comics


A prose novel with Avengers characters and many of their enemies.

Publication year: 2018
Format: print
Publisher: Titan books
Page count: 348

This is a stand-alone novel. The cover hints that these are the movie Avengers. While the five Avengers from the first movie are indeed the prominent characters, later joined by the Vision and the Scarlet Witch, there are a couple of hints that they’re actually the comic book characters. Specifically, Wanda is referred to as a veteran Avenger and her powers aren’t the movie powers but the mix of hex and magic she uses in the comics. Also, some of the villains are clearly their comic book versions, not the movie versions.

The writing style assumes that the reader is already familiar with the characters, their backgrounds and powers; they’re not introduced at all. Instead, we’re plunged straight into action with every character.

Captain America is fighting Baron Wolfgang from Strucker (with his Satan’s Claw not seen in the movies) and Hydra in Berlin. He’s assisted by S.H.I.E.L.D. agents and resources. At the same time, Hawkeye and Black Widow have just arrived to Savage Land where A.I.M. is doing something big. Our heroes must survive the Savage Land dinosaurs and then infiltrate the A.I.M. base. Meanwhile, Tony Stark is dealing with Ultron’s attack in Washington DC. Ultron has managed to jam communications, so the Avengers can’t communicate with each other and nobody else can communicate, either. Thor is in Siberia trying to deal with a magical attack and S.H.I.E.L.D has called Bruce Banner into Madripool as an expert scientist rather than as the Hulk.

Each group is on their own because of the communications blackout and dealing with a major threat to the world. However, the villains haven’t coordinated their attack with each other so they’re somewhat at a disadvantage. Of course, something even more sinister is going on.

The POVs of the book are all from the Avengers so we don’t see the enemies POV. Each chapter follows one hero or a group of heroes and is full of action. In that way, it’s similar to many comics. However, I think that some chapters are more blood-thirsty than comics, where the heroes go out of their way to avoid killing anyone. Here, Natasha and Clint kill many A.I.M. minions.

The cover claims that each of the Avengers are on his or her own, but only Thor is really on his own, for a while at least. The others are supported by S.H.I.E.L.D. agents

If you know the Avengers and are a fan of the comics, I recommend reading this. However, don’t expect anything deeper or any character development. A very entertaining and action-packed book.

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The second book in a duology of books set in the Flash/Arrow tv-show universe. It’s also a crossover between the Flash and Arrow tv-shows this time focusing on team Arrow.

Publication year: 2017
Format: print
Publisher: Titan books
Page count: 409

The second book in the Flash and Arrow crossover starts immediately after the end of the first book, the Haunting of Barry Allen. I think it’s set during fourth season of Arrow because team Arrow is Oliver, Felicity, Digg, and Thea as Speedy. Oliver is in relationship with Felicia and she’s the CEO of Palmer Technologies.

Barry, the Flash, is experiencing blurring when he’s afraid or stressed out and it’s getting worse. He blurs (becomes motionless and insubstantial while hallucinating about his elder self and about Zoom as Wells) more often even though Oliver has taught him mediation which previously worked to keep the blurs under control. They’re happening because of otherworldly plasma is multiplying in his blood stream. However, there might be a way to save him. One of Queen Consolidates’ previous employees worked on a wat to open stable wormholes. Since the plasma came (apparently) to Barry’s blood stream during the wormhole incident (at the end of season 1), Cisco and Felicity think they can cure Barry with the machine. But the inventor is dead. Now the heroes must find his work and use it to cure Barry. However, other people want the research, too.

As a secondary plot, we get to see Oliver and Thea before Oliver goes to the island. Oliver has a Croatan friend Ghasi who gets into fights often. Oliver’s other friends don’t really like him and Thea downright despises him, but Oliver stays by his friend. In present time, Ghasi wants the research as well and is a cunning opponent. In the flashbacks we also get to see characters from the first season, such as Oliver’s parents and Tommy Merlyn.

The main POV character is Oliver but we also get small glimpses from the POVs of Felicity and Barry.

This was just as a delightful read as the first book in the series: if you liked it, you’re most likely going to like this as well unless you don’t like Oliver. This being an Arrow book, it’s centered on Team Arrow. In fact, the story switches very quickly to Star City. Barry and later Cisco joins them, but the rest of the team Flash don’t really show. This was my big disappointment: I like the Flash show much more than Arrow. However, I don’t think this book was as depressing as the Arrow show usually is: nobody left a relationship, died, or messed up their friendship. In fact, it’s quite upbeat for an Arrow episode. It was also great to see John and Lyla kicking ass together because the show doesn’t give them enough action scenes together.

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.

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