superheroes


Collects issues 1-12 of the Strange Adventures maxiseries.

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Writer: Tom King

Artist: Mitch Gerards, Evan “Doc” Shaner

Publisher: DC

Adam Savage is the hero of the planet Rann. He and Rann’s defenders protected the planet from invaders out of space, the Pykkts. Now, he has returned to Earth and is selling his book. He’s a celebrity.

However, some people don’t agree. They accuse Adam of mass murder during the war. JLA wants to investigate him and Adam and his wife Alanna. Batman appoints Mr. Terrific because Mr. Terrific lost his child and Adam and Alanna lost their daughter during the last days of the war.

The story has two timelines: one in the present and one in the past, during the Rann war. The past storyline has clear influences from pulp science fantasy stories (and no doubt the original Adam Savage tales which I haven’t read). Adam and Alanna must first unite Rann’s sentient species against the invaders and then lead the horrible war against the Pykkts.

The present is very much a modern story, where people doubt their heroes. Themes include war and what should and shouldn’t be done in wars.

The art is gorgeous. It also makes clear if we’re seeing the past or the present. Shaner draws the past parts in a style that is reminiscent of older comic book styles. It jars with the more violent scenes, but in a good way. Gerards’ present is darker and the characters’ faces more expressive.

No doubt this is a great read for people who enjoy deconstructing heroes. Unfortunately, while I enjoyed the art, I wasn’t too wild about the storyline.

The first book in Silke’s Strike Force superhero series. It can be read as a stand-alone.

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Publication year: 2020

Format: ebook

Page count from Amazon: 303

Silke Butters is a supermodel. She’s also Indian-American so her way to the top wasn’t easy. She was often dismissed because she’s not blond and fair-skinned. But with determination, she clawed her way up and is now finally the face of Candy Girl Cosmetics

Now, she finally has what she wants. Then she starts getting strong headaches and seeing strange visions. One of them is of her father whom she hasn’t seen in many years. The next day, her adopted brother Joe comes to her and tells her that her father is dead.

Silke has mixed feelings, mostly regret. Her father was strongly against her modeling career so she hasn’t really talked with him after she left for New York when she was fifteen. Her father, Duke, was a soldier and after retiring from the Army, he started a private security firm, the Enforcer Factory, which is now doing extremely well. Joe is Duke’s partner in the firm. Joe also has secrets from Silke. For example, Joe himself is an Enhanced, person with superpowers.

And now, Silke has strange feelings and visions. Also, her attraction toward Joe is surfacing.

The ruthless, super-powered Sin Squad is targeting the Enforcer Factory. They’ve even infiltrated it. Now, they won’t stop for anything to get what they want.

This was a very interesting beginning to a series. It introduces us to a world where superpowered beings are mostly secret pawns in a larger game. Silke has no idea about them and the revelations in the book are a shock to her. It’s also her origin story; she’s learning about her powers and learning how to use them.

Silke is impulsive, but also very determined. Also, her life as a model needs her to be quite disciplined; she loves food but must restrict her diet. Also, Silke’s roots are from India which means that she’s no stranger to prejudice. However, these days she’s a famous model so she has to deal with her celebrity. There’s also a romance subplot: she was attracted to Joe before she left for New York, but never acted on it. Now, Joe has a girlfriend.

Joe is a stoic soldier who hero-worshipped Duke Butters who took Joe in after Joe’s parents died. Duke was sick for a while before his death, so it wasn’t a surprise to Joe. Joe has also promised that he doesn’t tell anything to Silke and he feels that he’s protecting her.

My favorite character, however, was Mackenzie ”Maki” Monroe whom Silke calls Mac n’ Cheese. She’s a computer expert. She’s also happily married with kids and heavily pregnant. But I feel I need to give a content warning about miscarriage.

The book has several POV characters, but Silke is the most prominent one. She’s mostly a very good main character who is trying to figure out what is happening to her and what’s happening around her. However, right at the start of the book, she makes some stupid choices: mixing painkillers and alcohol that felt out of character for her.

Also, the author does sometimes use more ”tell” than ”show”. Sometimes she just summarized the scene quickly rather than writing it out. It takes a long time until Silke gets any sort of handle for her powers. I’m also not a fan of plots where the main character is deliberately kept in the dark, especially ”for her own good”, so I didn’t really like that. Unfortunately, the book has also quite a few typos.

