Showcase Presents Jonah Hex Vol. 1

Showcase Presents Jonah Hex Vol. 1

Showcase Presents Jonah Hex Vol. 1

First Published: November 2005

Contents: Jonah Hex stories from All-Star Western #10 (February-March 1972) and #11 (April-May 1972); Jonah Hex stories from Weird Western Tales #12 (June-July 1972) to #14 (October-November 1972), and #16 (February-March 1973) to #33 (March-April 1976); Outlaw stories from All-Star Western #2 (October-November 1970) to #8 (October-November 1971)

Key Creator Credits: John Albano, Tony Dezuñiga, Michael Fleisher, Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, Robert Kanigher, and others

Key First Appearances: Jonah Hex, Quentin Turnbull

Story Continues In: Showcase Presents Jonah Hex Vol. 2

Overview: Meet the most-feared bounty hunter in the wild, wild west — Jonah Hex. A veteran of the Confederate Army, Hex travels the west looking for any opportunity to make money by bringing in a wanted man. The scars on his face are just one mystery surrounding Hex, as are his origins. Truth is, you are better off not knowing his story (yet), and you might live longer if you just stay out of his way.

The stories in this volume are generally one-and-done, with little continuity from issue to issue. In the latter half of the Weird Western Tales run, we meet Quentin Turnbull, a wealthy Virginia landowner that is determined to see Hex hang for his crimes. This is revisited several times before Hex is finally brought to trial for treason due to his actions during the Civil War. Turnbull blames Hex for the death of his son during the war, but it is finally revealed that Hex was the victim of circumstance. Hex manages to escape, and Turnbull’s rage leads to his own demise.

The book concludes with a run of stories featuring Outlaw, who was the star of All-Star Western before Jonah Hex took over. Now there are actually two Outlaws in this run. For issues #2 to #5, the Outlaw is Rick Wilson, a young man who wants to follow his father’s career path as a Texas Ranger, but is blocked by his parent. Angry, he rages against his father, becoming an outlaw on the run from the law. For issues #6 to #8, the Outlaw in question is Billy the Kid. No explanation is given for the change.

Why should these stories be Showcased?: Jonah Hex has become DC’s most recognizable western character. He’s been a regular face in comics most months since his debut in 1972. He’s been featured in various DC animated features, and was the star of his own big screen motion picture in 2010. (Yes, it may have been a dud of a film, but it still put a DC character on the big screen.) So, from a historical look, yes this should absolutely be showcased. Given the art talents collected in this volume (Dezuñiga and Garcia-Lopez), again, this absolutely should be showcased. I also believe that westerns in general are a genre that looks better in black & white. The only downside is that many of these stories read as very generic. For many of the stories, you could easily substitute Jonah Hex with another DC western character (Outlaw, Bat Lash, etc.) and still tell the exact same tale. My hope is that in Showcase Presents Jonah Hex Vol. 2, we get stories that are more dependent on Jonah Hex being the focus of the story, and not just a feature in the story.

If you like this volume, try: All Star Western, which was part of the New 52 launch from DC Comics. In the ramp-up to the 2011 reboot, DC promised a diversity of titles and genres, and this was their entry into western comics. This new title is written by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray, the scribes of the prior five-plus-year run of Jonah Hex from 2006-2011. Jonah Hex remains the star of this book, but the title featured back-up stories of other DC western characters like Bat Lash, Tomahawk, and El Diablo. What makes the title interesting was setting the book firmly in the past of the DC Universe, and not just in a generic past. For example, early in the title, Hex’s travels took him to Gotham City of the 1870s, meeting Amadeus Arkham, years before his home became a famous asylum. In early 2013, the book did a 180-degree turn. The back-up stories were removed with issue #21, and the Jonah Hex story took over the entire book. At the same time, Hex was brought into the present, and encountered heroes such as Booster Gold, Batwing, Batman, and Superman. Personally, I find Jonah Hex as a bounty hunter in the old west much more interesting than Jonah Hex as a stranger in a strange land.

