Adam Graham's Blog: Christians and Superheroes, page 9

July 12, 2020

Book Review: Atlas Era Tales of Suspense Masterworks Vol. 2

Atlas Era Tales of Suspense Masterworks Vol. 2 (Tales of Suspense (1959-1968)) Atlas Era Tales of Suspense Masterworks Vol. 2 (Tales of Suspense by Jack Kirby

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This book collects Issues 11-20 of Tales of Suspense with some pre-Marvel offerings of classic 1960s Sci Fi. I don't think the individual stories were quite as good or clever as in the previous volume, but in this Volume, Tales of Suspense began to evolve to feature one long story along with all the short stories in the magazine. Generally, these featured an evil monster of the month. These were actually quite fun with great art even if the plots were a tad predictable.

The stories were all generally good. There were text stories with each issue in accordance with federal regulations and most of these were passable (although there was one repeat.) The last one regarding a weather man was quite wild.

Overall, these were fun if you like 1960s goofy sci fi and a chance to see great comic creators before the Marvel Age of heroes was born.



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Published on July 12, 2020 17:53 Tags: monster-comics, sci-fi

July 10, 2020

Book Review: "Usagi Yojimbo, Vol. 1: The Ronin

Usagi Yojimbo, Vol. 1: The Ronin (Usagi Yojimbo, #1) Usagi Yojimbo, Vol. 1: The Ronin by Stan Sakai

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Usagi Yojimbo is set in a world of anthropomorphic animals where our rabbit hero travels through Japan as a ronin, a Samurai without a master, after his master is killed prior to the start of the book.

The book is fairly episodic, with a couple stories that connect, but no big plot arc. Its just Usagi walkin across the countryside, meeting people, having adventures, and fighting people. The best way I can describe its overall tone is of a good 1950s-60s TV Western, something like Have Gun Will Travel. The series also strikes an interesting tone. It's not jokey about its concepts or treating its characters as a joke, but it also has some lighter moments and doesn't take itself too seriously.

My favorite story in here is probably, "A Quiet Meal" where Usagi sits down to a meal only to be menaced by a gang of roughnecks. He remains silent throughout but has a great payoff.

None of the stories are bad, and it all does a nice job of setting up Usagi and his world. I'm glad I read it and will definitely read more.





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Published on July 10, 2020 22:39 Tags: usagi-yojimbo

July 5, 2020

Book Review: Araña Vol. 2: In The Beginning

Araña Vol. 2: In The Beginning Araña Vol. 2: In The Beginning by Fiona Kai Avery

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


After the mini-series that set up the premise of the book Araña's own series proper kicks off in this book. Having thwarted the plans of the Sisterhood of the Wasp in the Amazing Fantasy series, Anya Corozon has to thwart the Sisterhood's interim plans with the help of the Spider Society's mage Miguel. However, when Miguel is seriously wounded, she finds herself alone having to deal with an Egyptian teenage assassin brought in by the Sisterhood of the Wasp.

This is an odd book. It's set in the Marvel Universe, but you would barely know it. The only clue is a Spider-man cameo. Other than that, we're not dealing with existing Marvel villains and there's no reference to other heroes. This is practically a teen indy book and for that, it's not bad.

Anya is a likable character and she's got a decent enough if not well-developed supporting cast. The story is good. It takes up the entire six issues which gives it a chance to breathe. I do like the confrontation that happens in Issue 5 where she has to (for once) use her powers outside of the long Spider-Wasp war. The way the book turns in the last couple issues is interesting.

The Spider-man cameo may be the oddest part of the book as it's not given any set-up and little explanation. Still, this book works. It maintained my interesting and left me ready for the third volume.



