Marvel comics


Collects X-Men Gold issues 7-12.

Writer: Marc Guggenheim
Artist: Ken Lashley

The adventures of the new X-Men Gold (Kitty, Kurt, Ororo, Rachel, Old Man Logan, and Peter) continue. This time we get a mix of familiar old villains and a couple of new ones.

First, a mutant killer is stalking the X-Mansion. He’s a human whose son and wife were killed by Magneto and now he wants to take it out on heroic mutants. He kills one young mutant who we didn’t get to know and has set a huge bomb inside the mansion. Also, Peter was hurt in the fight against the super sentinel in the previous story and can’t change to steel anymore.

In issue 9, Peter and Illyana find out that they have an uncle, named Anatoly. Anatoly is a member of the Russian mafia, the Bratva, and that’s why the rest of the family shunned him. However, now he needs help. He contacts Peter who wants to connect with his only living relative, except for Illyana. So, the X-Men and Illyana travel to Russia. However, Anatoly’s boss has revived Omega Red from the dead and needs Illyana’s power to keep him alive. Of course, it’s a trap.

The final issue, 12, focuses entirely on the newest member of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. He’s an alien from the Negative Zone but also a mutant among his own species. More surprisingly, he’s a despot who clawed his way almost to the top of his race, only to be humiliated. He was set free in the first issue and I’m sure we’re going to be seeing more of him in volume 4 which is called the Negative Zone War.

This is solid and familiar to us old fans. Old story lines are rehashed so much that even the characters talk about how this all feels familiar, such as Peter losing his powers after Magneto tried to heal him or Kitty trying to persuade US senators not to pass a Mutant Deportation bill. However, I also rather enjoyed Kitty getting back to her ninja skills and the rekindling of her and Peter’s romance.

Of course, it’s not perfect, but I’m looking forward to the next volume which is Mojo Mayhem.

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Collects Shuri issues 1-5.

Writer: Nnedi Okorafor
Artist: Leonardo Romero

I really wanted to like this more than I did. There’s nothing wrong with it, though.

I haven’t read Black Panther’s own comics and I’m familiar with him through the Avengers and his (and Ororo’s) short stint in the Fantastic Four. So, I’ve no idea how this portrayal of Shuri gels with the previous comics. However, she’s very much the characters we saw in the Black Panther movie: a genius, lighthearted, and fun. She’s more a scientist than a super hero.

When the story starts, her brother and her love interest, the teleporting Manifold, are going to space. They shouldn’t be long but instead (of course) their space craft disappears. It’s two weeks later, and people are starting to think that Wakanda isn’t telling them everything. Shuri is trying to figure out where they’ve gone and lost herself in work. Namely, inventing nanotech wings for herself. Rapidly, she must deal with many issues. On the political front, other nations want Wakanda to join them in a council with other African nations. When they figure out that T’Challa is gone they, and Shuri’s mother, expect Shuri to take up the mantle of Black Panther. However, the previous time Shuri did that, she died (during the previous big Avengers event, Time Runs Out). So, she doesn’t want to. Also, she’s now part of a Wakandan women’s council.

On personal front, she has some sort of spiritual connection to her ancestors who are in her head apparently all the time. She has a hacker friend whom she apparently trusts with almost anything but doesn’t know who they are. Luckily, Storm has figured out that T’Challa is missing and offers her help. Also, general Okoye is a big help, too. This being a superhero comic book, Shuri must deal with a super villain attack and she also has some adventures in space.

All these elements gel surprisingly well together, although I felt that the requisite super villain didn’t add much. Shuri has a spiritual side even though her expertise is firmly in the sciences. It was great to see so many supporting female characters around her.

The artwork is more “cartoony” in style than I’m used to from Marvel.

I did mostly enjoy this so I’ll look for the next volume.

Collects Uncanny X-Men (2018) 1-10.

