125 are another great concept as J Jonah own son has become one of the "freaks" he raves against as a new Man-wolf. Issue 126 features the return of the Kangaroo. Issues #127 make up a nice two parter about the apparent return of the Vulture with some great plot twists along the way.

Issue #129 is the first story featuring the Punisher. It's pretty basic but gives a good outline of the character. Issue #130 has the return of Hammerhead and leads into Issue #131 where Peter has to prevent Aunt May from marrying Doctor Octopus. It's a fun story, but you just have to avoid thinking about why Doc Ock is wanting to marry Aunt May because it breaks down. Issues 132 and 133 have Conway revamp yet another previously introduced villain into a major menace and he does a great job with the Molten Man.

Giant Sized Spider-man #1 features a team up between Morbius the living Vampire and John Jameson as Man-wolf. The story is probably one of the weakest in the book but still okay.

Giant Sized Spider-man #1 was written by Len Wein and has Spider-man and Dracula in it, though the two don't do battle although Peter Parker bumps into her in the hall. This is a decent story of murder and fear on a cruise boat with Spider-man needing to find a scientist to get them back to New York to save Aunt May. Issue #134 has Spider-man fighting the Tarantula with the Punisher joining in Issue #135 after initially believing Spider-man was in league with the Tarantula (hmm, the Punisher must read the Daily Bugle.) The Punisher is pretty reasonable in this story and suprisingly so given how the character developed as he's okay with Spider-man catching Tarantula and turning him over to the police.

Giant Sized Spider-man #2 (also by Len Wein) has Spidey teaming up with the Master of Kung Fu with both men beginning the adventure thinking the other is a villain. This was a nice change of pace and just a fun team up that took Spidey out of his element.

Issues #136 and #137 feature the reveal of the new Green Goblin as Harry Osborn in a truly epic story.

Overall, this is a book that lives up to his title as these are truly essential tales. Several issues are much-read including the first Punisher stories, the Night Gwen Stacy died, and the last two stories featuring Harry Osborn. That which isn't actually essential is very well written and pretty darn interesting. Conway doesn't redo the Spider-man mythos but builds on it and the results are amazing. The book has a variety of artists including John Romita, Gil Kane, and Ross Andru, and all do an equally great job of capturing the classic feel of Spider-man.

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Published on December 14, 2014 23:13 Tags: bronze-age, spider-man

Book Review: Captain America: Death of the Red Skull

Captain America: Death of the Red Skull Captain America: Death of the Red Skull by J.M. DeMatteis

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This book shows us the Death of the Red Skull as told in the 1980s by JM Demattens. This was not the final word on the character (who'd be resurrected in less than 50 issues) but it was an event. The book captures that event in a year's worth of Captain America Comics from Issue 290-301. The first three issues and the last issue are probably the best in the book. The first 3 set up the fact that Cap is now partnered with Nomad and engaged to be married to a Jewish lady named Bernie. The dialogue is a tad corny, but the story is enjoyable for what it is. However with Issues 293-299, the story becomes a long slog of melodrama and over the top supervillain speeches. The story crawls with way too many characters operating within the same and chewing up scenery. One character in a coma was in multiple issues with his wife by his bedside and nothing happened to him. It was as if DeMatteis wanted to assure us the character was still in a coma. It had to be maddening to have to wait a month to read a story that went slow and went nowhere.

The story picks up with the actual death of the Red Skull in Issue 300, though this issue also features Captain America being saved by a magic Indian. Issue 301 is a solid conclusion actually as the Avengers come to help Cap with the aftermath. There's a nice moment where Hawkeye comes representing the West Coast Avengers with praise and respect for Cap after their troubled past.

Overall, this book was not a fun read. It has its moments, but its way too long for the little that happens, there are too many characters, and the dialogue is too florid, stilted and soap operatic.

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Published on December 16, 2014 17:17 Tags: 1980s, bronze-age, captain-america

Book Review: Essential Amazing Spider-man Volume 7

Essential Amazing Spider-Man, Vol. 7 Essential Amazing Spider-Man, Vol. 7 by Gerry Conway

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book collects Amazing Spider-man Issues 138-160, Giant Size Spider-man #4 and #5 and the Amazing Spider-man Annual #10. The first more than half of the book is the end of the Gerry Conway era as represented in Issues 138-149 and the two Giant Sized issues, Archie Goodwin wrote Amazing Spider-man #150 and then handed off the book to Len Wein who wrote Issues 151-160 and Amazing Spider-man Annual #10. The art chores are handled mostly by Ross Andru with assists from Gil Kane (Spiderman #150 and AS Annual #10) and Sal Buscema (AS #154 and #155)

