Essential Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man Vol. 4

spectacular_spiderman_4First Published: August 2009

Contents: Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man #75 (February 1983) to #96 (November 1984); and Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man Annual #4 (1984)

Key Creator Credits: Bill Mantlo, Al Milgrom, Jim Mooney, Fred Hembeck, and others

Key First Appearances: Answer

Story Continues From: Essential Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man Vol. 3

Story Continues In: Essential Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man Vol. 5

Overview: With the last volume, I criticized Marvel for ending that book in the middle of the Doctor Octopus-Owl gang war. As disappointing as it was to finish Volume 3 that way, it also means that this volume starts off right in the middle of the action. So lets get into the stories!

In case you are unfamiliar with this title, Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man (PPTSS)  is part of the ongoing story-arc of Spider-Man in the Marvel Universe. Each of the various books from this era had a set of characters they would use, with Peter, MJ, and Black Cat being in the center of the Spider-Man Venn diagram.

As mentioned earlier, we start off in the middle of the gang war between the Owl and Doctor Octopus, both underrated villains in my humble opinion. While both are taken out, you know they will both be back again to cause trouble for Spider-Man.

I love that this book gets to feature multiple return appearances by Cloak & Dagger, the drug-triggered mutants who made their debut in the last volume. While Cloak and Dagger remain focused on ridding New York City of the drug traffic, their methods often put themselves at odds with our title hero. Another anti-hero crosses through this title is the Punisher, who is finally brought to trial for his many incidents. The Punisher is sentenced to prison, which led to his own mini-series, followed quickly by his ongoing series.

As with the Amazing Spider-Man book in this era, we see the Kingpin pulling a lot of strings in the background, with the Rose and the Answer being in the forefront. Kingpin still remains a thorn in the side of Spider-Man on many levels, in particular when the Kingpin aids the Black Cat in giving her powers to allow her to be equal to Spider-Man during their adventures. The Black Cat gets a “bad luck” aura about her, causing bad things to happen to people around her trying to threaten her.

The final issues in this collection feature the return of Spider-Man in his black costume following his adventures on Battleworld. The costume is slick and new and alive, although he won’t find out about the “alive” bit for a few months.

What makes this Essential?: I really like the direction that PPTSS took during this era. It finally feels like the book is now the equal to Amazing Spider-Man, and not just a secondary book on the stands. The Marvel Bullpen more evenly coordinated storylines between the books, along with Marvel Team-Up, to create a near-seamless story arc for Peter Parker, yet each title could be read on its own. Creators Bill Mantlo and Al Milgrom had a great run in this era that doesn’t get enough recognition. I think it worth the pick-up, if for no other reason than to revisit the Black Costume story-line post-Secret Wars, which the Essential Spider-Man and Essential Marvel Team-Up series never reached.

Footnotes: Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man #81, #82, and #83 were also reprinted in Essential Punisher Vol. 1.

If you like this volume, try: The Nearly Complete Essential Hembeck Archives Omnibus collection from 2008. While there are many interesting storylines in this volume, the highlight of this Essential was Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man #86, featuring art by Fred Hembeck. This issue was part of the Assistant Editor’s Month – while the editors went to San Diego Comic Con, the assistant editors were left in charge for a month and hi-jinx ensued. We got the Avengers appearing on David Letterman; Aunt May and Franklin Richards teaming-up to stop Galactus; and Steve Rogers’ girlfriend Bernie Rosenthol becoming a new super-hero. With this issue of Peter Parker, the story remained true, but Hembeck was brought in to do the art in his very distinctive art-style. Hembeck has been a long-time fixture in the comic scene, offering a humorous look at Marvel and DC characters. In the 1970s, he contributed a comic strip to the Daily Planet pages at DC. In the 1980s, he was a regular contributor to the Marvel Age comic. In 2008, Image Comics put out this trade paperback collection of Hembeck’s fanzine and self-published work. It’s 900 over-sized pages, printed in black and white with the same paper quality of the Essentials, collecting most of Hembeck’s work to that date. With a MSRP of $24.99, it’s an incredible bargain. Give this book a read, and check out Hembeck’s eBay store to get an original sketch.

