comics


Collects the miniseries issues 1-8.

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Writer: Neil Gaiman

Artists: Andy Kubert, Richard Isanove

Publishing year: 2003

I read this originally when it first came out in 2003 and mostly liked it.

So, Marvel characters were born in 1602. Sir Nicholas Fury is the spymaster to the elderly and sick Queen Elizabeth I. Stephen Strange is the Queen’s head physician and sorcerer. The men don’t like each other but have a grudging respect for each other.

Matthew Murdoch is a blind minstrel who secretly works for Fury. Teenaged Peter Parquagh is Fury’s closest assistant. Murdoch sings about four intrepid explorers who died while investigating the new world. Fury’s secret ally is Carlos Javier, who has a school for mutants.

All over the world, mutants are called witchbreed and the people hate and fear them. In England they’re tolerated, but in Scotland King James persecutes them, and in Spain the Grand Inquisitor burns them at the stake.

Storms are getting stronger, and Dr. Strange senses that they’re supernatural. He tries to find out more about them with his magic. In a trance, he sees that a ship is coming from the New World and that the girl on it is responsible for the storms–which will destroy the world. Virginia Dare and her loyal blond and white-skinned Native American guard are sailing from Roanoke to beg help from the Queen. Virginia’s hair is white and when she’s scared, she can involuntarily turn to a white animal. The guard is… very stoic and speaks only a few words when necessary. Very stereotypically cringe worthy.

Meanwhile, in Spain the Grand Inquisitor is preparing to burn at the stake a young man who dares to impersonate an angel, by having wings. The Inquisitor’s young aides, Wanda and Petros, have powers of their own, so the old Inquisitor seems to play a deeper game. However, Javier’s young charges save the young man from death.

Also, an old man is secretly bringing a Templar treasure to England. A treasure that could destroy the world or save it. The Queen commands Fury to protect it and Fury sends Murdoch.

And in Latveria Count Otto von Doom, called the Handsome, is weaving his own plots.

So, the comic has lots of characters. However, for me at least they worked well, mostly anyway. Strange and Fury get the most page time in the first issue, but other characters get more time in later issues.

For the most part, I enjoyed this reimagining of the oldest Marvel characters in an Elizabethan fantasy world. Daredevil especially had a bigger role and was more effective than I expected. Javier and Fury’s relationship was very interesting, too. Jean has to pretend to be a boy, which was a nice touch. I recommend this only for people who are already familiar with Marvel’s comics.

However, the women characters had tiny roles, so I was disappointed in how little Gaiman used them. Wanda’s only relevant action in the whole comic is in the first issue. Also, I don’t think the complicated explanation in the last two issues wasn’t really necessary. But my biggest disagreement was with a character that was revealed right at the end. I just don’t think they could have thought and done what they did.

Kubert’s art is quite distinctive. Isanove changed it to a painting style which worked very well for this story.

Collects Uncanny X-Men (2018) issues 11-16.

Writer: Matthew Rosenberg

Artists: Salvador Larroca, John McCrea, Juanan Ramirez

At the end of Disassembled (vol. 1) of the UXM series in 2018, almost all of the X-Men vanished during a fight and they’re presumed to be dead.

Now, Scott Summers is back. Actually, how he came back to life was in UXM Annual which, strangely, isn’t part of this collection. He’s keeping a low profile but helping people, especially mutants, who need it. But when a group of mutants attack a Humanity for Humans rally, he decides to defend the bigots. Now, all of X-Men’s enemies know that Cyclops is back. He challenges them and calls all X-Men who are still left. Only Wolverine answers his call.

Oh, and Scott meets with a young mutant who can see the future, Blindfold. I haven’t seen her before. She warns Scott that anything he does is futile but urges Logan to help him.

Oh yes. Wolverine is back as well. His return was in the ”Return of Wolverine” miniseries.

Logan and Scott team-up. They look for other surviving mutants. They find Havok (without the facial scars) and a group of New Mutants. Magik is her normal self, not as acidic as when she was in Scott’s X-Men team. Wolfsbane, Karma, and Mirage have been infected by the techno-organic virus so they talk like Warmachine. They also find the Multiple Man and a couple of other mutants.

Scott plans to take care of all of the X-Men’s dangerous enemies so that humans wouldn’t have to deal with them. The others are a bit skeptical but join his crusade.

