superheroes


Collects issues 1-6 of the miniseries.

Writer: Gail Simone
Artist: Aaron Lopresti

This was a fun series set in Conan’s Hyborian Age. We get glimpses of Conan’s childhood when he meets a mysterious little girl called Yanna when they’re both very young. Eventually, Conan falls for Yanna.

In the main story, adult Conan rescues gambler Kian from torture and death. Kian promises Conan a fortune because Kian has bet against the local gladiator pit’s champion. Conan takes the gambler to that town and sees that the champion in question is a woman. Must to his surprise, he thinks that she’s his long lost Yanna. When she wins the fight, Conan tries to free her but is surprised and soon also in chains. They’re both now owned by the gladiator master. At the same time, a couple of mysterious crows are stalking our heroes.

The champion has lost her memory and doesn’t know who she is. She’s also lost most of her powers because ordinary chains can hold her.

This was a good cross-over comic. It centers on Conan and paints him as more chivalrous figure than I remember. It has plenty of action and even a couple of moral choices. We aren’t explained just how Diana is sent to Conan’s world but that’s not the point, either.

I rather liked the art which isn’t too cheesecakey.- In the beginning of the tale, Diana is wearing just rags but the blood stains on them look very similar to the symbols she usually wears which was a nice touch.

Collects Spider-Girl issues 0, 1-5 (1998).

Writer: Tom DeFalco
Artists: Ron Frenz, Bill Sienkiewiz, Pat Oliffe, Al Williamson

Spider-Girl is set in an alternate future where Peter and Mary Jane had a girl, May, who is also called Mayday. She’s a star basketball player and aces every subject in high school. She’s both a science nerd and a star athlete. She’s got friends in both groups, which, of course, brings trouble for her.

In issue 0, May’s spider powers (enhanced strength and speed and spider-sense) kick in right in the middle of a basketball game. Peter and Mary Jane realize what happened but they haven’t told May about Peter’s career as Spider-Man. May overhears them talking about it. Then the Green Goblin reappears. He threatens May and tells her that her dad should meet him at the bridge or he’ll kill Peter’s family. While Peter tries (unsuccessfully) get help from the New Avengers, May forces MJ to admit that Peter was Spider-Man. May puts on the Spider-Man suit and heads out to rescue her dad.

The Green Goblin here isn’t Norman Osborn but Norman’s grandkid who blames Peter for killing his dad and granddad. He’s almost howling for revenge and is totally insane. May manages to outwit him. We also meet her supporting cast which includes nerds Jimmy Yama and Courtney Duran. Her best friend is Davida who can barely stand May’s nerdy friends. Her sporty friends are Brad Miller, whom May has a crush on, and Brad’s best friend “Moose” Mansfield who picks on Jimmy all the time.

However, at the end of issue 0, Peter, MJ, and May burn the Spider-Man costume and webslingers “in silent agreement”.

Of course, May can’t stop being a superhero. In the first issue, her dad is being stalked and she must interfere. She ends up putting on a black mask and a black, very formfitting “gym cloths” and heads out to beat bad guys. She ends up going toe to toe with a teleporting mobster called Mr. Nobody.

In the second issue, she fights an insane killer called Crazy Eight and realizes just how dangerous being a superhero can be. She also meets Darkdevil who tries to warn her off and later tries to trap her.

In the third issue May and her group of messy friends got to the FF museum’s new exhibition. A super villain attacks and May puts on her tights to save them and also meets the Fantastic Five. Their leader is John Storm and members include his wife and skrull Layla Storm, the original Thing, the Big Brain (Reed has lost his body and now lives in a flying robot), and Spi-Lord Franklin Richards. May has been keeping a low profile in the previous issues but this fight puts her right on the front page of Daily Bugle. Her dad is furious. In this future, Peter has lost one of his feet and that’s why he decided to stop being Spider-Man. He wants her to quit.

The fourth issue starts with him yelling at her. She leaves for school. Another fight breaks out between Jimmy and Moose, after which there’s an accident with a (presumably) mystical amulet transforms the janitor to the Dragon King who attacks the kids. Spider-Girl defends them. But back home, Peter is even more determined that she’ll stop being Spider-Girl.

The fifth issue against begins with a fight between May and Peter. May leaves for basketball practice. But she skips it and instead walks around. Meanwhile, the original Venom breaks out. Peter has gone out, intending to talk with May. Instead, Venom finds him and bonds with him. May must now fight Venom who has bonded with her dad!

This is a very 90s comic. For some reason DeFalco decided to write this in second person and he uses a lot of descriptive boxes, essentially telling the same things that we see. Also, the art is very typical of 90s Spider-Man comics, especially the 0 issue where the artist is Ron Frenz, whose Spider-Man comics I’ve read a lot. Whether you like this comic or not, depends a lot on if you like those features. Personally, I don’t mind them too much, as I’ve read a lot of these types of comics (except for the second person narration). However, I don’t really care for the strange mid-riff bearing fashion which is common to both teenagers in high school and their moms (at least MJ). Also, when May put on the “gym cloths” to do some superheroing, she also had a bare mid-riff which was really strange.

This is a good riff on the general Spider-Man motifs: high school with friends from there, secret identity which makes May miss important meetings (well, ok, just once in this collection. But it was recurring motif in Spider-Man), and goofy villains. Of course, there are differences: instead of Peter’s aunt May, Mayday has both Peter and MJ and their relationship seems to be good, at least until May starts keeping her superheroing a secret. Also, May herself isn’t bullied at school; it’s her friend who is bullied.

Peter works in the CSI department of the local police but there’s no mention of MJ’s career. May is a intelligent, witty, and very dependable. She has a great sense of responsibility, which is very appropriate. She even tries to use on her dad. 🙂 Even when she disagrees with her dad, she respects them and tries to keep them safe.

Overall, I rather enjoyed this comic. Too bad that this ended up being her only collection published in Finland. In fact, only two female Marvel superheroes have their own publications in Finland: Spider-Girl and Spider-Woman (Jessica Drew). Both were published only for one collection.

The second and final volume of the adventures of Rogue and Gambit. Collects issues 7-12.

Writer: Kelly Thompson
Artists: Oscar Bazaldua, Javier Pina

I enjoyed this collection a lot, perhaps not quite as much as the first one, but still a lot. Mojo can be a very good villain, when used well, so I was happy to see him. Rogue and Gambit are kidnapped by Mojo into the Mojoworld. They’re essentially brainwashed and put to various shows for viewers’ entertainment. But something goes wrong: every time Rogue’s powers malfunction and she kills Remy. Mojo sends Spiral to fix her.

The last two issues center of Gambit when he returns to New Orleans and to his guild. I’ve never been a big fan of the whole thief guild stuff but it was an ok ending to the series.

This was light and fun. I love the chemistry between Remy and Rogue. I loved the various Mojo world weirdness, seeing Remy and Rogue in different genre movies/ TV-shows, if only briefly. The whole things starts with HoneyMoonlighting, a riff on the old TV-show (which I liked a lot) and continues with a surprise guest appearance of a character I haven’t seen in a long time (and I’d love to see more). The story also gives Rogue a chance to “fix” her powers. I’m pretty sure some people will be unhappy with the fix. I’m OK with it and I’m hoping that it will stay this time.

Spiral also gets an interesting development and I’m intrigued to see where we’ll see her next. Rogue and Remy will next appear in the new Excalibur comic with a new (to me) writer. Here’s hoping they’ll do a good job.

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.

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