2018 comics challenge


Collects The Flash 130-141, material from 80-Page Giant; Green Lantern 96; Green Arrow 130; & material from JLA: Secret Files. First published in 1997 and 1998.

Writers: Grant Morrison and Mark Millar
Artists: a lot

This is the first Flash comic I’ve read because his own comic hasn’t been published here in Finland. I think only Batman and Superman have had their own comics here before recent years. Also, we got one Green Arrow/Green Lantern cross-over publication years ago. In the last couple of years, we got three Green Lantern albums and one Wonder Woman album. Of course, I’ve read Justice League comics and that’s the way I’m familiar with Wally West.

However, I was completely unfamiliar with Wally’s supporting crew: Impulse, Max Mercury, and Linda Park. Alright, Linda was briefly in the Flash tv-show, as were Jay Garrick and Jesse Quick but they all seem quite different from this comic incarnation. So, I was really thrown in the deep end in these stories, character-wise. And this is set in Keystone City, not the Central City of the TV-show.

It collects four three-part stories and three one-off issues.

In “Emergency stop” the speedsters encounter the Suit who shows them Wally’s dead body and challenges Wally to stop his own death. Wally’s legs are broken during the story.

“Death at the top of the world” is a cross-over with Green Lantern (Kyle) and Green Arrow (Connor) where they take Wally to an Alaskan cruise for a holiday. Unfortunately, three supervillains are also on the cruise.

In “The Human Race” alien beings force Wally to race against a member of another alien species and if Wally doesn’t win, Earth will be destroyed. If Wally’s opponent wins, his world is destroyed. How can Wally prevent both?

In “the Black Flash” Max realized that death has come to take a speedster, specifically Wally. In the end, Wally races Death itself.

These were all pretty entertaining. Wally works really nicely together with the other speedsters and it feels like he’s part of a speedster/superhero family. His girlfriend Linda is a journalist and almost constantly in danger. She even dies in this collection and Wally is left to mourn her. Also, apparently none of the speedsters have secret identities.

The stories have a few villains which inspired some of the villains in the Flash TV-show. It was very interesting to see them in action here.

The one offs are also pretty entertaining.

In “Through the Looking Glass” the Mirror Master traps Linda in a mirror world where she quickly ages in backwards, so it was pretty wacky.

“Still Life in a Fast Lane” is a more somber story. Jay is meeting an elderly supervillain who is dying of a brain tumor. He’s Clifford DeVoe or the Thinker. Jay suspects the Thinker’s old thinking cap could help DeVoe. But it’s not easy to find.

The final story, “Your Life is My Business”, is a humorous short piece where Mark Millar calls to the Flash asking his help in writing a ten-page Flash comic. Flash shows up.

Overall this was a fun and fast-paced collection. It has a lot of different artists who have different styles.

It’s quite different from the modern DC comics because the characters really form a family of experienced superheroes. Yes, there are a few teenagers or less experienced heroes, but the older people are around to teach them. It’s very different from when a reboot made the whole JLA first-time heroes. There’s a sense of continuity. Of course, that can be difficult to new and especially young readers to grasp. I guess that’s why DC decided to make their heroes younger.

Collects Fantastic Four issues 347–350, 352-354.

Writer: Walter Simonson
Artists: Walter Simonson, Arthur Adams

The first three issues are drawn (gorgeously) by Adams and inked by various people. The FF have returned to their own world and time, and are relaxing. Well, except for Sharon who is depressed because she’s now again the Thing rather than a woman. Ben tries to comfort her but in vain. A mysterious woman crashes her space ship to Earth and heads for the FF so that she can find what she came to Earth to find. She manages to subdue the FF one by one. However, she’s not successful in finding her prize.

Meanwhile, a skrull space ship has landed, looking for the woman. Instead, they find Monster Island. They managed to use their tech on the monsters and send them to various cities to attack humans.

