superheroes


Collects Cloak and Dagger maxiseries issues 1-11 (1985) and their part of Strange Tales issues 1 and 2.

Writer: Bill Mantlo
Artists: Rick Leonardi, Art Adams, Terry Shoemaker, Terry Austin, Mike Mignola, Bret Blevins, Marc Silvestri, June Brigman

Just like the first Cloak and Dagger collection, “Shadows and Light”, “Lost and found” is a perfect example of 1980s superhero comics. Compared to current comics, it’s very wordy. The pictures are explained and Mantlo also has lots of explanations about how Cloak feels. There are also some unfortunate stereotyping. But if you don’t mind that, it’s a very good read.

It starts right from the previous collection and has the same (small) cast of recurring characters. Cloak and Dagger break up a illicit porn shop. The police show up and the men who run the peep show, using mostly unwilling girls, tell detective Brigid O’Reilly that many of the cops in her precinct have been bribed. O’Reilly starts to look into it over several issues while tracking down a big drug shipment coming to New York. Also, father Delgado is increasingly obsessed with “saving” Dagger from Cloak.

Meanwhile, Dagger wants a normal life. When father Delgado tells Dagger that her mom and stepfather are in down, Dagger leaps to the chance to meeting them again. Unfortunately, she’s bitterly disappointed and becomes a bit disillusioned.

Issue seven takes our heroes out of America and to Europe where they’re tracking down the opium so that they can get to the source and shut it down. This takes them from Marseilles to Istanbul and takes the rest of the collection. They encounter various local gangsters and for a brief time Dagger even joins a circus and finds a little bit of happiness there.

On the long ship voyage to France they’re joined by another young stowaway, Bill Clayton. He’s enchanted by Dagger’s beauty and he tags along, claiming that he’ll be a good guide. He speaks many languages and does know a lot of about various European countries. But Cloak is unhappy; he knows that Bill wants Dagger for himself.

The last two issues, in the Strange Tales comics, are set in India.

Spider-Man guest stars in the third issue and the fourth issue is a part of the Secret Wars II cross-over with the Beyonder getting a small taste of New York’s criminal underworld. Unlike the vast majority of cross-overs, Beyonder’s guest stint isn’t too bad. Dagger and Cloak must explain to him a lot of things, like why he shouldn’t just kill the bad guys. This makes their mission more clear to themselves. They decide that they should give the criminals a second chance to repent and turn to the light. However, in practice, this doesn’t change their M.O. much.

During the first half of the series, there are subplots involving detective O’Reilly and father Delgado. However, these are quickly dropped without clousure when our heroes leave US. I suspect that since this maxiseries led to a bi-monthly series, the subplots continue there.

Overall, this was a good read with very down-to-earth heroes. It was great to see the heroes really trying to stop the drug trade rather than just fight the symptoms. On the other hand, there are some stereotypes which can be uncomfortable to modern readers. This story also deals with organizations which are supposed to be good for people and the society but are corrupt instead.

At the heart of the story is the relationship between Cloak and Dagger. As long as he has his powers, Cloak can’t lead a normal life. His darkness needs to devour life’s light; he needs Dagger’s light or he will succumb to the hunger and feeding so much from humans that he’ll kill them. He’s jealous of anything or anyone other who draw Dagger’s attention and can’t help but to delight in Dagger’s disappointment in her mother and later in other disappointments. Dagger wants a normal life. When Bill Clayton gives her a taste of it, she’s eager to grasp it. But sometimes she gets weary of seeing bad guys all the time and wants to really punish them. Some of the stories explore her past but Cloak’s past remains mostly a mystery.

Rick Leonardi is the artist for issue 1-4 and 6. The other issues all have different artists. However, they’re styles are surprisingly similar so the differences didn’t bother me too much.

Collects the first Superman versus Aliens miniseries.

Writer: Dan Jurgens
Artists: Dan Jurgens, Kevin Nowlan

Just like I predicted, to make the aliens at all threatening, Superman must lose his powers.

Lexcorp has a space program. Lois and Clark have been invited to interview the head of that program, doctor Sheryl Kimble. She’s an ambitious scientist (and I’m sure you all know what that means in the context of aliens…. :)). Lexcorp has captured a message from space. It’s in unknown language but Clark recognizes it as Kryptonian and as a distress call. When the probe which sends the distress call splashes into the ocean, Clark rescues it. It makes a mental connection with him and sends images of a surviving Kryptonian city which is badly in need of help. Reluctantly, he allows Lexcorp to investigate it.

Lexcorp has a hyperspace capable small space ship. Clark takes it and heads to the city which is on an asteroid, far way from any sun.

