Essential Warlock Vol. 1

First Published: August 2012

Contents: Marvel Premiere #1 (April 1972) and #2 (May 1972); Warlock #1 (August 1972) to #8 (October 1973); Incredible Hulk #176 (June 1974) to #178 (August 1974); Strange Tales #178 (February 1975) to #181 (August 1975); Warlock #9 (October 1975) to #15 (November 1976); Marvel Team-Up #55 (March 1977); Avengers Annual #7 (1977); and Marvel Two-in-One Annual #2 (1977)

Key Creator Credits: Roy Thomas, Gil Kane, Mike Friedrich, Bob Brown, Gerry Conway, Herb Trimpe, Jim Starlin, Steve Leialoha, and others

Key First Appearances: David Carter, Jason Grey, Ellie Roberts, Eddie Roberts, Brute, Magus, Matriarch, Autolycus, Pip the Troll, Gamora, In-Betweener, Gardener

Overview: Do you remember Him? That’s Him with an uppercase H, as in a proper name. He first appeared many moons ago in Fantastic Four #67, then was brought back for four issues in Thor. He’s an interesting guy but he needs a better name. How does Warlock sound? Even better, let’s make it Adam Warlock. This is Essential Warlock Vol. 1!

Warlock has been found by the High Evolutionary, who takes in Warlock as a new project. Embedding the Soul Gem in his forehead, Warlock is sent to Alternate-Earth (which is located on the far side of the sun from Earth in the same orbit) to become a hero for a heroless world. Warlock befriends a group of teenagers trying to find their way in the world, and that way eventually leads the group to the White House. There we find that the President is actually the Man-Beast in disguise, who is looking to take over the world.

Warlock tries to stop the Man-Beast but it can’t be done before the cancellation bug brings his book to an end. So the final battle takes place over in the pages of the Incredible Hulk. The green giant finds himself on the Alternate-Earth and encounters Warlock being held prisoner by the Man-Beast. Warlock makes the ultimate sacrifice – his own life – to stop the Man-Beast but is resurrected a few days later in a new, more powerful form.

When Warlock returns to his own title, after a quick run in Strange Tales, he starts to find a new set of friends, as well as new enemies. Now traveling the galaxy, he meets Gamora and Pip the Troll, who end up tagging along on his adventures. He also meets Magus, a would-be god in the future who just happens to be Warlock. Our hero must destroy his future self in order to save the universe of today.

Now, this collection would not be complete without mentioning Thanos, the big bad heavy of the Marvel Universe. Warlock and Thanos have been linked together for a long time, and it starts with the issues in this collection. Thanos finds that he must work with Warlock to defeat Magus’ army, but once that battle is done, they go their separate ways. Thanos hatches a new plan to rule the universe, and it takes the combined efforts of Warlock and his crew, along with Spider-Man, the Thing, Captain Mar-Vel, and the Avengers to stop Thanos for good — for now at least.

What makes this Essential?: This collection makes for an interesting look at religion. With the initial arc from Roy Thomas and Gil Kane, the writer was inspired by the then-current Jesus Christ Superstar musical. Sharing a name with the first man in the Bible, Adam Warlock is sent to Earth (albeit Alternate-Earth) to help save the people from a false prophet. During the Jim Starlin arc, Warlock must battle a future version of himself who has been set up as a god across the universe. Given the teases for Warlock in both Guardians of the Galaxy movies, I anticipate the demand for this book to increase as he joins the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Footnotes: Incredible Hulk #176 to #178 were also reprinted in Essential Hulk Vol. 5.

Marvel Team-Up #55 was also reprinted in Essential Marvel Team-Up Vol. 2.

Avengers Annual #7 was also reprinted in Essential Avengers Vol. 8.

Marvel Two-in-One Annual #2 was also reprinted in Essential Marvel Two-in-One Vol. 2 and Essential Avengers Vol. 8.

If you like this volume, try: The Infinity Gauntlet mini-series from 1991. Written by Jim Starlin with art by George Perez and Ron Lim, Thanos has acquired all six infinity gems and mounted them onto his glove. Seeking to win the affection of Death, Thanos kills half of the galaxy, including the Fantastic Four and the X-Men. The remaining heroes are given a chance to stop Thanos, but they are unable to prevail. Transcending into a god-like being, Thanos leaves his body unprotected, and his reported granddaughter Nebula steals the glove and restores the universe to how it was before. When things have settled, the recently returned Warlock takes possession of the glove, which led into a new ongoing series titled Warlock and the Infinity Watch.

