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

Book Review: What If? Classic Volume 1

What If? Classic, Vol. 1 What If? Classic, Vol. 1 by Roy Thomas

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In the Gold and Silver Ages, DC had imaginary stories. One off adventures that if ever seriously treated as real would fundamentally shake up the DC universe.

Instead imaginary stories had no impact. In his introduction, Author Roy Thomas wants to be clear that What If was no imaginary story.

The premise of What If is that the events DID happen, however they occurred in an alternate universe. The Watcher serves as our guide. As I read the comic, I imagined him as almost a TV host introducing the stories. The concept of the series was solid. And this no doubt played into DC's creation of similarly themed "elseworlds."

The execution could be a little inconsistent. Lets break down the six stories contained herein:

1) What if Spider-man joined the Fantastic Four? In Amazing Spider-man #1, Peter Parker was desperate for money to help his Aunt May. He decided to put on an exhibition against the Fantastic Four to earn a position on the team and some money. Spidey proves his mettle by the FF isn't interested, so Spidey swings away. In What if #1, we see that and then we see what would have happened if he had joined and how it would have altered the lives of both teams. It was okay but spent too much time explaining how individual issues and criminals would have gone differently rather than telling a greater macro story. Rating: B-

2) What if Hulk always had Bruce Banner's brain?: Another solid concept answered fairly well. It did tell a very story of Bruce Banner,the Hulk, his enemies, and his allies. The nice thing is that they acknowledged that the lack of the Savage Hulk could have a negative impact on history. An interesting story, though perhaps a little fatalistic at the end. Grade: B

3) What if the Avengers had never been? In mainstream continuity, Earth's mightiest heroes went after a combination of the Hulk and Namor in Avengers #3 as they'd been chasing the Hulk after he'd quit as an avenger in the second issue. In this story, Thor as well as Giant Man and Wasp quit. Iron Man however carries on and tries to counter the great threat represented by the two superhumans. Rarely has Iron Man ever been so heroic than in an alternate universe that brought him to an ultimate test. A very powerful story Grade: A-

4) What if the Invaders Had Stayed Together After World War II?: Roy Thomas said this could be considered more a "Why not?" story as it's possible that the Invaders did stay together and that there was a replacement Captain America in Marvel's now hopelessly confused Captain America timeframe. Good solid story. Grade: B+

5) What if Captain America and Bucky had both survived World War II?: In mainstream continuity, Bucky died at the end of the War and Cap was frozen to be thawed out by the Avengers. In this story, we see both Captain America and Bucky live through the war like normal. The only thing that remains somewhat unclear in the story is why Nick Fury ends up dying in Korea in this story and never becomes director of S.H.I.E.L.D. which is a key plot point. However, that little problem aside, this is a great story about patriotism, love, and brotherhood between Captain American and Bucky. Grade: A

6) What if the Fantastic Four had different Superpowers?: A look at how the Comic rays might have reacted differently. An okay story and nice to see Ben Grimm getting some powers he would enjoy as Dragon Fly. Grade: B

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Published on January 10, 2014 16:17 Tags: avengers, fantastic-four, marvel, spider-man, what-if

Book Review: Secret wars

Secret Wars Secret Wars by Jim Shooter

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When I was growing up, one of the highlights of the baseball season was the Baseball all-star game. Prior to the, "This Time it Counts" campaign, the All-Star game was all about pride and it just meant getting to see your favorite players compete against each other. Everybody had to get in the game, so nobody would get more than 3 at-bats and you'd only see pitchers go for two innings tops. But it was great because the players were the best.

Secret Wars can best be enjoyed if it's viewed as an all-star game with heroes like Spider-man, Captain America, Thor, Iron Man, the Hulk, and three of the Fantastic Four, the X-men, the Wasp, and Hawkeye against villains like Dr. Doom, Doctor Octopus, the Absorbing Man, the Enchantess and Galactus. All those star,, and a lot of them get short-changed, though none worse than Kang the Conqueror.

They're all brought to Battleworld by the Beyonder with the prize of getting their desires if they destroy their enemies. The villains don't need much excuse to attack the heroes, so the battle is on. And we're set up for 300 pages of battles, and of course inter-team bickering.

Secret Wars was written in the 1980s, so there's a lot of weird 80s stuff going on. Tony Stark has decided to become a full time alcoholic and left Iron Man duties to James Rhodes. Monica Rambeau, a black New Orleans police officer is the second Captain Marvel, and Hulk is in a stage of intelligence that slowly begins to diminish throughout the story line.

