Essential Classic X-Men Vol. 3

Essential Classic X-Men Vol. 3

Essential Classic X-Men Vol. 3

First Published: February 2009

Contents: The X-Men #54 (March 1969) to #66 (March 1970); Amazing Spider-Man #92 (January 1971); Incredible Hulk #150 (April 1972) and #161 (March 1973); the Beast stories from Amazing Adventures #11 (March 1972) to #17 (March 1973); and Marvel Team-Up #4 (September 1972)

Key Creator Credits: Roy Thomas, Werner Roth, Arnold Drake, Don Heck, Neal Adams, Tom Palmer, Steve Englehart, Tom Sutton, Herb Trimpe, and others

Key First Appearances: Living Monolith, Lawrence Trask, Karl Lykos/Sauron, Savage Land Mutates (Amphibius, Barbarus, Brainchild, Equilibrius, Gaza, Lorelei, Lupo, Piper), Shiro Y0shida/Sunfire

Story Continues From: Essential Classic X-Men Vol. 2

Story Continues In: Essential X-Men Vol. 1

Overview: Here we go, readers! It’s the final adventures of the original X-Men as members of Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters. Cyclops, Marvel Girl, Angel, Beast, Iceman, Havok, and now Polaris go on a non-stop run of adventures that takes them from the sands of Egypt to the jungles of the Savage Land to the bright lights of the Las Vegas strip.

The highlight of this collection is the Roy Thomas and Neal Adams all-to-brief run on the title. Adams had been doing work for DC for about two years when he came over to do some work at Marvel. (At that time, creators generally worked for just one company at a time. If someone did work for more than one publisher, one of their jobs would be done under a pseudonym.) At the time that he came onboard with X-Men #56, the book was floundering in the sales column. Adams came in and helped plot a wild adventure ride, introducing new threats to the mutants.

While this is the most creative peak in the title’s seven-year run, it could not stop the cancellation axe. The final issue with original content was X-Men #66. Beginning with issue #67, the title ran reprints of old X-Men stories. Let this sink in for a minute. There was a time when X-Men was strictly a reprint book. It was more profitable for Marvel to re-run old stories versus commissioning new stories. Unbelievable!

Now, the title may have been in reprint mode, but the characters still existed, and became free game to use in other books. So Iceman makes an appearance in Amazing Spider-Man, and Havok & Polaris show up in the pages of the Incredible Hulk.

The volume concludes with the solo adventures of Hank McCoy, who finally graduated Xavier’s school and landed a job in a Brand Corporation research lab. McCoy works on isolating the chemical cause of mutation into a liquid solution. Trying to keep his work from falling into the hands of corporate spies, McCoy swallows the formula, and his body is mutated into a furry gray Beast. (In later issues, the fur would change permanently to blue, but that’s not important for this black & white collection.) The Beast finds that he is trapped in this further-mutated body. Despite attempts to hide his mutation, Hank finally embraces his blue-furred identity. These stories are written by Steve Englehart, and he would continue the Beast’s story in the pages of The Avengers.

What makes this Essential?: In my humble opinion, this really is an essential volume to own. First, the Thomas-Adams run on this title is the first “great” story-arc in the history of the X-Men. The Sentinels are more menacing; the Savage Land is more savage; and the introduction of Sunfire opens the door for the international approach to the X-Men in the mid-1970s. In addition, by collecting the X-Men adventures in the other Marvel titles of the 1970s, it highlights how a proper Essential should be put together. The books should be reprinting the character stories, and not necessarily just within a specific title. The solo adventures of the Beast would never have been reprinted in any other Essential volume, so including them here was perfect. While some of the characters’ appearances can be found in other Essentials (see Footnotes), having these stories in one book reads so much better for the X-Men fan.

Footnotes: Amazing Spider-Man #92 is also reprinted in Essential Spider-Man Vol. 5.

Incredible Hulk #150 and #161 are also reprinted in Essential Hulk Vol. 4.

Marvel Team-Up #4 is also reprinted in Essential Marvel Team-Up Vol. 1.

