Marvel comics


Collects Black Cat’s ongoing series issues 1-6.

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Writer: Jed Mackay
Artist: Travel Foreman, Nao Fuji
Publisher: Marvel

Finally, Felicia Hardy alias the Black Cat has her own series! I wasn’t sure what I expected from it but luckily, it’s lots of fun.

In almost every issue, Felicia and her small crew of two men steal something. There’s also a developing subplot with her nemesis Odessa Drake who is leader of New York’s thieves guild.

In the first issue, Felicia goes to a party and while the security guys are obsessed with her, her crew steals a painting. However, the thieves’ guild’s ninjas are after her as well. The issue ends with Felicia’s old mentor, the Black Fox appearing.

The Fox is an old thief and he talks her into the heist of a lifetime. This, of course, requires her to steal lots of other stuff, first.

In the second and third issue, Felicia and her crew steal something for Dr. Strange. That’s right: they break into the Sanctum Sanctorum while the doctor is away. However, they need a ”merlin”, someone to magic the doors and their mistake is to hire Xander the Merciless, or well, the depowered Xander. Hijinks ensue, of course.

In the fourth issue, Felicia goes on a date with Johnny Storm. Of course, she intends to steal something from the FF headquarters. Of course, an old FF enemy breaks into the FF headquarters at the same time.

On the sixth issue, Felicia goes on a date with Batroc, just taking a breather and having a good time. Meanwhile, the Black Fox is having a terrible time because mysterious enemies pursue him.

We also see some of the Black Fox’s background and how he trains Felicia.

The single issues on Marvel Unlimited have three fun short stories, too.

The only complaint I really have is Felicia’s cleavage being constantly front and center. I could have done without so much cheesecake.

Her crew I don’t know. Doc is a gadget guy (who doesn’t believe in magic, by the way) and Boris is the muscule. But they grew on me. The Black Fox freely admits that he’s a coward and avoids conflict as much as he can.

So, I enjoyed this a lot and I want to know how their big heist will go, especially after the cliffhanger ending of issue six.

Collects Thanos issues 13-18. (2016)

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Writer: Donny Cates
Artists: Geoffrey Shaw
Publisher: Marvel

Considering what 2020 has been like, I thought it would be appropriate to close my reading year with this collection. I guess you could even say it was inevitable ;).

It’s pretty much what it says in the title. Thanos has just conquered the savagely terrible “warrior” race of the Chitauri when Cosmic Ghost Rider arrives. Thanos tries to simply kill him but can’t. Instead the new Ghost Rider takes Thanos to a ride to the future. They arrive to a dead world where only one person lives: old Thanos who has killed almost everyone.

The younger Thanos isn’t impressed. He thinks the older version has given up and is just a shadow of himself now. Of course, there are lots of battle scenes, both about old Thanos’ previous battles and a couple of current ones. One issue tells the story of this new Ghost Rider. The collection ends with an Annual which is itself a collection of short tales over the millennia of Thanos’ life.

This turned out to be a bit too depressing read so I won’t be reading the rest of the Thanos series. But an appropriate ending to the reading year.

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Collects Excalibur (2018) 7-11.

Writer: Tini Howard

Artists: Wilton Santos, Marcus To

This collection is clearly divided to two story archs. The first one is a hunt but this time Excalibur is hunting Warwolves, the wolf-like silver beings from the first volume in 1990s. I believe they’re originally from Mojoworld. Then we’re solidly back in Otherworld and dimension hopping, reality altering stuff.

Apocalypse needs the skulls of Warwolves in order to establish a gateway to Otherworld. The Warwolves are imprisoned in London Zoo so our heroes head there. Except that the Warwolves aren’t there. Cullen Bloodstone has acquired them. Betsy goes to see him and he invites our heroes to his manor, to hunt the Warwolves. Then Excalibur talks a bit about if it’s okay to kill intelligent beings. But since Warwolves have killed innocent people, they decide it’s ok. Of course, the hunt doesn’t go as planned.

In the next story, people in London hate mutants. They burn images of Jean Gray and professor Xavier and the gates to Krakoa. Kitty and Rachel come to the rescue with a flying ship. However, Betsy needs to go the lighthouse and she heads to the Starlight Citadel which used to be the home of the Captain Britain Corps. But Opal Luna Saturnyne, who commanded the Corps, doesn’t like Betsy. So she sends her own, new battalion of priestesses against Excalibur. Fighting ensues!