Still, it was an enjoyable and exciting read.

Collects Exiles issues 5-11 from 2001-2002.

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Writer: Judd Winick

Artist: Mike McKone, Jim Calafiore

Publisher: Marvel

Right after their traumatic second mission, our heroes are whisked away to their next task. In the Canadian woods, they meet the Alpha Flight, which is led by Wolverine and the Shaman is John Proudstar, an alternate version of Exiles’ Thunderbird. Their mission is to keep the Alpha Flight alive against a furious Hulk.

The third issue is one of the weird Marvel experiments: an issue without dialog. It works surprisingly well. Our heroes take a well-deserved rest in a hotel and we see their dreams. This was a neat idea, having a bit of a breather between intense storylines, letting us know the heroes better, and even getting in a bit of character development.

Issue eight starts with telling us that the team has been through adventures we don’t see and that they’ve become a solid team. Also, that Blink and Mimic are now a couple. I felt it was something of a cop-out, skipping a couple of years of adventures. But I can understand why Winnick (or Marvel editors) did that.

The last three issues are action-packed. The Exiles have arrived on an Earth which is under Skrull rule and has been for about a century. Humans have been enslaved and all superhumans are forced to fight each other in arenas for the amusement of Skrulls. When the story starts, the Exiles have been on this Earth for about a month. Thunderbird, Mimic, Nocturne, and Sunfire were captured very soon and are forced to fight. Blink and Morph have managed to stay free, but haven’t succeeded in freeing the others and they’re starting to get desperate. However, the Skrulls aren’t the biggest threat…

The final issue is also a stand-alone.

This was a great collection, offering a lot of action and strange alternate realities (which I love), but also character development and emotional moments. Winnick also starts to cast some doubt about just who the Timebroker is and why the Exiles are doing their jobs. Looking forward to the next one.

Collects Exiles issues 1-4 from 2001.

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Writer: Judd Winick

Artist: Mike McKone

Publisher: Marvel

I love alternate realities and this series has lots of them. All the characters are from different alternate realities and they travel to other alternative realities trying to fix them. I read it when it originally came out and really enjoyed it. Still a very enjoyable read! The whole series is aimed at X-Men fans who already know the characters and the seminal storylines.

Six heroes: Blink from Age of Apocalypse, Nocturne who is the daughter of the Nightcrawler and the Scarlet Witch, Mimic who is a heroic X-Man and an Avenger, Warpath whom Apocalypse captured and made his Horseman, Morph who is a respected X-Man, and Magnus, son of Rogue and Magneto. At the end of the first adventure, the heroes are joined by Mariko Yashida who is Sunfire.

A strange little man Timebroker tells that they’ve been yanked from their home realities to right wrongs in other universes. If they don’t, ripples in time will change their own lives for the worse. But they can be wounded or die for real. The Timebroker gives them a device called Tallus which will tell them what to do. Blink wears it.

In the first story, our heroes are sent to a world where humans have overcome mutants with technology. The Tallus tells Blink to ”find their greatest teacher” and they set out to bust Professor Xavier from a maximum security prison.

The second story is a retelling of the Dark Phoenix saga! Our heroes appear on the Moonbase, just when the Shi’Ar transport the X-Men there. The Tallus tells the Exiles that Jean Grey must die. Almost all Exiles know and love Jean, so their mission will be hard.

The art is pretty 90s style. What I really disliked is that both Nocturne and Sunfire wear very little. Nocturne first appears wearing just panties and a very short shirt. She then wears a leather bikini as a ”uniform”. Mariko similarly wears a bikini. Meanwhile, the men are fully clothed. Sigh. Otherwise, the art is pretty good.

Cross-over adventure for two of DC’s flagship teams.

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Writers: David S. Goyer, Geoff Johns

Artists: Carlos Pacheco, Jesús Merino

Publisher: DC

Publication year: 2003

The Justice Society of America and the Justice League of America team up to fight villains and each other. The story starts with a lovely piece of art as Superman and the Sentinel are on the Moon, looking at the Earth from space.

JSA and JLA get together in JLA Watchtower on the Moon to enjoy Thanksgiving together. But Bedlam attacks a world hunger conference and specifically President Luthor and Vixen who is guarding him. JLA and JSA rush to the rescue. They overcome Bedlam quickly, but something isn’t right: Batman and Mr. Terrific come to blows over leadership differences and then many of the other heroes join the fight. Soon, some of our heroes are sent to Dr. Fate’s tower, others to Limbo, and the rest must figure out what’s going on.