Amazing Adventures #17 reprinted the origin of the Beast, originally told in back-up stories from X-Men #49 to #53 (see Essential Classic X-Men Vol. 2). The cover to issue #17 and new framing pages are included in this Essential.

X-Men #67 to #93 and X-Men Annual #1 & #2 reprinted classic X-Men stories from the 1960s. New covers were created for those issues, and the covers are included in this Essential.

If you like this volume, try: the X-Men: Hidden Years series by John Byrne from 1999 to 2001. This series was designed to pick up the story of the original team following X-Men #66, the last original issue of the series. Byrne begins his story with what should be issue #67, but numbered as #1, and continues the adventures. Over the next two years, Byrne told new stories set in the Marvel Universe of the early 1970s, so the mutants encounter a Fantastic Four with Crystal subbing for Invisible Girl. We meet a young Ororo, before she has her official first appearance as Storm in Giant-Size X-Men #1. The problem with this book is that it was written and drawn by John Byrne. Not that he necessarily did a bad job with either, but more that Byrne became a very polarizing figure in comics by the early 2000s. A new leadership team took over the reigns as Marvel’s Editor-in-Chief, and opted to cancel the book as the X-Men universe was too convoluted and needed to be streamlined. (Note that streamlining of the X-Men books lasted for about one month.) You can read into that the cancellation was due more to personality conflicts between Byrne and management, and not due to poor sales, poor stories, or a convoluted X-Men universe. This entire series was collected in two trade paperbacks in 2012, so it should be relatively easy to track down. If you are a Byrne fan, by all means check this series out.

Showcase Presents World’s Finest Vol. 2

Showcase Presents World's Finest Vol. 2

Showcase Presents World’s Finest Vol. 2

First Published: October 2008

Contents: Superman, Batman, and Robin stories from World’s Finest Comics #112 (September 1960) to #145 (November 1964)

Key Creator Credits: Curt Swan, Dick Sprang, Edmond Hamilton, Bill Finger, Jerry Coleman, Jim Mooney, Dave Wood, and others

Key First Appearances: Composite Superman

Story Continues From: Showcase Presents World’s Finest Vol. 1

Story Continues In: Showcase Presents World’s Finest Vol. 3

Overview: Sometimes the smartest creations in life is simply combining two great things together. For example, milk chocolate is awesome all on its own. So is peanut butter. Those two by themselves are some of the tastiest sweets in the world. But in 1928, Harry Reese had the brilliant idea to combine the two together. Now, some 80 years later, the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup is the most popular candy bar in United States. <Excuse me for a moment, I think I need to run to the store to pick up a Reese’s!>

So peanut butter and chocolate, two great tastes that go great together. We all get that. But you are here to read about comics, right? So let’s take two great heroes (Batman and Superman), merge them together into one title, and we get the Showcase Presents World’s Finest Vol. 2.

The stories here follow the same pattern as the previous volume. Something happens that brings the two heroes together. Between Superman’s strength and Batman’s smarts, the heroes find themselves on the winning end of things at the end of each 15-page story. There is no continuity with these stories, so you can read them in any order. The supporting casts for both characters make numerous appearances along the way, as well as their rogues galleries.

It’s funny that I used the word ‘merge’ in the first paragraph. (Truthfully, not funny, but rather deliberate on my part!) The highlight of this volume involves the introduction in World’s Finest #142 of the Composite Superman, who might be just the greatest DC Silver Age character of all time. Joe Meach was a down-in-his-luck diver (don’t most divers head down eventually?), and Superman helps him out by getting him a custodian job at the Superman Museum. One night while Meach was cleaning up in front of a Legion of Super-Heroes exhibit, lightning hits the Legion figurines, and the electrical energy passes on to Meach. Suddenly, Meach finds that he has all of the powers of the Legionaires. Using Chameleon Boy’s shape-changing ability, Meach creates a hybrid costume that is half Superman, half Batman. Dubbing himself the Composite Superman, he appears to befriend Superman and Batman, but his long term goal is to destroy Superman’s life. Fortunately, our heroes see though his scheme, and stop Meach until he exhausts his powers. The Composite Superman, be it Meach or other characters, will return time and time again to face off against Superman and Batman.