Essential Thor Vol. 7

Essential Thor Vol. 7

First Published: October 2013

Contents: Thor #248 (June 1976) to #271 (May 1978); and Thor Annual #5 (1976) and #6 (1977)

Key Creator Credits: Len Wein, John Buscema, Walt Simonson, Tony DeZuniga, and others

Story Continues From: Essential Thor Vol. 6

Overview: So over the last 14 years of Thor adventures at Marvel, we have seen some epic runs led by some of the greats in comic book history. Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Neal Adams, Gerry Conway, Roy Thomas, Len Wein, and John Buscema. With this final Essential Thor volume, we can now add Walt Simonson to that list.

This book is very evenly divided between a long run by Buscema and a long run by Simonson, both overseen by writer Len Wein. There are a couple of extra inclusions, like the Annuals and the Tales of Asgard stories. But the three names to focus on our Wein, Buscema, and Simonson.

The first half of the book feels like one long story, as Thor and his friends discover that Odin is missing, and must travel the stars in search of him. Along the way, the Norse deities encounter many obstacles along the way, before tracking down the All-Father being used as a power-source for the wall around the Doomsday Star.

Returning to Asgard, the band of travelers finds that Loki has tricked Balder into surrendering the throne to him. Thor once again defeats his step-brother, and normalcy is returned to Asgard. This gives Thor the breather to return to Earth, where we get to finally see Dr. Donald Blake again.

The highlight of this collection for me was Thor Annual #6, as Thor is kidnapped across time and space to help out the Guardians of the Galaxy. Mind you, this is not the GotG with Rocket and Groot that we fell in love with in the summer of 2014 – and eagerly awaiting their return this weekend! This is the original GotG with Major Vance Astro, Charlie-27, Martinex, Yondu, and Nikki. This is such a fun story!

What makes this Essential?: I can give you two great reasons to read this book: 1) John Buscema; and 2) Walt Simonson. This is a book you buy primarily for the artwork. The stories are decent, but the non-stop space epic looking for Odin started to get stale after awhile. (Remember, this searching for Odin started in Essential Thor Vol. 6!) Towards the end of this volume, when Odin has been found and balance has been restored to Asgard (for now), Thor returns to Earth. And it’s like a breath of fresh air. We get to see Donald Blake again, and we see Thor interact with Iron Man and the Avengers. I get that there is a need for a character like Thor to be featured in EPIC stories, but so much of the charm of the Stan Lee-Jack Kirby Thor was that he was tethered to Earth by his dual identity.

So, back to the art! I’ve sung the praises for Buscema in the past many times over. And I heartedly recommended Simonson’s second and more famous run on Thor during my review of Essential Thor Vol. 4. To get both of these artists in one book is worth the suggested retail price of this book! Give it a read while you can still find a copy on the shelves. 

 

If you like this volume, try:  the current run of Mighty Thor by Jason Aaron. Back with my review for Essential Thor Vol. 3, I suggested you check out Aaron’s run on Thor, God of Thunder. That run came to an end in the fall of 2014, and this new series launched in October 2014. However, this is a different look at Thor. Sure, Thor still wields Mjolnir, still wears the red cape and helmet, and still calls Asgard home. But this Thor no longer uses the same bathroom as the Warriors Three. This Thor is now a female, as the inscription on the hammer reads “…if she be worthy….” Jason Aaron fully gets the big-picture view of Thor, Asgard, and Norse deities. This is an excellent companion piece to his first series, so please pick this up!

Spring Break 2017 – UPDATE!

Greetings, true believers! I know it’s been awhile since I last checked in. Thank you for your patience with my absence.

First, the surgery went well, and I am on the path to a full recovery. I am still going through rehab, working to get the full flexibility back into the knee.

Next, the blog will start back up on May 1. While I am getting back into getting some reviews written, I am also preparing for two conventions coming up on back-to-back weekends in Kansas City.

That leads into my next item to share with you. My hometown convention is Planet Comicon, which is coming up April 28-30. Once again, my friends and I will be managing the Hero Initiative table (#1030/1032). If you are at the show, please stop by and say hi!

My friends and I also do the Worst. Comic. Podcast. EVER!, which I hope you give us a listen each week. With our work on the podcast, that has opened the doors for us to host panels at the convention. If you are at Planet Comicon, stop by the Marvel Comics panel on Saturday, where I will be hosting Jason Aaron, Dennis Hopeless, Cullen Bunn and Greg Smallwood.

On Sunday, I host two different panels which may interest you. I start the morning off with a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles panel with co-creator Kevin Eastman and artist Freddie Williams II. Later that day, I will have a conversation with legendary writer Chris Claremont.

