Essential Luke Cage, Power Man Vol. 2

Essential Luke Cage, Power Man Vol. 2

Essential Luke Cage, Power Man Vol. 2

First Published: August 2006

Contents: Power Man #28 (December 1975) to #49 (February 1978); and Power Man Annual #1 (1976)

Key Creator Credits: Don McGregor, Marv Wolfman, Chris Claremont, George Tuska, Sal Buscema, Lee Elias, Frank Robbins, Marie Severin, John Byrne, and others

Key First Appearances: Cockroach Hamilton, Goldbug

Story Continues From: Essential Luke Cage, Power Man Vol. 1 

Story Continues In: Essential Power Man & Iron Fist Vol. 1

Overview: The Hero for Hire, Luke Cage, is back for more cash in the newest Essential volume. Let’s be honest here, being a super-hero is expensive work. Not all heroes get a stipend from the Stark Foundation, or live off of the royalties from the patent for unstable molecules to be used to make uniforms. Paying rent, buying food, and replacing those yellow silk shirts torn up in battle adds up quick for a struggling hero. Of course you have to charge a fee for your services.

Luke Cage remains a hero of the people, working out of his office above a Times Square movie theater. He fights a lot of run of the mill one-and-done villains created specifically for this title. Outside of a fight against Moses Magnum in Power Man Annual #1, his villains do not make many, if any, appearances in any other books.

As the book comes to an end, Cage finds a lot of familiar faces from his past coming back to confront him. Crossing paths with the kung-fu hero, Iron Fist, Luke Cage is finally able to clear his name, making him a free man for the first time in many years. The two agree that working together benefits both of them, and a new super-hero duo is formed. But like any other story, that is a tale to be continued….

What makes this Essential?: This book is a step up from the first volume, but not nearly as good as it will become with Essential Power Man & Iron Fist Vol. 1, The second half of the book, under the direction of first Marv Wolfman and then Chris Claremont, starts to finally find it’s place focusing on an urban hero, and not just an urban black hero. The art is serviceable, but not memorable by any means. If you are a fan of Luke Cage, this is worth the read. But I would not consider it essential to have in your collection.

Footnotes: Power Man #36 is a reprint of a story originally featured in Hero for Hire #12. The new cover for #36 is included in this Essential

Giant-Size Power Man #1 (1975) is a reprint collection of stories originally featured in Hero for Hire #14 to #16. The cover is included in this Essential.

Power Man #48 and #49 are also reprinted in Essential Iron Fist Vol. 1.

If you like this volume, try: the New Avengers books from the last decade. When Brian Michael Bendis relaunched the Avengers in the mid-2000s, he brought in a new line-up (Luke Cage, Spider-Woman, Spider-Man, Wolverine, and others) to fill the spots around Captain America and Iron Man. At that time, Luke Cage had become a peripheral character in the Marvel Universe, brought into an event to help fill out the background of a large super-hero crowd scene. Over the run of the New Avengers title, Luke Cage became one of the core members of this line-up, to a point where he became the team leader. New Avengers ruffled the feathers of a lot of long-time Avengers readers, but the non-traditional line-up allowed for some interesting storylines. This has been collected multiple times in trade paperbacks, hardcovers, and omnibus editions, so it should be easy to find these stories.

Showcase Presents World’s Finest Vol. 1

Showcase Presents World's Finest Vol. 1

Showcase Presents World’s Finest Vol. 1

First Published: October 2007

Contents: Superman/Batman story from Superman #76 (May-June 1952); Superman, Batman, and Robin stories from World’s Finest Comics #71 (July-August 1954) to #111 (August 1960)

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

Story Continues In: Showcase Presents World’s Finest Vol. 2

Overview: They are arguably the two most recognizable heroes in comic books. Superman – more powerful than a locomotive; able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. Batman – defender of Gotham City, avenging the death of parents by striking back at crime. Each are stars in their own right, having moved from the comics to newspaper strips, radio dramas, and movie serials. At some point, it seemed natural that these two forces for good must cross paths, and that finally occurred in 1952 in Superman #76,  Clark Kent schedules a cruise (because everyone knows that the Daily Planet has a very generous vacation policy), but due to overbooking, he is asked to share a room with millionaire Bruce Wayne. Before the ship can leave port, an explosion on the docks prompts both men to change into their costumed identities. accidentally revealing their secrets to each other. Promising to keep each other’s secret, Superman and Batman work together, making for one of the most important comic book team-ups of all time.

