Essential Dazzler Vol. 2

Essential Dazzler Vol. 2

First Published: May 2009

Contents: Dazzler #22 (December 1982) to #42 (March 1986); Marvel Graphic Novel #12 (1984); Beauty and the Beast #1 (December 1984) to #4 (June 1985); and Secret Wars II #4 (October 1985)

Key Creator Credits: Frank Springer, Danny Fingeroth, Jim Shooter, Mike Carlin, Ann Nocenti, Don Perlin, Archie Goodwin, Paul Chadwick, Bill Sienkiewicz, and others

Story Continues From: Essential Dazzler Vol. 1

Story Continues In: Essential X-Men Vol. 6

Overview: The Dazzler is back in action! (And a quick Google search confirms that those six words have never been used in that order before!) While still trying to make it as a singer, Dazzler finds herself constantly caught up in situations that require her to use her mutant powers. Whether battling the Sisterhood of Evil Mutants (Rogue, Mystique, and Destiny), fighting in an underground mutant gladiator arena in Los Angeles, or trashing the San Diego Comic Con, trouble just seems to find our title character.

This title suffers from a rotating creator team, as writers and artists shuffle in and out for a few issues at a time. That makes it a challenge for the next team to come in and pick up the story where it left off. So after a moderately successful run as a New York City singer, we find Allison moving to California, where the singing takes a back seat to gigs as a model and as an actress. She dates a variety of characters, like Roman Nekobah (a Frank Sinatra wannabe), for several issues, before the next writer introduces their own character.

While I wouldn’t call these standout moments, there are some familiar stories in here that may trigger some fuzzy memories:

  • First, Dazzler was one of the titles that participated in Assistant Editor’s Month. Dazzler took a side-trip to San Diego with Marvel editor Ralph Macchio and fought a mutant lizard. Yes, that happened.
  • Dazzler was the feature star of a Marvel Graphic Novel. Dazzler: The Movie was to be Allison’s big break in the acting business. Instead, it just outed her to the world as a mutant.
  • Dazzler teamed up with the Beast (who was leading the New Defenders at the time) for Beauty and the Beast, a four issue mini-series. Dazzler was recruited (and drugged) to participate in a mutant fight club, and it was up to Hank McCoy to help get her out.

Issue #38 gave us a new direction for our heroine. Sporting a new uniform, courtesy of the X-Men (and their cameo appearances), and featuring a new creative team of Archie Goodwin and Paul Chadwick, Dazzler finds herself being chased (pun intended) down by the bounty hunter, O.Z. Chase. Dazzler does her best to be cooperative with Chase to clear out what she believes is a misunderstanding, only to find out it’s a group wanting to use her powers to energize their aging bodies. As if that was not crazy enough, there is a side story where Allison finds herself the center of the Beyonder’s romantic interest. Right or wrong (but I’m leaning towards right), Dazzler was finally canceled with issue #42.

What makes this Essential?: What a change! I was very skeptical heading into Vol. 1. Let’s be honest, “Essential Dazzler” is one of the best oxymorons of all time. I’m not saying Vol. 1 is a great collection, but it turned out to be not as bad as I expected. (I think that’s a compliment.) So heading into Vol. 2, I had slightly higher expectations than before. And then I started reading. Oh my gosh, this was just…. not good. The stories were just all over the place. Lots of one-and-done stories, new supporting characters introduced every few issues; the most absurd romances for Allison; and way-too-many villains that were never used again. (Seriously, if the Scourge of the Underworld doesn’t bother to kill you, you know you are a lame villain.) Unless you are a completest like myself, I think you would be OK skipping this volume.

Life After Death: Dazzler’s title came to an end with issue #42 (March 1986). But she was not off the stage for very long. Later that summer, she joined up (finally!) with the X-Men, as the Mutant Massacre story came to an end. The X-Men found themselves short-handed, with injuries to Nightcrawler, Kitty Pryde, and Colossus. So the team extends invites to Dazzler, Longshot, and Psylocke during this period. Dazzler would be a key member of the team for the remainder of the decade, before heading into the character limbo for most of the 1990s.