The mystery woman keeps her disguise as Susan Richards and sends a message to four humans: Wolverine, gray Hulk, Ghost-Rider, and Spider-Man. To them, the woman claims that the FF are dead and the killers can be found with a hand scanner. The four head off to the Monster Island.

This was a fun little story with monsters, the Mole Man, and skrulls.

Then Dr. Doom attacks… Latveria. He defeats the Doombots and Kristoff who has apparently been posing as Dr. Doom ever since the real doc left. He examines the FF and realizes that he can use Sharon’s need to become human. So, he meets with her in New York and makes the offer to turn her back to a human. Sharon agrees and leaves with the doc to Latveria. Of course, Dr. Doom pries secrets from Sharon’s mind. Meanwhile, Ben uses Reed’s machines to become the Thing again, so that Sharon wouldn’t be so lonely. Awwww… that’s very sweet of him.

Dr. Doom sends an ultimatum to the FF who hurry to Latveria to rescue Sharon. While the rest of the FF fall victim to Dr. Doom’s traps, Reed and the doc battle each other using devices which allows them to jump around in time. Well, at least inside 30 minutes.

The Time Variance Authority gets involved. Their job is to monitor the multiverse and try to stop people from time traveling too much. However, they don’t really seem very effective. They arrest the FF and try to put them on trial for time traveling. Things don’t go well for TVA.

This was a bit wackier story than the previous ones, thanks to the TVA. In the ends, Simonson largely returns the FF to the status quo with Sharon back to a human and Ben again the Thing. The TVA is a wacky concept, especially considering how truly powerless they are to actually prevent time travel. They seem more like a bureaucracy for bureaucracy’s sake than anything useful. Which could well be the point.

Another fun collection!

Collects Fantastic Four issues 342–346.

Writer: Walter Simonson, Danny Fingeroth
Artist: Walter Simonson, Rex Valve, Chris Ivy

The first issue is apparently a filler where Ben, Johnny, and Sharon have an adventure of their own. It wasn’t published in Finland. Simonson didn’t work on it.

The rest of the collection is solid Simonson. The FF find out that they didn’t actually return to their own world from the time bubble. Instead, they’re in an alternate world where Dan Quayle is the President of US and Joseph Stalin is still the Premier of USSR. Stalin is 111 years old and is wearing a power armor which is keeping him alive. The world is still in darkest Cold War. When Quayle decides to launch a pre-emptive nuclear strike against the Soviet Union, Reed and the rest of the FF must work hard to prevent it. This world’s Reed has started to build EMP-weapons and our Reed manages to finish them just in time to blow the missiles from the sky. Then the FF head to Kremlin in the hopes of finding a way to stop World War III. After they battle Stalin, who is wearing his impressive power armor, they find out rather strange things.

Next, Reed is able to fix the time sled and they again try to return to their own time. But they don’t succeed yet. The FF find themselves in jungle with a group of US soldiers. Also, the FF don’t have their powers, so the soldiers are rather skeptical about their identities. Even Sharon returns to her human form. But the jungle full of hostile dinosaurs they must work together in order to survive. However, the jungle seems to be a just a fragment in time, an island which is quickly falling apart from around them.

I’m a fan of alternate universes and this jaunt was a lot of fun! I loved the surprise at the Kremlin; I didn’t remember that at all from my first read. I also love dinosaurs so it was fun to see them. Also, Ben brought his Thing suit with him so he was the only who how had powers. That was a fun reversal.

I’m not so crazy about Sharon’s subplot. She’s starting to loath her Thing form and wants to be a woman for Ben. Ben tries to reassure her but in vain. Also, Johnny is still thinking of Nebula and wondering how he can face Alicia.

Otherwise, this was great fun, if somewhat weird to see Ben and Johnny involved with and declaring their love to women who are now long gone from their lives. (I think this Alicia turned out to be a skrull and Sharon started to work for Doom or something.)

Collects Fantastic Four issues 334–341 from 1989.