Two years later, the Superman and Batman features in World’s Finest are combined, teaming up the two heroes (plus Robin, the Boy Wonder!) issue after issue after issue. The reasons for the team-ups vary from the reasonable to the absurd – whether fighting aliens or giant robots; traveling through time to the future, or into the past; stopping Lex Luthor on his next scheme to rule the world, or having Batman pose as Superman to keep Lois Lane from discovering Superman’s secret identity.

The supporting casts for both characters make numerous appearances. From Metropolis, Lois, Jimmy, and Perry cross paths with Alfred, Commissioner Gordon, and Batwoman from Gotham City. In later Showcase Presents World’s Finest volumes, we will see a friendship develop between Jimmy Olsen and Robin, leading to a junior World’s Finest team-up.

Why should these stories be Showcased?: If you can think of this volume as a collection of imaginary stories, than this is a fun and interesting volume. If you are a continuity nerd, this book will make your head explode. These are all one-and-done stories, and should never be referenced again in any other story. The plots are absurd, and would never be published into today’s publishing environment. But it’s stories like this that inspired writers like Grant Morrison to create wonderful tribute stories, such as All-Star Superman and Batman: Incorporated.

Footnotes: Superman and Batman (with Robin) had been the stars of World’s Finest Comics since the first issue, which was initially published as World’s Best Comics #1. (The title changed to World’s Finest Comics with issue #2.)  However, these characters were each featured in their own stories within the magazine. In 1954, due to declining interest in comic books, World’s Finest Comics was reduced from a 64-page book to a 32-page book. In order to keep both of the stars of the book featured in the title, Superman and Batman started teaming up together in one story beginning with issue #71, which is where this Showcase Presents volume begins. 

If you like this volume, try: the first story arc Superman/Batman from 2003. Created by Jeph Loeb and Ed McGuinness, the Public Enemies story brought back together the World’s Finest team in a monthly comic book. In this volume, President Lex Luthor accuses Superman of treasonous crimes, and calls upon the super-hero community to bring him in dead or alive. Batman and Superman work together to uncover Luthor’s scheme, and to prove Superman’s innocence. Loeb takes an interesting approach to the story, showing us Superman through the eyes of Batman, and vice versa. The art by McGuinness is perfect for this title: Superman is big and bold and his muscles have muscles, while Batman is sleek and dark and mysterious. in 1987. This title ran for eight years, and some story arcs are better than others. For my money, Public Enemies is among the best and is the perfect way to return to the World’s Finest team.

Essential Marvel Team-Up Vol. 2

Essential Marvel Team-Up Vol. 2

Essential Marvel Team-Up Vol. 2

First Published: August 2006

Contents: Marvel Team-Up #25 (September 1974) to #51 (November 1976); and Marvel Two-in-One #17 (July 1976)

Key Creator Credits: Gerry Conway, Len Wein, Bill Mantlo, Jim Mooney, Sal Buscema, Ron Wilson, and others

Key First Appearances: Jean DeWolff, Wraith

Story Continues From: Essential Marvel Team-Up Vol. 1

Story Continues In: Essential Marvel Team-Up Vol. 3

Overview: As a New York City-based character, Spider-Man continues to be the center of attention in the Marvel Universe, and in the pages of Marvel Team-Up, as seen in this second Essential volume.

