Essential Moon Knight Vol. 2

moon_knight_2First Published: October 2007

Contents: Moon Knight #11 (September 1981) to #30 (April 1983)

Key Creator Credits: Doug Moench, Bill Sienkiewicz, Alan Zelenetz, Greg LaRocque, Steven Grant, and others

Key First Appearances: Morpheus, Detective Flint, Stained Glass Scarlet, Black Spectre

Story Continues From: Essential Moon Knight Vol. 1

Story Continues In: Essential Moon Knight Vol. 3

Overview: He’s back! Moon Knight returns in his second Essential volume, reprinting the stories from his first ongoing series.

During this run of issues, the Moon Knight titled transitioned into a direct market only title, meaning that fans could only find the book at comic book retailers and not on the spinner rack at your local convenience store. The direct market status came with some benefits to the discerning readers. The comics were ad-free and were eventually upgraded to a better paper quality. In addition, Marvel could start to tell somewhat more mature stories in this format.

Most of the stories are one-and-done, but there are the occasional multi-part stories. We are introduced to a pair of foes that would be regulars in Moon Knight’s rogues gallery – Morpheus and Scarlet. I think the development of the supporting characters in the book helps enhance the title character.

The best stories are found towards the end of the book, and the end of artist Bill Sienkiewicz’s run on the title. In particular, issue #26 with the “Hit It” story works on multiple levels, striking a powerful blow at the reader.

What makes this Essential?: These are really good issues, and they translate well into the black & white format. As I mentioned before, I’ve never been a fan of Moon Knight. To me, he seemed to just be Marvel’s version of Batman, albeit with multiple personalities.

But I read an interesting theory in the preparation of this review that made me rethink my position. As seen in this volume, some cover art is done by Frank Miller, who was bringing his legendary run on Daredevil to a conclusion in this time frame. Soon after, Miller started doing some work for DC, including Batman: The Dark Knight Returns and Batman: Year One. Now, the Batman that most people think of when we hear the character’s name most often is the Frank Miller-influenced Batman that came out of those two stories. And since Miller worked on Moon Knight before he worked on Batman, you could (maybe) make the case that Batman is actually DC’s version of Moon Knight. It may be a stretch, but it’s an idea I want to think some more about.

Anyway, buy this book, whether it is for the character, the Doug Moench stories, or the beautiful Bill Sienkiewicz artwork.

If you like this volume, try: Daredevil: Love and War from the 1980s Marvel Graphic Novel line. This is an incredible Daredevil story from Frank Miller and Bill Sienkiewicz that often gets overlooked. The Kingpin has kidnapped a psychiatrist in hopes of helping his wife Vanessa recover. Daredevil must stop the Kingpin and rescue the psychiatrist, as well as the psychiatrist’s wife, who is being held by a psychotic killer on behalf of the Kingpin. This is a beautiful book that is best viewed as the Marvel Graphic Novel, in order to get the proper scaling for the pages. I’ve been on record that I was NOT a Sienkiewicz fan when he took over the art on New Mutants. I hated his work and only stayed with the book because I actually had a mail subscription to the title. But Love and War was 180-degree turn for me in my opinions of Sienkiewicz. I suddenly got his art and thought it was incredible. Please check out this story however you can find it.

Showcase Presents The Flash Vol. 4

flash4First Published: October 2012

Contents: The Flash #162 (June 1966) to #184 (December 1968)

Key Creator Credits: John Broome, Carmine Infantino, Gardner Fox, Ross Andru, Frank Robbins, Cary Bates, and others

Key First Appearances: Julie Schwartz

Story Continues From: Showcase Presents The Flash Vol. 3

Overview: DC Comics published 124 Showcase Presents volumes over the last 10+ years. These volumes covered much of the Silver Age and Bronze Age covering all aspects of the DC Universe. If I had to narrow down my reading adventures to just one volume that best represents the potential of DC Comics, it would be this volume, which has a little bit of everything in the collection. This is Showcase Presents The Flash Vol. 4.

