superheroes


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.

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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.

A one-shot.

Writer: Roger Stern
Artists: Steve Rude, Al Milgrom

This was a far more typical meeting of characters from different comic publishers, than Fantastic Four and Superman. It came out in 1999. The story starts with Clark quickly recapping the Hulk’s origin and comparing it with his own. The actual story is set in a modern world, mostly show with the use of cell phones because the aesthetics are reminiscent of 1950s, clearly wanting the reader to connect the story with the early careers of both characters. Also, Hulk and Superman just inhabit the same world, no explanations. Almost all of the story is a flash-back which Clark is telling Lois, even though she was there.

The story is set very early in Hulk’s time line when nobody yet knew that Banner was Hulk and General Ross had hired him to track down Hulk. Banner can’t control the change, either.

Clark is also quite young, competing as a reporter against Lois who doesn’t know who he is.

Hulk has been seen in New Mexico and Lois heads out, followed shortly by Clark. Banner turns to Hulk and clashes briefly with Superman. Luthor is also at Ross’ base; he wants to direct Hulk’s strength and fury against Superman.

I very much enjoyed Rude’s art and it’s very appropriate for the early versions of both characters. However, while the story fits well with both characters and their supporting cast at the time, it’s very basic.

Collects issues Aquaman Rebirth 1-7.

Writer: Dan Abnett
Artists: Oscar Jimenez, Brad Walker, Scot Eaton, Philippe Briones, Mark Morales, Andrew Hennessy, Wayne Faucher

The first issue is an introduction to Aquaman and the way he’s torn between Atlantis and the surface world. As the king of Atlantis, he’s trying to get better relations between his country and USA. (Why he wouldn’t pick, say, Canada or Britain, well… it’s a US comic so apparently there was no chance of that??)

The plot really starts in the second issue. Arthur has built an Atlantean embassy on US soil, called Spindrift Station, and the Black Manta attacks it. Still, Arthur is blamed for the supervillain’s actions. When Arthur and Mera walk into the White House, wanting to talk, they can’t see the president. Instead his chief of staff delays them while whining about protocol and then they hear that a US ship has been attacked. An Atlantean sword is left behind, an obvious way to implicate Arthur’s people. But the US diplomats fall for this act and arrest Arthur, over Mera’s objections.

Would they have arrested any other head of state? No. But later we get a prison break and an excuse for Superman to get involved. Also, Black Manta joins a shady criminal organization.

I can appreciate that Arthur is in a very difficult situation. Some of his people don’t want anything to do with the surface world; some loath them (rightly) because of pollution. Humans fear Atlantis because they’ve attacked before. Still, I think the international politics weren’t handled well. It does show how Arthur is doing his best to keep the peace while seemingly everyone else wants a war.

The best thing about the comic was Mera. She’s clearly her own person. She doesn’t care for the surface people but agrees to work with them because Arthur wants it. She’s got a temper, too. I loved their relationship and I’m really hoping that DC isn’t just going to fridge her.

I did enjoy reading this, mostly because of Mera. I haven’t read Aquaman before so I don’t know how different it’s from previous incarnations. But anyone expecting Arthur to look like Jason Momoa is going to be disappointed.

FF one-shot. Part of DC/Marvel cross-over classics vol 4.

Writer and artist: Dan Jurgens
Supporting Illustrator: Art Thibert
Cover Illustrator: Alex Ross

While cleaning up, I found a stack of old comics and decided to read through them to see what I’d keep.

This was short, fun read. It came out in 1999. Frustratingly, this doesn’t seem to be the first time that the FF and Superman have met because they already know each other.

While Superman is dealing with a bunch of terrorists who have brought a nuclear bomb to Metropolis (not a bright group), he receives a message crystal from his father, Jor-El. Jor- El reveals that Galactus was responsible for Kryton’s destruction! Superman wants answers and he heads to Access where he can apparently cross-over to the Marvel universe.

The Fantastic Four are happy to see him again, especially Franklin who loves to watch Superman cartoons and is very happy to really meet his hero. The FF are no longer living in Baxter Building but on Pier Four in the harbor. Suddenly, a bright light comes from the crystal and the FF’s equipment start attacking everyone. Also, the Cyborg Superman appears, boasting that he took over the machines. Before the machines can be smashed, a strange satellite appears and bathes Superman is a clear light and makes him into Galactus’ herald! Reed tries to interfere and the satellite kidnaps them both. Cyborg Superman has a way to modify the FF’s space ship so that they can travel to Galactus. Very reluctantly, Susan, Johnny, and Ben agree to work together with the metallic villain and they head into space.

Hank Henshaw, the Cyborg Superman, craves Galactus’ power and thinks that he can get that by becoming Galactus’ herald. He’s furious that Galactus chose Superman instead of him. He constantly taunts the FF. Susan and the rest of the FF are determined to get Reed back and also to rescue Superman, if they can.

This was a fun little story. It was very nice to the heroes working together rather than fighting against each other, usually over some silly misunderstanding, as they’re far more likely to do in cross-overs, both inside a company and especially between companies.

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