So, if anyone has any questions for any of the creators, please share them with me and I will do my best to work them into the panels. We are going to try to record all of the panels we host, so hopefully, I can share the audio with you after the con.

Essential ROM is still in the works. I am working my way through the books, but as we all know, Bill Mantlo can be a wordy writer. Look for updates on that project later this spring!

So, that’s all for now. Look for me at Planet Comicon, and the blog resumes May 1. Thanks!!

Spring Break 2017

OK, I warned everyone back in January that something like this would be happening. It’s finally here. I’m taking a break.

The blog will be on break for March and probably most of April. If I can get some ready to go, I may try to come back mid-April, but I am leaning towards the first Monday of May for the return to the weekly reviews.

Part of the reason for the break is health related. At the time this goes up, I will have had knee replacement surgery last Wednesday. That makes for a lot of good quality reading time, but not necessarily a lot of good quality sitting at the computer time. I am hoping to get ahead with a few books during my recovery period.

One thing that I know will be in my to-read pile is a special project I have coming up later this year: ESSENTIAL ROM! Yes, you read that right, ESSENTIAL ROM! My good friend Tim Benson with Omaha Bound has put together a collection of the ROM books designed to look like a set of Essential volumes. (And no, these are not for sale!) He broke it up over six books, going with smaller runs for each edition. Later this spring, Tim and I will be recording a series of podcasts (which I will make available on this site) as we review ROM from the very beginning. Stay tuned for more details!

rom1

OK, so that’s all for now. Let me know what you are reading right now! Always curious to find out what is in your to-read pile! Talk to everyone soon!

JM

Showcase Presents Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew! Vol. 1

Showcase Presents Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew! Vol. 1

First Hatched: September 2014

Contents: Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew story from The New Teen Titans #16 (February 1982); Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew #1 (March 1982) to #20 (November 1983); and The Oz-Wonderland Wars #1 (January 1986) to #3 (March 1986)

Key Cre-gator Credits: Roy Thomas, Gerry Conway, Scott Shaw, Mike Sekowsky, Stan Goldberg, E, Nelson Bridwell, Rick Hoberg, Joey Cavalieri, and others

Key First Ape-arances: Rodney Rabbit/Captain Carrot, Felina Furr/Alley-Kat-Abra, Timmy Joe Terrapin/Fastback, Peter Porkchops/Pig-Iron, Byrd Rentals/Rubberduck, Rova Barkitt/Yankee Poodle, Just’a Lotta Animals (Aquaduck, Batmouse, Crash, Green Lambkin, Super-Squirrel, Wonder Wabbit), Chester Cheese/Little Cheese

Birds-eye-view: At the start of the Silver Age, as a new generation of heroes was being introduced, DC developed the concept of parallel earths, as these were the worlds where other heroes lived and had their adventures. The heroes of the Justice League were assigned to Earth-One, while the Justice Society was on Earth-Two. The Shazam Family protected Earth-S, while the Quality Heroes could be found on Earth-X.

In the early 1980s, a new parallel Earth was discovered when Superman crashed into a meteor approaching his Earth. The resulting collision transported Superman and the meteor fragments to a new Earth. Let’s call it Earth-C for now. This Earth was populated not with humans, but with anamorphic animals living lives and doing tasks that normal people would do. We meet Rodney Rabbit, a cartoonist on the hit comic Just’a Lotta Animals. One of those meteors lands in Rodney’s garden box, where he grows carrots. Munching on an irradiated carrot leads to a transformation, and Rodney Rabbit becomes Captain Carrot, the first hero of Earth-C.

Captain Carrot quickly finds out that while he may be the first, he is not the only hero showing up thanks to the meteorites. Captain Carrot is joined by the likes of Rubberduck, Yankee Poodle, Alley-Kat-Abra, Fastback, and Pig-Iron. Together, the become the amazing Zoo Crew, setting up headquarters in the Z-Building in Los Antelope. The Zoo Crew face off against the likes of Frogzilla, Armordillo, Bow-Zar the Barkbarian, and even Gorilla Grodd!

Rodney soon discovers that the Just’a Lotta Animals that he has been drawing in comics are real, and living on yet another parallel Earth, which we will dub Earth-C Minus. That leads to a couple of team-ups between the two squads, and a love triangle develops between Captain Carrot, Wonder Wabbit, and Super-Squirrel.

The series concludes with a new member, Little Cheese, joining the Zoo Crew, but their adventures are not over. The team is drawn into a conflict between Lewis Carroll’s Wonderland and L. Frank Baum’s Oz. Captain Carrot and the Zoo Crew team up with Dorothy, Scarecrow, Cowardly Lion, Tin Man, and many others to rescue Oz from the Nome King.