Among themselves, the heroes fight race wars, and gender wars, and then there's the X-men who show why they're my least favorite superhero team as they whine, complain, and play petty posturing games rather than fighting the villains with Charles Xavier trying to subvert Storm as leader of the X-men.

The battles were fine, but overall, the heroes failed to impress. Some heroes have some great scenes such as Spider-man's battle with Titania, Wolverine almost killing the Molecule Man, and Reed Richards having a surprising meeting with Galactus. But, for the most part, the heroes didn't do much memorable. Throughout the most book, Captain America as the leader of the good guys was mostly indecisive and reactive rather than proactive.

One character saves Secret Wars and it's biggest villain: Dr. Doom. Doom had the foresight to see beyond the Beyonder's game for a far greater prize and in the first Chapter tried to prevent the War for that greater purpose. Only Doom would both the foresight and the pure unadulterated arrogance to achieve what he does in this book and truly Doom is at his audacious best in Secret Wars, and he manages to elevate the story.

In the end, the changes to come out of Secret Wars are relatively minor in the long haul. The most stupid one (Ben Grimm leaving Earth and the Fantastic Four to stay on Battleworld to be replaced by She-hulk) lasted a couple years. The best (Spider-man's black costume) wouldn't be fully developed until the issue was taken up in Amazing Spider-man.

Overall, an okay collection that's raised to a higher level by its villain.

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Published on January 31, 2014 21:23 Tags: marvel, secret-wars

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: What If? Classic Volume 3

What If? Classic, Vol. 3 What If? Classic, Vol. 3 by Gary Friedrich

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

with more obscure characters and far weaker premises. This book collects Issues 14 and 15 of the Series (Issue 16 was a Masters of Kung Fu comic Marvel has lost the license to) and Issues 17-20:

1) What if Sergeant Fury and His Howling Commandos had Fought World War II in Space?: As a letters issue in this volume pointed out, this whole scenario was a betrayal of the very idea of the, "What If?" comic which was predicated on asking What if events went differently in established Marvel continuity. This one was founded on Leonardo inventing airplanes. And the writers don't seem to get that World War II against generic space aliens is nowhere near as compelling as World War II. Story is dull and dumb. Grade: D

2) What if Someone Else had become Nova?: This book asks what would have happened if four different people ended up getting the powers of Nova. I get that write Marv Wolfman was coming for a study on the effects of power but the whole story seemed kind of obvious: If different people got these powers they'd do different things with them. It doesn't help that three of the alternate Novas were total unknowns to the Marvel Universe. Still, I'll give it a grade: C as a meditation of the corrupting effects of power.

3) What if Ghost Rider/Spider-Woman/Captain Marvel remain villains: Another three short story tale and my thoughts on each: The Ghost Rider tale is depressing but not that bad. The Spider-woman tale is a bit dumb. I have to admit I enjoyed the Captain Marvel story if for no other reason than the pleasure of seeing Yon-Rogg get get his comeuppance even it's in a What If? Tale. The title's a bit of misnomer as the last two don't stay villains for long. Still, I'll give this one a Grade: C-.

4)What if Doctor Strange were a disciple of Dormammu: A kind of confusing story where Doc Strange joins the forces of evil so easily and is shown to have no real redeeming qualities that to me it makes the choice between good and evil too simple for plot convenience reasons. Grade: D+

5) What if Spider-man had stopped the burglar that killed his Uncle: And finally a good one. In this stories, Spidey stops the burglar for good publicity and decides to make his career in showbiz, falling out with Aunt May and Uncle Ben, and going Hollywood, becoming an agent for the most of Marvel superheroes including the Avengers and the Fantastic Four. I loved the end of the story that suggested the lesson about great power coming with great responsibility was one he'd always have to learn and it's in the face of another tragedy because he continued his entertainment career with unbroken arrogance. A nice twist. Grade: B+

6) What if the Avengers Fought the Kree-Skrull War without Rick Jones: Writer Tom DeFalco gives an alternate end to the Kree-Skurll war story that is enjoyable as a space epic and filmed with all Marvel's big guns coming out to crush this invaders. Whether you know anything about the actual Kree-Skrull war or not, this story is very good on its own right. It's a wonderful epic that made a giant sized comic worth buying. Grade: A

Overall, the first 2/3 of the book is mostly forgettable, but the last two stories make this worth reading

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Published on February 17, 2015 06:52 Tags: marvel, what-if

Book Review; Essential Godzilla

Essential Godzilla, Vol. 1 Essential Godzilla, Vol. 1 by Doug Moench

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In 1977, Godzilla joined the Marvel Universe and not as a separate spinoff but in the main 616 Universe. Godzilla makes landfall in Alaska and begins a swath of devastation through Seattle and San Francisco before turning inland towards Las Vegas and Salt Lake City.