This is quite a dark comic. With most of their friends and family dead, the X-Men aren’t a happy bunch. They know that their mission is most likely an impossible one and that some, or all, of them will die.

I quite enjoyed the banter between Logan and Scott. That’s pretty much the only banter in the collection. I also really enjoyed the first issue where they ended up trusting and supporting each other. Alex and Scott aren’t very close despite being brothers, but they have their moments. When Scott starts taking prisoners, the others have mixed feelings about it, and about the prisoners.

While this is darker than I like, at least right now, I enjoyed most of it. The comic brings back many elements of the X-Men when I first fell in love with them, namely Claremont’s long run in the 1980s. In addition to the classic villains, like Marauders, or sort-of-allies like Val Cooper, also the mutant hatred is, again, very high and the X-Men are a small band of misfits rather than a horde of experienced teachers and an even larger group of students with various powers.

So, overall I liked it, but none of my favorite mutants are in this comic (Storm, Kitty Pryde, Nightcrawler…). I’ll definitely continue to see just how they will come back.

(And of course, they will be back, with Hickman’s run starting soon after this storyline.) And yes, I’ll also dive into the Age of X-Man to see what my favorite mutants are doing.

Collects Batman/Superman issues 16-20, Batman/Superman Annual 2, and Batman/Superman: Future’s End 1.

Writer: Greg Pak

Artist: Adrian Syaf, Tom Derenick, Tyler Kirkham, Ian Churchill, Emanuela Lupacchino, Cliff Richards, Jack Herbert, Vicente Cifuentes

Publisher: DC

Publishing year: 2015

The main storyline takes up most of the collection. Someone shoots Supergirl, Steele, and Krypto without a trace. Even Superman can’t see who did it. Worse, an innocent man wearing a Superman costume is killed. Then people Superman has saved in the past are killed. Clark must find out who is doing this. Bruce thinks it’s “Superman’s Joker”: a psychopath with an obsession with Superman. Bruce and Clark must find out who is behind it, and quickly.

This was quite an entertaining mystery and adventure story. I’m not a huge fan of psychopath villains, but this time it worked. I didn’t see where the story was going and enjoyed it. It was personal for Clark to begin with and became even more personal. I also really enjoyed Lois and Bruce working together, even if briefly.

In the annual, the previous story’s mastermind can influence the minds of others. He sends a compulsion to some of Batman’s enemies to kill Clark Kent.

Meanwhile, Clark is in Bahamas investigating the damage that Doomsday did to the local ecology and people. As a reporter. Bruce is trying to convince him to switch to Superman’s outfit. When Clark arrives, something triggers an explosion, and he decides to use his new “solar flare” ability, which allows him to clean up the explosion safely, but leaves him powerless for 24 hours. He falls to Earth near town. Locals are raiding the buildings for food and medicine. Clark tries to convince them that he’s there to help, when ManBats attack.

In this story, Clark must fight and run from enemies because he’s powerless. He still wants to help and defend the local people. The story shows his personality well. When Batman shows up, he’s convinced that without his powers, Clark can’t make it. The story has a couple of nice scenes between Bruce and Clark.

The final issue is set five years in the future. Apparently, JLA has fought off an invasion from space. During it, Bruce forced Clark to do something so terrible that Clark faked his own death and abandoned Earth and his friends. Bruce is trying to fight Clark’s enemies in power armor and waiting for Clark to return. A really dark and pessimistic story, which was very different from the others.

Overall, I quite enjoyed this collection, except for the last story.

Collects World’s Finest issues 0-6.

Writer: Paul Levitz

Artists: George Pérez, Kevin Maguire

Publisher: DC

Publication year: 2013

In the New 52 universe, Huntress and Power Girl are from Earth 2. Huntress is Helena Wayne, daughter of Batman and Catwoman. But in that universe, Selena Kyle wasn’t a criminal. Power Girl is Kara, Superman’s cousin, and in Earth 1 she takes the identity of Karen Starr, a billionaire known for buying tech companies. The seed money came from Helena when she hacked this world’s Bruce Wayne’s companies’ accounts. Helena works in the shadows using several identities. On Earth 2, they were heroes, Robin and Supergirl. In this world, they’re trying to find a way back home and also doing heroic works.

The story starts five years after Helena and Karen have come to Earth 1, accidentally. A superpowered man, Hakkou, attacks one of Karen’s companies. He gives off radioactivity, which affects even Karen. He destroys Karen’s pet project, which was supposed to open a portal to another dimension, to Earth 2. Karen and Helena pursue him and the fight continues for three issues and a couple of continents.