On the surface, this is a fast-paced (pun intended) superhero comic book. You have a true hero, in and out of the red tights, who fights a never-ending battle against a colorful assortment of costumed villains. But The Flash goes beyond the superhero concept. This is a great science fiction title, as the title hero can travel between dimensions. As always, the stories are filled with science facts, making it a learning tool for the reader. Finally, this may be a stretch, but the romance between Barry and Iris is true and would match up to the stories found in Young Love.

This volume contains so many memorable moments that helped shape the DC Universe. We get the wedding of Barry and Iris, which is nearly interrupted by Professor Zoom. We get one of the earliest races between the Flash and Superman, trying to determine who the fastest man alive is. Another Earth is visited, and we finally see a face to go with a familiar name from the credits page. As always, there are some Kid Flash short stories, we get a crossover appearance by Green Lantern, and so much more.

Why should these stories be Showcased?: I really like how this title was always moving forward when other titles were happy maintaining the status quo. This volume sees Barry and Iris finally tie the not, and Barry reveals his secret identity to his wife. Over in the Superman books, a Superman-Lois marriage would only be considered as an imaginary story. I do like these stories, even following the shake-up in the mid-1960s when Broome, Fox and Infantino left the title. Newcomer Cary Bates would have a long run with the Flash’s friends and foes.

Welcome to Earth-Prime!: The Flash comic helped re-introduce the Justice Society characters as still alive and well, but living in an alternate world designated as Earth-2. In issue #179, we are introduced to a new world that would become known as Earth-Prime. On this world, there are no superheroes. In fact, superheroes are only found in the comic books. The Flash travels to New York City to meet DC Comics Editor Julie Schwartz, who is the one person on this Earth most likely to believe the Flash’s story and help him return to Earth-1.

Footnotes: The Flash #169 and #178 are reprint issues. The covers are included in this collection.

If you like this volume, try: the Superman vs. The Flash trade paperback collection from 2005. DC fans for years had debated over which hero is the fastest man alive, Superman or the Flash. Beginning in 1967, we saw a pair of races in each of the characters’ main titles (Superman #199 and The Flash #175). Neither race was conclusive, so it led to future races across multiple books. This trade collects many of those race stories from the Silver and Bronze Ages. The book sports a spectacular Alex Ross cover. So want to know who is faster? Read this trade and find out for yourself.

Essential Marvel Team-Up Vol. 4

Essential Marvel Team-Up Vol. 4

First Published: February 2013

Contents: Marvel Team-Up #76 (December 1978) to #78 (February 1979), and #80 (April 1979) to #98 (October 1980), and Marvel Team-Up Annual #2 (1979) and #3 (1980).

Key Creator Credits: Chris Claremont, Steven Grant, Mike Vosburg, Sal Buscema, Carmine Infantino

Key First Appearances: Cutthroat, Mister Fear, Dansen Macabre, Bobbi Morse/Mockingbird, Alexi Vazhin

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

Overview: Living in New York City, Spider-Man has the opportunity to cross paths with many different heroes from all corners of the Marvel Universe. A casual stroll through Greenwich Village usually prompts an encounter with the mystical Dr. Strange. Being sent on a photo shoot for the Daily Globe allows Peter to meet up with the Invisible Girl. And you just never know when Howard the Duck might drive his cab from Cleveland to Manhattan.

While references are made to ongoing events in Spider-Man’s other monthly books, these stories usually follow the one-and-done format, giving the reader a complete story within the 20-plus pages per issue. These stories also tend to be more lighthearted, giving into the absurdity that brings some of these team-ups together.

What makes this Essential?: The team-up books, such as this or Marvel Two-in-One, are a good way to read a particular character, be exposed to a variety of other characters, and not get bogged down in continuity from the main character’s books (usually). While mostly one-and-done stories, there are a couple of mini-story arcs (#76, #77, #80, #81; and #82-#85) that make for more interesting stories. While this is not a must-read volume to understand Peter Parker, this is a friendly  way to introduce a new reader to the world of Spider-Man.