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Published on July 05, 2020 21:25 Tags: anya-corozon

July 2, 2020

Book Review: Essential Captain America, Volume 3

Essential Captain America, Vol. 3 Essential Captain America, Vol. 3 by Stan Lee

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This book collects more than two years of Captain America Comics (from 127-156) including the tail end of Stan Lee's run and then three more writers taking the helm, with the book starting off in 1970:

Issue 127 begins with Stan Lee and Gene Colan as the creative team. There's a spy in S.H.I.E.L.D. and someone suggests CAP is the spy. Fury pulls Cap's Security-clearance without speaking to him. For some reason, Robbie (from Spider-man) knows about it. It gets straightened out but brings Cap's relationship with S.H.I.E.L.D. to an end (for now.) 6/10

Issue 128: No S.H.I.E.L.D., no Avengers, so Cap plans on hanging up. Throws a pity party, even almost throws the costume in an incinerator. However, when some Hippy kids are about to be menaced by a Hells Angels equivalent, Cap snaps into action. 7/10

Issue 129: Red Skull returns and he's got a plot to ignite war. It involves changing around road signs on a foreign head of state visiting the U.S. like Wild E. Coyote or some kid prankster. Disappointing. 5/10

Issues 130 and 131: This is good. Cap intervenes in some student protests. Initially, he's trying to protect kids from the cops and then the kids attack him and then they're going after a principal. There's a hooded villain behind it and he tries to use Captain America, and we get a very interesting Cap-related take on protests. Than in the next issue, the Hood seeks his revenge by finding a young man who he claims as Bucky to draw Cap into a trap. Overall, really fun stuff. 8.5/10

Issue 132 and 133: Issue 132 teases the idea that Bucky might be really back. However, as modern comic readers know, that couldn't be the case. It turns out to be an overly ellaborate plot by MODOK. We learn that as part of this plan MODOK obtained the support of Doctor Doom by literally telling him, "I bet you couldn't make the thing I want." And it only take that for the most evil supervillain in the world to do MODOK's bidding. That's silly, but the second issue is much better, leading to a confrontation and setting up the Falcon as Cap's Partner. 7.5/10

With Issue 134, the book becomes Captain America and the Falcon, and the two are officially a team which continues through the rest of this volume and into volumes to come. This story finds them helping out Sam Wilson's nephew who is following among bad companions. It's the type of thing that would be addressed in DC's Green Lantern and Green Arrow. Lee does it in a more earnest sincere way that's not so cloying and smug. Rating: 8/10

Issues 135 and 136 feature Cap and the Falcon meeting with S.H.I.E.L.D. and then having to battle a mad scientist who turns himself into a gorilla as part of a plan to impress a woman. Cap falls down a big hole which leaves the Falcon on his own which gives us a chance to get a sense of his character. Gene Colan does a great job in this drawing the Moleman. I don't know of anyone who captured it better. 8/10

Issues 137 and 138 is a meet-up with Spider-man as they track down the villain from 134 who is up to no good. Initially, because Spidey is wanted by the police, the Falcon is trying to hunt him down to prove he can be an equal partner to Cap. 138 sees John Romita take over the art chores which does really help with the Spider-man stuff. While some might question Sam Wilson trying to prove herself worthy of Cap, I actually think its legitimately good idea and you'd have to be insufferably arrogant not to have some doubts about being his partner. 8/10.

Issues 139-142 find Steve Rogers taking a job as a cop to go undercover on the force to catch a criminal who has been behind the disappearance of some police officers. It turns out to be supervillain, Falcon, SHIELD, and others get involved. Stan Lee leaves as writer after Issues 141 with Gary Friendrich taking over. A bit drawn out, but not bad and the Falcon gets to show his strength of character. 7/10

Issue 143: Cap and Falcon have to stop a race riot being fomented by a shadowy figure. This is a 34-page issue. Its's very exciting, socially aware, and with a good twist. 9/10

Issue 144: The Falcon to go solo, so that he can find himself and solve problems for "his people." This is dodgy in terms of character development given, his desire for the partnership in the first place and the fact that the partnership is only 11 issues old and even less time has passed in the Marvel Universe. 6/10

