2017 comics reading challenge


Collected the miniseries issues 1-5.

Writer: Peter David
Artist: Will Sliney

In this 2099 world, the megacorporation Alchemax owns the rights to all super beings. If a super being doesn’t work for Alchemax he, she, or it is, by law, a super villain. The head of the company is Miguel Stone. The Avengers include Captain America (Roberta Mendez who has been brainwashed so that she doesn’t remember being the Cap while she’s Roberta and vise versa), Hercules (the original but with a depression and a drinking problem), Black Widow (who is a seductress with so spider powers), Iron Man, and Hawkeye (who has real wings and talons instead of a bow). They also have the Vision but she’s a woman in a tank who sees visions.

Someone sends assassins after Roberta and that someone seems to be Martin Hargood. The team goes to arrest him but another super team is already trying to question Hargood, the Defenders: Hulk, Silver Surfer, the new Dr. Strange, Sub-Mariner (blue-skinned Roman), and Valkyrie (Brunnhilde). Of course, they fight.

This one was fun and the new Cap was very interesting. Pretty light stuff, though. There’s a subplot about the Black Widow but it didn’t go anywhere. I’ve read some of the 2099 titles years go and it was fun to revisit them. Doesn’t affect the main story at all.

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Collects the Secret Wars tie-in miniseries issues 1-4 and Uncanny X-Men 270.

Writer: Marc Guggenheim, Chris Claremont
Artist: Carmine di Giandomenico, Jim Lee, Scott Williams, Art Thibert

Years after the X-Men, X-Factor, and New Mutants defeated Cameron Hodge at Genosha, some former X-Men are still in Genosha. But they aren’t trying to rebuild anymore. Now, they’re trying to keep the desperate population alive. A mutant plague is threatening every mutant on the planet. It started at Genosha and so Baron Rachel Grey, host of the Phoenix Force, is keeping Genosha under complete quarantine.

Havok, Wolfsbane, Rictor, Karma, Mystique, Chief Magistrate Anderson, and a group of new characters try to appeal to Emperor Doom for help and when that fails, they try to appeal to Baron Grey. Havok and the others have come up with a plan: Rogue and Triage, a mutant with a healing ability, should be able to cure the plague. But Rachel thinks the risk of the plague escaping to the general mutant population is too high and she refuses to help, except by sending more food and medicines. So, Havok and his team decide to break the quarantine and kidnap Rogue and Triage. X-Men battle X-Men! Meanwhile, Genengineer (you know, the bad guy who invented the ways to enslave mutants and make both mutants and potential mutants into mutates. And you know, the X-Men are actually trusting this guy to run the science labs without even a hint of supervision???!!!) actually has quite another plan.

The plot depends on characters making terrible choices. Beast is at his worst, advising Rachel Phoenix to not help the others based on calculations. Even ghost-Cyclops warns Havok not to do this. I’m also not so sure that the small team should have been able to fight successfully against a large team of X-Men plus Phoenix and win. Of course, after the kidnapping, a group of X-Men pursue them to Genosha and another fight happens.

A shame, because I actually found the background stuff far more interesting than the actual plot. Like, Beast has done his time-travel thing again and rescued a few X-Men from death, by bringing them to the present before their death. But despite Rachel being the Baron and her parents (apparently) dead, Beast has brought back Wolverine, Thunderbird, and Banshee. Also, Rogue’s powers seem to work differently: the person whose powers she absorbs, stays conscious so both Rogue and her “victim” can use their powers. The new character, Wicked, has the power to call ghosts which seemed pretty interesting. The X-Men in Genosha also seem to be far less intelligent than usual, since they’re trusting Genengineer.

Apparently, the print collection also has the first issue of the original X-Tinction Agenda which ends in a cliffhanger.

The very first BoP collection. Collects BLACK CANARY/ORACLE: BIRDS OF PREY #1, BIRDS OF PREY: REVOLUTION #1, and SHOWCASE ’96 #3, BIRDS OF PREY: MANHUNT #1-4

Writers: Chuck Dixon, Jordan B. Gorfunkle
Artists: Gary Frank, Stephano Raffaele, Matt Haley, Jennifer Graves, Sal Buscema

I’ve read the Birds of Prey comic for some years and when I bought the newest version (Batgirl and the Birds of Prey) it was time for a reread. Despite her prominence in the cover, the Huntress is in only one story, the last one.