Meanwhile, Jame Braddock with his reality-altering powers is getting bored so he creates his own realities!

A lot is going on in this series. It also uses the Hickman style of storytelling giving us a page of backstory at least once an issue.

The second story is weird. But I love weird X-Men stories. Is it one of those… maybe? I’m mostly enjoying it. I still don’t care about Rictor or Apocalypse. And Gambit is weirdly grumpy all the time. And it ends clearly in the middle of a story, in a cliff-hanger. Also, I think the upcoming crossovers probably limited the storyline and the characters available.

Some characters from the original Excalibur comic make an appearance. Most noticeably Peter Wisdom who is Britain’s agent and works as a liaison between the team and the Queen. Kitty and Rachel’s appearances are way too brief.

I am rather excited about the strange new reality and how our Excalibur is going to react to meeting their counterparts.

Another cancelled Marvel show which I’m hoping might get another home at Disney’s own channel is Cloak and Dagger. This duo was created in 1980s and it showed in their stories where they mostly battle drug dealers. Truthfully, I was a bit worried that the show would be too teenagey for me, because the characters are teenagers.

But it’s not. It feels like a very well done update. It’s set in New Orleans.

Tyrone Johnson (Cloak) is more typical US teenager. He’s in a private High School and in the basketball team. He’s interested in a black girl whose family is into voodoo. However, when he was a child he witnessed a white cop shooting his older brother, whom he adored. He tried to tell people but nobody believed him. The death of his brother deeply impacted the family. His picture is still up and Ty is partly in the team because his brother was an excellent player and Ty wants to live up to his memory. Yet, when we see young Ty around his brother’s death, he’s trying to steal cars and hustle people for money.

Tandy Bowen’s life is a mess. She hustles young rich jerks for money. Her mother is an addict and she must hide her money from her mom. At the start of the show, her mom has a new boyfriend, a lawyer, and Tandy is convinced that he’s just using her mom. Tandy has a boyfriend who is also a hustler. Tandy’s dad died the same night as Ty’s brother. Tandy adored her dad and both she and her mom are broken up about his death. Her mom is still trying to prove that the company he worked for, Roxxon, is responsible for his death. Yet, when we see young Tandy, she’s a little ballet dancer whose parents obviously have money.

This isn’t a regular superhero show. No costumes or masks. The first season revolves around Tandy and Ty getting to know each other, getting to grips with the powers, and solving the deaths of their family members.

Their connection is a mystical one from the start: when Roxxon Oil’s oil rig explodes, a cop startles at the explosion and shoots Ty’s brother. Ty dives in to save him. At the same time, the car where Tandy and her dad are has an accident and ends up in the water, too. Tandy and Ty find each other in the water right after the explosion. They’re washed to the shore but Tandy wakes up first and just leaves.

The show also has voodoo elements.

What I really appreciated is that Tandy and Ty aren’t romantically linked, at least in the first season. In the comics, the Cloak needs Dagger’s light and that’s why they have no choice but to be together. Hopefully, that element isn’t brought to the show.

A third character from the comics is Detective Brigit O’Reilly. She’s in the show, too, as a reluctant ally to the duo. She’s a world-weary cop who tries to advice the youngsters that world isn’t a fair place.

The show tackles race and class issues, as you might expect with a black man and a white woman as the leads. It’s also very character-driven, exploring the past and present of Ty and Tandy and they developing friendship.

Their powers aren’t clear from the start and have been changed somewhat from the comic.

The first season has ten episodes. The end of the season isn’t a cliffhanger but some things are left unresolved.

I enjoyed this show a lot.

Collects Star Wars Annual 1 and issues 15-19.

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Writers: Kieron Gillen, Jason Aaron
Artists: Ángel Unzueta, Mike Mayhew, Lenil Francis Yu
Publisher: Marvel
Publication year: 2016

This collection has three stories and only the last one has the “Star Wars adventure” feeling. The first two explore a darker side of war and for me they didn’t really gel.

The annual is the story of the best Rebel spy, Eneb Ray. He is a tax collector in Coruscant and that work emotionally really hard. But he carefully maintains his cover and sends vital info back to Princess Leia. He isn’t in contact with any other rebel, for security reasons. It’s very lonely work.

Then Leia asks him to save Senators who are accused of being rebels and are in danger of being executed. Of course, things don’t go as planned.