Footnotes: Marvel Team-Up #79 is not included in this Essential volume. That issue teamed Spider-Man up with Red Sonja. Marvel no longer holds the rights to publish Red Sonja, so it could not be included in this Essential.

Who’s Who / Reprinted Elsewhere:
#76 – Spider-Man & Dr. Strange
#77 – Spider-Man & Ms. Marvel
#78 – Spider-Man & Wonder Man
#80 – Spider-Man & Dr. Strange and Clea / Essential Marvel Horror Vol. 1
#81 – Spider-Man & Satana / Essential Marvel Horror Vol. 1
#82 – Spider-Man & Black Widow
#83 – Spider-Man & Nick Fury
#84 – Spider-Man & Master of Kung Fu
#85 – Spider-Man & Shang-Chi, Black Widow, and Nick Fury
#86 – Spider-Man & Guardians of the Galaxy
#87 – Spider-Man & Black Panther
#88 – Spider-Man & Invisible Girl
#89 – Spider-Man & Nightcrawler
#90 – Spider-Man & Beast
#91 – Spider-Man & Ghost Rider
#92 – Spider-Man & Hawkeye
#93 – Spider-Man & Werewolf
#94 – Spider-Man & Shroud
#95 – Spider-Man & Mockingbird
#96 – Spider-Man & Howard the Duck
#97 – Hulk & Spider-Woman / Essential Spider-Woman Vol. 2
#98 – Spider-Man & Black Widow
Annual #2 – Spider-Man & Hulk
Annual #3 – Hulk & Power Man, Iron Fist, and Machine Man

If you like this volume, try: the first Hawkeye mini-series from 1983. We see Hawkeye in Marvel Team-Up #92 working as the security chief for Cross Technological Enterprises (CTE). Hawkeye would work for CTE during his many leaves of absence from the Avengers. The mini-series brings the CTE storyline to a conclusion, as Hawkeye discovers that the cousin of CTE’s CEO is the villain Crossfire, who is hatching a plan to destroy all superheroes. Working with former S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Mockingbird (first introduced in Marvel Team-Up #95), Hawkeye stops Crossfire’s plan. The series ends with Hawkeye and Mockingbird getting married. This series has been collected in a trade paperback and as a Marvel Premiere edition.

Showcase Presents Sea Devils Vol. 1

seadevils1First Published: July 2012

Contents: Showcase #27 (July/August 1960) to #29 (November/December 1960); and Sea Devils #1 (September/October 1961) to #16 (March/April 1964)

Key Creator Credits: Robert Kanigher, Russ Heath, Bob Haney, Jack Adler, Irv Novick, Hank Chapman, and others

Key First Appearances: Biff Bailey, Dane Dorrance, Judy Walton, Nicky Walton

Overview: Meet the Sea Devils – Have flippers, will travel! In the spirit of other Silver Age common heroes such as the Challengers of the Unknown, the Sea Devils are a group of divers who are more at ease under the water than above the water. Biff, Dane, Judy, and Nicky comprise the Sea Devils, who seek out new challenges or missions every other month.

The stories vary from traditional “find a missing treasure” to those dealing with aliens or mystical creatures. Many times, the stories are broken up into segments to give each Sea Devil the chance to shine on their own. And over the course of the series, having served on so many dives with each other, the group develops the mental ability to communicate with each other underwater, which definitely aids in the storytelling of each issue.

Why should these stories be Showcased?: OK, this is going to rank up there (or down, depending on one’s perspective) on my list of least-favorite Showcase Presents volumes. The one redeeming feature of this book is the beautiful Russ Heath art, which kept me going through much of this book. But this title still suffers from the same issues that a title like Challengers of the Unknown faced – telling a unique story that showcases the characters skills each issue. The stories in Sea Devils are very repetitive in nature, and I often got sidetracked trying to determine if I had already read a particular story. If you pick this up, do it for the Heath art only.