These are the very first stories where Barbara Gordon, as Oracle, and Dinah Lance, as the Black Canary, work together. In the first story, Dinah’s life is a mess and Oracle actually saves her by recruiting her to get close to multi-millionaire Nick Devine. Apparently, he helps African countries to get high tech and become wealthy and has become himself quite wealthy, too. But recently, his efforts have been undermined by eco-terrorists. He’s a notorious womanizer but Dinah manages to get hired as his bodyguard. However, he already has a bodyguard, Lynx who is the queen of Gotham’s Chinese mafia. She’s not happy to see the Canary. Things get more interesting when Nick takes both Dinah and Lynx with him to Bwunda.

In the next story, Oracle sends Dinah after a white slavery ring. The job takes Dinah to the Caribbean and a small island paradise Santa Prisca. In this story, Barbara and Dinah disagree enough that they discontinue their friendship.

However, in the next story they’re back together. Lois Lane and Dinah are both investigating a slaver place in US. They bond over their romantic troubles.

In the final story, Manhunt, the Canary is after Braun, a former one-night-stand who turned out to be a criminal. Huntress is also after him because he made her fall in love with him and the dumped her without a word. The Catwoman is after him because he didn’t pay her. Against Oracle’s advice, Dinah teams up with them.

Barbara has been paralyzed from the waist down. She’s a wizard with computers and directs Dinah through earpieces. She’s very analytical while Dinah is quite passionate and rash. (In fact, I don’t think Dinah was this rash in the JLA.) But she’s also very good at crimefighting. Of course, she has been the Green Arrow’s partner for years.

I mostly enjoyed these comics but they aren’t the best Birds of Prey stories I’ve read. I also really enjoyed the small reminders Barbara has in her office that she was Batgirl. However, all of the women are very sexualized in the art. In the final story, the women’s motives were exceptionally weak. They also talk a lot about their former boyfriends and bond over how they were dumped. I don’t think that male superheroes do the same, except maybe Spider-Man.

While this a superhero comic none of the main characters have any superpowers.

Collects the Secret Wars tie-in issues 1-5.

Writer: Dustin Weaver, Gerry Duggan
Artist: Dustin Weaver

The characters at the center of this miniseries were created for this series, at least as far as I know. However, the Nova Corps are part of the Marvel U but I don’t know much about them. I read these alternative universe tales to get a different spin on familiar characters so I wasn’t really sure at first if I wanted to read this one. But in the end, I rather enjoyed it. Lots of cool black female characters in action, even though it doesn’t impact on the primary SW tale at all. And a German Shepard with the Nova powers!

Anwen Bakian is a black teenager living on a warzone which has been overrun by giant bugs, apparently the annihilation bugs. Luckily, she doesn’t need to survive alone: her father, little sister, grandfather, and dog are there to help her. They live in the ruins of a modern city, barely scraping a living. Her mother was part of the Nova Corps but she died years ago. Bugs attack Anwen’s family and her grandfather sacrifices himself to save her.

Then her mother returns, but unfortunately not in time to save Anwen’s grandfather. But she gives the rest of her family the Nova stars and so they have a bigger chance of survival.

Starlord and Gamora are also in this world. They’re thieves and scavengers. Even though they want to kill the bugs, too, can Anwen and her family trust them?

There’s a twist in the story when everyone’s (well alright my) favorite purple Titan enters into the story. It’s a twist I enjoy so it made the story better for me. Others might not like it as much. So, despite the new characters I enjoyed this story a lot, more than I expected.

Collects B:tVS 1-8, 12, 16, Annual ’99, Play with Fire.

Writers: Christopher Golden, Andi Watson, Tom Sniegoski
Artists: Hector Gomez, Sandu Florea, Christian Zanier, Marvin Mariano, Draxhall Jump, Jason Pearson, Cliff Richards, Joe Pimentel

Apparently, these stories take place after during third season. But they’re some of the first Buffy comics ever. They are pretty short and quick reads, nothing Earth-shattering. Of course, they can’t be. Oz is in many of the stories but Angel is only in two of them. The art isn’t too bad but not great, either. In fact, Xander and Giles don’t look like themselves at all.

“Wu-Tang Fang”: the gang is coming home from Bronze when they’re attacked by vampires. But one vampire hangs back, observing the fight and finally saying: “You’ll make a worthy adversary”. Then he disappears. Giles is nervous about him. Meanwhile, Xander doesn’t want to be a damsel in distress anymore and he enrolls to a martial arts class.

“Halloween”: the Halloween episodes are some of my favorites! Unfortunately, this one wasn’t as good as the TV episodes but it did have a few comedic moments. The Principle volunteers Buffy, Xander, and Willow to take some kids out trick or treating. However, right before Halloween Willow has a huge fight with her parents about Oz and goes missing.

“Cold Turkey” is set right before Thanksgiving. Joyce is away and Buffy has to shop for the Thanksgiving meal ingredients. Even then, vampires give her trouble.

“Dance with me” is only a few pages long. One boy asked Buffy to dance dozens to times, but in vain. Now, he’s a vampire.