Showcase Presents Batman Vol. 4

batman4First Published: July 2009

Contents: Batman #202 (June 1968) to #215 (September 1969); Batman stories from Detective Comics #376 (June 1968) to #390 (August 1969)

Key Creator Credits: Frank Robbins, Gardner Fox, Irv Novick, Bob Brown, and others

Story Continues From: Showcase Presents Batman Vol. 3

Story Continues In: Showcase Presents Batman Vol. 5 

Overview: The Batmobile is fueled, the Batcopter is set, and the Batcycle is ready to race. Pick your Bat-vehicle of choice, because we got a new collection of adventures featuring Batman, Robin, and Batgirl to talk about. This is Showcase Presents Batman Vol. 4.

As quickly as Batmania took over the country in the mid-1960s, it faded away even quicker with the demise of the Batman TV series. While ABC was able to find other shows to fill the programming schedule, it feels like the DC Comics took a step back without the show to leverage. The colorful costumed villains are used less frequently, replaced by stories requiring Batman to showcase his detective skills against common gangsters and other ordinary criminals.

The bulk of this volume is written by Frank Robbins, with art duties shared by Irv Novick and Bob Brown, and an occasional cover from Neal Adams. While I am on the record of not being a fan of Robbins’ work later in his career, his stories here are quite serviceable for that era. There wasn’t the demand for multi-issue epic stories. These are one-and-done issues, and everything resets with the next issue. These are predominantly Batman and Robin stories, but some team-ups with Batgirl are scattered in here too.

Why should these stories be Showcased?: I know that it’s an unwritten rule on the Internet that we should not speak (or write) ill of the Batman. But I was really disappointed in this collection. I really felt like the series turned the corner with Vol. 3, as we start getting Batman’s most familiar foes month after month, and we had the addition of Batgirl to the family. But the stories in this collection just feel like a let-down in comparison. There are no significant introductions of new characters during this time. Many of the stories seem to be reinterpretations of stories seen in the prior volumes. For the Batman completist, I understand the need to have this volume on your bookshelf. For the casual fan, I would say go back and get Vol. 3, or look for Volumes 5 and 6 when we get Denny O’Neil, Neal Adams, and Jim Aparo more involved with Batman.

Footnotes: Batman #203 and #208 are reprint issues. The covers are included in this collection. 

Batman #214 and the lead story from Detective Comics #385 were also reprinted in Showcase Presents Batgirl Vol. 1.

Batman #213 and Detective Comics #386 are also reprinted in Showcase Presents Robin the Boy Wonder Vol. 1.

If you like this volume, try: The Batman Adventures series which started in 1992 in support of the then new animated show on FOX. As we are all well aware, Batman: The Animated Series is considered to be one of the greatest interpretations of the Batman Universe ever. The show gave us Harley Quinn, and cemented in this writer’s head that Kevin Conroy is the voice of Batman. What often got overlooked or dismissed as a kids comic was The Batman Adventures comic series. This is an outstanding series, and still remains my favorite run of Batman in the 1990s. The talent that worked on this book read like a Who’s Who of great creators – Kelley Puckett, Ty Templeton, Rick Burchett, Mike Parobeck, and many more. They took the concepts introduced in the series and expanded on them month after month. DC has started a new line of trade paperbacks to reprint this run, as many of these issues are hard to find – see The Batman Adventures #12. If you are a fan of the show, you need to read this series!

Essential Killraven Vol. 1

First Published: July 2005

Contents: Amazing Adventures #18 (May 1973) to #39 (November 1976); Marvel Team-Up #45 (May 1976); Marvel Graphic Novel #7 (August 1983); and Killraven #1 (February 2001)

Key Creator Credits: Roy Thomas, Neal Adams, Gerry Conway, Marv Wolfman, Don McGregor, Keith Giffen, Howard Chaykin, Herb Trimpe, P. Craig Russell, and others

Key First Appearances: Killraven, M’Shulla, Hawk, Old Skull, Carmilla Frost, Grok, Mint Julep, Volcana Ash

Overview: You remember the Martian invasion back in 2001, right? The Martians came to Earth, destroyed governments, and left the planet as a human-breeding farm to feed the growing Martian-population. Don’t worry though, in just two short years, a red-headed human will escape the slave pits to lead a revolution, to rid the Earth of Martians and reclaim the planet for the humans. Welcome to the future (or alternate) world of Killraven!