We also get flashbacks both to Karen and Helena’s life on Earth 2 and to right after Hel and Karen came to Earth 1, accidentally. The heroes of Earth 2 faced Darkseid – and fell. Karen still hopes to get back and save whom she can. Helena has given up hope of that, but supports her friend loyally.

Levitz writes in a classic superhero style, and I like it very much. Helena and Karen are brave heroes who think of others before themselves. Because of her near invulnerability, Karen can and does often fly brashly in. Batman trained Helena, so she’s the more tactically trained one. They were best friends before they were thrown into this strange world, and now they can only rely on each other. With this premise, the comic could well be dark. But it’s not. Hel and Karen tell jokes to lighten up the mood.

As a bonus, we also see their first meeting on Earth 2.

However, Karen’s clothing is often torn to shreds, which is a tiresome troupe. Also, Hakkou isn’t particularly memorable villain. The dialog also equates ugly with evil, which I really didn’t care for. Otherwise, I thoroughly enjoyed the comic focusing on two superheroines.

The art styles of Pérez and Maguire are very different. Perez draws the present story and Maguire the past which works well, at least for me.

Collects Batman/Superman issues 10-15.

Writers: Greg Pak, Jeff Lemire

Artists: Karl Kerschel, Scott Hepburn, Tom Derenick, Daniel Sampere, Tom Raney, Ken Lashley, Jae Lee, Diegones Neves, Marc Neering

This is a collection of stories which don’t have much to do with each other. In the first story, Batman has collapsed. With his microscopic vision, Superman first finds a tiny dead man is in Batman’s brain’s blood vessels. And then a whole tiny alien city! Superman contacts Dr. Palmer. He shrinks them and they go into Batman’s brain! They encounter the aliens and, of course, battle them.

This was loads of fun! The premise is, of course, ridiculous but I throughly enjoyed it. Also, I love Ray Palmer in Legends of Tomorrow, so it was very nice to see him in the New 52 universe.

The next story is actually the first part of a Doomsday story, but the story doesn’t continue in this collection. Superman is out of control because Doomsday has poisoned him. Batman, Wonder Woman, and Steele go to the Fortress of Solitude. Doomsday escaped from the Phantom Zone, so our heroes head to the Zone as well, hoping to find a cure from there. Of course, the Zone is full of villains and monsters whom Superman has sent there… and they’re not co-operative.

This story doesn’t work as a stand-alone. If the continuation was impossible to print here, I think it should have been left out. Now, it’s almost like an ad for Superman: Doomed. I did enjoy Batman and Diana working together in the Phantom Zone.

The next stories continue from volume one and the Powergirl/Huntress story from volume two. First, Bruce and Clark encounter Kaiyo the Chaos bringer again. This time she sends them to Earth 2 and they have a chance to change just one thing. Bruce and Clark hesitate while they witness the final moments of Earth 2’s heroes.

Kaiyo isn’t impressed with them and so she strips Bruce and Clark of their memories, and sends them to Gotham City, separately. Immediately, Clark sees a giant robot trying to catch Catwoman, and helps her. She quickly realized that he’s lost his memory and gleefully takes advantage of that. Meanwhile, Bruce is getting to know his life and meets Lois Lane.

This was an interesting story. Without his memories, Bruce is a far less dark and far less determined. He’s still heroic and tries to help the people around him. But for some reason, Clark tries to take over Gotham. So, without the influence of Ma and Pa Kent, Clark would be a tyrant? I’m not sure I buy that. More light-hearted Bruce makes perfect sense, though. I was almost sorry to see him return to his default mood.

Like the previous one, this collection has a lot of artists. Mostly, their styles are pretty similar, but Jae Lee’s art is, again, very distinctive.

But I enjoyed most of the stories here, with the exception of the ending of the second one.

Collects Astonishing X-Men issues 7-12.

Writer: Charles Soule
Artists: Gerardo Sandoval, Phil Noto, Paolo Siqueria, Matteo Buffagni, Aco, and Ron Garney

The story continues straight from issue 6. Rogue, Gambit, Old Man Logan, and Mystique are back from the Astral Plane. But with them came out another mutant, someone whom everyone thinks is dead but who has been trapped in the Astral Plane, dueling with the Shadow King. He’s a changed person. Mystique doesn’t believe he is who he says he is. The new mutant, who calls himself X, has taken over Fantomex while Fantomex’s spirit stays in the Astral Plane. Psylocke even visits the Astral Plane to make sure Fantomex chose it.