As with the first volume, Marvel Team-Up partners the various Marvel characters with their most recognizable hero in Peter Parker, a.k.a. Spider-Man. While most of these stories are one-and-done, we do see some multiple issue story arcs. Spider-Man moves from one team-up to the next, all as part of the same story. For example, see the Defenders story in issues #33-#35; a multi-part story focusing on the Vision and the Scarlet Witch in issues #41-#44; and the Iron Man arc from issues #48-#51. This last story arc introduced NYPD Captain Jean DeWolff, one of the few officers that recognizes Spider-Man as a hero working with the police, and Jean’s brother-turned-villain, the Wraith.

The Human Torch makes the last of his appearances as the lead feature in Marvel Team-Up #36 in this Essential. However, the Human Torch would still cross paths three more times with Spider-Man in this title over the run of the book.

What makes this Essential?: Is this really an Essential title? Absolutely not, when looking at the significant moments of the characters’ life stories. However, this title, as well as the other team-up books from Marvel and DC, is the perfect way to introduce a new reader to a world of characters. From this volume, a reader could go explore the adventures of Iron Man, Thor, The Fantastic Four, The Defenders, The Avengers, Doctor Strange, Killraven, and many others. So give this a read and see what interests you next!

Who’s Who / Reprinted Elsewhere:
Marvel Team-Up #25 – Spider-Man & Human Torch
Marvel Team-Up #26 – Human Torch & Thor
Marvel Team-Up #27 – Spider-Man & the Hulk
Marvel Team-Up #28 – Spider-Man & Hercules
Marvel Team-Up #29 – Human Torch & Iron Man
Marvel Team-Up #30 – Spider-Man & Falcon
Marvel Team-Up #31 – Spider-Man & Iron Fist
Marvel Team-Up #32 – Human Torch & the Son of Satan / Essential Marvel Horror Vol. 1
Marvel Team-Up #33 – Spider-Man & Nighthawk / Essential Defenders Vol. 2
Marvel Team-Up #34 – Spider-Man & Valkryie / Essential Defenders Vol. 2
Marvel Team-Up #35 – Human Torch & Doctor Strange / Essential Defenders Vol. 2
Marvel Team-Up #36 – Spider-Man & the Frankenstein Monster
Marvel Team-Up #37 – Spider-Man & Man-Wolf
Marvel Team-Up #38 – Spider-Man & the Beast
Marvel Team-Up #39 – Spider-Man & Human Torch
Marvel Team-Up #40 – Spider-Man & the Sons of the Tiger
Marvel Team-Up #41 – Spider-Man & Scarlet Witch
Marvel Team-Up #42 – Spider-Man & the Vision
Marvel Team-Up #43 – Spider-Man & Doctor Doom
Marvel Team-Up #44 – Spider-Man & Moondragon
Marvel Team-Up #45 – Spider-Man & Killraven / Essential Killraven Vol. 1
Marvel Team-Up #46 – Spider-Man & Deathlok
Marvel Two-In-One #17 – The Thing & Spider-Man / Essential Marvel Two-in-One Vol. 1
Marvel Team-Up #47 – Spider-Man & the Thing / Essential Marvel Two-in-One Vol. 1
Marvel Team-Up #48 – Spider-Man & Iron Man
Marvel Team-Up #49 – Spider-Man & Iron Man 
Marvel Team-Up #50 – Spider-Man & Doctor Strange
Marvel Team-Up #51 – Spider-Man & Iron Man

If you like this volume, try: the Ultimate Marvel Team-Up series from 2001 & 2002. The Ultimate universe was created by Marvel in the early 2000s as a way to tell stories featuring their most popular characters without the 40+ years of continuity weighing them down. The stories mirrored many of the original character stories, but told to match the modern society. For example, teenage Peter Parker did get a job at the Daily Bugle, but he was helping out on the paper’s website.  For Ultimate Marvel Team-Up, the entire series (16 issues and one special) is written by Brian Michael Bendis, with art from a variety of artists. These issues serve as a way to introduce many Marvel characters into the Ultimate Universe, so the first appearances of Ultimate Hulk, Ultimate Iron Man, Ultimate Daredevil, etc. My personal favorite was issue #14, where Spider-Man crossed paths with the Ultimate version of Black Widow. The art is done by Terry Moore (Strangers in Paradise) who was the perfect choice to show teenage awkwardness of Peter against the sleek beauty of Natasha. The entire series has been reprinted multiple times in multiple formats, so it should not be a challenge to track these issues down.