Writer: Walter Simonson
Artists: Rich Buckler, Romeo Tanghal, Ron Lim, Mike Decarlo, Walter Simonson

I wanted to read some older comics and rather than rereading Byrne again, I ended up reading Simonson’s run on the FF. Most of Simonson’s run has been translated into Finnish but not the first three issues in this collection.

The FF are really Fantastic Five in these stories because in addition to the Invisible Woman, Mr. Fantastic, and the Human Torch, they include Ben who has turned back to a human (but sometimes uses a Thing costume which gives him enhanced strength) and Ms. Marvel, a female Thing, Sharon Ventura who is dating Ben. (And Johnny is married to Alicia.)

The collection starts with a three-issue Act of Vengeance tie-in. Very underwhelming supervillains try to take out the FF with mostly comical results. However, when the FF is invited to testify to four Congressmen about the superhero registration act, the singular attacks turn from amusing to annoying. In the third issue, the Act of Vengeance are wrapped up for the FF.

Then Simonson really starts going! A time bubble from the future is threatening the present. Reed discovers that and the FF (along with human Ben and female Thing Sharon) together with Iron Man and Thor dive into the time stream hoping to correct things. This is a continuation from Simonson’s Avengers run. Unfortunately, it also means that Thor and Iron Man are more prominent characters than Sue and Johnny.

Inside the time bubble is out of control Galactus, eating the whole universe. Now, the team must try to find some way to stop it. But evil blue woman Nebula has taken over Johnny’s mind and she has her own agenda. Guest-starring Death’s Head and Gladiator from the Imperial Guard.

While we get a brief recap of Avengers 296-297 and 300, I think it would have been far more reader friendly to simply include those issues in the collection, especially since I don’t think they’ve been reprinted anywhere. Of course, the whole Dr. Druid/Nebula thing started earlier, and I think those issues are reprinted in Avengers: Heavy Metal. I was subscribing to the Avengers at the time, so I have vague memories about the whole thing but readers who haven’t read them could well be quite confused, especially since the cross-time Kangs are involved (but only briefly).

But it doesn’t really matter. This is FF at their most cosmic, traveling through time with the time sled and to different places with Thor’s hammer. They encounter very dangerous foes during the desperate race to save the whole universe.

The collection ends with a cliffhanger and wraps up with Simonson’s interview and a couple of FF pin-ups. (who would have thought that Reed needs to advertise watches. 😊 )

Definitely recommended, if you like this sort of thing.

Collects Batgirl issues 0, 7-13. It’s part of the New 52.

Writer: Gail Simone
Artists: Ardian Syaf, Vicente Cifuentes, Ed Benes, Alitha Martinez

The collection starts with a recap of Barbara’s life until now. It turns out that she was Batgirl for only one year before giving it up (the reason wasn’t given) for a while and then the Joker shot her. We also got to see her in action wearing the Bat-costume for the first time, which was very nice.

Then she battles villain after villain and deals with some personal problems while other problems are brewing.

First, she has a quick run-in with Grotesque who has energy powers and casually kills a man for a bottle of wine. Batgirl pursues him but finds out that one of his henchmen was with Joker when he shot her. She ends up letting him go which I found really strange at first but was nicely explained.

Then Babs confronts her mother who has come back after ten years and we find out that Babs has a young brother, James Jr., who’s apparently a serial killer. He’s supposed to be in Arkham but he’s out and seeing Bab’s new roommate.

Then we get a cross-over with the Batman’s Court of Owls storyline. I’ve only read the first collection, so I know a little bit of them but not much. The court wants to show Gotham that they’re the only salvation. So, they blackmail the commissioner into inaction by threatening Barbara while they assassinate the city’s leaders and send bombs to the city. Batgirl confronts one of the assassins, Talon. This was pretty well done. Even though the assassinations don’t play much part in Babs’ life, we get an interesting backstory for the Talon reaching back to 1944.

