2017 comics reading challenge


Collects BtVS: Spike & Drue 3, BtVS the Origin 1-3, and BtVS 51-59.

Writers: Christopher Golden, Dan Brereton, Scott Lobdell, Fabian Nicieza, Paul Lee
Artists: Eric Powell, Drew Geraci, Keith Barnett, Joe Bennett, Rick Ketcham, Cliff Richards, Will Conrad, Paul Lee

These stories all happen before the TV series started. However, Williow and Xander make a cameo and Giles has to deal with Watcher business. Also, Joyce and Dawn have big roles.

“All’s Fair” is a Spike and Dru story. It starts in the Boxer rebellion when Spike kills the Slayer and her relatives vow to avenge her. In the world fair in Chicago 1933, Spike and Dru are enjoying themselves when they come upon a mad scientist and the vengeful relatives. It’s a quick read and fits both Spike and Dru’s personalities. The art doesn’t make any effort to make them recognizable.

Apparently, “the Origin” is an adaptation of the original Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie script. I haven’t seen the movie so I don’t know how different it might be. Dawn doesn’t appear. Buffy’s parents’ marriage is already starting to crack. In Los Angeles, Buffy is one of the cool girls with a boyfriend and a group of friends. But when she starts to have weird dreams and a strange man called Merrick appears, telling Buffy that she’s the Slayer.

“Viva las Buffy” is set mostly in Las Vegas shortly after “the Origin”. Buffy and her new boyfriend Pike find out that there are vampires in Las Vegas. So, Buffy runs away with him to hunt the vampires. Meanwhile, Dawn finds Buffy’s diary. Pike narrates this tale but it has parts with he can’t know; namely, Angel’s part. Angel and Whistler are already following Buffy and trying to help her.

Meanwhile, Giles has to prove to the Watchers’ council that he’s the right man to become Buffy’s Watcher. We also see couple of other familiar Watchers. The art was better because this time the characters look like the actors.

In “Dawn and Hoopy the Bear” an enemy is trying to get rid of the Slayer by putting an evil spirit into a stuffed bear. Unfortunately, he gives the bear to the wrong Summers.

In “Slayer, Interrupted” Dawn shows Buffy’s diary to their parents and they send Buffy into a mental institution. She’s starting to think that she’s not sane and agrees to go there. However, from the start we hear that one of the other patients is Bride of Rakagore so we know there something shifty going on. In London, Giles has to confront his past as the Ripper.

These were fun stories but they deal with some of the same storylines as in the show, such as Buffy running away and Pike choosing to leave Buffy so that he won’t endanger her. These are things that should have been talked about during the show but weren’t (of course), so they felt a bit disjointed. They definitely gave the stories more depth, though. Also, Dawn and Joyce find out about Buffy being the Slayer far sooner than in the show. But these quibbles aside, there were fun stories and it was great to revisit the characters.

Collects Mighty Thor 5-12.

Writer: Jason Aaron
Artists: Russell Dauterman, Rafa Garres, Frazer Irving

The collection starts with a two-issue story. Dario Agger, the CEO of Roxxon oil, is making a deal with Loki to get better soldiers. The prince of lies in turn tells Dario a tale from the original (male) Thor’s youth. During the age of Vikings, Bodolf the Bold was a mighty chief but his might came from his prayers to Thor which summoned the Thunder God to fight by Bodolf’s side. But one day, in his pride Bodolf didn’t pray to Thor and Thor changed sides. Wanting revenge, Bodolf prayed to Loki who also answered him.

The story has two artists, one for past and one for present. It’s an interesting choice and their styles are very different from each other.

Then S.H.I.E.L.D. agents question Jane Foster: they believe that she’s Thor and for some reason they want to arrest her for that. Luckily, Agent Solomon interferes. Meanwhile, the most rich and powerful bad guys gather, and the Terminatrix kidnaps Agger. It turns out that if something happens to Agger the Roxxxon island will fall on New York City. So, Solomon and Thor have to find Agger and… save him.

The final issue explores the origins of Mjolnir. It’s been showing new powers and even personality which are clearly a retcon but it suites the new Thor. However, this was more an Odin tale.
I enjoyed this collection a lot. The two agents trying to expose Jane as Thor were hilarious and I don’t think they’re going to be long in Coulson’s organization. We also got a glimpse of old Thor in the first two issues. I’m not a huge fan of supervillains running the world, but together they are a formidable foe for Thor and even to each other, as we can see in this collection. Solomon and Thor work well together even though they could have personal issues. Also, there’s sub-plot about dark elves conquering light elves’ domain which will apparently lead to a bigger story.