But together with X another mutant comes to London from the Astral Plane: Proteus who has reality altering powers. And Proteus wastes no time using his powers. The X-Men and X drive him away from London, but he goes to a small town in Scotland. He offers all the residents whatever they want. Of course, chaos ensues.

Characters rising from the dead aren’t unusual in comics, but I’m not sure if the return of this character was needed. But he seems to be a really changed man, doing things now that he wouldn’t have before. Also, Mystique especially is suspicious of him, which is refreshing and also really sensible. Soule’s run ends here, and the next writer takes up another cast of characters.

This was mostly an enjoyable read. Soule changes especially the balance between Warren and Archangel. Also, Fantomex’s mind remains in the Astral Plane. But in the end, X wipes the memories of him from all the other characters, except Betsy. I’m so used to comics where nothing changes that I was surprised, but I liked the changes. But who knows if the next writers will even notice them. Of course, that’s always the question with a universe as large as Marvel.

Collects Batman/Superman issues 5-9, Batman/Superman Annual 1, and Worlds’ Finest issues 20-21.

Writers: Greg Pak, Paul Levitz
Artists: Brett Booth, Jae Lee, Kenneth Rocafort, Philip Tan, Scott McDaniel, RB Silva, Norm Rapmund, Joe Weems

This collection has three stories. The first one is about virtual reality game. Toymaker has made a new VR game with three game testers, one of them Jimmy Olsen. The testers gleefully try to kill Batman and get Batman and Superman to fight each other. Except that it’s not a game, at least not the way the game testers think it is.

I’m not a fan of VR games come to life –stories but this one was pretty decent. Except that it changed our heroes pretty significantly. Batman is now dead and only walking around because nanobots reanimated his body – and his mind! But I’m pretty sure the editors will just ignore this very interesting change…

The main bad guy uses the rage and hate of gamers to whip them into frenzy against their heroes. This seemed a bit excessive to me, but there was an outside influence that explained some of it and the ending was pretty rosy.

The art is by Brett Booth and it’s sideways. Pretty neat idea and easily distinguished this story from the rest.

Next up is the annual where Mongul’s son Jochi comes to Earth to challenge Batman and Superman and their clans for all life on Earth. He lives in a savage Warworld so obviously he was to fight the heroes. Batman chooses Red Hood to go with him to Warworld. Batgirl almost forces her way in. Superman chooses Supergirl and Steel. Krypto (the dog) also follows them.

Jochi has been challenged for the leadership of the Warworld. As soon as our heroes hear that the other would-be leaders would like to just incinerate Earth, Batman and Red Hood go to the arena and help Jochi. Jochi then becomes a part of the Batman clan. Superman, Krypto, and Supergirl make up another team while Steel and Batgirl have a more secret mission.

Even though the story was sounds like it was focused on arena fights, it actually has a decent storyline. This was very uneven art wise with three different artists whose styles didn’t work together well.

The last story is actually from World’s Finest. Even though that series stars Huntress, Helena Wayne from Earth-2, and Power Girl, Karen Starr also from Earth-2, Bruce and Clark are the main characters in this story, too.

Karen’s powers are going haywire and Helena contacts Batman for help. Batman doesn’t want Superman anywhere near Karen, because his powers could also start acting up. But Clark turns up anyway and insists on helping Karen. It turns out that Kaizen Gamorra could be behind it and so Bruce and Helena go undercover to New Gamorra. Of course, Kaizen has plots within plots. He has targeted Power Girl especially and used Kryptonian DNA to power his own super soldiers.

This story also had three different artists, whose styles are very different. Jae Lee’s first and third issues were especially jarring compared to the very conventional art of Scott McDaniel and RB Silva on the second and final issues.

Bruce still doesn’t trust Clark. His thoughts belittle Clark’s intellect and he thinks that Clark constantly rushes headlong to trouble. When Karen’s powers act up Bruce is very worried that he can’t stop Clark if Clark’s powers start misfiring, too. Clark is also somewhat cautious of Bruce. They’re definitely not the best friends from previous incarnations. In fact, they have chillier relationship than the one in the Trinity series. But they do sometimes think that they must rely on each other.