If you like this volume, try: the Great Pacific series from Image Comics. Admittedly, once you get past Aquaman and Sub-Mariner, there are not a lot of water-based characters or comics around. (And I am setting myself up, as I am sure I am about to be flooded with book suggestions that I am overlooking here. But I digress….) So Great Pacific ran for 18 issues between 2012 and 2014. In the story, a young oil heir Chas Washington settles on the Great Pacific garbage patch and proclaims it as a new nation. But that makes a lot of people unhappy, ranging from nations to his own family. Writer Joe Harris and artist Martin Morazzo create a visually spectacular story that makes one consider the ecological impact we as humans are putting on our planet. The entire series has been collected into three trade paperbacks, so it should be easy to track down and dive into.

Essential Moon Knight Vol. 1

moonknight1First Published: February 2006

Contents: Werewolf by Night #32 (August 1975) and #33 (September 1975); Marvel Spotlight #28 (June 1976) and #29 (August 1976); Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man #22 (September 1978) and #23 (October 1978); Marvel Two-In-One #52 (June 1979); Moon Knight stories from The Hulk! #11 (October 1978) to #15 (June 1979), #17 (October 1979), #18 (December 1979), and #20 (April 1980); Marvel Preview #21 (May 1980); and Moon Knight #1 (November 1980) to #10 (August 1981)

Key Creator Credits: Doug Moench, Don Perlin, Bill Sienkiewicz, and others

Key First Appearances: Marc Spector/Steven Grant/Jake Lockley/Moon Knight, Frenchie, Marlene Alraune, Gena Landers, Bertrand Crawley, Samuels, Hatchet-Man/Shadowknight, Crossfire, Bushman, Khonshu, Ray Landers, Ricky Landers

Story Continues In: Essential Moon Knight Vol. 2

Overview: Introduced as the latest villain-of-the-month, mercenary Marc Spector has been hired to bring in Jack Russell, a.k.a. the Werewolf By Night. Given an armor covered in silver (the one element that’s deadly to werewolves) and armed with throwing crescents and other weapons, the Moon Knight works to bring in his prey to the Committee. From this humble beginnings, a new modern Marvel hero was born.

Following his initial appearance, Moon Knight made some scattered appearances in other titles before finally earning a regular backup feature in The Hulk magazine. With the ongoing story, writer Doug Moench was able to start fleshing out the character’s origin, tying it in with the Egyptian moon god Khonshu, as well as creating a supporting cast around Moon Knight.

As we learn more about Marc Spector, we find out that he has multiple personalities. Initially, the various identities seem to just be costumes that Moon Knight uses to solve his missions. As the stories develop more, we see that these various personalities (mercenary Marc Spector, millionaire Steven Grant, cab driver Jake Lockley) all seem to struggle for control of the body along with Moon Knight.

In response to his ever-growing popularity, Moon Knight finally graduates to his own ongoing title in 1980. The longer format allows for more detailed stories, as we get the all-new revised origin for Moon Knight. These issues also showcase the development of artist Bill Sienkiewicz’s art, as he progresses to the look that he would most be known for in the future.

What makes this Essential?: For years, I have resisted diving into the Moon Knight universe. My only interaction with the character was his brief stint with the West Coast Avengers. Add in that much of the series was as a direct market title, which made it unavailable on the spinner racks at convenience stores.

So reading this collection was truly a proper introduction to the character. I was fascinated to see the character, first introduced as a foe for the Jack Russell werewolf, go through a transformation to become a hero. Rather than just being a hired hand wearing a fancy suit, we find out in the main series that Marc Spector was “destined” to become Moon Knight by the Khonshu.

I’m going to keep moving forward with the Moon Knight volumes to see where this story goes and to marvel over the Sienkiewicz artwork.

Footnotes: Werewolf By Night #32 and #33 were also reprinted in Essential Werewolf By Night Vol. 2.

Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man #22 and #23 were also reprinted in Essential Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man Vol. 1.

Marvel Two-in-One #52 was also reprinted in Essential Marvel Two-In-One Vol. 2.