Why should these stories be Showcased?: I can think of two good reasons why these stories should be showcased. The first is Batman, and the second is Superman. Seriously, this is a no-brainer. Of course these should be collected. Sure, they are Silver Age stories, but I would contend that the best Batman or Superman Silver Age stories from this time period are in this collection, and not in the Showcase Presents Batman or Showcase Presents Superman volumes. This is a perfect volume to skip around and read the stories that most interest you. I was always fond of the Joker-Lex Luthor team-ups. (DC tried to duplicate that team-up magic with a Clayface-Brainiac collaboration. Yeah, not quite as interesting as Joker-Luthor!)

Footnotes: The story from World’s Finest Comics #141 is also reprinted in Showcase Presents Robin Vol. 1.

If you like this volume, try: the Batman & Superman: World’s Finest maxi-series from 1999. Written by Karl Kessel, with art by Dave Taylor, Peter Doherty, and Robert Campanella, the series looks that the Batman/Superman team-ups over a 10-year period. Issue #1 takes place ten years before present day, issue #2 takes place nine years before present day, and so on. This is set in the Post-Crisis universe and reflects events that happened in their comics between 1986 and 1998. In the first issue, the two heroes team-up for the first time, but fail to save a doctor. With each issue, the two heroes re-unite on the anniversary of the doctor’s death. This collection is a solid story, with glimpses into the expanded families of both characters. We get a funny Bat-Mite/Mr. Mxyzptlk team-up in issue #6 that brings along Robin and Lois Lane. The standout issue in this story is #7. Taking place sometime after the death of Jason Todd and after Superman’s return from his space exile, Superman takes Batman to his hometown of Smallville, Kansas. The two actually spend time talking through their issues and emotions. No super villains interrupt the discussion. In fact, the heroic actions by the two stars are actions that anyone could do in their daily life; Superman assists a woman delivering a baby, while Batman performs CPR on a doctor. A trade paperback collecting all ten issues was released in 2003. I can’t recommend this title, and in particular issue #7, strongly enough – PICK THIS UP!

Essential Wolverine Vol. 5

Essential Wolverine Vol. 5

Essential Wolverine Vol. 5

First Published: January 2009

Contents: Wolverine #91 (July 1995) to #110 (February 1997); Wolverine Annual ’96 (1996); and Uncanny X-Men #332 (May 1996)

Key Creator Credits: Larry Hama, Adam Kubert, Val Semeiks, Anthony Winn, and others

Key First Appearances: Dirt Nap, Chimera, Ozymandias

Story Continues From: Essential Wolverine Vol. 4

Story Continues In: Essential Wolverine Vol. 6

Overview: Everyone’s favorite Canucklehead is back! Wolverine returns to the black & white pages, still sporting the bone claws, but becoming more feral in his nature and looks!

The stories in this volume start out with the X-Men still trying to understand and cope with the more animalistic version of Wolverine. He wants to be outside in the woods, and not cooped up in a lab in Xavier’s mansion. As he gets more primitive, his body starts to revert as well. Eventually, he is kidnapped by Genesis (Cable’s son) who wants to re-bond Logan’s skeleton with adamantium. However, his mutant healing ability overwhelms the process, and Wolverine’s body rejects the metal.

Following that, Logan goes on journey to bring himself back from the animalistic edge. Along for this journey is an odd companion, Elektra. While she is more closely associated with Daredevil, this pairing actually works well. Elektra coaches Logan back towards a (relatively) normal human personality.

This volume gives us a lot of familiar faces, whether in cameos or team-ups. From the X-Men, we have appearances by Cyclops, Jean Grey, Storm, Beast, and Iceman. From Alpha Flight, we see Guardian, Vindicator, and Shaman. A story arc takes us back to Madripoor where we see Archie Corrigan and Tyger Tiger again. From his time in Japan, we see Logan go on a mission to track down the missing Yukio and Amiko. And no volume would be complete at this point without a couple of appearances by Sabretooth.