Essential X-Factor Vol. 2

Essential X-Factor Vol. 2

Essential X-Factor Vol. 2

First Published: January 2007

Contents: X-Factor #17 (June 1987) to #35 (December 1988); X-Factor Annual #2 (1987); and Thor #378 (April 1987)

Key Creator Credits: Louise Simonson, Walt Simonson, Sal Buscema, and others

Key First Appearances: Rictor, Death, Infectia, Orphan-Maker, Nanny

Story Continues From: Essential X-Factor Vol. 1

Story Continues In: Essential X-Factor Vol. 3

Overview:  Get comfortable, friends! This is a must read volume of the original X-Men’s ongoing adventures as members of X-Factor. As you may recall, X-Factor appeared to be mutant-hunters, but they are secretly bringing in their captures to train them on how to use their powers.

When we left off, it appeared that Warren Worthington III, aka the Angel, had committed suicide in despair over the loss of his wings. In all actuality, Warren survived and was brought back to life by Apocalypse, who outfitted Warren with a new suit and a new attitude. Taking on the name Death, he joins up with the other minions (War, Famine, and Pestilence) to form the Four Horsemen serving Apocalypse. The Four Horsemen take on X-Factor, who are shocked to see their former friend and team-mate squaring off against them. Warren is eventually able to overcome Apocalypse’s influence, and rejoins his team. He uses a variety of code names such as Death or Dark Angel before settling on Archangel.

With Warren’s death, that left a hole in the team line-up, which was filled by the mutant Caliban, whose power is detect mutants. Caliban starts to despise his passive power, as he wants revenge against everyone who has done him wrong. Caliban takes advantage of the hole in Horsemen’s roster, and promises his loyalty to Apocalypse in exchange for the ability to gain the vengeance he seeks. Thus, Caliban becomes the new Death, once again replacing Angel.

As much as we like the Angel storyline, there are other members of the team in this book. Cyclops still has to deal with the emotions of Jean Grey returning to life while at the same time dealing with his estranged wife Madelyne Pryor. That entire storyline will come to a resolution in the Inferno storyline, so stick around for Essential X-Factor Vol. 3.

The Beast is really roughed up in this volume. During the battle with the Four Horsemen, Hank comes in contact with Pestilence, whose touch brings pain and infection. With the Beast, whose genetic formula is anything but normal, it reacts in the worst possible way, causing Hank to lose intelligence each time he uses his abilities. Bit by bit, Hank goes from the smartest member of the team to the dumbest, but his heart remains true to this friends. He protects Iceman from being kissed by the deadly Infectia, who can manipulate molecular structure through physical contact. However, given the previously mentioned screwed up genetics of the Beast, this causes adverse affects, eventually stabilizing his body into his blue beast form with his full intelligence returned.

What makes this Essential?: This is a really good volume. From the storyline, we finally have a set of core characters that run through the issues in this volume. All of the characters are put through the ringer physically and emotionally. Not to demean either format, but this really feels like a TV soap opera. The stories may seem outrageous, but the goal is to bring you back to read the next issue (or watch the next episode) and it works. Based on the creators, this is the Simonsons at their best. This is some of Louise (Jones) Simonson’s most solid writing, and Walt Simonson shows why he is a modern master of the comic art form.

If you like this volume, try: the Fall of the Mutants omnibus, which collects all of the issues of this “event.” Or maybe non-event. What makes this interesting is that even though the Fall of the Mutants banner was on the covers for X-Factor, New Mutants, and Uncanny X-Men, the events in the stories did not cross over with each other. We see the struggles that X-Factor goes through in this volume, and the “death” of the X-Men can also be read in the Essential X-Men Vol. 7. But to read the New Mutants story, you need to pick up this omnibus. While visiting their friend Bird-Brain, the New Mutants get into a battle between the Ani-Mator and the Right organization. During this battle, one of the New Mutants is killed. (As with all comic book deaths, you should add the words “for now” into the sentence.) This volume is a great way to read the events of the mutant books going on at one time, without the obligation of having to read all of the issues to understand the full story.