A Secret Wars miniseries. Collects Future Imperfect 1-5 and Secret Wars: Battleworld 4

Writer: Peter David
Artists: Greg Land, Jay Leisten, Daniel Valadez

Like many of the other Warzones miniseries this is an alternate version of a previous (successful) alternate universe, in this case Peter David’s Hulk: Future Imperfect where the green skinned monster called the Maestro rules over a world devastated by nuclear war.

This Dystopia is also ruled by the Maestro. He’s hounded by a small group of rebels who want him out. The rebels include Janis and Scooter from the previous miniseries but also new characters. Ruby Summers is the daughter of Cyclops and Emma Frost. She’s also a rebel and seems to be the only superhero still living in Dystopia. The Maestro has killed all the others and keeps a trophy room near his harem of beautiful, nearly naked girls.

Ruby is wandering in the sandy deserts around the city of Dystopia. She encounters an old man who calls himself Odin and decides to take him back to the rebels. Unfortunately, the old man isn’t Odin. Soon, the rebels are fighting against the Maestro himself and the rebel’s leader, the Thing, tries to save them. Instead, Maestro manages to capture the Thing and now the rebels have to save him from the Maestro’s palace. Fortunately, a couple of the Maestro’s troops want to get rid of him, too, and are helping rebels. However, things don’t go as the rebels expect.

This was a fun, quick read with an actual plot. However, it doesn’t really tie into the Maestro’s appearance in the main series which was a little confusing. I liked this one more than the original FI miniseries because there aren’t nearly as much naked women everywhere as in the original. Oh and the Thing isn’t Ben.

In the Battleworld issue, the Silver Surfer comes to get his board from the Maestro’s trophy room.

Collects Captain Marvel 1-5 (2016).

Writer: Michele Fazekas, Tara Butters
Artists: Kris Anka, Felipe Smith

Marvel is clearly concentrating more on Carol and I’m happy about it. Carol’s life after Secret Wars continues as high-profile as before, but this time in space!

Alpha Flight is now serving aboard Alpha Flight space station and Carol has been asked to command the station. She was (mostly) happy to take a two-year assignment. She thinks that the job is mostly going to be a desk job. But she’s wrong: immediately she has to start being a diplomat and a combat leader. The diplomat role she’s happy to hand to Agent Abigail Brand while she leads the Alpha Flight into a battle against a mysterious space ship – which carries Carol’s Hala star. When Carol leads a small group to investigate the ship, it turns out to be organic. And that’s when the troubles start.

I’ve no idea why the Alpha Flight has become a space organization, or rather a part of it. Sasquatch, Puck, and Aurora are the only members left and none of them have powers usable in space. Instead, they use small space fighters. I also really enjoyed a new character Wendy Kawasaki who is the lead scientist on the station and she thinks her commander and job are very cool. Agent Brand I’m less thrilled about but she is a formidable character and of course we need someone to bring in friction, jump to conclusions, and challenge Carol all the time.

This is basically Star Trek: DS9 with superheroes. And for me, that a good thing! Pretty much the only thing I didn’t like was that Carol’s powers started to diminish. It’s such an old plot device and more often used on female characters. But hopefully that’s now done and we’ll see other adventures. The space station is Earth’s first line of defense against threats from space so there’s no shortage of possible plots.

Part of Marvel’s Secret Wars event. Collects Guardians of Knowhere 1-4 and New Avengers: Illuminati 3

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artists: Mike Deodato, Jim Cheun, Mark Morales

Drax the Destroyer, Rocket Raccoon, and Lady Gamora are the Guardians of Knowhere, the giant Celestial head floating in space. However, Gamora has now cosmic powers and cosmic knowledge so she’s a heretic: she doesn’t believe that Doom is God Emperor. Also, she doesn’t stay on her own Warzone but travels to others, looking for Thanos and Quill (who aren’t supposed to exist in this world). So, Angela is now part of the Thor corps and she’s looking for Gamora to arrest her for heresy. While Angela and Drax are fighting, Yatot comes along and starts a fight with Drax, wanting to become the local crime boss.

Who’s Yatot? His backstory is told in the second issue. Also, the Nova Corps so up. In addition to Nova, they have Captain Marvel, Adam Warlock, Venom, and Iron Man. Also, a giant blue woman appears and battles the Guardians and the Nova corps. Who is she? Apparently Kree. Nothing else is told about her.

Characters hit each other. A lot. The end. I think the biggest draw to this series is supposed to be that Gamora is apparently naked most of the time. There was some set up at the end, but er… the Guardians didn’t make it to the main series. Or at least I don’t remember what they did.