Writers: Matthew Rosenberg, Ed Brisson, Kelly Thompson
Artists: Mahmud A. Asrar, R. B. Silva, Adriano Di Benedetto, Yildiray Cinar, Pere Perez

The book starts with Jean’s dream where Jamie Maddox is fighting the X-Men and asking “where is Kitty Pryde”. Next, Kitty leads a group of newer X-Men (Pixie, Armor, Rockslide, Glob, and a couple of others) against Forearm. However, the team encounters a whole team of supervillians and Kitty disappears. At the same time, a US senator Allen is giving a speech in favor of a vaccine which will will eradicate mutants. Dozens of Jamie Madrox’s duplicates attack the crowd and the X-Men while claiming that he’s trying to save everyone. In the end, senator Allen disappears.

Meanwhile, mysterious things are happening all over the world: rain in Kalahari Desert and dinosaurs appearing. Also, ordinary humans are picketing the Xavier Institute of Mutant Education and Outreach and Legion returns, claiming that he knows who is responsible for the chaos and that he’s trying to help. Not surprisingly, the X-Men aren’t convinced. But then the Four Horsemen of Salvation appear and destroy the X-Mansion.

The pace is down right frenetic: the mutants don’t have time to even search for Kitty when she disappears or even think about revelations or events. We have a large cast, which I mostly liked, but most of them don’t really do anything, such as Nightcrawler, Jubilee, or Cannonball. Instead, we have that group of younger X-Men who are fed because they’re kept in the sidelines. Unfortunately, I’m only familiar with Armor so I didn’t really care for their complaints.

Still, I mostly liked this. However, the story suffers from rehashing old plot lines. The X-Men even joke among themselves about how they’ve seen the vaccine before, not to mention mind-controlled people. Because of the fast pace, this felt like it just moved from one fight scene to the next. It also ends with a huge cliffhanger which I’m sure will be done away with soon.

This story comments on the real world: how people hate and fear each other more than ever and the world more polluted than ever. The mutants are told to “go home” which I’m sure is a nod toward some people’s attitudes about refugees and immigrants. I’m sure some readers will hate it; they just want their escapism. The theme of needing to destroy (parts of) the world in order to save it is an old one but can be handled well. However, the main bad guy’s actions don’t match with what he says he’s trying to do. Messing with natural world the way he’s doing is the opposite of saving it.

Collects Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man #64, 69-70, 81-82, 94-96; Cloak and Dagger (1983) #1-4; Marvel Team-Up Annual #6; Marvel Fanfare (1982) #19; New Mutants #23-25.

Writers: Bill Mantlo, Chris Claremont, Al Milgrom
Artists: Ed Hannigan, Rick Leonardi, Ron Frenz, Tony Salmons, Kerry Cammill, Bill Sienkiewicz

This tome has over 400 pages and collects the first appearances of Cloak and Dagger, mostly in the pages of Spider-Man, and their first miniseries. These are very 1980s comics. Most of them are very verbose and as much as I adore Chris Claremont’s writing, he’s one of the worst offenders, although the Spider-Man writers aren’t far behind. These Spider-Man issues (specifically the last ones 94-96 were some of the first superhero comics I ever read (translated to Finnish, of course) so it’s hard for me to be objective about them. 🙂 Their TV-show isn’t on Netflix here and I haven’t seen it.

Cloak and Dagger first appear in the collection’s first comic: mysterious figures who are threatening a man’s life. However, rather quickly Spider-Man finds out that they aren’t really criminals. Rather, they’re a pair of teenagers who got their powers from synthetic drugs and now they want revenge against all drug dealers and also to help runaways who are exploited. I’m sure some readers find this too heavy-handed but I quite liked the theme.

The pair’s powers have changed a bit, depending on the story. In the first story, Dagger’s “daggers of light” kill the drug dealers. But later they purge the drugs out of the bodies of anyone who is hit. They’re also described as cold but in one story her light gave warmth. Cloak’s darkness is always cold and makes anyone caught in it weak. Later, it’s revealed that the darkness craves light and that Dagger’s light can feed it. But if Dagger’s light isn’t available, the darkness will want to feed on the light of humans (life). Cloak must constantly fight against it. While Dagger is a less tragic figure, she’s still a teenager who wants a normal life, which she can never have. In these stories at least, they aren’t portrayed as lovers but considering that they’re both 16, that wouldn’t have been appropriate for a Spider-Man comic (and I’m sure the racial issue also prevented that, too).