This was an ok collection and I enjoyed all three stories. In fact, I ended up buying the first World’s Finest collection. Hopefully, it’ll be decent.

Collects Astonishing X-Men issues 1-6.

Writer: Charles Soule
Artists: Jim Cheung, Mike Deodato Jr.,  Ed McGuinness, Carlos Pacheco, Ramon Rosanas, Mike Del Mundo, Mark Morales, Rafael Fonteriz, Guillermo Ortego, Walden Wong

I wanted more Rogue and Gambit stories. Unfortunately, this comic is set before they get married. In fact, when they meet again in the first issue, Rogue is quite cold toward Gambit. But this must be the series where they’re built toward the wedding. So I’m looking forward to that.

A psychic wave leaves many lesser powered telepaths dead. But when that wave reaches Psylocke, she reaches out to the X-Men who are closest: Bishop, Angel, Rogue, Old Man Logan, and Gambit. Gambit is working with Fantomex so he comes along, too. A powerful telepath is attacking Betsy and the X-Men come to her rescue. Working together Rogue and Bishop manage to save her. However, their work is just beginning.

Betsy tells them that the Shadow King is alive and well in the Astral Plane. Some of the X-Men must go there and kill him or he will take over enough minds to escape to the world.

Bishop and Angel choose to stay and guard the others. Psylocke must stay and keep the others in the Astral Plane. So, Logan, Rogue, Gambit, Phantomex, and one mystery mutant go to the Astral Plane.

The Shadow King will try to take them over by creating a reality they will accept as real so I was looking forward to twisted versions, both good and bad, of our characters’ realities. This didn’t happen.

The first issue promised that the SK will use the characters’ fears and loves against them. Unfortunately, we got only a few scenes of that before another powerful mutant psychic started to influence our characters and they realized where they were. SK has taken over Gambit and Rogue before but that was only referenced a couple of times, not significantly.

So this turned out to be quite different than what I expected. Still, I quite enjoyed this adventure with both an old enemy, SK obviously, and new one which is the UK’s Ministry of Defense’s superhuman police force which seem very trigger happy. I also enjoyed the mystery mutant working with the others. Not so sure about the resurrected character but we’ll see what happens with them.

This was a good start and I’m going to continue with the series.

Every issue has a different artist. Their styles aren’t very different from each other, so this wasn’t too annoying except in the final issue. But it was noticeable in the other issues, as well.

Collects Trinity issues 17-22.

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Writer: James Robinson
Artists: Patrick Zircher, Jack Herbert, and Tyler Kirkham
Publisher: DC
Publishing year: 2018

The collection has two storylines. The first one is No Home for You Here where the Trinity is sucked to another dimension, essentially a fantasy world. It has enough magic that Superman loses his powers and Wonder Woman is struck blind. I was prepared to really like this story because they would need to use their wits more than powers. But nope. The only difference really was that Clark’s costume was torn during fighting.

The second story continues the first one and is the titular search for Steve.

I like lost worlds. I’m not familiar with Skartaris and the warlord Travis Morgan. It’s apparently DC’s equivalent of Marvel’s Savage Land or Burroughs’ Pellucidar. However, it does look very dated with women wearing only fur bikinis. Admittedly the Warlord himself only wears a loin cloth, metal shoulder pads, and a helmet.

Diana, Bruce, and Clark must battle their way through the fantasy land to Morgan’s city so that his sorceress daughter can send them home. Very battle heavy story, even though Bruce gets to play a little of detective near then end. The framing story is that someone is interrogating the Trinity for everything they know about this fantasy land.

In the Search for Steve Trevor, fantasy comes to our heroes’ world. Bruce, Diana, and Clark track down a mysterious “security organization” and find out that Steve and many other people have been transformed to mindless fighting machines. Of course, they must investigate further and try to return him to a human.

This collection feels much grimmer to me than the first two. There aren’t many moments between our heroes, it’s mostly just mindless fighting. Too bad.

Collects Batman/Superman 1-4, Justice League 23.1: Darkseid.

Writer: Greg Pak
Artists: Jae Lee, Paulo Siqueira,Ben Oliver, Yildiray Cinar, Netho Diaz
Publisher: DC
Publishing year: 2013

The main storyline tells us the story of how Batman and Superman met for the first time in the New 52 world. Also, some kind of demonic spirit transports them to Earth 2 where they meet their older counterparts and Wonder Woman.

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