Why should these tails be Showcased?: You can approach this one of two ways. If you view this as only a funny-animal book, it might not be for you. But you could get this for a young reader to enjoy. HOWEVER, if you look at this as a creative exercise, this has the makings of a good read. The book is filled with animal references and puns. Brush it off if you will, but try it yourself. When’s the last time you intentionally tried to write something funny? It’s much harder than it looks. Writing standard super hero stories, dramatic stories or even dark and gritty stories are a piece of cake compared to writing comedy. Credit should really be given to all of the writers on this book for pulling it off each issue.

Pawnotes: When the series started, Captain Carrot’s identity was Roger Rabbit. Over the course of the series, his name was modified from Roger Rabbit to Roger Rodney Rabbit to R. Rodney Rabbit to finally just Rodney Rabbit. While many people are familiar with the 1988 film Who Framed Roger Rabbit, most people are unaware that it is based on a 1981 novel, Who Censored Roger Rabbit? by Gary Wolf. DC opted to change the title character’s name to avoid any legal issues. 

Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew was canceled with issue #20, even though issues #21 to #26 were in various stages of production. At that time of the cancellation, DC indicated that the series would continue as a series of mini-series. The content from those unreleased six issues were collected into three double-sized issues which became The Oz-Wonderland Wars.

If ewe like this volume, try: the Marvel Comics series of adaptions of L. Frank Baum’s original Oz novels by Eric Shanower and Skottie Young. Shanower has been linked to the Oz universe for most of his career, scripting adaptions for First Comics, Dark Horse Comics, IDW, and others. Beginning in 2009, he partnered with artist Skottie Young to adapt the six novels as mini-series, ranging anywhere from five to eight issues each. These stories have been collected into multiple hardcovers and trade paperbacks. In addition, all of the series were collected into an Oz Omnibus in 2014. These are fun reads that remain true to the books. Young’s art style may take some getting used to early on, but I grew to love the look of these books.

  • The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
  • The Marvelous Land of Oz
  • Ozma of Oz
  • Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz
  • The Road to Oz
  • The Emerald City of Oz

Essential Spider-Man Vol. 11

spiderman11First Published: June 2012

Contents: Amazing Spider-Man #231 (August 1982) to #248 (January 1984); and Amazing Spider-Man Annual #16 (1982) and #17 (1983)

Key Creator Credits: Roger Stern, Bill Mantlo, John Romita Jr., Bob Hall, Ron Frenz, Ed Hannigan, and others

Key First Appearances: Monica Rambeau/Captain Marvel, Hobgoblin

Story Continues From: Essential Spider-Man Vol. 10

Overview: OK, if you have been following along at home, so far I have written five reviews for Essential Peter Parker the Spectacular Spider-Man, four volumes of Essential Marvel Team-Up, and this will be the eleventh volume of Essential Spider-Man, highlighting the run in Amazing Spider-Man. So on the off-chance I repeat myself at any point in this review, just understand that there is a good reason why I might re-use a joke or line. Because if comics has taught me anything, it’s that you re-use whatever works best as many times as you can!

As we left off with the last collection, these issues are primarily done by writer Roger Stern and artist John Romita Jr. For as many good teams that have worked on Spider-Man over the years, this may be one of my favorite creator teams to ever work on Amazing Spider-Man. In these stories, Peter Parker is focusing on his photo-journalism work for the Daily Bugle. In his personal life, we see Mary Jane Watson becoming more of a potential romantic interest for Peter, but she’s not the only one.

The highlight of this volume has to be the introduction of the Hobgoblin. Someone has discovered one of Norman Osborn’s secret labs and has modified the Green Goblin identity for his own purposes. It makes for an intriguing storyline (not really seen since the time the Green Goblin was first introduced) as Peter (and the readers) try to unravel the identity of this new costumed villain. The Hobgoblin became a break-out star in the Spider-Man books, building up over a year’s time to a fiery conclusion.

Another character introduction comes with a familiar name, as Roger Stern and the John Romitas (Sr. and Jr.) gave us Monica Rambeau, the new Captain Marvel. Obviously, Marvel did this as a way to maintain the rights to Captain Marvel, keeping it away from DC Comics. This Captain Marvel was able to transform into any form of energy and developed into a strong character even after she ceded the Captain Marvel name, becoming first Photon and then Pulsar. While introduced in the Amazing Spider-Man Annual #16, Stern would bring her onto the Avengers team during his five-year run on that title.