Essential Savage She-Hulk Vol. 1

Essential Savage She-Hulk Vol. 1

Essential Savage She-Hulk Vol. 1

First Published: July 2006

Contents: Savage She-Hulk #1 (February 1980) to #25 (February 1982)

Key Creator Credits: Stan Lee, John Buscema, David Anthony Kraft, Mike Vosburg, and others

Key First Appearances: Jennifer Walters/She-Hulk, William Morris Walters

Overview:  Jennifer Walters is a successful lawyer in southern California. While hosting her visiting cousin, Bruce Banner, Jennifer is shot by gangsters who want to keep her from bringing a case to court. In an effort to save his cousin, Bruce Banner gives Jennifer a blood transfusion, even though his blood is radiated with the gamma energy that helps turn Bruce into the Hulk. Days later while recovering in the hospital, the gangsters return to finish the job. Jennifer finds herself getting angry, and when she does, she starts to grow and turn green, and the She-Hulk is born.

While in her She-Hulk form, she finds she is not as strong as her cousin Bruce. Conversely, she is able to retain her full intelligence while in her She-Hulk form. Jennifer finds that she is more comfortable in life as She-Hulk, and starts spending more and more time in her jade identity.

The book develops a cast of characters that help round out the stories, but do not impact the rest of the Marvel Universe. However, several familiar faces from the Marvel Universe do cross paths with the She-Hulk. Iron Man makes two appearances; Richard Rory, usually seen in the pages of Man-Thing and Defenders, makes his way to California, and becomes a would-be love interest to Jennifer; and John Jameson, the astronaut-turned-Man-Wolf from Amazing Spider-Man, shows up in both of his identities.

What makes this Essential?: The creation of She-Hulk, and how she is used after the run of this title, is much more essential to the Marvel Universe than the 25 issues presented in this collection. Much like Spider-Woman before her, She-Hulk was created solely to protect Marvel from having a another comic book publisher creating a character with that name, by trying to sponge off of the Hulk property. Stan Lee came in to write the first issue, with art by John Buscema, and then the title was given over to David Anthony Kraft and Mike Vosburg to handle for the next two years. The stories by Kraft & Vosburg are adequate but not memorable. Much like her cousin wearing the purple pants with each transformation, She-Hulk ends up in a torn white dress that just manages to keep the Jade Giantess’ jades covered during her transitions and battles. The villains she fights are often the run-of-the-mill B- and C-List bad guys that would later be killed off by Scourge at the Bar With No Name in the pages of Captain America. This Essential is important for the reprint of issue #1, but that can be found in other collections. If you want to read the essential She-Hulk stories from the 1980s, read her stories in Avengers, Fantastic Four, and Sensational She-Hulk.

Footnotes: The She-Hulk title ended with issue #25 (February 1982), but her story was not finished yet. David Anthony Kraft teamed up She-Hulk with the Thing in Marvel Two-In-One #88 (June 1982), which can be found in Essential Marvel Two-in-One Vol. 4. The following month, She-Hulk joined the Avengers in issue #221 (July 1982).

If you like this volume, try: reading the two She-Hulk series from Dan Slott and friends. There have been several memorable runs of She-Hulk in her own title. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, The Sensational She-Hulk, in particular the John Byrne issues, broke the Fourth Wall to interact with the readers. And after Slott’s run on the second series from the 2000s, Peter David came on board and took her back to her super-hero roots. But in between, Dan Slott had 33 issues which brings in all the various aspects and approaches to Jennifer Walters and her other identity. In these series, Jennifer joins the prestigious law firm of Goodman, Lieber, Kurtzberg, & Holliway located at Timely Plaza in New York City. (That would be a hidden tribute to the early days of Marvel Comics, then known as Timely Comics, published by Martin Goodman, and early pioneers Stan Lee and Jack Kirby.) GLK&H specializes in super-hero (and villain) cases, and their offices are filled with comic books, which are used as research material. Our title character finally finds a happy place being able to split time between both of her personalities, realizing that each one helps make the other stronger. Slott’s run has been collected in multiple trade paperbacks and hard covers, so these should be easy to track down.