What makes this Essential?: Once again, I am impressed by how much I enjoyed the volume. In full disclosure, I was never a fan of Wolverine as a solo character, and the over-use of the character in the 1990s drove me away from a lot of his appearances. Larry Hama continues his long run with Logan, which will come to an end in Volume 6. My biggest complaint about this volume is a carryover from the previous volume. With the way the books were produced and printed in the mid-1990s, reprinting them in black & white lead to a lot of really dark pages. There are times when some of the caption boxes and panels are very hard to read. 

Footnotes: Essential Wolverine Vol. 4 ended with Wolverine #90 (February 1995). Volume 5 begins with Wolverine #91 (July 1995). For the four months in-between, the book was renamed Weapon X as part of the Age of Apocalypse storyline that ran through all of the mutant books.

If you like this volume, try: the Onslaught story from 1996, which is touched on briefly at the end of Wolverine #105. Onslaught was a sentient psionic entity created from the consciousness of Professor X and Magneto. The X-Men (in all of the various teams) go toe-to-toe with Onslaught, but need help from the Avengers and the Fantastic Four to finally defeat their foe. However, the victory came at a cost, as the Avengers and FF were shuttled off into the Heroes Reborn universe for a year, and were not seen in the Marvel Universe proper. As I recall, this was truly an X-Men story that morphed into a Marvel Universe event to fit the needs of the business. But that won’t stop Marvel from rebranding, as there is an X-Men/Avengers: Onslaught Omnibus due out in July of this year. There are prior omnibus and trade paperback collections of this storyline, but the new omnibus appears to be the most complete of any of the collections.

Showcase Presents Wonder Woman Vol. 2

Showcase Presents Wonder Woman Vol. 2

Showcase Presents Wonder Woman Vol. 2

First Published: October 2008

Contents: Wonder Woman #118 (November 1960) to #137 (April 1963)

Key Creator Credits: Robert Kanigher, Ross Andru, and Mike Esposito

Key First Appearances: Wonder Tot

Story Continues In: Showcase Presents Wonder Woman Vol. 1

Story Continues In: Showcase Presents Wonder Woman Vol. 3

Overview: Since the late 1930s/early 1940s, DC Comics (in all of its various forms and names) has kept three characters in continuous publication – Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman. Now, telling stories about just one character for 75 years can be a challenge. Every comic can’t be a five-star masterpiece each and every month. There may be some issues, or stretches of issues, where the run of the character is a little rough. Think about how often Kryptonite turned up on Earth to stop Superman. And Batman had stretches where he was patrolling space to keep Earth safe. So it should come as no surprise that Wonder Woman encountered some rough stretches of storytelling. Guess what, DC is showcasing some of those issues in this second Wonder Woman collection.

Robert Kanigher is a solid comic book writer. But I don’t know that he ever had a proper understanding of how Wonder Woman should be written. Pardon the pun, but Wonder Woman gets manhandled in the 20 issues collected in this volume. We get a lot of repetitive stories, like Wonder Woman having to choose between Mer-Man and Steve Trevor. (Seriously, one of those guys smells like a fish? Why is this even a decision for her?) The hardest stories to take involve Wonder Woman, Queen Hippolyta, Wonder Girl, and Wonder Tot (and yes, three of those women are one and the same) teaming up in some adventure that only their family can handle.

Why should these stories be Showcased?: You know, I have to believe that the classic humorist Will Rogers would have nothing to say about these comics. I cannot recommend these, as much as I want to. Maybe if you are a Ross Andru fan, then by all means get this collection. But there are many other collections that showcase Andru’s work. Even trying to read these from the perspective of the early 1960s, they don’t work. The stories are sexist and misogynistic. I want my daughter to read Wonder Woman comics, but I don’t want her to read these issues. Unless you are a completist like myself, I wouldn’t recommend having this volume as part of your collections.