The next issues are the Rebel Jail part. After then events of Vader Down, Leia and a smuggler called Sana are escorting a dangerous prisoner to the Rebels’ jail, Sunspot prison. But while Leia is there, a masked man with a robot army invades the prison and starts killing the prisoners. They are “War criminals, Imperial spies, Mercenaries, even a Moff or two”. Leia tries to talk the man down and defend the inmates.

Both of these stories are, in fact, fine if they’d been in another franchise or original stories (well except for certain timing problems and secrets in the longest story. Keeping secrets for purely plot reasons is… frustrating to say the least). But for me they were just too dark as SW stories. I’m also a bit hesitant to believe that the Rebel Alliance has resources to act as the galaxy’s police and keep a secret jail with hundreds of inmates indefinitely. Leia… defends them. This is the woman who shoots Stormtroopers on regular bases and in the previous comic ordered everyone she had to kill Vader. Rebels have died under her command. She knows she’s fighting a war. Also, I didn’t care for the resolution of the story for our prisoner. Nope. Can’t see Leia doing that. On the other hand, I enjoyed most of the banter. I also enjoy stories where enemies are forced to work together and this one delivered that!

I actually enjoyed the brief side plot far more. Han and Luke have been sent to buy supplies for the Rebels. Han wants to double their money at a sabacc table but instead loses. Now, Luke finds something to smuggle in order to get the money back. This is exactly the sort of shenanigans I expected Han and Luke to get into between movies. It lightens the mood of the main story a lot.

The final issue is another tale from Kenobi’s notebook. He’s doing the gloomy hermit thing while watching over young Luke on Tatooine. Luke is learning how to fly but after a near accident, Uncle Owen forbids it. However, Kenobi has a feeling that Luke will need to learn how to fly.

This was fun, if somewhat depressing read. Uncle Owen is not a sympathetic character because we know that he’s so wrong.

Yu’s art is gorgeous, as usual.

Collects Excalibur issues 1-6 (2019)

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Writer: Tini Howard
Artists: Marcus To
Publisher: Marvel
Publishing year: 2020

I’m a huge fan of Claremont and Davis’ run of Excalibur which started in 1987. This isn’t that comic. I haven’t read Howard before so I didn’t know what to expect. However, the low ratings on Goodreads had me preparing for the worst. But this was fine, for the most part. The team is pretty haphazard but so was the original Excalibur team (Marvel-wise, of course, not the original Knights of the Round Table.)

Appropriately enough, the comic starts in Avalon. In Marvel comics, Avalon is in a world called the Otherworld. King Arthur and Queen Guinevere have mysteriously vanished and Morgan le Fay is the Queen now. However, a mysterious force is attacking Avalon (I don’t think we every found out who) and at the same time, the Queen’s scrying pool is growing strange plants. Morgan blames the witchbreed, which she calls mutants. She reaches out to her coven of witches and commands the three people in it to kill all mutants. Their leader promptly kills her followers and sets out alone.

Meanwhile, Betsy Braddock is visiting her twin brother Brian in England. Betsy is back in her original body and doesn’t really want to go by Psylocke anymore. Brian is living his happily ever after with his wife Meggan and their kid. Betsy returns to Krakoa island where she finds out that Egg has resurrected her older brother, Jamie who is mad and has reality-altering powers. Betsy’s not happy.

Betsy returns to England but doesn’t tell the news to her twin. Instead, Brian is called to the Otherworld in an emergency and Betsy decides to go with him… to Morgan Le Fay. Morgan enchants Brian to attack his twin. Brian has just enough time to give his amulet to Betsy, making her Captain Britain.

On Krakoa, Apocalypse knows the portal which leads to Otherworld. He knows Betsy’s in trouble but needs Rogue’s help with the portal. Gambit is against it. Still, Rogue takes off her gloves and touches the portal… and promptly falls down, unconscious or sleeping, covered in vines. Betsy returns to Krakoa as Captain Britain.

Of course, the team needs to rescue Brian and Rogue. Betsy, Gambit, and Jubilee travel to the Braddock lighthouse but is has been destroyed. However, when Rogue is brought to the spot, a new lighthouse grows from the ground.

Apocalypse wants to help the team but both Gambit and Betsy are against it. However, in the end Betsy must bow to the inevitable and accept his help. Apocalypse also finds Rictor and adds him to the team. The team adventures mostly in Otherworld.