Issues 145-148: The rest of Friedrich's 7 month run on Cap has Cap on the trail of Hydra, with more focus on Sharon Carter and the Femme Force. The Falcon is reduced to a secondary character despite still being on the masthead. The Femme Force were female S.H.I.E.L.D. agents. That's it. Most had no individual personalities, except for one that flirted with Cap and got into cat fights with Sharon. By the standard of it's time, it's not great, but not the worst thing written about women, even in superhero comics. However, they're not interesting at all. What is interesting is the mystery of who's behind Hydra and there are a couple of layers, and a match-up of two villains fighting I wouldn't have expected. Overall, didn't much care for this direction, so I'll give this one 6/10

Issues 149 and 150: Gerry Conway (Sal Buscema as artist) takes over and we have Nick Fury throwing a massive hissy fit over Cap's decision to not join SHIELD, and he's kicked out (even though all he's done is help Nick on missions) and further Nick forbids him from seeing Agent 13 (Sharon Carter) The policeman gig comes back. While Falcon and Cap are still technically not working together, the case draws them together as they deal with Batroc who thinks he's been hired as part of a typical kidnap-for-hire plot but his honor is offended when he finds out its something worse. This is pretty good.7/10

Issues 151 and 152-They quickly get involved in a battle with the team of Mister Hyde and the Scorpion. Sharon is kidnapped. Cap punches Nick Fury, which is good because someone needed to. 7.5/10

Issue 153: Steve Engelhart's first issue. Cap and Nick Fury have it out. Turns out Nick's been being a jerk because the woman who flirted with Cap was "his girl." Sharon resigns from S.H.I.E.L.D. because she's tired of Fury's garbage (when did this become a soap opera?) Fury decides to give her leave instead and offers to talk about her future when she gets back from vacation. Meanwhile Falcon stalks a threat who will come up issue. A little dumb, but provides some good set up. 6/10

Issues 154-156: This issue contains the retconning of the 1950s Atlas comics Captain America. Because Stan Lee forgot he'd brought back Captain America in the 1950s. This was a fix. I'd heard it described as turning Caps anti-Commie crusade in the comics into some sort of mental insanity, but that's not actually what this does. It implies that Cap and Bucky of the 1950s took the Super Soldier serum, fought as Captain America, went nuts, and then had to be put on ice. I take that 1950s CAP went nuts off-panel from his published adventures, which is fine. Engelhart does a good job. While this story can be taken politically, there's a lot of good character stuff he takes advantage of. I enjoyed it more than I thought I would 8/10

Overall, this is interesting book. Lee has a very distinctive take on Cap, but once he leaves, it does feel like there's a big of a struggle within Marvel as to whether Cap's going to be a secret agent or more of a street-level in New York City. This tug of war leads to some wild swings in the book. Still, there's some very worthwhile Captain America comics to read in here.



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Published on July 02, 2020 20:20 Tags: captain-america

June 30, 2020

Book Review: Marvel's The Avengers - Age of Ultron Prelude

Marvel's The Avengers - Age of Ultron Prelude Marvel's The Avengers - Age of Ultron Prelude by Will Corona Pilgrim

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This book collects three comics that tie directly into the Avengers movie series.

Marvel's The Avengers 1-2 does a decent job of summarizing the plot of the original Avengers film but loses a lot of the personality and fun that made it such a great film and fun story.

Avengers: Cinematic Infinite Comic 1: Expands a bit on what Baron Strucker was doing before the start of the film. It's not bad and a fair edition.

After this, we get into comics that don't actually tie into the movies by give you comic background on characters that feature

Avengers (1963) 57-58 takes the reader to the very first Vision story by Roy Thomas back in the 1960s. It does a good job laying out his origin, but there's a ton of exposition.

Avengers (1998) 21 and 22: From Kurt Busiek and George Perez's legendary run. This comes in the middle of a story but its such a good story and you can mostly understand what's gone on before, although the Wonderman stuff will throw some readers. The end to issue 21 is particularly great. This does make me want to read more from this series.

Avengers (2010) 12.1.: The Avengers go searching for a missing Spider-woman and find horrible news: Ultron is coming. This is the prelude for the comic mini-series Age of Ultron and it's really tantalizing. It does a great job setting the stage and almost makes me want me to read the mini-series even though I fully expect it would disappoint me.