Footnotes: Beauty and the Beast #1-4 is also reprinted in Essential Defenders Vol. 7.

If you like this volume, try: Elektra: Assassin by Frank Miller and Bill Sienkiewicz from 1986-87. OK, I’ve laid out that this is not a collection of good stories. I don’t need to bang this drum anymore. But if there was one glimmer of light in this book, it would be the cover work by Bill Sienkiewicz. (And for those of you struggling with his name, it’s pronounced “sin-KEV-itch”.) Sienkiewicz rose in popularity in the late 1970s and early 1980s with work on Moon Knight and New Mutants. In the mid-1980s, the artist collaborated with artist-turned-writer Miller to create a direct-market mini-series released under Marvel’s Epic line. At this time, both men were at their creative peaks, and the collaboration produced an elegant and powerful story in the vein of the “Manchurian Candidate”,which takes place…. sometime. It’s been a debate whether this takes place chronologically before her first appearance in the pages of Daredevil, or sometime after her encounter with Bullseye. Regardless when it takes place, this is a must own series for any fan of Miller, Sienkiewicz, and/or Elektra. Sienkiewicz’s career has been filled with outstanding projects, but this title always ranks at the top of his comic book accomplishments.

Essential Iron Man Vol. 3

Essential Iron Man Vol. 3

First Published: April 2008

Contents: Iron Man #12 (April 1969) to #38 (June 1971); and Daredevil #73 (February 1971)

Key Creator Credits: Archie Goodwin, George Tuska, Gerry Conway, Don Heck, Allyn Brodsky, and others

Key First Appearances: Controller, Crimson Dynamo (III), Madame Masque, Eddie March, Firebrand, Kevin O’Brien, Spymaster, Marianne Rodgers

Story Continues In: Essential Iron Man Vol. 2

Story Continues In: Essential Iron Man Vol. 4

Overview: Every hero has to have a weakness, right? Over at DC Comics, Superman must avoid Kryptonite, Green Lantern is useless against anything yellow, and Aquaman cannot be away from water for very long. At Marvel, Iron Man comes to mind, as Tony Stark has been living on borrowed time with his damaged heart. His armor has kept his heart beating for years. But for all of his money and genius, Stark has never been able to fully repair his heart – until NOW! So let’s dive into Essential Iron Man Vol. 3.

Tony Stark finally decides to scale back his Iron Man life and to live more outside of the armor. He has met the (current) love of his life, Janice Cord, and wants to spend as much of his time with her as possible. That means he is finally ready for that heart transplant, so he doesn’t have to be tied down to the armor so much. The transplant is a success, but circumstances always force Stark back into the armor. Shortly after his surgery, Iron Man has to face off against the Titanium Man and the new Crimson Dynamo. During that battle, Janice Cord is fatally injured, once again throwing Tony’s life into chaos.

Some new faces come into Tony Stark’s life, some more important than others. Boxer Eddie March becomes the next man to wear the Iron Man armor. His run is short-lived, but he will return in later Essential volumes in a freaky appearance. Whitney Frost, whom we met in the last Essential, is injured and forced to hide her scars behind a face plate, becoming Madame Masque. The villain Firebrand shows up for the first time, but he will have a longer (and more important) story arc in the next collection. And Kevin O’Brien is hired on at Stark Industries; in the next collection, he will don a green version of Stark’s armor and will be called Guardsman.

Perhaps the most significant addition would be Marianne Rodgers, who becomes the new romantic interest for Tony. While her first appearance is listed as Iron Man #36, some people believe that she is the “Marion” character from Tales of Suspense #40, who suggested that Iron Man paint his armor some other color besides battleship gray. When she appears in Iron Man #36, it’s implied in the story that they already know each other, Tony starts referring to her as “Honey” within three pages.

What makes this Essential?: I liked this volume, but I am struggling to give this a strong endorsement. Archie Goodwin and George Tuska dominate the first half of this book, and those are good stories. Allyn Brodsky and Gerry Conway take over the writing duties, with art by Don Heck, and I can’t really complain about that. But I keep looking through the book and I can’t imagine wanting to read this again. If I was more of an Iron Man fan, I could envision wanting to get back into these issues. So what to do, what to do….. Definitely, read this if you are a fan of Iron Man. There are some key character introductions that will play important roles in the years to come. For the casual Marvel fan, maybe just flip through this on the side.