The Hulk & Moon Knight stories from Hulk! #15 are also reprinted in Essential Rampaging Hulk Vol. 1.

If you like this volume, try: the current ongoing Moon Knight series from Jeff Lemire and Greg Smallwood. The two creators really “get” the Moon Knight concept, and the output is pure comic goodness. Lemire’s initial story arc plays with the multiple identities of the man wearing the Moon Knight costume, placing Marc Spector in an insane ward. But the patients around him is his familiar group of friends in Frenchie, Marlene, Bertrand and Gena. Greg’s art has gone up a level or two with this book. He is presenting creative layouts, where the design of the panels contributes to the story. His art feels like an extension of the legendary work that Bill Sienkiewicz crafted on the original run of the Moon Knight title. The first story arc just completed, and a trade paperback of it will be released in December.

Showcase Presents Superman Family Vol. 4

Showcase Presents Superman Family Vol. 4

First Published: April 2013

Contents: Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen #45 (June 1960) to #53 (June 1961); and Superman’s Girl Friend, Lois Lane #17 (May 1960) to #26 (July 1961)

Key Creator Credits: Curt Swan, Otto Binder, Jerry Siegel, Kurt Schaffenberger, and others

Key First Appearances: Miss Gzptlsnz

Story Continues From: Showcase Presents Superman Family Vol. 3

Overview: On the off-hand chance that you are a first-time reader of this blog, or that this is your first encounter with Showcase Presents Superman Family, then welcome to the ongoing adventures of Superman’s pal, Jimmy Olsen, and Superman’s girlfriend, Lois Lane.

Each comic contains three 8- to 10-page stories that followed predictable formulas from one story to the next. As with any of theses stories from DC’s Silver Age, there is no continuity between titles and stories. The Daily Planet remains the greatest place in the world to work, as they have a very generous vacation policy; they allow you to use the paper’s helicopter for personal travel; and they will throw a party to celebrate any and all events in a person’s career, be it birthday, anniversary, or 100th story scoop.

There is an ongoing series of stories in the Lois Lane issues that starts in this collection. We get to see a series of “imaginary adventures” that give us a look into the lives of Mr. and Mrs. Superman, as Lois and Clark Kent/Superman finally marry. (For the record, ALL COMICS ARE IMAGINARY ADVENTURES!) Most of these Mr. and Mrs. Superman stories involved Lois staying home to tending to their house or their children, while Clark Kent continues his successful journalism career, not to mention his extraordinary moments as Superman. Lois finds herself unhappy with her life because she always imagined that being married to Superman would be the greatest accomplishment ever. Thankfully, we are reminded that these stories are imaginary, and everything reverts back to normal with the next story.

Why should these stories be Showcased?: With this series, I find that the most current volume is the best one of the series. So Volume 4 is better than Volumes 1, 2, and 3, and Volume 3 is much better than Volumes 1 and 2; and of course Volume 2 is better than Volume 1. But these are still not great stories. So many of the stories repeat themselves, like Jimmy getting into trouble with one of the items from his Superman trophy collection, or Lois trying to figure out if Clark is secretly Superman. Your best bet is to jump around and read the stories that most interest you. (Actually, your best bet would probably be to find a different set of Superman comics to read.)  

Footnotes: The “Jimmy Olsen, Orphan” story from Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen #46 and the “Girl with Green Hair!” story from Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen #51 are also reprinted in Showcase Presents Supergirl Vol. 1.

If you like this volume, try: watching the 1990s Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman television series starring Teri Hatcher and Dean Cain. Running on ABC for four seasons, the series took a fresh look at the Superman mythos but using the story elements introduced by John Byrne in the post-Crisis DC Comics. While the show generally featured Superman fighting the generic villain of the week, we were treated to the slowly developing relationship between the two title characters, matching what was going on in the Superman comic book titles of that same era. In season three, Lois discovers Clark’s secret identity, opening up the door for the two characters to marry. This series is available on DVD.