There he finds that the city has been ravaged by alien monstrosities. He finds four unconscious survivors, who look human (or Kryptonian). He puts them in the ship and sends them back to Earth while he remains to explore the city. He’s not any longer under a yellow sun so his powers diminish quickly. He’s attacked by aliens who burn his eyes. A blonde young woman, Kara, saves him. Kara tells him that the aliens have been attacking the city for years and she grew up as a soldier. Clark wants to find a way to help her and the rest of people who are out of food and medicine.

Meanwhile on Earth, the ship has returned. Of course, all the “survivors” have been infected. The aliens burst out and start to attack everyone.

This exactly what you expect from a cross-over. Superman fights increasingly desperately against hordes of aliens with Kara by his side. Kara is an experienced soldier even though she’s only 16. In the ship, on the way to the city, Clark reminiscens how he was forced to kill his fellow Kryptonians before and is determined never to kill again. Even when fighting the aliens, he tried not to kill them. When he first meets them, he tries to talk to them, so he’s very much in character. Meanwhile, Lois tries to survive the aliens and is determined to kill them. She lectures Kimble who wants keep the aliens alive for research.

The art is solid and brings out the horror of the aliens. This cross-over works surprisingly well even though it has pretty much all the expected aliens plot points.

Collects the first Batman/Aliens miniseries.

Writer: Ron Marz
Artists: Bernie Wrightson

The story starts with Batman parachuting down to the Amazon jungle at the border of Guatemala and Mexico. After wrestling with a crocodile, he meets five elite soldiers who are on a secret mission. Batman himself reveals only that he’s there to rescue someone. The leader of the soldiers, Sealey, is very hostile toward Batman while the only female soldier, Hyatt, stops Sealey from posturing and gets them to focus on the mission. After a while, they stumble on Mayan ruins and next to them is a spaceship. They find the body of a humanoid alien whose chest has been torn open from the inside. They continue to the ruins and are soon face to face with the terrible Aliens.

This is exactly what you expect from a comic like this. The soldiers include a belligerent commander, a religious man, and the woman who wants to prove herself. There’s also an obligatory twist that one of them betrays the others. The coolest thing are the Aliens and Batman fighting them.

The art is great. Wrightson is co-creator of Swamp Thing and has illustrated a lot of horror comics. I really like his Batman and he draws great Aliens.

Collects issues 1-4.


Writer: Ron Marz
Artists: Rick Leonardi, Mike Perkins

The first issue of the series starts with an alien Green Lantern dying when an Alien bursts from his chest. Back on Earth, Green Arrow and the Black Canary stop a bank robbery in Hal Jordan’s hometown. They’re about to get a bite to eat together when Hal is summoned away. He meets five of his fellow Green Lanterns. The Guardians of the Galaxy send them to investigate the disappearance of another Lantern. They’re attacked by the Aliens and once over their surprise, they easily defend themselves with the rings and would have killed the Aliens. Except Hal stops them, reminding that the Aliens are just animals and don’t deserve to the killed. Instead, they take the Aliens to Green Lantern planet Mogo where they (hopefully) can’t hurt anyone else.

Ten years later, a group of former Lanterns (including a couple who were in training to become Lanterns) come looking for help from the only Green Lantern, Kyle Rayner. Saalak, who was with Hal in the previous story, tells Kyle about the Aliens. Now, a space ship has crash landed on Mogo and the former Lanterns are afraid that the crew is in terrible danger. Kyle agrees to help and takes them all to Mogo. They investigate the ship. The crew is gone. Only the captain of the ship, a beautiful woman called Crowe, is still there. She leads the others to a hole down to the planet, leading to the nest where the rest of the crew has been taken.

The group is attacked. The Aliens take Kyle’s group as well, leaving only Kyle, Crowe, and Saalak behind. Kyle also loses his ring. He feels unarmed but can’t leave the others in danger. Armed with only a pistol he can’t use, he follows Crowe and Saalak down.

This was pretty cheesy and Kyle lost his ring, as I guessed. But it also has some surprisingly nice human touches. Ollie, Dinah, and Kyle have a nice, if short moment. The Lanterns resent Kyle or what he represents and he’s not thrilled with their attitude, either. The captain, Crowe, is focused on rescuing her crew and isn’t at all interested in Kyle’s advances. So, overall this was a bit better than I expected.

I’m familiar with Rick Leonardi’s art from his X-Men work but here it’s more impersonal, more generic than previously. Maybe it’s the inker.

This is clearly aimed at fans of both franchises. If you like these sorts of cross-overs, this is one of the better ones I’ve read.

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.

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.

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