Overall, nothing indispensable, but some solid supplements and insights into how Ultron's been portrayed in the comics.



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Published on June 30, 2020 20:44 Tags: age-of-ultron, marvel, review

June 22, 2020

Book Review: Batman/Superman: Who are the Secret Six?

Batman/Superman (2019-) Vol. 1: Who are the Secret Six? Batman/Superman (2019-) Vol. 1: Who are the Secret Six? by Joshua Williamson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


A Batman/Superman title can be a fun-filled adventure bringing together the world's most popular heroes for monthly adventures...or it can be a depressing tale detailing the consequences of their decision in a mini-series that includes turning several heroes evil because it's part of the Batman Who Laughs' plan (or because they're not helming popular series take your pick.)

It's not horrendous or the worst thing ever, but this is really bleak downbeat stuff particularly for a Batman/Superman series. The Batman Who Laughs turns heroes and turns them Emo when can be a little bit annoying. (more than a little bit.) But there's some cool action scenes, the plot's decent. There's some set-up that could intrigue you, but this book left me feeling decidedly meh about the future of the series.



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Published on June 22, 2020 17:09 Tags: batman, superman

June 18, 2020

Book Review: All Star Batman, Volume 2: Ends of the Earth

All-Star Batman, Volume 2: Ends of the Earth All-Star Batman, Volume 2: Ends of the Earth by Scott Snyder

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


This collects four issues in the End of the Earth storyline with Batman trying to solve a mystery that falls after the events of the previous book. The art for the main stories is intriguing. It's quite different from a typical big 2 comic, feeling a bit more like an Indie comic or perhaps an adult storybook.

The first two issues featuring Mister Freeze and Poison Ivy are both good, and the art particularly being evocative of those characters. The third issue is below average, featuring the Mad Hatter, who really doesn't belong in this belong. The final issue featuring the surprise villain isn't bad, but not as good as the first two issues.

I continue to struggle to really be engaged in the Signal back up story, which is, if anything, less engaging than it was in the first volume.

Overall, this isn't bad, but its far from Snyder's best Batman.



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Published on June 18, 2020 21:28 Tags: all-star-batman, scott-snyder

June 16, 2020

Book Review: Back to the Future: Continuum Conundrum

Back to the Future: Continuum Conundrum Back to the Future: Continuum Conundrum by Bob Gale

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This second volume in the Back to the Future comic series represents a complete story, unlike the previous volume, which was an anthology series.

Its March, 1986 and Marty is missing Doc Brown and all the adventures they had, when they stumble into Doc at his old lab, but find that its Doc. However, its Doc before he built the train at the end of Back to the Future III, but after he'd married Clara Brown.

It's a nice time travel plot that takes us to a new year, introduces some new technology, and generally recaptures the feel of the movies. No, it's not essential, and the emotional stakes aren't at near the same level as the movie, and it's open to how well the art captures the characters. Nevertheless, this is a good time and worth a read for fans of the series. A big improvement on the first volume.



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Published on June 16, 2020 23:06 Tags: back-to-the-future, spin-off

June 12, 2020

Book Review: Thing: Idol of Millions

Thing: Idol of Millions (The Thing (2005-2006)) Thing: Idol of Millions (The Thing by Dan Slott

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


The Thing: Idol of Millions collects Dan Slott's Thing Eight-Issue Solo Series. Ben Grimm is now a Billionaire and trying to live the high life as the Thing. The book has a lot of guest stars including Iron Man and Spider-man, the Inhumans, and more.

This book is mostly inoffensive. There are some funny bits, a few sweet moments that showcase Ben Grimm's character, and a few times of him saying, "It's clobberin', time." Unlike Geoff Johns' Freakshow, I felt like Slott actually got the character to some extent.