Essential Thor Vol. 6

Essential Thor 6

First Published: October 2012

Contents: Thor #221 (March 1974) to #247 (May 1976)

Key Creator Credits: Gerry Conway, John Buscema, Rich Buckler, Roy Thomas, Len Wein, Joe Sinnott, and others

Key First Appearances: Firelord, Dweller-in-Darkness, Horus, Isis, Osiris, Seth, Mimir, Servitor

Story Continues From: Essential Thor Vol. 5

Story Continues In: Essential Thor Vol. 7

Overview: Given his success in the cinematic Marvel Universe, you can fully expect Marvel to keep cranking out Essentials of the Bronze Age adventures of our favorite Norse deity, Thor.

This volume could be divided up into two sections, with the first section of 18 issues featuring stories from Gerry Conway and John Buscema. With the first issue of this volume, #221, Thor is joined on a series of adventures with his old friend, Hercules, the Demi-God from the Greek pantheon. The title becomes a “buddy cop” team-up of sorts, as the two hang-out around New York City, stumbling from one misadventure to the next.

There are several key stories during this run of Thor & Hercules: Galactus returns to Earth once again, this time with his new herald, Firelord. But Galactus is not here for dinner; rather, he needs Thor’s help in dealing with Ego, the Living Planet. Upon resolving that conflict, Thor arranges a swap with Galactus, giving Firelord his freedom on Earth, and in exchange he gives Galactus the old guardian of Asgard, the Destroyer, to animate and use as his herald.

During another adventure, the long-lost love of Thor, Jane Foster, returns but she is on the brink of death. Thor does anything he can to help prolong her life, but nothing is helping. Finally, Lady Sif sacrifices her life, and merges her soul with that of Jane Foster, reviving the former nurse. From that point forward, Thor and Jane Foster are inseparable. However, Odin feels that Thor has once again disobeyed his orders, and banishes Thor from Asgard (again!). Foster still has some of the memories of Sif, and often picks up a sword and jumps into battle with Thor.

The second section would cover the final nine issues, where Roy Thomas and then Len Wein take over the scripting duties from Conway. In this section, we meet the Egyptian pantheon of gods, such as Horus, Isis, and Osiris, as a pyramid springs up in Southern California. Thor is forced to team-up with the Egyptians to save his amnesiac father, Odin. In other issues, Thor, Jane Foster, and the Warriors Three travel to the end of time to stop the Time-Twisters from destroying the universe. And we get one final match-up with Firelord, who has been mesmerized into helping rebels trying to overthrow a democratically elected government in South America.

What makes this Essential?: I honestly had no idea of the Thor & Hercules team-up adventures that dominate the majority of this book. For those issues alone, you should track down this Essential. These are solid stories from the mid-1970s that do not get revisited often enough. The art from Buscema and friends remains stellar. Buscema’s artwork is solid enough that it works just as well, if not better, in black & white as it does in color. With the developments between Thor, Jane Foster, and Lady Sif, this is a worthy read for the advancement of the characters. 

Footnotes: When Thor #231 was published, page 14 was printed out of order. For this Essential, the pages were placed in the correct reading order.

Also in issue #231, a reference is made to an adventure that Hercules had with Spider-Man in Marvel Team-Up #28. That issue can be found in Essential Marvel Team-Up Vol. 2.

If Gerry Conway is writing a book in the 1970s, you can expect the title character to make a visit to see Tom Fagan, as Thor did once again in issue #232. For more information on Tom Fagan in Rutland, Vermont, see the review for Essential Avengers Vol. 4.

If you like this volume, try:  the Hercules: Prince of Power Premiere Edition from 2009. This collects the two Hercules miniseries from 1982 and 1984, both done by Bob Layton. The two series each took place roughly 500 years into the future, as Hercules is traveling the galaxy. Accompanied by a Recorder, he crosses paths with the Skrulls, Starfox, and even Galactus. This is Hercules at his bombastic peak, bold and brash and looking for fun. Set so far into the future, you do not need to be deeply versed in Hercules’ history in the Marvel Universe. Track this book down – you will thank me later!