The first twelve issues chronicling these adventures are okay. Its what you'd expect of any Godzilla story except S.H.I.E.L.D. is the government authority taking charge with Nick Fury handing the Godzilla affair to Dum Dum Dugan after the first Issue or so. There's a Japanese scientist and a boy named Rob who is annoying squirt who insists Godzilla is really not bad even as lives and home are destroyed.

The big problem with the first half is that except for S.H.I.E.L.D. it doesn't feel like Marvel story at all with the exception of the Champions (an obscure superhero group that was a precursor of the West Coast Avengers.) The second half is far more interesting with Issues 13 and 14 involving Godzilla taking on cattle rustlers. Only Marvel would think Godzilla would make a good Western.

S.H.I.E.L.D. then gets shrinking gas from Hank Pym and shrink Godzilla to miniature and take him to New York and then a pint sized Godzilla escapes. What follows includes several issues featuring the Fantastic Four, Doctor Doom's time machine sending Godzilla to the stoneage, the Avengers including a battle between Thor and Godzilla over the Empire State building, and a three panel guest appearance by Spider-man.Also J Jonah Jameson reacting to Godzilla.

The book is a rarity and while the quality in the beginning is mixed, the second half easily lived up to the expectations I had for the series.

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Published on February 23, 2015 21:18 Tags: godzilla, marvel

Book Review: The Marvel/DC Collection: Crossover Classics, Volume 3

The Marvel/DC Collection - Crossover Classics, Vol. 3 The Marvel/DC Collection - Crossover Classics, Vol. 3 by Scott Lobdell

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This book collects seven inter-company crossovers:

1) Incredible Hulk v. Superman: This is the best story in the book, though its far from perfect. The story begins with a married Lois and Superman talking and goes back to the 1960s and an encounter between Superman and the Hulk as well as Clark Kent and David Banner. The story is a great classic potboiler that gets Thuderbolt Ross and a red haired Lex Luthor involved. There's less Hulk smashing Superman and vice versa, but that should be expected with legendary comic scribe Roger Stern at the helm as we get a far more character based story. The art by Steve Rude is gorgeous which makes it stand out from almost everything else in this book. There's shades of Dave Stephens in the art, which only has one unfortunate drawback which is Lois putting on a skimpy outfit for one scene for seemingly no other reason than to elicit information from Rick Jones. The framing scenes were nothing special either, but still this is a good story. Grade: B+

Daredevil and Batman: These were a natural duo to pair up. Both dark characters and both redefined by Frank Miller in the 1980s. I wonder if this story would have been better if Miller wrote it. Both writer and artist try to ape Frank Miller and the results are awful. The plot becomes a bunch of ego roller derby. The art is garish with the villains Two Face (and for some reason) Mister Hyde looking awful. Grade: D+

Spider-man and Batman: This was a good concept involving Batman and Spider-man being drawn together through a plot that involved two of their most deadly rogues, the Joker and Carnage and a plot to essentially lobotomize these mad killers society refused to execute. There was some great concepts involved particularly the idea of Spider-man and Batman both being orphans, and the similarities and contrasts between Carnage and the Joker as mad killers. The story has a lot of good concepts. What hurts is the length. Even a double length comic wasn't enough to do it justice. This would have worked far better as a 2-4 issue miniseries. As is, I'll give it a grade of C+.

Spider-man and Gen 13: I have to admit to knowing nothing coming into reading this other than that they were published by Wildstorm, an imprint of Image comics. I still don't know much. They're supposed to be a superhero team, although there overall dynamics seemed similar to MTV's The Real World. Beyond that, the comic doesn't do much. They face a villain whose in the middle of a child custody dispute which gets thrown in because but it's really hard to follow the plot. There are some very nice jokes and cute moments particularly when one of them quoted the theme to the 1960s Spider-man TV show. The art is second best in the book, so overall I'll give it a grade of C-.