Showcase Presents Teen Titans Vol. 2

Showcase Presents Teen Titans Vol. 2

Showcase Presents Teen Titans Vol. 2

First Published: October 2007

Contents: Teen Titans #19 (January-February 1969) to #36 (November-December 1971); The Brave and the Bold #83 (April-May 1969) and #94 (February-March 1971); and World’s Finest Comics #205 (September 1971)

Key Creator Credits: Bob Haney, Nick Cardy, Neal Adams, George Tuska, Gil Kane, Robert Kanigher, Steve Skeates, and others

Key First Appearances: Lilith, Loren Jupiter, Mal Duncan, Gnarrk

Story Continues From: Showcase Presents Teen Titans Vol. 1

Overview: The Teen Titans return in their second Showcase Presents volume to continue their adventures as the heroes-in-training for the next generation.

This volume kicks off with issue #19, which featured a line-up change. Speedy officially joins the team as a regular member, after making some cameo appearances in the past. At the same time, Aqualad leaves the team to return to Atlantis. (Maybe it was too hard to write tales that provided Aqualad a chance to swim?) Aqualad still makes the occasional appearance, and short return stints from time to time.

In addition to Speedy, some new faces start hanging out with Teen Titans. The pre-cog Lilith joins the team, but never develops a formal costume to wear. That would later inspire the Titans to handle some future cases in their street clothes. Lilith had been working for Loren Jupiter, who would come onboard to help fund the Teen Titans. Mal Duncan proves his worth to the team, although he does not have any super powers. (Much later, Mal will go through a couple of costumed identities in the mid 1970s when the Teen Titans returns to the publishing schedule.) Finally, Hawk and Dove make a visit to the Teen Titans, but do not join up until the short-lived launch of Titans West.

These stories still remain for the most part as one-and-done, so you do have the option of skipping ahead to stories that may interest you more than others. Naturally, I’m going to encourage you to read it cover to cover, but you do what you want!

Why should these stories be Showcased?: I believe that this is a better volume than Showcase Presents Teen Titans Vol. 1. The stories are not as corny, as they start dealing with real issues of the time, such as the Vietnam War. Adding Lilith and Mal Duncan provided a much-needed diversification to the white male dominated books of the time. There are issues that Robin does not appear and the stories do not suffer without the most visible Titan included. The art in this book is just spectacular, with highlights from Adams and Cardy. This is a very good book, so pick it up and give it a look.

Footnotes: The Brave and the Bold #83 is also reprinted in Showcase Presents The Brave and the Bold Batman Team-Ups Vol. 1.

The Brave and the Bold #94 is also reprinted in Showcase Presents The Brave and the Bold Batman Team-Ups Vol. 2.

This Showcase Presents volume ends with Teen Titans #36. The Teen Titans series came to an end in early 1973 with issue #43. The Titans were brought back in 1976 as part of the DC Explosion, continuing the numbering with issue #44. That run came to an end with issue #53, as part of the DC “Implosion” of the late 1970s.

If you like this volume, try: the 1980 New Teen Titans series from Marv Wolfman and George Perez. This is THE Teen Titans series to read! The new line-up was a mixtures of original Titans (Robin, Wonder Girl, Kid Flash, and Beast Boy/Changeling) and new characters (Cyborg, Raven, and Starfire). Wolfman took a more serious approach to the stories, introducing real threats well beyond the goofiness of “Mad Mod” from the 1960s. For example, Deathstroke the Terminator (the primary villain on CW’s Arrow show) was introduced in New Teen Titans #2 and became the primary threat for the Titans over the entire 15-year run by Wolfman with the team. The characters grew up, changed identities, married, had children, and experienced all of the trials and tribulations of normal people. This has been collected multiple times, from Archives to Omnibus. A new trade paperback of the initial issues is coming out later this fall if you have not read these yet. Personally, my favorite storyline from this run is The Judas Contract, which should be required reading for any Teen Titans fan.