Footnotes: Please see my review of Showcase Presents Teen Titans Vol. 1, where I try to make sense of how Wonder Woman, Wonder Girl, and Wonder Tot can all appear in one story together.

If you like this volume, try: the Wonder Woman run by Phil Jimenez from issue #164 (January 2001) to issue #188 (March 2003). This was a perfect match pairing the writer/artist with the Amazon princess. Jimenez draws incredibly detailed characters, in particular women, and the running joke in the industry is that he must be related to prior Wonder Woman writer/artist George Pérez. What makes these 25 issues (plus some Secret Files issues) stand out is Jimenez’ intelligent and complex stories. His initial story arc, Gods of Gotham, teamed up Wonder Woman (and her proteges) with Batman (and his family). While some of the stories have been collected in trade paperbacks, many of the stories can only be found in the original issues. This run is well worth the back-issue bin dive to find them.

Showcase Presents Blue Beetle Vol. 1

Showcase Presents Blue Beetle Vol. 1

Showcase Presents Blue Beetle Vol. 1

First Published: January 2015

Contents: Blue Beetle #1 (June 1986) to #24 (May 1988); and Secret Origins #2 (May 1986)

Key Creator Credits: Len Wein, Paris Cullins, Ross Andru, Don Heck, Gil Kane, and others

Key First Appearances: Melody Case, Carapax, Jeremiah Duncan, Lt. Max Fisher, Angela Revere, Dr. Murray Takamoto, Catalyst, Overthrow

Overview: Stop me if you read this story before. Wealthy playboy oversees a large scientific company, but has a hidden life, where he dresses up in a costume, flies around in a vehicle that matches his motiff, and stops super-villains and other forms of crime. You’re thinking of Blue Beetle, right? Yes, one of the stars of the Charlton Comics’ Action Hero line jumps into the pages of DC Comics. Following his successful appearance in Crisis on Infinite Earths, the Blue Beetle becomes the first Charlton hero to get his own monthly title.

So lets meet Ted Kord. He’s rebuilt KORD (Kord Omniversal Research & Development), Inc., after his father left it in ruins. He’s rich, good-looking, and mostly single — he’s been dating his girl Friday, Melody Case. Ted also has a secret identity – the Blue Beetle. With a hidden base located under the company headquarters in Chicago, Blue Beetle battles a mix of foes from the Charlton days (Madmen) as well as long-time DC foes (Doctor Alchemy, Chronos), and crosses paths with many DC heroes, such as the Teen Titans, the Justice League, and the Question.

We also learn that Ted Kord is not the first person to wear the mantle of the Blue Beetle. The original Blue Beetle was Dan Garrett, a university professor and archeologist. Well before Professor Henry Jones, Garrett was exploring the Egyptian dig of Kha-Ef-Re where he discovers a mystical blue scarab. The token grants Garrett super-strength, turning him into the first Blue Beetle. Dan Garrett had many adventures, before finally meeting his fate on mysterious Pago Island. While on his death bed, he got Kord, a former student of his, to promise to carry on his secret calling. Unable to use the blue scarab, Kord develops gadgets, weapons, and a flying ship (“the Bug”) to allow him to carry on the mantle of the Blue Beetle.

As the story develops, Ted Kord finds himself spending more and more time as the Blue Beetle, and less time managing the work of KORD, Inc. This leads to Case reaching out to Ted’s missing father, Thomas Kord, to return and take over the reigns of the company, just as it all comes crashing down (literally and figuratively). The series ends with Ted Kord walking off into the sunset, content with becoming Blue Beetle full-time and leaving the corporate life behind.