Footnotes: Iron Man #35 & #36 and Daredevil #73 are also collected in Essential Daredevil Vol. 3.

If you like this volume, try: reading Iron Man: Demon in a Bottle story by David Michelinie, Bob Layton, and John Romita, Jr. Collecting Iron Man #120 to #128 from 1979, Iron Man is besieged by numerous foes, with someone attempting to take over his armor. As the pressures increase, Tony Stark turns to alcohol. Unfortunately, Stark’s compulsive personality leads him further and further down a dark path. He is forced to turn over his armor to the police, and he must step down as leader of the Avengers. Stark finally bottoms out and recognizes his problem. With the help of Bethany Cabe, Tony goes through a withdrawal and begins the long, slow climb to sobriety. At the time this was created, this wasn’t necessarily written as a long storyline; they were just attempting to tell a good story month after month. It was only after the fact that people began to refer to this story arc as “Demon in the Bottle” (which was the issue name for the final issue in Iron Man #128) In 1984, this was one of the first stories that Marvel ever collected in a trade paperback. It has been reprinted multiple times in multiple formats, and should be easy to find.

Essential Fantastic Four Vol. 6

Essential Fantastic Four Vol. 6

Essential Fantastic Four Vol. 6

First Published: May 2007

Contents: Fantastic Four #111 (June 1971) to #137 (August 1973)

Key Creator Credits: Stan Lee, Archie Goodwin, Roy Thomas, Gerry Conway, John Buscema, Ross Andru, Joe Sinnott, and others

Key First Appearances: Walter Collins, Overmind, Air-Walker, Thundra,

Story Continues From: Essential Fantastic Four Vol. 5

Story Continues In: Essential Fantastic Four Vol. 7

Overview: Let’s set the scene here. Jack Kirby has just recently left the Fantastic Four (and Marvel). If this had happened in the last 10 years, more than likely Marvel would have cancelled the book and relaunched it the next month with a new #1. But in the 1970s, the book must go on month after month, so welcome aboard to Archie and Roy and Gerry and John. You have big shoes to fill, so let’s see how you do in Essential Fantastic Four Vol. 6.

To ease the transition, let’s bring in a lot of familiar faces. With Sue still caring for Franklin, Crystal and Medusa take turns as members of the Fantastic Four. Of course, if those two are around, then the Inhumans cannot be far behind. (But why is Quicksilver hanging out with Inhumans, and seems to be quite close to Crystal…)

Let’s bring in some familiar foes. Doctor Doom? Check! Galactus and his new herald Air-Walker? Check! The Frightful Four? Check! Dragon Man? Check! Diablo? Sigh, check. But we also get some new challengers, such as the Overmind. But the most treacherous foe is finally shown in Walter Collins, the constantly irate landlord of the Baxter Building. (“Johnny, what did you do with the rent check?”) Thankfully, John Byrne was finally able to have Reed write off Collins years later during his fantastic run of the 1980s.

The most interesting introduction in this volume is Thundra, who comes from the 23rd century when Earth is ruled by Femizons. She travels back to the 20th century to fight the strongest man, who happens to be Ben Grimm. Thundra will become a familiar face in the pages of Fantastic Four, working as an ally of our heroes and as an enemy as a member of the Frightful Four. She eventually develops a romantic interest in Ben, much to his chagrin.

What makes this Essential?: I want to like this more, I really do. But this volume just feels like a let down after the Lee-Kirby run. Maybe it’s not fair to compare these issues against that run, but this is the situation. The stories are decent but not dynamic. The art is very good but never breathtaking. There are some moments that rise up close to greatness, but then I wonder how Lee & Kirby would have done it. Case in point, in Fantastic Four #116, Doctor Doom leads the Fantastic Four against Overmind and Mr. Fantastic, I loved the issue, but I wanted to see Kirby draw that issue. A Fantastic Four completist should own this volume, but it is not essential for a casual Marvel fan.