Next, the villain Knightfall and their cronies appear. While beating down car thieves, Babs wonders if it’s really the right thing to do, to protect rich people’s property from the poor. One of the thieves tries to get away and he steps into a bear trap. There’s a new vigilante group in Gotham and that’s the way they operate: Knightfall and the Disgraced want to kill (almost) every criminal in the city to get rid of crime, including young kids stealing cars. Babs, of course, fights them.

Knightfall is Babs’ new nemesis. Knightfall and the Disgraced all have tragic backstories; they aren’t in it just to get rich or to do evil. This sets them up as mirrors for Babs and I think we’re going to get a lot of debate and thinking about what is justified vigilantism. Batwoman also makes an appearance.

I liked this volume more than the previous one. Again, I loved Bab’s relationship with her dad. We don’t actually see them interact much but in the first story it’s clear who much dad means to Babs. I’m a bit dubious about the whole James Jr. and Babs’ mother storylines. Knightfall is a great adversary to Babs and I’m looking forward to their next match. The collection ends with a new rogues gallery for Batgirl which was great. However, the next collection is apparently another tie-in for Batman: Death of the family which (sigh) again stars the Joker. Hopefully, Babs gets to kick his ass once and for all, but I’m not really optimistic.

The art work is mostly very nice.

Collects Batgirl issue 1-6. It’s part of the New 52.

Writer: Gail Simone
Artists: Ardian Syaf, Vicente Cifuentes

I love Oracle. I’m sure I’m not the only fan who was unhappy with DC’s decision to give Barbara back the use of her legs and return her to Batgirl. This was done 2011 with the New 52 relaunch of DC comics and I waited until now to read this new Batgirl (who is already obsolete because the Rebirth made her apparently into a teenager…). But the writer is Gail Simone and I really enjoyed her long run on the Birds of Prey, so I shouldn’t have been worried. However, it’s clear that Barbara hasn’t been Oracle for all those many years. In fact, it’s stated that she was Oracle for only three years. Now, thanks to surgery and intensive physical therapy, she’s back as Batgirl.

Even though she was Batgirl before, she’s been out of the game for (at least) three years. So, she’s rusty and makes mistakes. She also freezes when faced with a gun because the Joker shot her. This makes her a very human character, especially since she doesn’t have any superpowers.

In the first storyline, a mystery man in black costume is killing people on a list. The last name on the list is Barbara Gordon. It turns out that he’s killing people who have miraculously survived when they should have died. Babs has to confront her own miraculous recovery to defeat him. The second storyline starts with a man killing his three sons and shouting 338. Someone is making people do very uncharacteristic things.

We also get a couple of subplots. Babs has moved away from her dad and has a roommate. Nightwing returns and so does Babs’ mother who walked out on her and her dad when she was a child. In the first story, because of Babs’ inaction, a police officer is killed and his partner is going after Batgirl, blaming her for his death. Instead of, you know, the actual person who killed him.

I enjoyed these stories more than I thought I would. I was dreading Batman sweeping in and taking over, well, everything since we are in Gotham. But the two final issues with Batman were very nicely done: it’s clear that Bruce respects Babs and will give her space to grow back to her hero role.

On the other hand, I feel that Babs is somewhat out of character. After years seeing her meticulously plan almost everything, here she is, rushing in without plans. Granted, when there’s a home invasion or mugging in process, she can’t really stop and do a Google search on the perps. But still it feels somewhat strange. Of course, this is a far younger Babs than the one in Birds of Prey. I’m also not a fan of continued romantic tension. I’d love to see Dick and Babs together and fighting crime together. (sigh)

Still, this turned out to be an interesting read and take on Batgirl. I already have the next in the series.

Oh and I loved the art!

A collection of Batgirl stories from her very first story in 1967 to the 1990s.

Writers: Gardner Fox, Frank Robbins, Elliot S. Maggan, Bob Rozakis, Davin Grayson, Kelley Puckett
Artist: Carmine Infantino, Sid Keene, Gil Kane, Murphy Anderson, Don Heck, Mike Grell, Irv Novick, Vince Collette, Duncan Fegredo, Terry Dodson, Kevin Nowlan

I confess: I don’t really know much about Batgirl. She was in some of the Batman cartoons but that’s about it. I’m far more familiar with Barbara Gordon as the wheel-chair bound Oracle. I think these stories are set in another continuity than the one I’m most familiar with. They’re all new to me.