Why should these stories be Showcased?: Much like the situation I found myself in when reading Showcase Presents Booster Gold, I was prepared to overlook this collection, having loosely followed the Blue Beetle run 28 years ago. With the re-read of this title, I’m a little more impressed with the stories. Len Wein did a noble job in integrating Blue Beetle and his cast into the DC Universe, with nods to his Charlton roots. But as with Booster Gold, it’s not the solo book that fans came to know these title characters – it’s the Justice League of the late 1980s that gave us the defining view of Blue Beetle, which right or wrong, is that of comedy relief. I find myself reconsidering my position on this. I really want Blue Beetle to be a more serious hero, along the lines (but not as dark) as Batman. But as I read this title, I found myself wishing that DC would publish a Showcase Presents Justice League Vol. 1 sometime soon.

Meet the Action Heroes: From 1946 to 1986, Charlton Comics published comics in a variety of genres, from war to romance to licensed books to super-heroes. In fact, in the mid-1960s, then Charlton editor Dick Giordano developed a line of characters dubbed the “Action Hero”, which included Blue Beetle, Captain Atom, the Question, the Peacemaker, the Judomaster, and Peter Cannon, Thunderbolt. These characters had varying degrees of success, but most of the titles were cancelled by the end of that decade. Jump ahead to 1983, and Charlton was struggling to survive. Then DC Managing Editor Dick Giordano worked out a deal to buy the rights for the Action Heroes from Charlton. DC incorporated these characters into the Crisis on Infinite Earths mega-event, and then put Blue Beetle, Captain Atom, and the Question into their own monthly books. In addition, Alan Moore used archetypes of these characters when he created Watchmen with Dave Gibbons. 

Footnotes: In terms of reading order, jump to the back of the book and read Secret Origins #2 first. Look at the publishing dates – the Secret Origins issue came out the month BEFORE Blue Beetle #1. In addition, the early issues of Blue Beetle make reference to his origin story which is detailed in the Secret Origins issue.

If you like this volume, try: reading the Legends mini-series from 1986 by Len Wein, John Ostrander, and John Byrne. Following the events of Crisis on Infinite Earths, Darkseid plots to undermine humanity, sending Glorious Godfrey to Earth to incite riots and turn people against super-heroes. Blue Beetle had a featured role in this series, and the odd collection of heroes at the end of the series come together to become the new Justice League. DC also had other titles spinning out of the events of Legends, including Suicide Squad, The Flash, and a Shazam mini-series. Legends has only been collected one time in a trade paperback, back in 1993, so you might have better luck finding the original issues in a back-issue bin.

Essential Marvel Horror Vol. 2

Essential Marvel Horror Vol. 2

Essential Marvel Horror Vol. 2

First Published: November 2008

Contents: Supernatural Thrillers #5 (August 1973), and #7 (June 1974) to #15 (October 1975); Brother Voodoo introduction from Tales of the Zombie #2 (October 1973), #6 (July 1974), and #10 (March 1975); Strange Tales #169 (September 1973) to #174 (June 1974), #176 (October 1974) and #177 (December 1974); Marvel Team-Up #24 (August 1974); Haunt of Horror #2 (July 1974) to #5 (January 1975); Monsters Unleashed #11 (April 1975); Marvel Two-In-One #11 (September 1975), #18 (August 1976), and #33 (November 1977); Marvel Chillers #1 (October 1975) and #2 (December 1975); Dead of Night #11 (August 1975); and Marvel Spotlight #26 (February 1976)

Key Creator Credits: Steve Gerber, Tony Isabella, Len Wein, Doug Moench, Mike Friedrich, Bill Mantlo, John Warner, Scott Edelman, Val Mayerik, Gene Colan, Tony Dezuniga, Sonny Trinidad, Billy Graham, and others

Key First Appearances: Living Mummy, Elementals (Hellfire, Hydron, Magnum, Zephyr), Asp, Jericho Drumm/Brother Voodoo, Daniel Drumm, Damballah, Black Talon, Gabriel/Devil-Hunter, Modred the Mystic, Chthon, Scarecrow (Straw Man)

Story Continues From: Essential Marvel Horror Vol. 1

Overview: Welcome back to more marvelous debuts of characters from the horror-themed titles of the 1970s. This volume features the first appearances of six characters of varying degrees of success.