Footnotes: The front and back covers to Marvel Treasury Edition #21 (1979) are included in this volume. The treasury edition reprints Fantastic Four #120 to #123, which are collected in this Essential. In addition, early versions of the covers to Fantastic Four #130 and #131 are also included in this book.

If you like this volume, try: the Inhumans mini-series from 1998. Written by Paul Jenkins with art by Jae Lee, the 12-issue series was part of the Marvel Knights launch. Several story arcs are at work in this collection: Attilan is under attack from external and internal forces. The next generation of Inhumans debate their future before entering the Terrigan Mists. And the royal family shows that they are just as dysfunctional as any other family. The tale fills in the gaps in the Inhumans history, fleshing it out into an epic story. This is one of the best Marvel stories ever, and probably needs to be read multiple times to catch everything. This has been collected repeatedly in trade paperback and hardcover editions, so it should be easy to find.

Essential Hulk Vol. 4

Essential Hulk Vol. 4

Essential Hulk Vol. 4

First Published: September 2006

Contents: Incredible Hulk #143 (September 1971) to #170 (December 1973)

Key Creator Credits: Roy Thomas, Archie Goodwin, Steve Englehart, Herb Trimpe, Gary Friedrich, Dick Ayers, Gerry Conway, and others

Key First Appearances: Dr. Peter Corbeau, Hulkbusters, Shaper of Worlds, Wendigo, Gremlin, Zzzax, Bi-Beast

Story Continues From: Essential Hulk Vol. 3

Story Continues In: Essential Hulk Vol. 5

Overview: OK, this is the fourth volume in the Essential Hulk line. Do you still need a proper introduction? We all know by heart how Dr. Bruce Banner was exposed to gamma radiation, and as a result becomes a green monster known as the Hulk when he gets angry. I think we can skip the introduction and just get into the story. 

The Hulk is still on the run from the Army. General Ross reveals a new plan to battle our hero with the introduction of the Hulkbusters. Initially designed as aircraft that could attach the Hulk from a distance, the Hulkbusters would morph over time into a full military assault unit with a weapons cabinet that would make the Punisher giddy with excitement.

At one point, the Hulk is finally captured, and is brought to trial for his numerous crimes against humanity. Of course, the Hulk keeps attorney Matt Murdock on retainer, so he is represented in court by the man without fear. The case does not go the Hulk’s way, and Mr. Fantastic finds a way to help the Hulk get out of the courts, even if he remains on the run.

During this era (1972-73), the X-Men title was in reprint mode, so those characters were able to make appearances in other books. At one point, the Hulk encounters Havok and Polaris, as the Hulk is confused by the green hair of Lorna Dane and mistakes her for Jarella. Later on, the Hulk crosses paths with the Beast and Mimic. Sadly, one of those three does not walk away from the fight. Given that we still have three more Essential Hulk volumes to cover, and this is well before the Beast has joined the Avengers, the Defenders, and X-Factor, I think you can figure out the ending of that story.

As if his life is not complicated enough, Bruce and the Hulk have conflicting issues with their girlfriends. Hulk wants to return to Jarella’s side in the sub-atomic world, while Bruce struggles to find a way to stay with Betty Ross. Unfortunately, during one of his periods where Bruce and the Hulk were off-Earth, Betty accepted a proposal and married Glenn Talbot. Later on after the Hulk’s return, the arch-fiend MODOK transforms Betty into the Harpy, the half-bird/half-woman character from Greek mythology. The last thing the Hulk needs is his best girl harping on him for all of his faults, whether it’s his anger control issues or his two-timing with Jarella.

What makes this Essential?: I’m not for sure what to think of this volume. The stories are interesting, but I am not a fan of Herb Trimpe’s art during this era. His Hulk looks more brutish, but does not appear to be much larger than a normal man. Personally, I prefer my Hulk to be overwhelming in size and anger, and I do not get that Hulk in this volume. The new characters introduced in this volume stick around or make a bigger impact with other characters, such as Wendigo with Wolverine and Alpha Flight. This is a volume for a die-hard Hulk fan. As a casual Marvel fan, I don’t think this is essential to own.

Footnotes: The back-up story from Incredible Hulk #147 is also reprinted in Essential Hulk Vol. 2.