In “White Christmas” Buffy’s broke and has to get a job at the Popsicle Parlor. Even though she’s very embarrassed about the outfit, it’s a good thing because strange things happen at the Parlor.

In “Happy New Year” a hell hound attacks the library. While the gang investigates, Willow is angry at Buffy and Cordelia finds a surprising skill: she’s really good with the crossbow.

In “New Kid at the Block” a new girl, Cynthia, joins the high school and befriends the gang. She doesn’t know about the Slayer and the gang tries to keep things that way.

In “Food Chain” Buffy tries to help a girl from her school who seem to end up with bad company.

“Play with Fire” is another very short comic. Buffy, Willow, and Giles chase green skinned vampires to a seemingly abandoned house.

In “Food Chain part 2” loose ends from the previous story come back to haunt the gang again.

“The Final Cut” is my favorite story in this collection. Marty is big into movies and then he finds a really strange movie and a deal he can’t resist. He recruits the gang to his movie, Willow to write the script, Oz for the sound, Cordelia to lead etc. but of course things to south.

In “The Latest Craze” young people in Sunnydale start buying ugly little dolls called the Hooligans. Everyone must have one, or better yet the newest limited edition doll. When fighting starts to break out, Buffy suspects something strange.

These are fun little story for the most part. The last two stories are better than the rest, though.

Stand-alone graphic novel.

Writer and artist: Jill Thompson

This graphic novel follows the path of princess Diana from a spoiled child to a superhero. It’s quite different from other WW origin stories.

Diana grows up the only child in Themyscira and therefor she’s spoiled. Almost all the Amazons love her and try to please her anyway they can. They also give into her whims. This seems a bit strange, given the Amazon’s history and because they are often depicted valuing humility. But there’s one Amazon who doesn’t adore her and so Diana becomes obsessed with trying to make Alathea her friend.

Unfortunately, this story makes Diana a bad person: someone who verbally abuses her sister Amazons and even lies and cheats. This does make her more a human, of course, so she wasn’t born with an infallible moral compass; instead she has to learn to do good things. However, it also makes this Diana a fundamentally different person from the canon Wonder Woman. She’s motivated by trying to atone for past sins rather than by compassion.

The artwork is lush and gorgeous. It looks like painted pages rather than a comic book, which suits the Amazons and their mythical story well.

Collects Angels we have seen on high, MacGuffins, BtVS: Ring of Fire and Dust Waltz, BtVS: Spike & Drue 3: The Queen of Heart and Paint the Town Red, and BtVS 60-63.

Writers: Christopher Golden, Dan Brereton, Scott Lobdell, Fabian Nicieza, Jen van Meter, Doug Petrie, James Masters

Artists: Cliff Richards, Jeff Matsuda, Brian Horton, Ryan Sook, Hector Gomez, Sandy Florea

These stories range wildly in quality, execution, and also in place during the series. Definitely aimed at fans of the show.
The first story “Angels we have seen on high” is a really short and takes place before the series. Dawn is in danger in an amusement park while Buffy is chasing after some vampires. The art is quite blocky and doesn’t resemble the actors at all. But it’s a fun little story.

“A stake through the heart” is also set before the series. Buffy and Dawn’s parents are in the middle of breaking up and this upsets the whole family. Angel and Whistler are creepily watching them from the shadows and Angel tries to help, trying to banish the terrible feelings through a magical ritual. Instead, he manages to manifest them as demons who then prey on the family. We also get cameos by Cordelia, Harmony, and other characters.

“MacGuffins” is set sometime during the series. Buffy is at her dad’s place where someone sends a couple of gremlins and she has to figure out how to get rid of them, alone.

In “Queen of Hearts” Spike and Drusilla are driving to Sunnydale but they pause for a snack. This leads them to a river boat called a queen of hearts and quite a lot of trouble.

“Ring of Fire” is set during the second season when Angel is Angelus and has just killed Jenny. I’ve read this as a separate comic before. It has some great moments, like the return of Kendra and the snark between Spike and Angelus.

“Paint the Town Red” is another Spike and Drusilla story set after they left the show in second season. They’ve settled into a nice little town. But Dru dreams about Angel and Spike’s jealousy drives him to assault Dru and leave her. Of course, she follows but with a surprise.

“The Dust Waltz”: Vampire Queen Lilith and her sister have come to Sunnydale, which means trouble to the gang. Also, Giles’ niece Jane comes to town as well. She’s an archeology student which is interesting but she doesn’t really add anything to the story. Lilith and her sister are powerful and would have made interesting continuing enemies.

Most of the stories are nice but pretty average. Enough the make me want to rewatch the earlier seasons.

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