However, the book is also just unremarkable. It starts out with a three issue story involving a kidnapping and a murder-themed park, includes a few issues of him working off a debt at a pawnshop because the broker won't take his check now that he's filthy rich, and him building a community center, some supervillain fights, and him deciding he needs to win back Alicia by taking her back in time to visit the statue of Venus DeMilo when it was still new. The books ends with an eighth issue which indicated that Slott had more planned for the book, but was forced to draw it short with Civil War coming up. It felt like there was four-issues worth of story condensed into one and Ben's character arc with Alicia drawn to a close in a way that makes little sense with what happened in Issue 7. Slott continues a practice of many Marvel writers in the mid-2000s: forcing a character to the destination you have planned for him or her even if you've not actually been able to provide all of the steps that would make it feel merited.

To be fair, John Byrne did do a lot of random single and double stories with Ben Grimm during the first Thing series during the Eighties. However, in the case of Byrne, he told far more interesting and engaging stories (even if he could be a bit of a downer.) At the end of the day, Slott just doesn't seem to have anything interesting to say about Ben Grimm.

This isn't bad, but it's more mediocre and frustrating for the potential it has but never realizes.



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Published on June 12, 2020 23:00 Tags: dan-slott, the-thing

June 8, 2020

Book Review: Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man by Peter David: The Complete Collection

Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man by Peter David: The Complete Collection Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man by Peter David: The Complete Collection by Peter David

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This book collects Peter David's entire run of Friendly Neighborhood Spider-man (Issues 5-23, and Annual #1) prior to the infamous One More Day. Friendly Neighborhood Spider-man was very much a subordinate series that would be constantly tying in to larger stories in Amazing Spider-man or the companywide crossover Civil War. Thankfully, the collection does keep you filled in on what you've missed.


Web Log (#5): This reads like a leftover story from the early 2000's Spider-man's Tangled Web, which is about a woman who thinks Spider-man is harassing her because she's been around for three different fights. Its actually a good character story and really keeps the reader's attention.

Masks (#6 and #7): A masked superpowered wrestler is blackmailed into a match with Spider-man. This is a decent story and it does help to set up Spider-man decision to unmask.

Jumping the Tracks (#8-10): David returns to an old playground with Spider-man 2099 (or Spider-man 2211) and the new Hobgoblin. It's a fun story though it feels like you'd get more out of it, if you knew more about Spider-man 2099.

I Hate a Mystery (#11-13): Peter has revealed his identity as part of Civil War and is being pushed out of his teaching job, but as he deals with that Mysterio comes to school, and not just one. Overall, a really nice story and a highlight for the villian.

Taking Wing (#14-16): After Spidey's break with the registration side, he's wanted by the law and not safe in his own secret identity. This is bad new because Deborah Whitman is writing a tell-all book and the Vulture comes to battle. We also have Peter talking to Betty Brandt now that the secret' sout. This is decent, but not spectacular.

Sandblasted (#17-19): The first part of, "Back in the Black" which finds Spidey donning a Black costume after Aunt May was shot. The Sandman comes to Spidey for help as his father's been framed for Murder and Uncle Ben is the corpse. This is a solid story with a mystery that ties back into earlier issues.

Running out of Time/Consuming Passions/Predator/Prey (#20-22): Essentially a three part story where Spidey races to save Flash Thompson and the truth about Miss Ero is revealed. This one is okay, but a bit padded.

Fighting Words (#23): After Peter Parker revealed his identity, J. Jonah Jameson was furious as he realized he's been paying to take pictures of himself. He sued Parker, and when Robbie Robinson called out his overzealous attacks, Jameson fired him. This leads to Peter inviting him to a meeting where the two have it out in an epic fashion that's just not possible with the construct of the secret identity. It's a fun and satisfying issue but with dark overtones about Peter's overall feelings. This would stand up a lot better if it wasn't done totally undone. But enough about that....

Sandhman; Year One (Annual): the Three part Sandman story set up this Annual, which examines the Sandman's origin. It's a solid story. It won't blow you away, but there's some nice phrases, and the art has some really nice touches that make it worth reading.

Overall, this is a good book. Peter David comes off as a pro, even though his ability to stare this ship was quite limited, he manages to tell some real solid stories in this run.







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Published on June 08, 2020 23:37 Tags: peter-david, 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
...more
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