In the early 1970s, Roy Thomas and Neal Adams collaborated to find a way to work H.G. Wells classic story, The War of the Worlds, into comic book form. Rather than do a direct adaption of the original story, they instead took the situation from the book and told a story based on the Martians successfully taking over the Earth. What would the Martians do once they occupied the Earth, and how would the humans respond. From there, the character of Killraven was developed. Originally designed to be a next generation version of Doc Savage, Killraven borrows heavily from other concepts – from Conan the Barbarian to Flash Gordon and more.

Early on in the story, Killraven breaks free from the slave pits, and sets off on a mission to track down his long-lost brother. Along this journey, Killraven builds a band of followers that all look to him for leadership. Unfortunately, the Martians kept getting in the way of Killraven’s band on their haphazard travels around the country, and eventually the goal becomes more to rid the world of the Martians. (And yes, it if’s Marvel in the 1970s, you can fully expect a cameo crossover with Spider-Man along the way!)

Eventually, the band of freedom fighters find themselves in Florida at the Martian headquarters, and their Killraven finds his brother, who has betrayed his brethren and is working with the Martians directly. The rebels destroy the Martian base, crippling their hold on the humans, and Killraven parts ways with his brother in a final battle. But the battle is not over yet, and Killraven moves on to the next untold adventure to save the Earth.

What makes this Essential?: This is an interesting story, in particular when we get the creative team of Don McGregor and P. Craig Russell. Those two were definitely in sync with the direction and the flow of the book. These are some of the most creative comics that came out of this era, when compared against many of the other Essential volumes from this era that I have read. BUT… in the grand scheme of the Marvel Universe, this seems to be an isolated aspect that doesn’t get revisited much. With the bulk of these stories taking place in the (then) future, and it later being determined that it was an alternate Earth’s future that faced the Martian invasion, there hasn’t been the demand/need to go back to this story. Killraven is occasionally brought in for the rare cameo appearance in other Marvel Universe titles, but I feel that is more to keep a copyright in place rather than to continue Killraven’s story. I think this is an important volume to have for the sci-fi/fantasy fan, but I can think of multiple Marvel Universe characters that probably deserved an Essential volume ahead of Killraven.

Footnotes: Marvel Team-Up #45 is also reprinted in Essential Marvel Team-Up Vol. 2.

If you like this volume, try: Weirdworld, the five-issue miniseries from Marvel earlier this year that tied in with the 2015 Secret Wars event. Written by Jason Aaron with art by Mike Del Mundo, this fantasy epic touched on so many familiar elements of the Marvel Universe from the 1970s and 1980s. Arkon, a long-time foe for the Avengers and the Fantastic Four, is struggling to find his home, Polemachus. Unfortunately, he is stuck traveling through the Weirdworld zone of Battleworld in order to find his home. Along the way, he encounters the likes of Warbow, Skull the Slayer, Jennifer Kale, and others. At the same time, he finds that Morgana Le Fay is working in the background to stop him. Del Mundo’s art is spectacular in this series, giving it a dream-like appearance from page to page. This has been one of my favorite comics from 2015, and I hope you got a chance to read it too.

Showcase Presents Green Lantern Vol. 4

Showcase Presents Green Lantern Vol. 4

Showcase Presents Green Lantern Vol. 4

First Published: June 2009

Contents: Green Lantern #60 (April 1968) to #75 (March 1970)

Key Creator Credits: John Broome, Gil Kane, Sid Greene, Gardner Fox, Jack Sparling, Mike Sekowsky, Mike Friedrich, and others

Key First Appearances: Olivia Reynolds

Story Continues From: Showcase Presents Green Lantern Vol. 3

Story Continues In: Showcase Presents Green Lantern Vol. 5

Overview: Welcome to the end of the Silver Age! It’s been a turbulent age, and times are tough. Former jet test pilots are out of work, and forced to take jobs as insurance adjusters or traveling toy salesmen. For a guy with one of the most powerful devices in the universe, Hal Jordan’s life sure seems dark at times. This is Showcase Presents Green Lantern Vol. 4.