Essential Defenders Vol. 2

Essential Defenders Vol. 2

Essential Defenders Vol. 2

First Published: December 2006

Contents: The Defenders #15 (September 1974) to #30 (December 1975); Giant-Size Defenders #1 (July 1974) to #5 (August 1975); Marvel Two-in-One #6 (November 1974) and #7 (January 1975); Marvel Team-Up #33 (May 1975) to #35 (July 1975); and Marvel Treasury Edition #12 (1976)

Key Creator Credits: Len Wein, Steve Gerber, Tony Isabella, Gerry Conway, Jim Starlin, Sal Buscema, Don Heck, and others

Key First Appearances: Supreme Serpent, Wrecking Crew (Bulldozer, Piledriver, Thunderball), Elf with a Gun, Starhawk, Aleta, Michael Korvac

Story Continues From: Essential Defenders Vol. 1

Story Continues In: Essential Defenders Vol. 3

Overview: Welcome back to the ongoing adventures of Marvel’s non-team of heroes, the Defenders! The team with no rules, no charter, no membership cards, and no matching uniforms.

Core founding members Sub-Mariner and the Silver Surfer have moved on in this volume to other adventures, but will return in later Essential Defenders volumes. In their place, Valkyrie and Nighthawk team up with Doctor Strange and the Hulk to form the core members of the team in this volume. Other heroes hang out with the Defenders for a few issues in this volume, such as Power Man, Son of Satan, the Thing, and Yellowjacket.

Two story arcs in particular stand out in this issue. For issues #15 and #16, the Defenders face off against Magneto and his Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, a group of characters that had not been seen much with the X-Men title on hiatus. This is followed up in #17 and #18 with the debut of Wrecking Crew – three super-powered construction working villains that work with the Wrecker. The Wrecking Crew have been mainstays in the Marvel Universe since then, fighting everyone from the Avengers to Spider-Man to Wolverine, among others.

The volume concludes with a long story arc featuring the return of the Guardians of the Galaxy. The Guardians made their debut in the late 1960s, but were unused for many years until Steve Gerber brought them back to the forefront in Marvel Two-in-One #5, The story arc in Defenders introduced Starhawk to the team.

What makes this Essential?: While there are still moments where the title feels like an extension of the Doctor Strange book, the Defenders start to come into their own as an individual title, albeit an unofficial team. Steve Gerber begins his long run with the team, and we start to see Gerber’s familiar story-telling techniques which will be more prominently seen in the pages of Howard the Duck. This is an interesting read, but I just don’t know if it’s essential to read.

Footnotes: Marvel Two-in-One #6 and #7 are also reprinted in Essential Marvel Two-in-One Vol. 1.

Marvel Team-Up #33-#35 are also reprinted in Essential Marvel Team-Up Vol. 2.

Marvel Treasury Edition #12 is also reprinted in Essential Howard the Duck Vol. 1.

If you like this volume, try: the Guardians of the Galaxy: Tomorrow’s Avengers trade paperbacks from 2013. We are given a taste of the Guardians of the Galaxy in this Essential Defenders volume. But to find the origins of the original Guardians, check out these collections. Originally created by Arnold Drake and Gene Colan, but fully developed later by Steve Gerber and Al Milgrom, the Guardians come together to help save the 31st Century. Vance Astro, Martinex, Charlie-27, and Yondu form the original core, and we see Starhawk join during the appearance in Defenders. Whether you view this as Marvel’s version of the Legion of Super-Heroes, or as a future version of the Avengers, the Guardians are a fun look at one possible future for the Marvel Universe. Given the success of the summer blockbuster of the same name (but different character line-up), fans should check out these volumes to see the roots of the original Guardians of the Galaxy.

Showcase Presents The Brave and The Bold Batman Team-Ups Vol. 2

Showcase Presents The Brave and The Bold Batman Team-Ups Vol. 2

Showcase Presents The Brave and The Bold Batman Team-Ups Vol. 2

First Published: January 2007

Contents: The Brave and The Bold #88 (February-March 1970) to #108 (August-September 1973)

Key Creator Credits: Bob Haney, Neal Adams, Ross Andru, Nick Cardy, Jim Aparo, Bob Brown, and others

Story Continues From: Showcase Presents The Brave and The Bold Batman Team-Ups Vol. 1

Story Continues In: Showcase Presents The Brave and The Bold Batman Team-Ups Vol. 3

Overview: Welcome back to the Batman team-ups from The Brave and the Bold. Once again, Bob Haney weaves a unique take on Batman, finding unusual ways to bring Batman together with the likes of Green Arrow, Deadman, and the Metal Men.

