superheroes


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.

This book brings together some of my favorite franchises: Star Trek TNG and the X-Men.

Publication year: 1998
Format: print
Publisher: Pocket Books
Page count: 265

Based on the premise, this sounded either terrible or wonderful. A bit surprisingly, it was just okay. Apparently, the heroes have met before but in a comic book I haven’t been able to find.

An admiral on Starbase 88 contacts captain Picard because all of a sudden seven X-Men have appeared on the Starbase. The mutants tell the admiral that Picard knows them. Apparently, they have met before because of the machinations of Kang, the time (and now universe) traveling conqueror. Enterprise-E is taking Commander Worf to a conference with the Klingons. But now the conference will have to wait until Picard picks up the X-Men.

At the same time, on planet Xhaldia, which isn’t a member of the Federation but on friendly terms, young people all over the planet have changed in strange ways and have strange, very powerful powers. The government is scared of these youths and confine them to a prison, for the safety of the other people. One of the changed people is a brother to a man who serves on the Enterprise. Not surprisingly, the youths feel that they’re treated unjustly and plan a break out.

The X-Men in this book are Storm, Shadowcat, Wolverine, Banshee, Arcangel, Colossus, and Nightcrawler. I was really looking forward to their interactions with the various TNG crew, such as Geordi and Kurt or Kitty and Data. Also, Federation pretty much is what the X-Men have been fighting for their whole lives so it would have been interesting to see their reactions.

Unfortunately, quite a large part of the book is devoted to unknown characters on Xhaldia. I understand that Friedman had to establish the conflict which the Enterprise-E crew and the X-Men are solving together but the book is quite short and so there wasn’t more than a couple of all too brief interactions between the crews. Most notably, Picard and Storm hit it off very well and so did Worf and Wolverine, while Warren rubbed pretty much everyone the wrong way. He loathes being confined to small corridors of the ship. Guinan and Wolverine also talk a little which was fun.

Of course, the whole plot of mutants appearing on a Star Trek planet at the same time as the X-Men visit, is very contrived. It was fun to read about the X-Men and the TNG crew fighting side by side, though.

Collects issues 1-5 for JLA Rebirth.

Writer: Bryan Hitch
Artists: Bryan Hitch, Tony S. Daniel, Jesus Merino, Sandy Florea, Daniel Hernandez, Scott Hanna, Andy Owens

I’ve become quite skeptical of these rebirths, mainly because the characters don’t change; they’re just younger. That was exactly what happened with the previous DC relaunch where the JLA members met for the first time, again. I guess that’s done in order to attract new, younger readers. Or maybe some old readers feel younger again when reading about younger character. But I like the old continuity and I’m often sorry to see it’s messed with.

While most of the JLA members are the same (Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Cyborg, and the Flash) I was delighted to see that two members were different. Superman has apparently died. However, another Superman and his family have come from another dimension. Clark and Lois are married and have a son. Batman is, of course, very suspicious of the new Superman, to the point of excluding him unless he’s very much needed while still wanting to keep Superman as part of JLA. However, that’s pretty much pointless because when we see the (brief) interactions between Lois and Clark, it’s pretty clear that they’re the same characters, with the added responsibility of a son.

Another difference are the Green Lanterns. Apparently, Hal gave his job to Jessica Cruz and Simon Baz who are now the junior members of the League and trying their best to measure up to the more experienced heroes. So, the core group of the same characters trust each other implicitly but the new characters add some uncertainty, but not a lot. It’s still way better than the previous relaunch.

The first issue is a stand-alone, where the JLA gets together to fight a menace from space (yay! I always love those!). The menace turns to be a “Reaper” which is trying to harvest humanity and it’s only the first of many.

The rest of the collection deals with the titular Extinction Machines. Earthquakes are doing damage all over the world, at the same time. JLA struggles to respond. Also, humans around JLA members are behaving strangely and their powers are failing. However, Cyborg finds out that the earthquakes aren’t natural. So the JLA rallies against a very powerful threat.

I rather enjoyed the “new” JLA even though we only get to know the new Superman a little and not the new Lanterns at all. Superman is the only character which is introduced a little, so I don’t recommend this for new readers. (Which is a bit strange for a relaunch.). I enjoyed seeing the heroes struggling against natural forces which isn’t done too often. Essentially, the longer story feels like a blockbuster movie, going forward at a breathless pace.

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