Most of the stories focus on C&D going after drug dealers or trying to save kids from them. But the last story appeared in New Mutants and is different from the others. However, all of them (except for the miniseries of course) have long-running subplots which aren’t resolved here. Debra’s subplot is especially cringe-worthy as she’s constantly crying when thinking about Peter. She knows that he’s Spider-Man and cries when she thinks of the dangers he’s facing. If that doesn’t bother you, this is an excellent collection of the beginning of Cloak and Dagger and a very good showcase of 80s comics.

Collects Uncanny X-Men vol. 1 #265-267 and Gambit (1993) #1-4.

Writers: Chris Claremont, Howard Mackie
Artists: Bill Jaaska, Joe Rubinstein, Mike Collins, Lee Week, Klaus Janson

Since I must wait for a couple of weeks more for my next (and apparently last! Why Marvel! WHY! 😦 :() dose of Rogue and Gambit, I decided to dig out some of my old comics about Gambit.

This collection starts with the three issues which introduce Gambit to us. It’s not a good place to start for new readers because strange (and I do mean strange, even by X-Men standards) villains called Nanny and the Orphan-Maker made Ororo a child in a previous issue. So, the story starts with Ororo as a child living in Cairo (Illinois, US, not Egypt) and making a living as a thief. She’s stealing from the rich and undeserving and giving most of the loot to poor people or back to their rightful owners. However, the Shadow King is at her heels and luring her into a trap. Fortunately, Gambit appears and they rescue each other.

This story line leads to the Muir Island Saga, so Shadow King and his minions feature heavily. Gambit also just appears, apparently having randomly decided to just burgle the place the same time as Storm.

The rest of the collection is Gambit’s own miniseries. His brother Henri breaks into the X-Mansion. Apparently something big is happening at the Thieves’ Guild (whose boss is Gambit’s adoptive father) and Henri is trying to warn Remy about it. However, in a spectacularly bad move, a member of the Assassins’ Guild kills Henri right in front of Remy and the rest of the X-Men. Remy, of course, heads back to New Orleans with Rogue. There he finds out that his wife Bella Donna (who is, of course, the daughter of the leader of the Assassins’ Guild) is still alive but in a coma. Only an elixir of life could revive her. But that elixir isn’t easy to get. Also, Bella’s brother Julien is also alive but turned into a monster. Candra, the mysterious, alluring and immortal benefactor who has the elixir, isn’t an easy person to convince and Julien wants to kill Remy. Remy heads to Paris to meet with her, leaving Bella in the hands of Rogue and a healer.

This was a fun comic, establishing Remy’s past and the complicated relationship he has to the two rival illegal guilds in New Orleans. If you can ignore the huge amounts of hair that Lee Weeks gives to everyone, this is a fun read for fans of Gambit. Also, Remy seems to have quit smoking at some point. However, I can’t really recommend this as a starting point for new readers because the first three issues are from the middle of a long story line.

The second story line establishes the on-again, off-again nature of Rogue and Gambit’s relationship, complicated further by Rogue’s powers. Rogue accidentally touches Bella and absorbs her memories, leaving Bella an amnesiac. She doesn’t tell Remy about it, which is pretty shitty. I’m very glad they’re over this stage.

Interestingly enough, while Remy is often claimed to be a morally ambiguous character, his first appearance is very heroic: he helps an unknown kid against very powerful enemies and even has to give up all the loot to save the kid.

Collects issues 1-5 and annual 1.