A couple of books highlight this volume in particular:

  • The Brave and the Bold #98 featured Batman meeting up with the Phantom Stranger. While that match-up in particular is not huge, it does mark Jim Aparo’s first take on Batman. Aparo was a rising star at DC at this time, having gained notice for his work on Aquaman and The Phantom Stranger. Aparo would then go on to handle the art on nearly 80 of the next 100 issues of The Brave and the Bold.
  • The Brave and the Bold #100 (February-March 1972) featured Batman “teaming up” with Robin, Black Canary, Green Arrow, and Green Lantern. In all actuality, Batman had been shot, and needed the other heroes to solve a crime for him while he recovered. This was published around the same time as the “Hard Traveling Heroes” storyline was coming to an end in the pages of Green Lantern (see Showcase Presents Green Lantern Vol. 5 for that full story).

Why should these stories be Showcased?: I’ve said it before and I will say it again – any of the team-up books from DC (or Marvel) should be must-own for any fan. This is Batman with some of the greatest art talents of the time (Adams, Aparo, Cardy) providing covers and enticing stories to match the crazy stories being delivered to us by Bob Haney. These stories do not worry about continuity, so try not to take these too seriously. Just enjoy the absurdity of Batman teaming up with Sgt. Rock or the House of Mystery.

Who’s Who / Reprinted Elsewhere:
#88 – Batman & Wildcat
#89 – Batman & The Phantom Stranger / Showcase Presents The Phantom Stranger Vol. 2
#90 – Batman & Adam Strange
#91 – Batman & Black Canary
#92 – Batman & The Bat-Squad
#93 – Batman & House of Mystery
#94 – Batman & Teen Titans / Showcase Presents Teen Titans Vol. 2
#95 – Batman & Plastic Man
#96 – Batman & Sgt. Rock
#97 – Batman & Wildcat
#98 – Batman & The Phantom Stranger / Showcase Presents The Phantom Stranger Vol. 2
#99 – Batman & Flash
#100 – Batman & Black Canary, Green Arrow, Green Lantern, and Robin
#101 – Batman & Metamorpho
#102 – Batman & Teen Titans
#103 – Batman & Metal Men
#104 – Batman & Deadman
#105 – Batman & Wonder Woman
#106 – Batman & Green Arrow
#107 – Batman & Black Canary
#108 – Batman & Sgt. Rock

If you like this volume, try: the Batman: The Brave and the Bold animated series. Running on the Cartoon Network from 2008 to 2011, this was a beautiful and fun homage to the Batman team-ups of the 1960s and 1970s. While some team-ups occurred more frequently (Aquaman and Green Arrow), the creators of the series pulled team-ups from all corners of the DC Universe. You would think that the spirit of Bob Haney was supervising the writer’s room for this series. Truth be told, I think I even teared up some with Batman teaming up with the Doom Patrol at the end of that group’s career. The finale of the series tied everything together, and made promises that the adventures of Batman will never end. If you have not watched them, or not watched them recently, you owe it to yourself to give this series a look. (There was a Johnny DC book released to support this cartoon as well. While it captured the look and humor of the series, part of the joy with the series is seeing the team-ups animated on the screen. Track this series down for the young Batman fan in your life.)

Essential Man-Thing Vol. 1

Essential Man-Thing Vol. 1

Essential Man-Thing Vol. 1

First Published: December 2006

Contents: Man-Thing story from Savage Tales #1 (May 1971); Man-Thing stories from Astonishing Tales #12 (June 1972) and #13 (August 1972); Man-Thing stories from (Adventure into) Fear #10 (October 1972) to #19 (December 1973); Man-Thing #1 (January 1974) to #14 (February 1975); Giant-Size Man-Thing #1 (August 1974) and #2 (November 1974); and Man-Thing stories from Monsters Unleashed #5 (April 1974), #8 (October 1974), and #9 (December 1974)

Key Creator Credits: Steve Gerber, Roy Thomas, Gerry Conway, Len Wein, Mike Ploog, Tony Isabella, Gray Morrow, John Buscema, Neal Adams, Rich Buckler, Val Mayerik, and others

Key First Appearances: Ted Sallis/Man-Thing, Ellen Brandt, Jennifer Kale, Andy Kale, Thog, Joshua Kale, Dakimh the Enchanter, Howard the Duck, F.A. Schist, Wundar, Richard Rory, Ruth Hart, Foolkiller

Story Continues In: Essential Man-Thing Vol. 2

Overview:  Ted Sallis is a research scientist trying to re-discover the Super Soldier formula, the long lost serum which led to the creation of Captain America in the 1940s. Working in a remote lab in the Florida Everglades, Sallis believes he has recreated the formula. Unfortunately, there are plenty of other people and governments that want that formula, some of whom would kill to get their hands on it. Confronted by spies, Sallis flees into the murk, and injects the formula into himself prior to crashing his car into the swamp. Between the formula and the swamp, Sallis’ body is transformed into what could best be described as a Man-Thing — it has the shape of a human, but made out of swamp material.