I mostly enjoyed this. While I’m familiar with Morgan as Avengers’ villain, I don’t think I’ve ever read a story set in Otherworld. Of course, all the characters have long and convoluted backstory, the Captain Britain Corps not the least among them. Rogue is unconscious for most of the story and Gambit is very concerned about her, which is understandable, of course. The story line even has a dragon! The ending really shook up the status quo in Otherworld. I’m not sure if it will affect any other Marvel books but I’m intrigued to find out. Also, Apocalypse isn’t a hero. I’m sure the team will have to turn against him at some point. We’ll see.

We did get some nods to us old fans in the way of cameos, which I quite liked.

However, I wasn’t happy with the inclusion of Rictor. I’ve only seen him before in New Mutants/X-Men crossovers so he felt like a really strange addition. Also, I think he has vibration powers, not earth control. Also, Rogue already learned to control her powers in the Mr. and Mrs. X series, issue 9. Yet, at the beginning of this series she again has to use the power-dampening bracelet. I guess her out-of-control powers are just too great for writers to let go. She also got a power upgrade on that comic, allowing her to absorb powers from a distance. Oh well.

So, story wise this was entertaining but left a bit to be desired in character department. Of course, I’m hoping Howard will improve.

Collects Star Wars issues 8-12.

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Writer: Jason Aaron
Artists: Stuart Immonen, Simone Bianchi, Wade von Grawbadger
Publisher: Marvel
Publishing year: 2016

This was a great SW adventure! It has pretty much all the elements I look for in SW. It doesn’t start right where the first volume left off but I recommend reading the first volume, Skywalker strikes, first. It’s set between A New Hope and Empire Strikes back and stars the old familiar cast. And does so excellently.

In this collection, the first issue is a section from Ben Kenobi’s diary. He’s on Tatooine, hiding. It’s very frustrating for him to stay hidden and just watch the suffering of people in the hands of water bandits and Jabba. But he manages, mostly.

The rest of the collection continues the story arch from the first volume. Leia and Han are on an uninhabited planet looking for a new base for the rebels. Of course, things go sideways. First, they’re confronted by a female bounty hunter Sana Solo… Han’s wife! Han tries to protest that they aren’t married but when Imperial troops start shooting at them, Leia has no time to listen. In the end, Sana fights alongside our heroes, constantly bickering with Han.

Meanwhile, Luke is reading Ben’s diary and has the very bad idea that he wants to go to Coruscant and see for himself what he can find from the old Jedi Temples. To get to Coruscant, he and R2 go to Nar Shaddaa, called the Smuggler’s Moon. It’s in Hutt territory and full of criminals, mostly smugglers, but others, too. So, things don’t go well for him, either. A Hutt captures him but not to give him to the Empire but so that Luke can fight in an arena and entertain the locals.

This isn’t high on drama but that’s fine because we already know what’s going to happen to the characters and that they’re not going to be seriously hurt. (Although… they could be seriously enough hurt to need serious bacta tank time.) I enjoyed the fight scenes and the quirky Hutt. Han and Sana were also quite entertaining.

This story fits in surprising well between the movies.

Collects Fantastic Four #1-4 (Vol. 1, 1999-2000) and Domination Factor: Avengers #1-4 (Vol. 1, 1999-2000).

Writers: Dan Jurgens, Jerry Ordway

Artists: Dan Jurgens, Jerry Ordway, Bob MacLeod, Dennis Janke

My reread of 1990s comics continues with this miniseries. It has eight issues where every other one is an FF issue and every other Avengers. So it’s not really a crossover. This worked surprisingly well and prevented the feel of clutter that most crossovers suffer from. I think this format would be great for more crossovers. The downside is, of course, that the teams don’t interact much. In this case, the teams already know each other quite well, so it wasn’t a loss.

The story starts with FF. Reed and Tony Stark are in Air Force one, returning from an international conference along with the US president. Johnny, Susan, and Ben are providing air security. Good thing, too, because a group of masked men using jetpacks attack the plane. Despite the efforts of the FF (and Iron Man whose identity isn’t known to the FF), the plane takes heavy damage. Only with the combined powers of the FF and Iron Man, it can land mostly in one piece. However, the bad guys aren’t after the president or even the superheroes but something that Norway’s government gave as a gift to the US president: a gold apple.

When the plane tore apart, the apple fell from the plane. Johnny torches it.