Writer: Tom Taylor
Artists: Mahmud Asrar, Pascal Alixe

The original Jean Grey is back! (In Phoenix Resurrection which I have mixed feelings about.) And she’s not happy about the state of the world and especially about the relations between mutants and humans. So, she’s determined to change things for the better. But to do that, she needs a team of both old friends and she also recruits some new ones. And she wants to rescue as many mutant children from bigots as she can. I really liked that premise. It seems that mutants are even more hated and feared than almost ever before, even mutant children are attacked and some humans want to confine mutants to their own ghettos. It all has a very strong parallel to our own world, unfortunately.

The collection starts with the Annual where Jean is reacquainted with her old friends but also with bigotry when the X-Men are hanging out at the school which has been relocated to Central Park. Some of the humans don’t want to see mutants. Jean teaches one of them a lesson, but it’s not enough to her. She also confronts Black Lightning, the man who killed Scott.

The actual comic starts with a mix of old characters and new. Kurt, Namor, and eventually Storm and Gambit are the old characters. Jean talks with people, she even addresses the UN. Her plan is to make mutants a nation, so that when (other) nations discuss how to “deal with the mutant problem”, the mutants will have a say as well. However, when Jean’s framed for killing the UK ambassador to UN right in front of cameras at the steps of UN building, she and her team are on the run. They go to Wakanda and later to Atlantis.

This was, in a way, a return to X-Men’s roots: humans outright hating mutants, Jean and her team hunted for a misunderstanding, powerful enemies at every turn. It’s also more tied to modern day problems than space adventures. The master villain is Cassandra Nova. I was a bit disappointed that Rachel (Grey) was again going to be someone’s puppet. In this case, Nova’s.

The idea of mutant nation isn’t new, either. Jean mentions Genosha and Utopia which both ended badly. She’s also not an elected leader and some mutants are criminals, so I’m not sure which way Taylor is going to take the story (since the comic ended with vol 2, not very far).

Jean is one of my favorite characters, so I’m happy that she’s back. Kurt is another of my favorite X-Men, so it was great to see them working together. X-23 (or Wolverine) and her sister Honey Badger were also good additions and so is the Indian mutant Trinary. She has technology powers. The later additions of two of my other favorite X-Men Storm and Gambit were also great. I already have the second volume.

Collects: Avengers (1963) 124-125, 129-135, Captain Marvel (1968) 33, Giant-sized Avengers 2-4, Avengers: Celestial Quest 1-8.

Writer: Steve Englehart, Roy Thomas
Artists: Bob Brown, Don Heck, John Buscema, Dave Cockrum, Joe Staton, Joe Giella, John Tartag, Jorge Santamaria, Scott Hanna

This huge collection has Avengers from 1960s and the Celestial Quest which came out 2001.

However, it’s quite a bit disjointed at the start. The collection starts not Mantis’ first appearance but the first version of her backstory. A criminal which the Avengers have just arrested, Libra of the Zodiac, claims that he’s Mantis’ father. But Mantis has no memory of him and doesn’t believe his wild story. However, Swordsman believes him and even though the Swordsman is wounded, he takes a quinjet and heads to Saigon to confront the man who killed Mantis’ (Vietnamese) mother, a crime boss the Swordsman worked for before. The Avengers follow him and find him defeated. The Avengers fight against a monster from the stars. When they return to the mansion, they’re drawn into an epic space fight against Thanos’ forces. These issues also establish that Swordsman loves Mantis but she doesn’t love him, that the Vision loves Wanda and she loves him but Mantis wants the Vision because Mantis wants someone more powerful that the Swordsman (who apparently doesn’t have any powers).

The Celestial Madonna story starts when a large star appears over the Avengers Mansion. Kang the Conqueror appears and claims that the star announces that the Celestial Madonna has come and since the Madonna will give birth to “the one” and her mate will be the most powerful man on Earth, Kang is determined to take the Madonna for himself. There are three women inside the mansion: Wanda, Mantis, and Wanda’s mentor Agatha Harkness. So, after defeating the male Avengers, Kang kidnaps all three women so that he can find out which one of them is the Madonna and he also takes the Vision, Iron Man, and Thor to power his robotic minions. The Swordsman he scornfully leaves behind but Harkness guides the Swordsman to where the women are kept prisoner. While he can’t free them, he meets with the most important ally the Avengers will have, time-traveling Pharaoh Rama-Tut. The Swordsman, time-traveling Rama-Tut, and Hawkeye go after Kang.