The Man-Thing has vague memories of who he once was, but nothing coherent. He reacts to the emotions of people around him, in particular fear. We quickly find out that whatever knows fear burns at the Man-Thing’s touch. He becomes the protector of the swamp, which also happens to contain a Nexus of All Realities, which allow travel between Earth and other dimensions. Man-Thing becomes the protector of the swamp and the Nexus, and encounters many Marvel characters passing through the Florida Everglades.

The bulk of this book is written by Steve Gerber early in his career, and the supporting characters introduced here would make numerous future appearances in later Marvel books written by Gerber. And in a book like Man-Thing, where the title character does not speak, a writer needs a good supporting cast to help advance the story. Howard the Duck is the most famous introduction made by Gerber, coming from Duckworld through the Nexus of All Realities. He would move into his own self-titled book of the 1970s. Richard Rory is a down-on-his-luck guy that can never seem to get the girl. Rory would travel with Gerber to The Defenders, before moving on to the various She-Hulk titles of the 1970s and 1980s. Finally, Jennifer Kale is a teenage girl with an affinity to magic, and makes appearances every few years in a variety of titles, from Howard the Duck to Ghost Rider.

What makes this Essential?: The release of Savage Tales #1 was Marvel’s first attempt to introduce a horror/monster book into the Marvel Universe proper. (Other appearances in that first issue of Savage Tales included Conan and Ka-Zar.) Debuting around the same time as DC’s Swamp Thing (see The First Thing below), Man-Thing remained a steady feature throughout the 1970s and 1980s. For that reason, sure these early stories could be considered as Essential. I do find that the best artwork in this volume came from the various magazines, and I will once again state my plea that Marvel should find someway to reprint the magazines in one collection. 

The First Thing: Man-Thing was originally conceived by Stan Lee and Roy Thomas; Thomas fleshed out the character’s story, then handed the story to Gerry Conway to plot. As a result, Thomas and Conway, along with artist Gray Morrow, are credited for the creation of Man-Thing in Savage Tales #1 (May 1971). A second story was done by Len Wein, but Savage Tales was cancelled after just the one issue. It was a year before the story saw print, incorporated into the Ka-Zar story in Astonishing Tales #12 (June 1972). Meanwhile, down the street at the DC Comics offices, the first Swamp Thing story appeared in House of Secrets #92 (July 1971). This Swamp Thing (originally Alex Olsen) took place in the early 1900s. The next Swamp Thing appeared in Swamp Thing #1 (October-November 1972), this time featuring Alec Holland becoming the Swamp Thing. Both of the Swamp Thing stories were written by Len Wein. While there are a lot of similarities in the origins between Man-Thing and Swamp Thing, Len Wein has stated in interviews that they are two distinct characters. The story paths for both characters have followed different paths, taking them further and further away from a very familiar origin story.

Footnotes: Parts of (Adventure into) Fear #19 and Man-Thing #1 are also reprinted in Essential Howard the Duck Vol. 1.

This Essential does carry a Parental Advisory warning, but it is buried on the lower portion of the back cover. This is definitely not an all-ages book.

If you like this volume, try: looking into the life and career of Gray Morrow, the artistic co-creator of Man-Thing. Over the course of his long career, Morrow did work in nearly every genre for nearly every publisher at some point – Classics Illustrated, horror magazines and comics, newspaper strip, among others – but he was most closely associated with the worlds of fantasy and science fiction. Start your search with the retrospective Gray Morrow: Visionary, which was released in 2001 as his career was coming to an end.