The Conway era was great for Spider-man. Taking over for Stan Lee in Amazing Spider-man #111, his run took the character in the new directions with the death of Gwen Stacy (in the previous volume.) In this book, we get the start of the clone saga which has gotten a bad name, but that's due to the botched 1990s attempt to bring back the saga. Conway's final 12 issues work through the mystery of who the Jackal is as a question that's occasionally in the foreground but is always working through the background. During Conway's run we saw the return of Mysterio and the Scorpion plus Spider-man taking on some unique 1970s villains like the Grizzly and the Cyclone.

In Giant Sized Spider-man #4, we have a team up between Spidey and the Punisher which is notable for the lack of rancor that typically accompanies the team-ups these days. Giant-sized Spider-man #5 has a team up with Man-thing (because every Marvel hero in the 70s had to team up with Man-thing.)

Conway told great tale and built a very good arc. Whatever, the problems with the follow up, the original was a nice piece of 1970s storytelling. While I think one reason he killed off Gwen Stacy, he didn't know what to do with her, he did manage to really solidly establish the relationship between Peter and Mary Jane that would be so important for decades.

Archie Goodwin's Issue #150 is an enjoyable issue that manages to put a period on the end of the Clone saga.

Wein's writing is far more varied. We saw the return of some old villains, but also a few intriguing issues without premier Supervillains. Issues 153 and 155 are the type of things you'd see in a Batman comic of the era. Issue 153 has a scientist being blackmailed by men who kidnapped his daughter and the story is somewhat with a great tearjerker ending. Issue #155 is a full fledged Spider-man whodunit that fixes a hanging thread from a Daredevil story. Issue #156 has Spidey having to thwart robbers at Ned Leads and Betty Brant wedding. I enjoyed all these issues, though #156 was probably the weakest.

Returning supervillains was a big focus of this one as this era saw the return of Shocker (#151 and #152), Sandman (#154). Doctor Octopus and Hammerhead . (#157-#159.) The final issue of that arc has a team up between Spider-man and Doctor Octopus which is surreal. Wein brings back these villains without them feeling old or cliched.

He introduces a villain of his own in Amazing Spider-man Annual #10 where we meet the Human Fly, another villain created courtesy of J. Jonah Jameson and a mad scientist (ala the Scorpion.) However, this felt more than a retread, partially because it had a fascinating first part where Spider-man foiled the future Human Fly's attempt at kidnapping.

Finally, we have Amazing Spider-man #160 where Len Wein ties up the biggest loose end from the Conway era-the Spider-mobile. Spider-man had left the car in the river and in the book's finale, it's out for revenge. It's a great final chapter to that silly saga.

Overall, this was a great era for Spider-man and a great collection full of wonderful action, some good character moments, solid art, and great writing.

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Published on May 17, 2015 20:10 Tags: 1970s, bronze-age, spider-man

Book Review: Essential Marvel Team-Up, Volume 2

Essential Marvel Team-Up, Vol. 2 Essential Marvel Team-Up, Vol. 2 by Len Wein

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book collects twenty-six team-up issue from Marvel Team-up #26-51 and Marvel Two and One #17.

There are two types of comics in this book. There are individual standalone stories with Spidey or the Human Torch fighting someone and then there are several story arcs. (The Torch is the lead hero in Issues #26, #29, #32, and #35)

There's not a whole lot to say about the standalone. They're interesting enough and the guest stars range from the Hulk, Iron Man, and Thor to the more obscure Nighthaw and Valkyrie.

The first story arc from Issues 33-35 has Spidey and the Torch (in Issue 35) teaming up with three different members of the Defenders to face a common foe. This story was more okay than anything else, with heavy dialog on crime and when mental health treatment is more appropriate.

Issues 36 and 37 are a bit more interesting as it has a team up between Spidey and Frankeinstein's monster to fight a mad scientist who's determined to bring monsters to life for his nefarious ends. Man-wolf gets involved for good measure.

Issue 39 has the Human Torch and Spidey team up to fight the old enforcers from the Silver Age and revisit a classic Spider-man tale. The story continues in Issue 40 though the Torch takes a powder in the middle leaving the Kung Fu group, "Sons of the Tiger" to help Spidey mop up. It's a good story overall, though the Torch bowing out is annoying.