The Avengers are rescued but the Swordsman is killed. When he lies bleeding to death Mantis apologizes to him the way that she’s been treating him and confesses that she does love him. The Avengers and Mantis return the Swordsman’s body to the garden of Priests of Pama and then she returns to Saigon where she thinks she grew up, on the streets. Thor, Hawkeye, the Vision, Iron Man, and Thor accompany her. However, things aren’t as she remembers. Eventually, Kang and Immortus kidnap the male Avengers and Mantis again, this time to to fight against the Legion of Unliving in Immortus’ Limbo.

The story reveals the first version of the Vision’s past but, perhaps more importantly because they aren’t retconned as much, also the past of the Kree and the beginning of the Kree-Skrull war, alongside with the story of the Celestial Madonna which is actually very small part of the story. In fact, even the story titled “the Origin of Mantis” isn’t. It continues the origin story of the priests of Pama and the sentient plant the Cotati, and the Vision.

The final eight issues are the Celestial Quest where Mantis has left her son with his father on the planet of the sentient plants the Cotati, and returned to Earth. Except that she has been split into several incarnations of herself (the freak, the mother, the prostitute, the priestess, and the avenger). When Thanos kills each incarnation, the remaining Mantises become more and more aware of herself until the next to last one is able to call to the Vision for help. The current Avengers (the Vision, the Scarlet Witch (who have broken up), Thor, and Silverclaw) along with the Squadron Supreme’s Haywire (who is grieving his girlfriend Inertia and is only with the other heroes because he thinks he’ll have chance to get her back by appealing to Death herself) accompany Mantis to the Cotati’s home planet to save her son Quoi from Thanos. On the way there, Mantis and Vision get together and Silverclaw develops feelings for Haywire. They also tangle with some reptilian space pirates whom later become Thanos’ minions, except for the only female pirate who eventually starts a romantic relationship with Quoi. Unfortunately, Quoi is rebellious a teenager who resents Mantis for abandoning him and he refuses to listen to her.

I rather enjoyed the older comics more, especially the middle part with the huge fights with Kang. Although Kang does come across as far more bluster than bite, he’s still one of my favorite Avengers villains. However, I really didn’t care for the odd “romances” which were straight out of E. R. Burroughs: the woman (both Wanda and Mantis) gets upset with her man (Vision and the Swordsman, respectively) and she’s cold towards him until he rescues her (or a revelation is made in case of Mantis) and then suddenly they marry. In fact, Wanda is only in a couple of the older comics because she’s learning witchcraft from Harkness and stays behind. She and Mantis constantly snipe at each other.

Mantis is a very different character from the movies. I’m not sure if Englehart wrote her deliberately as such an unlikable female character. If so, my hat’s off to him. Mantis a “mistress of the martial arts” and even defeated Thor with her skills. However, she doesn’t appear to have any superpowers except for some vague empathy. She’s a fearless fighter. But romantically she’s very capricious, turning her affections from the Swordsman to the Vision whom she knows is in love with Wanda. Mantis later explains that she wanted a super-powered man and that she felt close to the Vision because they were both lonely and felt that they weren’t really part of humanity. I don’t know if she tried to flirt with Iron Man or Thor but it seems a bit strange that since they’re both single, she wouldn’t try. (Of course, they both have their own comics and she wouldn’t appear in them, that’s probably the real reason.)

Interestingly enough, we find that Mantis is linked to another unlikable female character, Moondragon.

I was less happy with the Celestial Quest. Mantis’ son especially grated on my nerves. He speaks strangely and is far too much a grumpy, self-absorbed teenager to be a fun character.

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