While the collection starts with wacky and fun stories, the last two aren’t so good.

The collection starts, appropriately enough with Batgirl’s debut in “The Million Dollar Debut of Batgirl”: Detective Comics #359 in 1967. Barbara is the head librarian of Gotham library, wearing Princess Leia hairdo. 😊 She’s going to the policemen’s ball and has made a Batgirl costume for that. However, on the way she sees none other than Bruce Wayne attacked by Killer Moth and his Moth men. Barbara goes for the rescue and finds that she likes being a superhero, so she continues. She kind of helps Batman and Robin to capture the Killer Moth who is blackmailing millionaires.

She doesn’t have a tragic origin and I think that’s very appropriate for her. With nothing more than her Judo training and enthusiasm she’s just as capable of catching bad guys as Batman and Robin. Well, except that the males keep telling her to stop.

“The Orchid-Crusher” – Detective Comics #396 and “The Hollow Man” – Detective Comics #396 in 1970 is a two-part story where

Barbara hunts down a serial killer who kills young, redheaded girls.
This is pretty straight-forward story where we’re introduced to Jason Bard, a man who wants to be Babs’ boyfriend.

“The Unmasking of Batgirl” – Detective Comics #422, “Candidate for Danger” – Detective Comics #423, and “Batgirl’s Last Case” – Detective Comics #424 1972

Now this goes deep into the wacky country. In the first story, the “dominoed daredoll” encounters an ex-con who cons her again. At the same time, her dad is reluctantly running for congress. Babs becomes so disillusioned about her work as Batgirl that she decides to run for Congress instead of her dad, so that she can really make a difference. She also tells him that she’s Batgirl. The next two stories center around her campaign.

“The Invader from Hell” – Batman Family #1 1975
Barbara was elected into Congress and Dick comes to meet her there, just in time, too, because none other than Benedict Arnold seems to have come back from the dead.

“Startling Secret of the Devilish Daughters” – Batman Family #9 1977
Batgirl and Robin versus the daughters of Scarecrow, Joker, the Riddler, and the Penguin!

“Photo Finish” – Batman Chronicles #9 1997: This story jumps to a different continuity. Batgirl meets Batman and Robin for the first time (again). While Batman is, er, busy with Catwoman (and yeah, the sexuality is almost dripping from the page, ew) he sends Robin to find evidence of her burglary. Batgirl tags along. They find the real burglar and managed to first get into each other’s way but finally bring him down.

“Folie a Deux Part One” – Legends of the DC Universe #10 “Folie a Deux Part Two” – Legends of the DC Universe #10 1998: The last story in the collection has gorgeous art by Terry Dodson, but the story is… not good. It again returns to the roots of Batgirl being a hero. This story reboots her as Commissioner Gordon’s niece whose parents died young and the Commissioner then raised her. Babs is an angry rebel teenager who convinces Batman to help her train. Gordon spies on her and finds out that she’s the Batgirl.

Interestingly enough, while Dick and Barbara have long been an off-again on-again couple, they’re not together in these stories. In fact, in Photo Finish, Dick (as Robin) is drawn quite a bit younger than Babs. In “Invader from Hell” Dick is still trying to persuade Batgirl to stop being a hero and they don’t know each other’s secret identities. But in the next story “Startling Secret of the Devilish Daughters”, they work together comfortably and know each other’s secret identities. But Dick has a girlfriend.

The problem here is that, especially in comparison to Batman, Batgirl doesn’t get to shine on her own. She doesn’t have a rogue’s gallery. She’s intelligent and skilled but battles ordinary criminals. This isn’t the Babs I know from Birds of Prey and I find it hard to believe these are really her best stories.

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