Green Lantern is at an interesting crossroads during this time period. The stories in this era fulfill the primary obligation of getting a monthly book out on time. (And I say monthly, but most DC books in this era came out eight times a year, not 12.) But the there wasn’t any kind of ongoing story from issue to issue. In fact, the creative teams seemed to change quite a bit from issue to issue. You might get a Broome/Kane issue one month, and a Fox/Sekowsky issue the next.

We also face a lack of new characters being introduced in this volume. Instead, most of the stories have Hal Jordan arriving in a location, dealing with the problem of the month, and then moving on. As this volume draws to a close, we finally get a return of some familiar faces with Carol Ferris and Tom Kalmaku, while Sinestro drops in to wreck havoc on the reunion.

Why should these stories be Showcased?: I don’t know that I can strongly recommend this volume. Hear me out on this one. The art is incredible as always. I’ve said before that any issues by Gil Kane can give you a proper lesson on comic-book storytelling. The stories themselves are decent, but I don’t know that any of them were memorable. The biggest issue I have with this volume is just that — the issues. This collection only has 16 issues, coming in at just under 400 pages. Yet it still carried the standard cover price of $16.99, the going rate for Showcase Presents volumes at that time in 2009. Now, I get why DC truncated this volume as they did. The first issue of Showcase Presents Green Lantern Vol. 5 is #76, which starts the legendary O’Neil/Adams run that ushered in the Bronze Age at DC Comics. DC wanted to get all of those stories in one collection. But if you are going to do that, then either find additional material to put into Vol. 4 or adjust the price down to compensate for the lower page count.

If you like this volume, try: the Sinestro Corps War from 2007. Inspired by an Alan Moore story from 1986, writer Geoff Johns brought together several story threads that had been building for two years in the pages of Green Lantern and Green Lantern Corps. Longtime Green Lantern-foe Sinestro has put together his own corps of yellow lantern wielders. Over the course of the series, the Guardians reveal the legend of the Blackest Night, which set the stage for the future story arc, and even referenced the five other color rings that would play a part in that storyline. The Sinestro Corps War has been collected multiple times in multiple formats, so it should be easy to track down.

Essential Marvel Team-Up Vol. 3

Essential Marvel Team-Up Vol. 3

Essential Marvel Team-Up Vol. 3

First Published: August 2009

Contents: Marvel Team-Up #52 (December 1976) to #73 (September 1978), and #75 (November 1978); and Marvel Team-Up Annual #1 (1976)

Key Creator Credits: Bill Mantlo, Chris Claremont, John Byrne, Jim Mooney, Sal Buscema, and others

Key First Appearances: Gardener, Arcade, Miss Locke, D’Spayre

Story Continues From: Essential Marvel Team-Up Vol. 2

Story Continues In: Essential Marvel Team-Up Vol. 4

Overview: In the mid-1970s, every brand new character created managed to cross paths with Spider-Man. Either Spidey would make a cameo appearance in a new book, or the character would cross paths in the pages of Amazing Spider-Man, Spectacular Spider-Man, or right here with Marvel Team-Up. However, Marvel Team-Up allowed for more one-and-done stories, and didn’t always have to work in the continuity as in the other two titles.

This run of issues features a lot of familiar team-ups, such as Spider-Man partnering with the Human Torch, the Hulk, Thor, and Daredevil. But this volume starts to expand the reach of the team-ups, adding those up-and-coming stars such as Ms. Marvel, Iron Fist, and Captain Britain.

There is one surprise in this collection, with Spider-Man teaming up with the all-new X-Men in Marvel Team-Up Annual #1. This came out in late 1976, during the early days of the new roster team (Storm, Wolverine, Colossus, Nightcrawler, Phoenix, Banshee, and Cyclops). While the story is written by Bill Mantlo, it was co-plotted by X-Men scribe Chris Claremont. I find it amazing that this story has not been reprinted more often, given the popularity of the X-Men during this era. If you want to read this story, your choices are owning the original issue; tracking down two issues of Marvel Tales that reprinted the annual; or getting this Essential.