Essential Captain America Vol. 3

Essential Captain America Vol. 3

Essential Captain America Vol. 3

First Published: December 2006

Contents: Captain America #127 (July 1970) to #133 (January 1971); Captain America and the Falcon #134 (February 1971) to #156 (December 1972)

Key Creator Credits: Stan Lee, Gene Colan, Gary Friedrich, Gerry Conway, Steve Englehart, John Romita, Sr., Sal Buscema, and others

Key First Appearances: Leila Taylor, Boss Morgan, Jack Monroe/Bucky

Story Continues From: Essential Captain America Vol. 2

Story Continues In: Essential Captain America Vol. 4

Overview: Welcome back to the continuing adventures of Captain America and the Falcon. This volume features an all-star list of comic greats, as Stan Lee and Gene Colan wrap up their long run on the book, and familiar Marvel Bullpen creators like Steve Englehart, John Romita, Sr., and Sal Buscema get their chance to take on star-spangled super-hero.

Our duo continue helping out Nick Fury, Sharon Carter, and S.H.I.E.L.D. with a variety of familiar foes, such as the Red Skull, Hydra, and the Grey Gargoyle. Heroes like Spider-Man and the Avengers make cameo appearances, as New York City is the hub for all Marvel super-heroes.

Now, one of the struggles for our title character is to find something to occupy his time when he is not in costume. Sam Wilson works as a social worker in Harlem, and now has a steady girlfriend in Leila Taylor. But what can Steve Rogers do? Well, with good intentions, he joins the New York City Police Department. He works with Police Commissioner Feingold to set it up, but they agree to tell no one of Rogers’ other identity. Of course, this leads into all kinds of crazy excuses that Rogers must come up with to explain missing his shift, much to the annoyance of Rogers’ sergeant, Brian Muldoon (who bears a solid resemblance to Jack Kirby, one of Captain America’s co-creators).

The volume concludes with a face-off with the Captain America and Bucky from the 1950s. We find out that the government tried to introduce a new Captain America during the early days of the Cold War. William Burnside is an avid Captain America fan, and while researching his hero, he discovers the super soldier formula long thought lost. He undergoes plastic surgery to have his face shaped to look like Steve Rogers. Bringing in a young Jack Monroe that shares Burnside’s beliefs, the two teamed up as Captain America and Bucky. But their version of the super soldier formula causes psychotic breakdowns in the heroes, and the government is forced to put the two into suspended animation. Reanimated in the early 1970s, the 1950s Cap and Bucky come to blows with our Cap and Falcon. Our fearless heroes triumph, and the 1950s heroes are put back on ice. (In later years, Jack Monroe would return to Captain America’s side, adopting the Nomad costume identity in the 1980s. For more on Nomad, come back for Essential Captain America Vol. 4!)

What makes this Essential?: This volume really has me on the ropes. I don’t want to write a negative review about it, but I don’t know that I can write a positive review either. Given the incredible talents of the creators involved with the volume, one might expect the stories to be more epic in nature, or even more memorable. I don’t believe they were phoning it in during this era, but this is one of those books that felt like priority 1 was to just get a book out each month. This is a very good read for the Captain America fan, but I believe the casual Marvel Universe fan will find it disappointing.

Footnotes: Captain America Special #1 (1971) and #2 (1972) are reprint issues. collecting previously published stories from Tales of Suspense and Not Brand Echh. The covers for the two issues are in this volume.

Beginning with issue #134, the title of the comic changed to Captain America and the Falcon. This remained the title until issue #222, which can be found in Essential Captain America Vol. 6.

If you like this volume, try: the Captain America movies from 2011 and 2014. In all fairness, this may seem like a cheat. Maybe I am struggling to find another book to recommend based on the events of these comics. But at this point, if you are reading Volume 3, you probably have also read Volumes 1 and 2, which gives you 8 years worth of Captain America stories. So you understand who the character is and how he should be portrayed. So jump over to the movies. The 2011 Captain America: The First Avenger film portrays our hero’s origin, using the story from Captain America #255, which is viewed as the definitive Captain America origin, during the Roger Stern-John Byrne run in 1980 (see Essential Captain America Vol. 7). Jump ahead to the 2014 Captain America 2: The Winter Soldier and we see Captain America working with S.H.I.E.L.D., which we have seen a lot in these Essentials. Look at the opening to Captain America #153, as Captain America comes home and finds Nick Fury sitting in the dark. That scene was later mimicked in the movie. Chris Evans visually personifies Captain America in the flesh, even more so than Robert Downey, Jr. as Iron Man. The Captain America films have done an excellent job of aligning the movie character to that of the comic character, They are worth the re-watch to appreciate how faithful they were to the comics.