The last two comics are Gen X/Gen 13 Team X/Team 7 and I also have to confess ignorance of these three other teams. If you enjoyed these titles when they first published, you may get more out of these stories. However, this is where production value comes in and the fact that Marvel and DC really put no work into the presentation of this book, simply slamming the stories and covers in with no introduction compared to the first Crossover Classic that had detailed information...on stories featuring Spider-man and Superman. Also, the inclusion of these one off Wildstorm stories is weird and doesn't really fit. Someone looking for Wildstorm crossovers with Marvel is hardly going to want to read a retro 1960s Superman/Hulk story but they're jammed in anyway.

What little I can get out of the stories: the Gen X and Gen 13 features an evil mad scientist plot luring our two teams of young superheroes to a beach. It's really lame. I'd give it a D-. The Team 7 and Team X story is a little bit more of an interesting black ops story with ill-defined objectives. Still, I'd give that one a D.

It's problematic to have two large team meetings in a story with 40 pages. And what is perhaps the most damning thing in both stories, the teams are so similar it really is hard to keep straight whose on what team which doesn't speak for the originality of the teams.

At any rate, there's one good story, one decent concept undone by page limitations and five other stories ranging from subpar to awful. Personally I'd recommend picking up a copy of Superman v. the Hulk as a standalone and skipping this trade.

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Published on March 06, 2015 18:56 Tags: crossover-classics, dc, marvel

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: Essential Avengers 2

Essential Avengers, Vol. 2 Essential Avengers, Vol. 2 by Stan Lee

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book marks some turning points for the Avengers, collecting Issues 25-46 and the First Annual. It sees Stan Lee's departure as writer after Issue 34 (replaced by Roy Thomas) and Artist Don Heck is replaced by John Buscema in Issue 41.

The Avengers team changes, though mostly through addition. It begins with a team of Captain America, Hawkeye, Quicksilver, and the Scarlet Witch. In the course of the book, GoTliath (formerly Ant Man), and the Wasp are added to the line-up as well as Hercules, though Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch leave in the middle when the powers are on the wane,.

The feuding between Captain America and Hawkeye comes to an end thankfully. When Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch leave and are replaced by Goliath and the Wasp, he figures he has no chance of gaining leadership of the Avengers plus he seems to have developed a genuine respect for Captain America. He still manages to push back and challenge every other male to come on the team including Goliath and Hercules who could tear him apart.

This book also reprints the origin of the Ant Man from Tales to Astonish #27 and that's because Henry Pym plays such a "big" role in the book. He goes through a period where he can't shrink at all and is 10 feet tall and becomes the real muscle on the team prior to Hercules joining the team. He also takes on a leadership role when Cap has to disappear to deal with a long adventure in his own book. Pym is a central character and this has to got to be a high point for Pym in the role of Goliath.

Overall, the book has two big moments. The first is the first appearance of the Sons of the Serpents in Issues 32 and 33 and they make a great appearance as a sort of extension of the hatemonger character. Then, the Annual #1 is written by Roy Thomas. Those who have read the DC Archives know Thomas was a huge fan of the Golden Age All Star comics in which heroes would come together and the break up to go and fight individual evildoers and that's what he does in this story as the Mandarin heads up a team of supervillains, the Avengers split into smaller squads to take on the villains. It works really well here because they took nearly 50 pages to tell the story and split the Avengers and villains into three squads. It also featured the return of the "Original Avengers" which was silly as a gimmick because only Thor and Iron Man were returning for the issue and it was still a very fun and enjoyable issue.

Also, there's a plot regarding the Black Widow and her status that works its way throughout the book in a fairly interesting way. Beyond that, the Avengers take on a stable of solid Silver Age villains including Doctor Doom, the Super Adaptoid, and the Mad Thinker as well as battling Submariner.

Overall, these are enjoyable stories. They're certainly not on the same level as the Fantastic Four, but they're still solid tales for fans of the Silver Age of Marvel Comics.

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Published on December 07, 2015 23:12 Tags: avengers, marvel, silver-age

What If? Classics Volume 4

What If? Classic, Vol. 4 What If? Classic, Vol. 4 by Bill Mantlo

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book issues 21-26 of What If?