Essential Fantastic Four Vol. 5

Essential Fantastic Four Vol. 5

Essential Fantastic Four Vol. 5

First Published: June 2006

Contents: Fantastic Four #84 (March 1969) to #110 (May 1971)

Key Creator Credits: Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, John Romita, Sr., John Buscema, and others

Key First Appearances: Torgo, Agatha Harkness, Ebony

Story Continues From: Essential Fantastic Four Vol. 4

Story Continues In: Essential Fantastic Four Vol. 6

Overview: Welcome back to the World’s Greatest Comic Magazine, starring the Fantastic Four, although there appears to be five people running around in the blue union suits. Let’s dive into Essential Fantastic Four Vol. 5!

The stories in this volume start crossing over multiple issues, running three to five issues and immediately leading into the next storyline. This volume starts out with a Doctor Doom story, followed by the Mole Man and then Torgo. Other extended arcs bring back the Inhumans, and a Sub-Mariner/Magneto multi-part story.

In between battles, we are introduced to Agatha Harkness, a witch who will serve as a nanny for young Franklin Richards. This will allow Mom and Dad to still be full-time members of the Fantastic Four. Agatha Harkness will become a fixture in the Marvel Universe for many years to come, watching over Franklin and helping to train the Scarlet Witch in the pages of The Avengers.

The highlight of this book is Fantastic Four #100. The Mad Thinker and the Puppet Master launch another attack on the Fantastic Four, by controlling nearly every past Fantastic Four foe to attack the team as they are trying to travel home. Doctor Doom, the Sentry, the Wizard, the Hate Monger, the Sub-Mariner, and many others all try but fail. The Mad Thinker and the Puppet Master have one last secret weapon in reserve, an android version of the Hulk. Only the Hulk android cannot be controlled, just like its namesake, and destroys the lab. The Fantastic Four finally catch their breath (and a plane) to make their way home.

What makes this Essential?: This is it, the end of the Lee-Kirby run on Fantastic Four. With 102 consecutive issues plus a few scattered issues after that, Stan and Jack created the definitive run on Marvel’s First Family. Everything you need to know about the FF can be found in their run. So, for that reason, I could make the argument that Essential Fantastic Four Volumes 1-5 should be in every collection. This is an interesting volume because we start to see what happens after Kirby leaves the book. Can you imagine the conversation in the Marvel Bullpen, telling John Romita, Sr., that they need him to take over Fantastic Four AFTER Kirby’s run? (Although taking over Amazing Spider-Man AFTER Steve Ditko probably gave Romita the experience that he needed.)

Footnotes: Fantastic Four Annual #7 (November 1969) and #8 (December 1970) reprinted material from earlier issues of Fantastic Four. The covers for the two annuals are reprinted in this Essential.

If you like this volume, try: Jack Kirby’s Fourth World storyline from DC Comics. In 1970, Kirby’s run was coming to an end, on both Fantastic Four and Thor, as well as with this run at Marvel. The next generation of writers and artists was coming into the Marvel bullpen, and the publishing company was turning into a corporation. Kirby had been offered a new but unfavorable contract by Marvel, and refused to sign. DC immediately offered a contract, and Kirby moved back to the Distinguished Competition. Right from the start, Kirby started up a story line that was dubbed The Fourth World. He took over duties on Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen, and introduced three new books: The New Gods, The Forever People, and Mister Miracle. Mixing equal parts of super-hero tales with a pantheon of gods, Kirby’s Fourth World was an epic story before the concept of epic stories had been conceived. These stories have been reprinted numerous times, most recently as a Jack Kirby Omnibus collection.