Issues 41-46 starts an epic time travel arc that's insane. Cotton Mather is kidnapping people from the twentieth century to be put on trial for Witchcraft. It begins with the Scarlet Witch being kidnapped but that's not all as Vision, Doctor Doom, and Moondragon all join Spider-man in the 17th Century. The story has Mather in the most bizarre light. While history suggests a bit more nuanced view of him, it's a Marvel comic, so you can't complain much. This is an enjoyable read if for no other reason than for how crazy it is. The last two issues of the arc have Spidey travelling into the future (or perhaps an alternate future) to join with one-off characters in Marvel anthology titles, Deathlok and Killraven. Spidey's kind of freaked out by the fact that this could be the near-future but get hints that these could be alternate futures as the post-apocalyptic worlds of these two characters weren't exactly compatible.

Spidey returns to his own time for a two part team up with the Thing that beings in Marvel Two-in-One #17 and finishes in Marvel Team-up #47.

The final four issues are probably the crown jewel of the book. The four party story arc introduces Captain Jean DeWolff, a no nonsense NYPD captain and has Iron Man and eventually Doctor Strange battling the mysterious Wraith. There's a little bit of soap opera to the plot, but it's a great Spider-man story and enjoyable in its own right.

Overall, there are some great stories and even better story arcs in this book. The final four are essential for the next decade of Spidey stories.

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Published on July 27, 2015 23:30 Tags: bronze-age, human-torch, marvel, spider-man

Book Review: Showcase Presents All Star Comics, Volume 1

Showcase Presents: All Star Comics Showcase Presents: All Star Comics by Paul Levitz

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The original run of the Justice Society of America ended with All Star Comics #57 in 1951. The JSA were retired with sales of Superhero comics lagging and a new group of heroes emerged in the late 1950s and early 1960s but with the brilliance of "The Flash of Two Worlds," it was established the Golden Age heroes existed on Earth Two while our Silver Age friends existed on Earth One and the old JSA got together with the Justice League of America every year and finally got their own title back with the return of All Star Comics.

While in modern day Superhero comics, no one needs much of an excuse to create a whole new Issue 1, despite a lapse of twenty-five years in All-Star Comics, the Justice Society's Adventures try to pick where they left off in All Star Comics #58 and continue on through Issue 74 before having a run as one of several features in Adventure Comics #461-466 and DC Special #29. Unfortunately, the JSA couldn't just go back.

There's a lot of interesting features in this book. It includes the first appearance of Powergirl, aging of Superman and Batman into middle age with Bruce Wayne (as Gotham City Police Commissioner) declaring war on the JSA in the best storyline of the book. DC Special #29 offers in untold JSA origin story with an absolutely stunning full page picture of Superman punching through a squadron of Nazi planes. Indeed, even when the storylines let you down (as they often do) the artwork remains very good throughout the entire book. We also have the Huntress taking a big role as a bit of a Batman surrogate for the new generation, and the Psycho-Pirate is a solid villain in several stories. Also being set on Earth 2 allowed DC to play around with the universe and kill off a famous hero who they never would in main continuity.

However, the book is one of the weaker Showcase Presents collections I've read. Due to success at Marvel with characters who bickered rather than being "Super Friends," many Superhero books were being written with heroes who didn't get along and weren't always the best people to be around. However, trying this tact on the first Superhero team from a company known for iconic role model heroes, it doesn't feel right and it's hard to like most of these characters. The Flash abandons his team in the midst of a battle, Powergirl begins as a hypersensitive 1970s Comic Book feminist who takes everything as a sexist slight and thinks that the less men who are on the team the better as there will be less men to compete with her. She does mellow out later on but it takes a while. Wildcat is constantly facing mortal injury. No one on this team is all that likable which makes the stories a challenge. This isn't help by a 17 page book length and a roster that just kept changing. You also do see the book blame the end of the Justice Society in the 1950s on the Red Scare (despite any real foundation in this story) which is certainly a lot better tale than "low post-war Circulation."

Overall, this book has some charms but it also has plenty of reminders of why the Justice Society's 1950s revival was so short lived.

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Published on October 26, 2015 20:13 Tags: bronze-age, jsa, justice-society-of-america

Book Review: Batman: Strange Apprations

Batman: Strange Apparitions Batman: Strange Apparitions by Steve Englehart

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book collects stories from eight issues of Detective Comics where Marvel Writer Steve Engelhart took over the writing of Detective Comics as well as two issues written by Len Wein.