What makes this Essential?: This may be the best volume of the Essential Marvel Team-Up line. In particular, the run by Claremont and John Byrne in this title set a new standard for what could be done with a team-up book. Their stretch of issues (#59 to #70) were probably the best Spider-Man titles being published in that time-frame. This is a solid, ongoing narrative, with many team-ups extending over two (or more) issues. I think this Claremont/Byrne run helped establish that a team-up book could A) use the same creative team across consecutive issues; and B) that one team-up could lead into the next. This volume is definitely worth tracking down for the Claremont/Byrne issues.

Who’s Who / Reprinted Elsewhere:
Marvel Team-Up #52 – Spider-Man & Captain America
Marvel Team-Up Annual #1 – Spider-Man & the X-Men
Marvel Team-Up #53 – Spider-Man & the Hulk
Marvel Team-Up #54 – Spider-Man & the Hulk
Marvel Team-Up #55 – Spider-Man & Warlock / Essential Warlock Vol. 1
Marvel Team-Up #56 – Spider-Man & Daredevil
Marvel Team-Up #57 – Spider-Man & Black Widow
Marvel Team-Up #58 – Spider-Man & Ghost Rider
Marvel Team-Up #59 – Spider-Man & Yellowjacket
Marvel Team-Up #60 – Spider-Man & the Wasp
Marvel Team-Up #61 – Spider-Man & Human Torch
Marvel Team-Up #62 – Spider-Man & Ms. Marvel
Marvel Team-Up #63 – Spider-Man & Iron Fist / Essential Iron Fist Vol. 1
Marvel Team-Up #64 – Spider-Man & the Daughters of the Dragon / Essential Iron Fist Vol. 1
Marvel Team-Up #65 – Spider-Man & Captain Britain
Marvel Team-Up #66 – Spider-Man & Captain Britain
Marvel Team-Up #67 – Spider-Man & Tigra
Marvel Team-Up #68 – Spider-Man & Man-Thing/ Essential Man-Thing Vol. 2
Marvel Team-Up #69 – Spider-Man & Havok
Marvel Team-Up #70 – Spider-Man & Thor
Marvel Team-Up #71 – Spider-Man & Falcon
Marvel Team-Up #72 – Spider-Man & Iron Man
Marvel Team-Up #73 – Spider-Man & Daredevil
Marvel Team-Up #75 – Spider-Man & Power Man

Footnotes: Marvel Team-Up #74 is not reprinted in this collection. This issue featured Spider-Man teaming up with cast of Saturday Night Live, affectionately known as the “Not Ready For Prime Time Players,” in a battle with the Silver Samurai. While it is not included here, I did do a review of this issue for my other site, Worst. Comic. Podcast. EVER!

If you like this volume, try: the Avengers Arena series from 2013 from writer Dennis Hopeless and artist Kev Walker. I know a lot of people are quick to categorize any new book or project by comparing it against a familiar item. In this instance, everyone compared Avengers Arena to The Hunger Games (or for the more literate in your friend circles, Lord of the Flies). In this story, Arcade has captured a group of young super-heroes, including x-23 and members of the Avengers Academy and the Runaways. Arcade places them on an isolated island, and tells the kids that they will kill to survive, or risk being killed. From there, the story spreads out. Some characters from alliances, believing in safety in numbers. Other characters try to strike out on their own. What surprised many readers is that characters were actually killed over the course of the 18-issue series. In the end, Hank Pym and S.H.I.E.L.D. help rescue the surviving heroes, and Arcade slips away. The entire series has been collected over three trade paperbacks and are easily available.