I have no idea why one issue of New Avengers: Illuminati is included. Maybe because Xavier was wrong. Because in this issue, he claims that the Beyonder is a mutant Inhuman. But Doom battled many Beyonders who wanted to destroy the whole universe. Clearly, they weren’t mutant Inhumans.

I was really curious to read this one because I play Marvel’s Legendary deck-building game and these Guardians are one of the villain groups from the Secret Wars expansion. Sadly, it didn’t live up to my expectations.

Collects issues 158-167 of Avengers vol. 1.

Writers: Jim Shooter,
Artists: Sal Buscema, Pablo Marcos, George Perez, John Byrne, G. Tuska
Publisher: Marvel

These are Jim Shooter’s old Avengers tales, first published in 1977. The longest story arch lasts for three issues but there are subplots which are present in most issues, namely the Beast feeling superfluous in a team which has many stronger characters, like Thor, Vision, and Wonder Man, as well as all-around geniuses like Tony Stark and Hank Pym. Also Wonder Man constantly doubts himself and Hawkeye is helping Two-Gun Kid to adjust to the 1970s. The Kid comes from 1873.

The core team consists of Iron Man, Wonder Man, the Beast, Vision, Captain America, and Scarlet Witch, but other members come and go, as well.

The collection starts with the Vision attacking Wonder Man in a rage of jealousy. Strangely enough, the Vision constantly calls himself an emotionless machine but when he sees Wonder Man aiding Wanda, when she’s dizzy after a battle, the Vision attacks. Iron Man interferes to stop the fight. This issue also introduces a very powerful new foe, Graviton, who imprisons the core team plus the Wasp and Yellowjacket. It takes Thor and the Black Panther to free the others and defeat Graviton.

The characters don’t really have any breathers. Only hours after defeating Graviton, the Grim Reaper returns. He wants to know if Wonder Man or the Vision is the real Simon Williams, the Grim Reaper’s brother. Then Ant Man attacks with his army of ants which are too quick for even Iron Man to evade. The Wasp returns and explains that Hank has lost his memory and soon Ultron tricks Hank into helping him transfer Janet’s mind to a woman made of metal.

The Avengers also face the Lethal Legion and Graviton again. In the final issue, they inspect a huge space constructs which is heading towards S.H.I.E.L.D.’s orbiting space station. The collection ends is a cliffhanger leading to the Korvac saga.

Even though the issues have a lot of battles and excitement, there are also long plotlines brewing. In addition to the three I mentioned above, there’s a mysterious old man who thinks he’s Wanda and Pietro’s father. Currently, the twins think that the old hero Whizzer is their father and that their last name is Frank. Also, Iron Man and Thor have their own adventures in their own magazines so they’re away a lot. Since Iron Man is supposed to be the leader Cap and even Wanda tell him to do a better job. Also, Iron Man’s identity is secret; not even the other Avengers know that he’s Tony, so it’s difficult for him to explain his absences.

Many issues which originated here have longer ramifications. Hank Pym’s phycological problems for example and the Vision/Wonder Man rivalry and brotherhood lasted for a long time).

On the other hand, Shooter seems to rely on Thor coming in at the nick of time to save the others so many times, that even the characters comment on it and he devoloped a mysterious force which whisked Thor away and back to the Avengers when they most needed him. While the Wasp and Wanda are pretty underused, only Wasp is kidnapped once; and the whole team is beaten a couple of times. Also, only two issues actually have Ultron…

Still, it’s a fun read and a blast from the 70s.

The new Marvel Star Wars comic, collects issues 1-6.

Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: John Cassaday

This story is set between “A New Hope” and “Empire Strikes Back”, in fact shortly after episode IV. The Empire has started to make deals with criminals, like Jabba the Hutt, to get supplies, and the rebels have decided to stop them. So, Princess Leia’s small team infiltrates Empire’s industrial complex at Cymoon 1. Han poses as Jabba’s envoy to get them in and blow the whole place up. Unfortunately for them, the Emperor’s negotiator is really tough and things don’t go as planned.

Later, Darth Vader deals with Jabba personally. Vader is looking for mercenaries to capture a particular rebel pilot. Meanwhile, Leia is trying to rally her troops for another mission. There’s even a Boba Fett subplot.

This one feels like Star Wars. It was exciting and funny. I could hear the actors saying the dialog and there’s a lot of big-screen action and humor. However, Empire having to deal with criminals for parts feels ludicrous, but in a Star Wars way. There’s even some character development for our heroes. However, I’m not too sure about Luke confronting Vader before receiving any Jedi training. And there’s a cliffhanger ending. Otherwise, very enjoyable.

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