Showcase Presents Justice League of America Vol. 3

Showcase Presents Justice League of America Vol. 3

Showcase Presents Justice League of America Vol. 3

First Published: December 2007

Contents: Justice League of America #37 (August 1965) to #60 (February 1968)

Key Creator Credits: Gardner Fox and Mike Sekowsky

Key First Appearances: The Key, Royal Flush Gang (10, Jack, Queen, King, and Ace of Clubs), Amos Fortune, Shaggy Man

Story Continues From: Showcase Presents Justice League of America Vol. 2

Story Continues In: Showcase Presents Justice League of America Vol. 4

Overview: From their secret headquarters in Happy Harbor, we rejoin the Justice League of America in their third Showcase Presents volume. When the volume starts, the league stands strong at 10 members – the original seven plus Green Arrow, Atom, and Hawkman. Surprisingly, when this volume ends, the membership will still remain those 10 members. But more on that later, let’s get into the stories.

At the point, Gardner Fox and Mike Sekowsky had developed a set pattern for the title. There would be eight new issues each year, plus one reprint issue. And for two issues each year, the Justice League would team up with their friends in the Justice Society, which usually resulted in some crisis that involves the two teams working together. This volume gives us three JLA-JSA team-ups, so it’s well worth reading.

What makes this volume interesting to me is the new villains introduced here. The Key would become a long-time foe of the League in all of its incarnations, and his power and story gets updated over the years. My personal favorite foes, the Royal Flush Gang, show up led by Amos Fortune. Various iterations (or should I say, suits) will return from time to time to challenge the League, with or without Fortune.  Finally, Shaggy Man stumbles into the picture, and would make occasional appearances later on.

Now, going back to the membership. Surely being asked to join the Justice League would be highlight of any hero’s career. However, the League receives their first “No”, when an offer is extended, but rejected, by Metamorpho in issue #42. Metamorpho agrees to be an honorary member. In issue #51, Zatanna makes her first appearance in the pages of Justice League, as she finally tracks down her missing father (see Showcase Presents Hawkman Vol. 1). However, it would take the JLA another 110 issues before Zatanna is made a member.

Why should these stories be Showcased?: I really think this is a good starting point if you want to dive into the history of the Justice League. The storytelling and the artwork have leveled out, and you know what you will get from month to month. The lineup remains constant, but it does vary from issue to issue as not all 10 members show up for each case. And we see other characters make cameo appearances, which finally gives the reader a feeling that DC is developing a large shared universe of characters.

Footnotes: Justice League of America #39, #48, and #58 are 80-Page Giant reprint issues. collecting three previously published stories. The covers for these three issues are in this volume.

Justice League of America #42 is also reprinted in Showcase Presents Metamorpho Vol. 1.

Justice League of America #60 is also reprinted in Showcase Presents Batgirl Vol. 1.

If you like this volume, try: DC: The New Frontier by Darwyn Cooke. This is an incredible story set in the days of DC’s Silver Age. One of the biggest issues I have with the comics from this era is that the characters very rarely crossed over with each other. We never saw Aquaman or the Sea Devils when Superman went to Atlantis to visit Lori Lemaris, The Green Lanterns were seemingly unaware of Hawkman and the other Thanagarians. The Blackhawks fought a lot of the same types of foes as the Challengers of the Unknown. Sure, we had some minor crossovers, such as the Batman & Superman pairing in World’s Finest or the creation of the Justice League. With the New Frontier project, Darwyn Cooke brought everything and everyone together into one large story arc set in the 1950s. Following the end of World War II, many of the world’s Golden Age heroes went into seclusion due to the paranoia brought on by the Cold War. But the challenges of the 1950s brought out a new generation of super-heroes ready to face the world. Cooke’s artwork showcases the optimism of the 1950s super-hero, while his writing gives us a modern day take on times past. This story has been collected in multiple formats – I would suggest getting the Absolute edition, just to see the artwork on a larger page. However you read this story, do it! You won’t be disappointed.