This was quite a fun comic. These days it would probably have been a ten-issue maxi-series and I think the writers could pull that off. The writers juggled 13 JLA members and 16 JSA members, which wasn’t easy. Still, most heroes have their moments to shine and the team-ups have heroes from different teams, which is always fun. The pace is fast and there are a few jokes, too. However, I’m unhappy with how a couple of the heroes were handled, particularly Power Girl.

Pacheco’s art is gorgeous, even if he draws oversexualized women.

Collects X-Men (2019) issue 1-6.

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Writer: Jonathan Hickman

Artist: Lenil Francis Yu

Publisher: Marvel

Publication year: 2020

This was an interesting start to the next stage of X-Men. Most mutants live in the island paradise of Krakoa where they are immortal and happy. Except that the rest of the world still views them with suspicion and that the most powerful and experienced mutants must protect the rest.

A case in point is the Orchis, made up of the remains of many villainous human organizations, such as Hydra, A.I.M., and even S.H.I.E.L.D. They have an orbiting base where they’re creating weapons against mutants. Storm, Magneto, Polaris, and Cyclops attack them. They free captured mutants but also one who is apparently ”posthuman”.

The issue starts with a bang and a fight. Later we get to see our heroes in a more relaxed setting. Summer House in on the Moon. The Summers clan live there: Scott, Havok, Jean, Rachel, Nathan… and Logan. Corsair and the Starjammers are visiting.

In the next issue, another island approaches Krakoa. Scott, Nathan, and Rachel investigate. We get a couple of nice moments between them, but mostly they fight the locals. However, Krakoa and the next island merge so now the paradise island has dangerous new places. The mutants’ Silent Council is introduced. In retrospect, Scott made grave tactical errors in this issue.

In the next issue, four mysterious figures invade the island. I rather enjoyed the new villains, the Hordeculture and their confrontation with Scott and Sebastian Shaw. On the other hand, the new villains made our mutants look like incompetent idiots.

Issue four centers on politics. Krakoa is a new nation but already so powerful that the human nations are afraid of it, and for a good reason. Still, Krakoa’s representatives are asked to join a summit between nations. Magneto, Professor X, and Apocalypse are the diplomats while Cyclops and Gorgon are security. Once again, humans appear friendly, but assault squads are ready. I loved how Magneto flat out told the humans that Krakoa is soon going to be the economic powerhouse of the world because of the awful way that humans treat each other and others.

The next issue shows us that having a paradise island isn’t without a cost. Cyclops and Logan send three mutants to investigate the Vault, a place where time flows differently. They’ve chosen three who are most likely to survive it: X-23, Darwin, and Synch. While Storm and Cyclops attack the Vault as a distraction, the three try to infiltrate it. If they succeed, they could be inside for hundreds of years form their perspective. If they don’t, they die.

The final issue continues the shadowy dealings, this time with Mystique who has infiltrated the Orchid and tries to sabotage them as best she can. She’s doing it to get back Destiny. While she made a deal with Xavier and Magneto, they have no intention of keeping the deal. This feels huge out of character for both of them. Of course, Mystique has her own plots.

This was a very interesting beginning, showing us both a paradise for most mutants and yet it has a clear dark side, as well. This clearly starts off long storylines. Issue five ends in a cliffhanger and nothing is really resolved.

I enjoyed seeing most of the characters relatively happy and I’m very intrigued to see that Logan lives with the Summers clan.

The mutants have a lot of things going for them: five mutants who can resurrect apparently any mutant, Krakoa’s flowers which can create instant gateways between Krakoa and any place, medicines and healers, relatively safe place to heal and live. To balance it out, they also have a lot of enemies, including some nations.

Collects Worlds’ Finest issues 18-21, Annual #1, and Batman/Superman #8-9.

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Writers: Paul Levits, Greg Pak

Artists: R. B. Silva, Scott McDaniel, Diogenes Neves, Jae Lee

This was a pretty good collection, although issue 18, the first one, was the last issue in the previous collection. Karen’s powers are out of control. She and Hel fight a new threat, a girl whose tattoos come to life.