Essential Wolverine Vol. 4

Essential Wolverine Vol. 4

Essential Wolverine Vol. 4

First Published: May 2006

Contents: Wolverine #70 (June 1993) to #90 (February 1995)

Key Creator Credits: Larry Hama, Adam Kubert, Dwayne Turner, and others

Key First Appearances: Zoe Culledon

Story Continues From: Essential Wolverine Vol. 3

Story Continues In: Essential Wolverine Vol. 5

Overview: Welcome back, Wolverine! After an eight-year absence from the Essential schedule (see Footnotes), you finally have a new volume tracking your solo adventures away from the X-Men.

This volume begins by finishing up a three-part story in the Savage Land fighting Sauron that was started in Essential Wolverine Vol. 3. From there, we get a story of Wolverine and Jubilee fighting Sentinels in the X-Men’s old headquarters in the Australian Outback.

The highlight of this volume comes with Wolverine #75, which was a tie-in issue with the Fatal Attractions story-line in the X-Men books. In Fatal Attractions, Magneto returned once again to face off against Xavier’s students. In the course of the battle, Wolverine savagely cut up Magneto, leaving him severely wounded. In retaliation, Magneto used his powers to extract all of the adamantium out of Wolverine’s skeleton, as well as his claws. The story picks up in Wolverine #75, as the X-Men are returning to Earth as quickly as possible to get Wolverine medical treatment. His mutant healing factor is extended well beyond what it can handle, and his body seems to be shutting down. Thanks to the skills of his teammates, the X-Men get the plane safely to the ground, and Wolverine gets the help he needs to start his recovery.

While he is recovering, Wolverine takes leave of the X-Men to travel the world and settle his affairs. That journey takes him to Canada, Madripoor, Japan, and back to Canada. During this period, Wolverine finds that he can extend “claws” made out of bone, but his body is having a hard time healing each time he bares the claws.

The volume concludes with yet another showdown between Wolverine and Sabretooth. Wolverine finally returns to the X-Men’s mansion, and finds that Sabretooth is being held in a cell in the basement. As luck would have it, Sabretooth has been testing the limits of his holding cell, and finally manages to break free, leading to a battle with Logan.

What makes this Essential?: I really enjoyed this volume, in particular when Wolverine was without the adamantium. This was a new take on the character, who now could be hurt, could be stopped, and potentially could be killed. This was a good move by Marvel to be able to do something completely different with the character. I think this is a must-own volume for the Wolverine and/or X-Men fan, if they do not already own the individual issues. 

Missing in Action: Wolverine ’95 (the very first Wolverine annual) is not included in this Essential or Essential Wolverine Vol. 5. Volume 5 does contain the Wolverine ’96 annual.

Footnotes: Essential Wolverine Vol. 3 was released in June of 1998, but Essential Wolverine Vol. 4 was not released until May of 2006. During the long gap, Marvel reprinted Volumes 1-3 multiple times, as the cover format was updated in the early 2000s.

With the changes in production process for comic books in the 1990s, the Black & White reprints of the comics in this volume come across as very dark, and are at times hard to read.

If you like this volume, try: Alpha Flight, in particular the first two years of the monthly book done by John Byrne. In the early days of the Chris Claremont-John Byrne run on X-Men, some stories started diving into the background of Wolverine. We found out that Wolverine had been part of a super-hero team in Canada, known as Alpha Flight. The first encounter (Uncanny X-Men #109, Essential X-Men Vol. 1) had Guardian trying to bring Logan back to Canada to fulfill his obligations. The next encounter (Uncanny X-Men #120 & #121, Essential X-Men Vol. 2) gave us the first full meeting of Alpha Flight. Over the next couple of years, Alpha Flight would make sporadic appearances before moving into their own monthly book in 1983, written and pencilled by Byrne. Over the next two years, Byrne broke up the team and then brought them back again, fleshing out the characters and providing more history to Wolverine’s past. The Byrne issues have been collected into three Alpha Flight Classics, so they should be easy to track down.