Overall, the stories are pretty solid. The lead off villain, Doctor Phosphorous is well-written. Two stories, one involving Hugo Strange learning Batman's secret identity and another involving the Joker poisoning the water to give fish his face and then trying to copyright fish were later adapted for the great Batman: The Animated Series. There's also a very solid Penguin story in here.

The individual stories work great, but I have some more mixed feelings on the overall plot arc involving Bruce Wayne's relationship with Silver St. Cloud as well as Rupert Thorn's efforts to drive Batman out of Gotham. Both feel very rushed towards their resolution due to Engelhart's planned retirement from comics (which turned out to be temporary), but there's just too much going on for him to have actually done everything he'd started justice.

Still, this is a nice collection of stories from an era that aren't really collected anywhere else, so it's definitely a worthwhile read.

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Published on December 30, 2015 17:12 Tags: batman, bronze-age

Book Review; Essential Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-man Volume 1

Essential Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man, Vol. 1 Essential Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man, Vol. 1 by Gerry Conway

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

There were already two Spider-man titles when Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-man premiered in 1976. So what could this new series add? Quite a bit actually. This book collects the first 31 issues of the book.

Seven of the first eight issues were written by comics legend Archie Goodwin and Spider-man legend Gene Conway who contributed tales of classic Spidey villains like Kraven and the Vulture appearing for one-off adventures and then a sensational three parter involving Morbius the Vampire.

At that point, the book fell to Bill Manlo, who wrote all but two of the remaining twenty-three issues of the book. In many ways, the tales Manlo crafted were better than what was going on in the main series. It featured some epic story arcs such as Spidey teaming up with an Arkansas based superhero in a pig costume named Razorback to battle a new age cult, and Spidey teaming up with Moon Knight to battle the Maggia. The hispanic hero, The White Tiger made several appearances and became a regular guest star. Of course, there's some 1970s goofiness as Spidey battles a disco-based villain and the Carrion arc is not without its flaws, but had some great action and features Spidey losing his sight and declaring himself the worlds only blind superhero when standing a few feet from Daredevil. This book also includes Frank Miller's first art on Daredevil, a character he'd redefined a few years later.

The stories didn't always line up with what was going on in Amazing Spider-man but Manlo made an effort when he could. However, his blindness in two issues of Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-man made no impact on Spidey in his main book.

Still, these are great classic Spider-man tales and in many ways, far more similar to the character's glory days under Lee and Conway than what was going on in Amazing Spider-man at the time.

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Published on February 18, 2016 23:01 Tags: bronze-age, spider-man

Book Review: Essential Amazing Spider-man, Volume 9

Essential Amazing Spider-Man, Vol. 9 Essential Amazing Spider-Man, Vol. 9 by Marv Wolfman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is one of the larger Marvel Essential Collections featuring 25 issues of the Amazing Spider-man (186-210), along with 2 Amazing Spider-man Annuals and the first Spectacular Spider-man Annual.

The majority of the book is by Marv Wolfman, with Roger Stern doing a guest issue for #206 before Denny O'Neil takes over for Issues 207-210.

There were some good stories told in here. Wolfcouman hits a good stride with the introduction of Black Cat coupled with re-appearances by old favorite rogues such as the Kingpin, Electro, Doctor Smythe, and Mysterio. The Amazing Spider-man Annual #13 combined with the Spectacular Spider-man Annual #1 makes for an epic Doctor Octopus story. The multi-issue storyline regarding the apparent death of Aunt May is a superb lead in to the events of Issue 200, a huge milestone for the webslinger. Peter Parker faces a moral dilemma when Betty Brant, estranged from her husband, tries to rebound with Peter. Also, we see Jonah Jameson put through the ringer as he suffers personal tragedy and then a nervous breakdown.

The negatives of the book are few. The early going for O'Neil on Marvel's best known title are a bit mixed. He has an interesting story featuring Kraven the Hunter, but Spider-man's match-ups against Mesmero and Fusio are uninspired. And Amazing Spider-man Annual #14's story with Doctor Strange and Doctor Doom is interesting but feels like Spidey's become a guest character in his own book. Still, this is balanced out by Issue #210 introducing the mysterious Madam Web.

Overall, the late 1970s and early 1980s were a great time for the Amazing Spider-man and this title is a worthwhile read for Spidey fans.

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Published on August 02, 2016 19:52 Tags: bronze-age, spider-man

Christians and Superheroes

Adam Graham
I'm a Christian who writes superhero fiction (some parody and some serious.)

On this blog, we'll take a look at:

1) Superhero stories
2) Issues of faith in relation to Superhero stories
3) Writing Superhe
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