Showcase Presents Eclipso Vol. 1

Showcase Presents Eclipso Vol. 1

Showcase Presents Eclipso Vol. 1

First Published: August 2009

Contents: Eclipso stories from House of Secrets #61 (July-August 1963) to #80 (September-October 1966)

Key Creator Credits: Bob Haney, Lee Elias, Alex Toth, Jack Sparling, and others

Key First Appearances: Dr. Bruce Gordon/Eclipso, Professor Simon Bennett, Mona Bennett, 

Overview: Dr. Bruce Gordon is examining a black diamond when a solar eclipse occurs. The filtered light from the eclipse hits the black diamond, and Gordon is changed into Eclipso. Eclipso is a typical 1960s DC villain, who wants to take over the world without the overly malicious violence. Eclipso can fire energy rays from his eyes via the black diamond, and seems to always have henchmen available for this latest plot. After some period of time following the eclipse, Eclipso reverts back to Gordon, and he is left trying to clean up the mess that Eclipso made.

Trying to help Gordon is his girlfriend, Mona Bennett, and her father, Professor Simon Bennett. They are aware of Gordon’s condition, and do their best to help him control the transformations, trying to protect him from the all-too-numerous eclipses that occur in the DC universe.

Towards the end of the run of these stories, Gordon/Eclipso teamed up with Mark Merlin/Prince Ra-Man, the co-tenant of House of Secrets with Eclipso.

Why should these stories be Showcased?: While this volume gives us the usual assortment of quirky Bob Haney stories, plus art from Alex Toth, I don’t know that this is a necessary volume. When this run ended, it was eight years before Eclipso surfaced again. He was used sporadically for 15 years as the villain of the month, until he became a major threat in the early 1990s. What we think of the character today has very little to do with the stories collected in this Showcase. If DC had collected more of Eclipso’s appearances beyond the House of Secrets run, this might have been a more interesting collection.

Footnotes: House of Secrets came to an end with issue #80 in 1966. Three years later, DC brought back the title, but now used as a horror anthology, picking up the numbering with issue #81.

If you like this volume, try: digging in the back issue bins to find the DC Annuals from 1992 to read Eclipso: The Darkness Within storyline. This has never been reprinted in a collection, so you will need to search for the individual issues. The series featured a beginning and ending bookend books, and then travelled across various DC titles of the time. Eclipso: The Darkness Within #1 was unique, as the books shipped to comic book stores featured a plastic black diamond attached to the front cover. Of course, this led to damaged comics, the awkwardness of storing the comic, and the cheap glue that led to the diamond coming off of the cover. If you are looking to find the story, these are the annuals to track down: Action Comics Annual #4; Adventures of Superman Annual #4; Batman Annual #16; Deathstroke the Terminator Annual #1; The Demon Annual #1; Detective Comics Annual #5; The Flash Annual #5; Green Arrow Annual #5; Green Lantern Annual #1; Hawkworld Annual #3; Justice League America Annual #6; Justice League Europe Annual #3; L.E.G.I.O.N. Annual #3; The New Titans Annual #8; Robin Annual #1; Superman Annual #4; Superman: The Man of Steel Annual #1; Valor #1; and Wonder Woman Annual #3.

Showcase Presents Martian Manhunter Vol. 2

Showcase Presents Martian Manhunter Vol. 2

Showcase Presents Martian Manhunter Vol. 2

First Published: May 2009

Contents: Martian Manhunters stories from Detective Comics #305 (July 1963) to #326 (April 1964),  Martian Manhunter stories from House of Mystery #143 (June 1964) to #173 (March-April 1968)

Key Creator Credits: Jack Miller and Joe Certa

Key First Appearances: Zook

Story Continues From: Showcase Presents Martian Manhunter Vol. 1

Overview: Welcome back to the Silver Age adventures of the Manhunter from Mars. This book can be broken up into two distinct sections, marked by which title the Martian Manhunter’s stories were appearing in each month.

Picking up where Vol. 1 left off, we have the ongoing adventures of the Martian Manhunter in the pages of Detective Comics. J’onn J’onzz would pose as an Earth-man, Detective John Jones, working with colleagues such as Captain Harding and Diane Meade. These are all one-and-done stories, in particular when we get to Detective Comics #326. The idol-head of Diabolu is unearthed, and it releases an evil onto the world with each full moon. The first evil released in an energy-absorbing creature. To switch into his true identity, Detective John Jones ducks behind a car during a fight. Soon afterwards, the creature destroys the car before it is destroyed. The police department all believes that Detective Jones was killed by the creature, and Martian Manhunter decides to go along with that theory, rather than trying to come up with an excuse or to reveal his dual identity.