Next is my favorite story in the collection: the adventures of Robin and Supergirl. This is set on Earth-2 where Helena is Robin and fights alongside her dad, Batman. Karen is still in hiding because her cousin Superman wants to keep her a secret weapon against Darkseid’s forces. But both girls long to be more independent, so they set out on their own.

Next starts the First Contact crossover, where the Huntress and the Power Girl finally meet Batman and Superman. Karen’s unstable powers worry Helena more and more. She finally asks for help from this world’s Batman. He’s younger than her dad and while they have similarities, they also have differences. Helena breaks into the Batcave. Bruce doesn’t want to believe her claims, but his instincts tell him that she’s telling the truth. So, he and Hel fly (on a Batplane) to see Karen, whose powers are making her a danger to everyone around her. She’s so much out of control that Superman must intervene.

However, whatever is affecting Karen infects Clark, too. Bruce must take him out with kryptonite. Then Hel and Bruce start tracing the nanobits that are affecting the Kryptonians. The team-up is pretty interesting. Hel and Karen can’t help but to compare the men they know to this world’s doubles. Clark and Bruce are younger than their counterparts. Bruce doesn’t trust anyone and not even his own instincts. He wants logic to back up his hunches. Clark doesn’t really trust Hel and Karen, but he still does his best to help Karen. While the story is fight-heavy (since it’s a superhero comic…) we get some very interesting character interaction and even growth. This was a good ending to the Karen’s powers are unstable plotline. Unfortunately, I’ve already read Batman/Superman vol. 2 Game Over where the story is also printed.

Collects Worlds’ Finest issues 6-12.

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Writer: Paul Levitz

Artists: Kevin Macguire, George Perez, Cafu, Cliff Richards, Yildiray Cinar, Ken Lashely, Barry Kitson, Geraldo Borges, Robson Rocha

Publisher: DC

Publication year: 2013

The series that portrays best friends Helena Wayne, the Huntress, and Karen Starr, the Power Girl, continues! They’re from Earth 2 which was devastated by Darkseid’s forces and now they’re looking for a way back. This collection has shorter stories, each two issues, which seem at first disconnected from each other. Also, the final issues concentrate on the disappearence of Michael Holt which happened in the Mr. Terrific’s comic. I didn’t even know Power Girl and Mr. Terrific were dating.

In the first issue, Helena has broken into Wayne Industries to ”borrow” money for her next identity, but she’s ambushed by the new Robin, Damien. They battle, of course. Meanwhile, Karen is in space putting something on Morgan Edge’s satellite. When Helena is in trouble with Damien, Karen interferes and Damien finally listens. It seems that someone is stealing millions every week from Wayne industries. Damien and the women agree to track down the perp.

The next issue is the team-up. Robin and the Huntress go north and battle wolves while tracking down a lead, while the Power Girl goes to Mali where she’s confronted by children who have apparently energy weapons from Apokolips.

In the next issue, assassins are after Helena. It seems that Ibn Hassan (whom I haven’t heard of before) put a large prize on her head. She’s shot and beaten so she’s confined to bed. While Karen hunts down the man who is responsible for the prize, Helena reminiscences about her life on Earth 2 when Batman and Catwoman, her parents, trained her.

Next, a group of mercenaries invades Starr Island, Karen’s home. Wounded Helena defends Karen’s staff against them.

Karen and Hel find out that Michael Holt is behind the assault on Karen’s home. But he disappeared a while ago, after he and Karen split up. Helena looks for clues in Holt Industries. But when someone systematically attacks Karen’s labs, she and Hel go on the offensive. Finally, the villain behind their troubles is revelaed.

This wasn’t as good as the first volume, but I still mostly enjoyed it and I’m eager to read the next one. I again enjoyed the friendship between Helena and Karen. Their personalities are quite different. Hel has been taught how to stay invisible, while Karen enjoys the spotlight, playing her role as a billionaire industrialist. Hel is cool under fire while Karen is brash. However, I dislike Damien and the stories were a bit too disjointed. Also, I found it strange that I’ve never heard of Ibn Hassan or Karen dating Mr. Terrific so those storylines left me cold. The last story ends in a cliffhanger.

However, the complex relationship between Hel and Damien was done well. Neither has ever had a sibling. Yet, they grew to sort of care about each other. I also really enjoyed the glimpses of Hel’s parents and her life with them.

I liked most of the artwork. Perez’s work is as gorgeous as ever but Macguire did most of the work. His more rounded style works well for the Power Girl. However, the fill-in artists’ styles were very different from them which was a little distracting.