The bad guy in question seems to be a dying old lady Ms. Queen who owns a big, if secretive, tech company, Praxis. One of his underlings, Lester, is especially keen on getting his hands on the apple. When Johnny destroys it, Lester claims that not all is lost.

The FF don’t have the chance to examine the plane or the remains of the apple because a huge, wooden creature rises from the river. A battle starts, of course. However, soon they notice that everyone else has been frozen in time. Doctor Strange appears in his astral form and quickly sends our heroes’ astral forms to the past, to retrieve slices of the golden apple so that the world as they know it will be safe.

The Avengers include the Scarlet Witch, the Vision, Captain America, Iron Man, and Thor. They’re from Kurt Busiek’s run. The Avengers notice another huge wooden colossus and fight it. However, Doctor Strange appears and sends their spirit selves to the past, in order to find slices of the golden apple before they fall to wrong hands.

This was a fun series. The FF and the Avengers visit moments in their past. They’re all separated and need to work alone. However, by the end of the second issue readers will realize that Strange is acting rather strangely. The story has some of my favorite tropes so I enjoyed it quite a lot.

Of course, it doesn’t affect continuity at all.

Jurgens actually draws the second FF issue imitating Kirby’s style. The FF members inhabit their younger bodies during the Kirby period, so it’s very fitting. Ordway has his distinctive style so he doesn’t try to imitate the previous artists. Cap is thrown to WW II, Tony to a particularly ignoble time in his life, and Wanda to a point when she worked with Magneto. Meanwhile, Thor is a teenager on Asgard. Fun times!

A one shot where characters from both franchises meet for the first time

Writer: Scott Lobdell
Artists: Marc Silvestri, Billy Tan, Anthony Winn, David Finn, and a whole lot of inkers

The Enterprise has detected an anomaly on Delta Vega, where Gary Mitchell changed and died. Captain Kirk is reluctant to return there but must investigate. When the Enterprise arrives, they see a spacial rift made from pure psionic energy. Two ships come out of it, but the first one explodes immediately. The second one is huge and from it comes Shi’Ar Empire’s Gladiator who demands the Enterprise to leave. Gladiator is following Deathbird who wants the energy for herself.

Meanwhile, seven X-Men managed to teleport to the Enterprise just before their ship was destroyed. Wolverine, Cyclops, Phoenix, the Beast, Storm, Bishop, and Gambit try to find a way off the ship and to Deathbird. Lilandra has sent them after her.

This was a short, fun read. The two teams are facing two very powerful enemies. Unfortunately, the story has way too many characters so each one doesn’t have the chance to shine. There is a great moment between Spock and Wolverine, and when Kirk tries to flirt with Jean, she deflects him deftly. I also rather enjoyed Bones and Hank.

Collects miniseries House of X issues 1-6 and Powers of X issues 1-6.

Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artists: Pepe Larraz, R. B. Silva

So, this is apparently the newest reboot of the X-Men. I enjoyed Hickman’s Fantastic Four and mostly enjoyed his Avengers, too. I also enjoy alternate worlds and time-travel. And yet… this didn’t quite work for me.

Hickman gives us four timelines. One is year 0 (for X-Men) where Xavier comes up with his dream and meets with Moira MacTaggart who is very different character. Year 10 is closest to our “current” timeline except that Cyclops, Wolverine, and Xavier (and various other mutants) are alive and well. Year 100 is (yet another) depressing future where mutants are a hunted minority trying to survive. In year 1000, post-humanity is trying to make a deal with advanced aliens.

I can’t really talk much about year 0 without massive spoilers. In the “now” of the continuity, Xavier has allied himself with a sentient island Krakoa and is creating it as a paradise to all mutants. And he’s inviting every mutant on Earth, including all the villains. Magneto is his right hand man.

This is a sprawling epic. Magneto, Moira, and Xavier are in the middle of it all, the others are really on the sidelines. Hickman has crammed the two miniseries full of plot. We get short flashes of story which is then interrupted by page or two of text, explaining plot elements. This didn’t work for me.

At first, I didn’t really care for this. It felt confusing and too convoluted. But in the end, it did hold up. It also changed the status quo of the mutants. I guess it reminded me too much of Utopia which I didn’t really care for. My golden age of X-Men is the Claremont/Byrne/Romita JR era and this is very different to say the least. Yet, I’m eager to see where Marvel will continue with the X-Men.

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