One of my all-time favorite Spider-Man stories comes at the end of this collection, with “The Kid Who Collected Spider-Man” from Amazing Spider-Man #248. This came during Marvel’s infamous Assistant Editor’s Month when many titles decided to have fun with issues that month. But we get an incredibly touching backup story from Roger Stern and Ron Frenz. Spider-Man pays a visit to a young boy named Tim, who claims to be Spider-Man’s biggest fan. Peter shows off for Tim, answers some questions, and then shares with Tim his secret identity. It’s only an 11-page story, but I still tear up every time I read this.

What makes this Essential?: I really enjoyed this volume. Obviously, the introduction of Hobgoblin was significant at the time, but it seems diminished now looking back on it more than 30 years later. John Romita Jr’s art really shines in the black and white format, and I believe Roger Stern is a criminally underrated writer who doesn’t get the proper recognition he deserves. Stern helps usher in a new era to Spider-Man and Peter Parker in particular, moving his away from his graduate studies and focusing more on his photojournalism work.

If you like this volume, try: the Spider-Man: Origin of the Hobgoblin trade paperback. My biggest complaint is that this collection stopped three issues too short. This book needed to include Amazing Spider-Man #249 to #251, which would have wrapped up not only the Hobgoblin storyline (for now) but also the red-and-blue costume era as the black symbiote costume is introduced in #252. The Hobgoblin story had been building for a year, causing a lot of speculation as to the identity of the villain. If you can’t track down the individual issues, find this trade paperback to complete the story.

Showcase Presents Rip Hunter, Time Master

riphuntershowcase

First Published: August 2012

Contents: Showcase #20 (May-June 1959), #21 (July-August 1959), #25 (March-April 1959), and #26 (May-June 1960); and Rip Hunter… Time Master #1 (March-April 1961) to #15 (July-August 1963)

Key Creator Credits: Jack Miller, Ruben Moreira, Mike Sekowsky, Ross Andru, Mike Esposito, Alex Toth, Joe Kubert, Nick Cardy, William Ely

Key First Appearances: Rip Hunter, Jeff Smith, Bonnie Baxter, Corky Baxter

Overview: “Have time sphere, will travel” appears to be the motto for one Rip Hunter. Surrounded by his partner Jeff Smith and their friends Bonnie Baxter and her younger brother Corky, Rip takes his time sphere primarily into the past, whether it’s a 1,000 years or a 1,000,000 years, to answer the unknown questions that puzzle modern researchers.

Each story follows a basic formula — Rip Hunter is given a reason to travel into the past to solve a mystery. Grabbing speech conversion discs that they wear to be able to communicate with anyone they encounter, Rip and his team travel in the time sphere to the time in question. Rip and one of the team – sometimes Jeff, sometimes Corky, occasionally Bonnie – set off to investigate while the other team members try to keep the time sphere hidden. In most cases, Rip and his partner gets into trouble, and have to call on their teammates to rescue them. Along the way, the solve the mystery and return back to the 1950s without ever altering the time line.

The best part of this title is the variety of artists that worked on this series. Whether it’s the likes of Mike Sekowsky; Ross Andru and Mike Esposito; Nick Cardy, Alex Toth, or Joe Kubert, there is so much talent in this book that really stands out in the black and white format.

Why should these stories be Showcased?: I like the concept of Rip Hunter and his time sphere. I’m hit and miss on the rest of the supporting cast. But I don’t think it works as a regular comic series. These stories quickly fell into a predictable formula, which probably worked well when you were reading the title every other month. I think Rip Hunter is a great character to bring into a story to provide another character with a way to time travel in their story or title. here are numerous reasons why I should not like this book. I am not a huge fan of Carmine Infantino’s art style. I find the formulaic stories from this era too predictable. This is more a science-fiction book than a super-hero book. With all of that said, I really loved this Showcase. Adam Strange felt alive and full of energy. Gardner Fox builds a new universe of characters, and creates an ongoing continuity with the storyline, with past stories and characters coming back in later stories.

Footnotes: Showcase #20 and #21 are also reprinted in Showcase Presents Showcase Vol. 1.

If you like this volume, try: the CW’s DC’s Legends of Tomorrow show. Now airing its second season, Legends of Tomorrow features Time Master Rip Hunter plucking a team of lesser heroes (and villains) to stop the likes of Vandal Savage and Damien Darhk from changing the timeline. The characters were all first introduced on the other CW shows, such as Arrow or The Flash, but probably can’t carry their own show. Arthur Darvill (Doctor Who, Broadchurch) stars as the Time Master captaining the time ship known as the Waverider. This is a fun series that I’ve been able to watch with my family.