  • First up is the Living Mummy. Awakened after 3,000 years, the Living Mummy finds himself adapting to the world of 1973, whether in the streets of New York City, or in the deserts of Egypt.
  • Next up is Brother Voodoo, perhaps the most successful of the characters featured in this collection. Jericho Drumm returns to his home in Haiti. Caught up in a spiritual war, Drumm learns the secrets of the Loa, and becomes Brother Voodoo. With the spirit of his deceased brother Daniel living in him, Brother Voodoo challenges zombies, ghosts, vampires, and villains.
  • Gabriel, Devil Hunter comes to us from the pages of the horror magazines. With one good eye, the former priests conducts exorcisms to draw out the demons inhabiting innocent souls.
  • Golem hearkens back to Jewish folklore, as a clay figure comes to life powered by love. The Marvel Comics’ Golem has very few appearances. (If you are interested in reading a great story about a Golem, check out Michael Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, which won a Pulitzer Prize in 2001.)
  • Modred the Mystic comes to us from King Arthur’s court. Modred was to become an apprentice to Merlin, but that tended to be red-shirt situation, if you catch my drift. He embarks on a path to explore the Darkhold, which casts him into suspended animation until he is revived in the 1970s.
  • Finally, the Scarecrow jumps out of a portrait to battle demons. (When he appeared later, he was renamed as Straw Man, to differentiate himself from the Silver Age villain known as Scarecrow.) I really want to write more about him, but there is not a lot to work with here.

What makes this Essential?: This is a book that can go either way — it’s a must-own book or it’s a do not own book. It’s all dependent on your personal tastes. I found that the Living Mummy and the Brother Voodoo stories worked the best, as we were given multiple issues to really dive into the characters. The other four characters each get 3-5 issues, which in most cases is not enough to really get a solid or favorable position on the character.

Personally, I might have preferred seeing more established Marvel Universe characters in this volume. For example, Greer Nelson debuted in the pages of The Cat in 1972. In 1974, she became Tigra in Giant-Size Creatures #1, followed up by a run in Marvel Chillers. She would later have stints in Fantastic Four and The Avengers (see the later Essential volumes of those titles), and has remained a fairly active character in the Marvel Universe since her introduction. This would have been a perfect showcase (pardon the use) for a female character, in a volume that is very male-centric to begin with. 

If any of the six featured characters interest you, then pick it up. If these characters do not interest you, stay far away from this book.

Footnotes: Marvel Two-in-One #11 and #18 were also reprinted in Essential Marvel Two-in-One Vol. 1.

Marvel Two-in-One #33 was also reprinted in Essential Marvel Two-in-One Vol. 2 and Essential Spider-Woman Vol. 1.

Marvel Team-Up #24 was also reprinted in Essential Marvel Team-Up Vol. 1.

If you like this volume, try: the 1980s Elementals series from Comico. The idea of characters with powers representing the basic elements is nothing new in comics. The argument could be made that the Fantastic Four is the best representation of this concept. In the Living Mummy stories in this collection, we see an actual team of adversaries called the Elementals. Over at DC Comics, a team of Elementals was introduced (but never used again) in the pages of Super Friends – see Showcase Presents Super Friends Vol. 1. But the greatest use of the concept came in 1984 at Comico, when Elementals #1 hit the comic book racks. The four characters that would comprise the Elementals (Vortex, Morningstar, Fathom, and Monolith) actually made their debut in the Justice Machine Annual #1 from 1983.  The basic set-up for Elementals is that the four element spirits find physical hosts (who have each recently died in that element) to help bring balance back to the universe due to the actions of the evil sorcerer Lord Saker. The book was written and drawn by Bill Willingham, many years before he became the grand storyteller of the Fables series. This is a really great series that sadly is not easily available today. Comico went through ownership changes and bankruptcy courts, and these characters have remained in limbo since the late 1990s. Comico released a trade paperback in 1988 collecting the initial story arc, but again, that is more than 25 years ago and its no longer in print. You might have to go to eBay or a really good back issue dealer to find these comics, but it’s well worth the hunt.