Collects Green Lanterns issues 1-6.

Writer: Sam Humphries

Artists: Ethan van Sciver, Ed Benes, Robson Rocha, Jay Leinstein, Tom Derenick, Jack Herbert, Neil Edwards, Eduardo Pansica, Will Conrad

Publisher: DC

This is the Rebirth Green Lanterns, Jessica Cruz and Simon Baz. They’re both very new to GLs and struggling with both their new powers and duties. Jessica is pretty open that she doesn’t think she’s worth the ring. She has an anxiety disorder and didn’t leave her home for years. She also feels guilty, because her friends died (murdered in some other comic I think) and she ran away and lived. Simon also feels guilty about causing a car accident that left his sister’s husband in a coma for years. His sister doesn’t blame Simon, though. Simon has little experience with the ring but Jessica has none and she can’t even form objects with it. He thinks that she’s a screw-up and she simply doesn’t like him.

In the first issue, we get a little glimpse of their lives and personalities before the ring calls them to action. Hal appears to inform that he’s leaving Earth and they must work as partners. He also claims that the JLA will train the duo. Unfortunately, the training didn’t happen.

Next, our heroes are thrust to action trying to round up aliens. When they find instead a lair of a serial killer, the people in the town are justifiably angry. But their anger grows to unnatural rage. That’s the effect of Rew Dawn, the big threat in this volume. Jess and Simon must find out the source of the rage and put a stop to it.

Both GLs are rookies just learning to use their rings. Simon knows more about it than Jess, though. Both also have very strong inner demons to wrestle with. It was interesting to see a superhero with an anxiety disorder but I’m don’t know if it was handled well. At one point Jess was almost paralyzed with fear but then she just talked herself out of it, which a bit seemed strange. The way that the woman was the anxiety and fear-driven wreck and also a total rookie and the man is an overconfident hotshot who teaches the woman how her own ring works is… well, it’s nothing new. The characters are fine but surprisingly old school. I rather liked their supporting cast. Jessica’s sister is supportive. Simon’s sister’s family supports him.

I’ve only seen these characters in the Rebirth JLA but they seemed to be created before Rebirth, because both have lots of history which are only briefly explored in this volume. I’m also not familiar with the Red Dawn duo of Bleez and Atrocitus. We get Bleez’s tragic backstory which was nice.

The art team is very variable. But their styles work together enough that the changing artists didn’t really bother me.

I feel that this comic was done for long-time GL readers rather than someone new. But I still mostly enjoyed it. Both characters must struggle with their inner demons while they battle very powerful enemies and try to work together.

Collects Age of X-Man: X-Tremists issues 1-5.

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Writer: Leah Williams

Artist: Georges Jeanty

Nate Grey created a utopia for mutants, an alternate reality where everyone is a mutant. The biggest threats in this world are intimate relationships. Love, both romantic and familial, is forbidden. Of course, people still have these dangerous feelings so Nate needs Department X to remove them. Psylocke, Iceman, Northstar, Blob, Jubilee, and Moneta are Department X. Bobby is his old self, joking as much as he can. Jean-Paul is trying to ignore Bobby as much as possible and is more interested in books than working. Betsy carries the heavy load of altering mutants’ memories “for their own good”. Blob is the team leader, but he has feelings of his own toward one of the team members. Jubilee believes in the cause and works her best. Moneta is a new character. She hates anyone who has feelings of love and calls them retrograde.

The team gets a tip about two lovers and heads out to arrest them. Psylocke is supposed to remove their memories of each other. But they find out that the woman, Nezumi, is pregnant. Children are cooked up artificially and no hospital can help in a delivery. What will Department X do? Also, we readers find out more about secrets behind how this society is held together.

Williams explores what the world would be like without intimacy on both societal and a more personal level. How the people must constantly guard against their own feelings and hide them from others. And ultimately how that’s going to fail. However, creating a new character to be the prejudiced idiot felt a bit of a cop out, but of course making an established character into one would alienate the fans of that character. Blob had surprising depth. I rather enjoyed the relationship between Blob and his crush, but I don’t see them getting together in the real world. Too bad we’re not going to see any repercussions of this series in the real world. None of these characters are my favorites but they were an interesting mix, especially as I don’t see any of them joining a secret police force for real.

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