No longer having a secret identity to manage, the Martian Manhunter takes his exploits over to the pages of House of Mystery. The initial stories all involve J’onn battling the latest threat to be released by the Diabolu idol-head on the first night of each fool moon. (What the Manhunter does for the other 29 days each month is never really explained.) Eventually, that threat is eventually brought to an end, when the idol-head is finally found and destroyed. The Martian Manhunter than relocates to Europe, taking over the identity of a wealthy playboy who happens to work for an international criminal organization, known as VULTURE. The Manhunter works in secret to stop VULTURE’s every initiative, while trying to unmask the Hooded One, the mysterious leader of VULTURE.

The one character that bridges the two titles along with our title character is Zook. In Detective Comics #311, aliens from another dimension invade Earth, but are stopped by the Martian Manhunter. As they flee to their own dimension, they leave behind their pet, Zook, who is semi-intelligent and learns to communicate with J’onn. He becomes an unofficial sidekick, helping out J’onn on a variety of adventures. Like any other character created in this time, Zook has numerous abilities at his disposal. He can change his core temperature in either directions, becoming incredibly cold or incredibly hot. His antenna allows him to track anyone he has ever met before, and he can manipulate his body to work his way through any opening.

Why should these stories be Showcased?: It pains me to write this, because I have been a huge fan of the Martian Manhunter for years. I loved his return to the Justice League in the 1980s (see below), and the way Morrison used him in JLA was brilliant. But these solo stories from the mid-1960s? Not good. I cringe up when I think back to reading this collection. The stories are bland and predictable. It really feels like they were writing for a target audience (7-10 year olds, more than likely) with a short-attention span (as stories are recycled every few issues). In some cases, it almost feels like the goal was just to fill the six- to eight-pages per issue and move on. Even when the feature moved to the pages of House of Mystery, and they started developing some semblance on an ongoing story, the holes in each story are more prominent than ever. I can’t recommend this book, unless you are compelled to complete a collection like I am.

Footnotes: The Martian Manhunter’s final appearance in Detective Comics was #326. In the next issue, future JLA-teammate Elongated Man took over the back-up spot in the book. (Detective Comics #327 is also notable as the “start” of Batman in the Silver Age. Carmine Infantino took over art duties of the Batman story, and introduced the yellow background to the bat logo on Batman’s costume.) Following his exit from Detective Comics, the Martian Manhunter took over the feature role in House of Mystery. He even got to be the cover feature for a year. House of Mystery #156 added a new feature, Dial H for Hero, and bumped J’onn J’onzz from the covers. Both features were bumped from House of Mystery completely following #173, as the title switched formats to become a horror anthology.

If you like this volume, try: diving into the back-issue bin to find Justice League of America #228 to #230. Having been absent from the DC Universe for more than a decade, the Martian Manhunter returns to Earth, and his JLA colleagues, with an invasion force of Martians trailing after him. The Justice League and the Martian Manhunter are able to stop the threat, but at a great cost. The satellite is severely damaged, to a point where it is no longer usable. Various members of the team walk-away, as they are exhausted mentally and physically from the unending fighting. And once again, the Martian Manhunter finds himself stranded on Earth. This story arc effectively brought an end to the Satellite-era for the Justice League. While a two-part JLA-JSA story followed this (using characters not involved in the Earth-Mars War), Justice League of America Annual #2 was released, which featured Aquaman disbanding the team when the other principle founders (Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, and Green Lantern) all cite other reasons for not being able to commit to the JLA on a more regular basis. As that era ends, a new JLA team is formed around Aquaman and Martian Manhunter. Yes, this would become known as the JLA-Detroit era of the team. What makes this important is that since the start of the JLA-Detroit in 1983, the Martian Manhunter was a part of every incarnation of the Justice League, up until the New 52 reset in 2011. The Earth-Mars war issues have never been reprinted, so you will have to hunt to find and read this story.