There are some strong issues revisiting some well-worn Marvel Universe themes. What If? #21 is a sequel to What If? #1 which had Spidey join the Fantastic Four and ended with the Invisible Girl choosing to go off and marry Submariner. This turns Reed so sour that the Thing and Spidey quit leaving Reed and Johnny to plot to overthrow Submariner. It's an interesting turnabout story and a fun tale for the Submariner.

Issue 22 is, "What if Doctor Doom became a hero?" and it's an interesting premise. However, the pivot point for the change seems a little weak and implausibly has him locked in a struggle with Mephisto.

Issue 23 is a bit more obscure, "What if the Hulk's Girlfriend Jarella had Not Died?" It's a good story but nothing the cover feature which has the Hulk dressed like some Barbarian. The end is a bit too uncertain for my tastes. The back up feature in this one is a little dumb as it asked what would hav happened if Aunt May had been bitten by the radioactive spider.

Issue 24 is, "What if Gwen Stacy had lived?" A big question and the answer mostly focuses on how Spider-man deals with the Green Goblin. Given the status of Norman Osborn in so much of the Marvel Universe and spin-off media, I wasn't impressed. It's as if the story's point was that if Gwen Stacy had lived, Spider-man would still have various storylines.

Issue 25 is, "What if Thor fought Odin Over Jane Foster," a tale that allows lots of fighting around Asgard and Avengers getting Asgard-powered. It's harmless fun. It has Quicksilver skipping the trip to Asgard which I guess was meant to illustrate whatever universe he 's in, Quicksilver can be a bit of a jerk.

Issue 26 is, "What if Captain America were elected President?" In the comics, he passed on a run in 1980, but this book asks what would have happened and doesn't do a whole lot with the concept. Because there'd be questions, 'How would this guy get along with Congress?' Would he have added credibility with some people? Less? There's nothing interesting in the story."

The back up tale is actually a little more interesting as it asked, "What if Man-Thing had Regained Ted Sallis' brain?" The outcome is interesting given that Man-thing was usually benign in the 1970s.

The book also features, "Untold Tales of the Marvel Universe" which tell about obscure Marvel mythology about the Celestials and Eternals. It was stuff started by Jack Kirby but really isn't engaging as written in this book

One big positive is that this book reprints the letters page so you can see what fans thought of books at the time. However, because the letters were about two issues behind, you'd have to have read What If? Classic Volume 3 to understand what the early ones were talking about.

Overall, not the greatest of, the, "What if? Books" but a few interesting stories in here.

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Published on January 13, 2016 23:53 Tags: marvel, what-if

Book Review: Marvel Masterworks, Golden Age Marvel Comics Volume 5

Marvel Masterworks: Golden Age Marvel Comics, Vol. 5 Marvel Masterworks: Golden Age Marvel Comics, Vol. 5 by Carl Burgos

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book has one huge highlight and that is the first ever superhero team up between Namor, the Submariner and the Human Torch. This happened more than a decade before Batman and Superman teamed up and is notable because these two had previously fought each other but now were combining forces against the Nazis. It's a superb classic story that's overlooked in comic history.

As for the rest of the book, Namor continues to be a highlight of any book in which he appears as you see the complexity of the character as well as his shift to war-footing. He continues to be fearsome, moody, and unpredictable. The book's final Namor story has him, oddly enough, returning to New York to fight in a boxing match.

The Torch stories are more standard fare. They're well-written but not all that memorable.

The Angel and Ka-Zar strips work in serialization with the Ka-Zar having a two part story and the Angel having a three part story. This made a lot of sense and I wish more Golden Age comics had done multi-part stories particularly as paper shortages required shorter stories. The Angel story features the Cat's Claw, a villainess who calls to mind the Pulp Heroine Miss Fury. Ka-Zar's last solo story is of note as he takes on the Nazis and drives them out of Africa.

The Terry Vance stories are light juvenile detective tales that could have stood a bit more development. The only truly unenjoyable story is Electro, the Robot whose stories are tedious to read. Thankfully, he's not included in the final issue.

The text stories in this book are noteworthy as they're about the heroes of the comic books. Thus we get stories about Terry Vance, the Angel, and the Human Torch, which is nicer than the generics included in many golden age Comic books.

Overall, there are already some slight declines in comic book quality already visible in this book, but each strip (except Electro) is enjoyable in its own right, the text stories are interesting, and the story of the Submariner-Human Torch team up make this a must-read.

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Published on September 16, 2016 18:38 Tags: marvel

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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