Incredible Hulk #161 is also reprinted in Essential Classic X-Men Vol. 3.

If you like this volume, try: the Hulk Visionaries: John Byrne collection, which reprints Byrne’s brief run on Incredible Hulk in the mid-1980s. Flashback to 1985, as John Byrne was wrapping up his run on Alpha Flight. At that same time, Bill Mantlo and Mike Mignola were finishing up a year-long story in Incredible Hulk that had our hero jumping around in other dimensions. Marvel essentially traded the creative teams between the two books. Beginning in Incredible Hulk #314, Byrne takes control of the title, and the Hulk is back on Earth, hounded by General Ross and his Hulkbusters. Doc Samson has figured out a way to separate Bruce Banner from the Hulk, but it leaves the jade giant a mindless monster. Free of the Hulk, Bruce Banner and Betty Ross are finally able to be married. And suddenly, Byrne was off of the book, due to creative differences with then Marvel Editor-in-Chief Jim Shooter. This volume also collects two other Byrne Hulk stories from this era, an Incredible Hulk Annual #14 and a Hulk feature from Marvel Fanfare #29. This Hulk Visionaries was released in trade paperback in 2008, and should still be easily found.

Essential Spider-Woman Vol. 1

Essential Spider-Woman Vol. 1

Essential Spider-Woman Vol. 1

First Published: December 2005

Contents: Marvel Spotlight #32 (February 1977); Marvel Two-In-One #29 (July 1977) to #33 (November 1977); Spider-Woman #1 (April 1978) to #25 (April 1980)

Key Creator Credits: Marv Wolfman, Mark Gruenwald, Archie Goodwin, Sal Buscema, Carmine Infantino, Jim Mooney, Ron Wilson, and others

Key First Appearances: Jessica Drew/Spider-Woman, Jonathan Drew, Merriam Drew, Jerry Hunt, Magnus, Brothers Grimm, Madame Doll, Needle, Gypsy Moth, Lindsay McCabe, Scotty McDowell 

Story Continues In: Essential Spider-Woman Vol. 2

Overview:  Living with her parents near Wundagore Mountain, young Jessica Drew becomes deathly ill from uranium poisoning. Jessica’s father injects her with an experimental serum based on irradiated spiders’ blood to save her life, but it puts her into suspended animation while her body heals. When she comes out of it as a young adult, she finds that she has powers similar to that of a spider – climbing walls, gliding on wind currents, and a venom blast. Recruited by Hydra, Jessica Drew takes on the name of Spider-Woman, and is assigned a task to kill Nick Fury. So begins the adventures of Marvel’s newest super-hero!

Jessica eventually flips sides, and works for S.H.I.E.L.D. as a double agent, spying on Hydra. She gets involved in a convoluted adventure with the Thing in Marvel Two-In-One, which lead into Jessica getting her own title and returning back to the United States.

Early on in the series, Spider-Woman battles an assortment of macabre characters, such as Magnus, Morgana le Fay, and the Brothers Grimm. She develops a friendship with actress Lindsey McCabe, who would become a long-time companion even after this title ended. She also opens a investigation agency with Scotty McDowell, who does the office work from his wheelchair while Jessica does the leg work on the streets.

What makes this Essential?: My personal opinion is that this collection (and character) is a train wreck. “Spider-Woman” was created solely to protect Marvel from having a another comic book publisher creating a character with that name, by trying to sponge off of the Spider-Man property. (To protect other possible trademark infringement, other debuts in this era also include She-Hulk and Ms. Marvel.) Originally, Spider-Woman was to be a spider that had been evolved into a human – thankfully that origin went away. Despite the namesake, writers Marv Wolfman and Mark Gruenwald avoided using Spider-Man in a cameo appearance, although he finally did show up in issue #20 towards the end of Gruenwald’s run. Even though she wore a costume, this title felt more like a horror or monster book, along the lines of Werewolf By Night or Tomb of Dracula. Despite all of these handicaps, the Spider-Woman character has survived and flourished over the years, most notably under the direction of Brian Michael Bendis in the pages of New Avengers.  If you are a big fan of Jessica Drew, consider getting this just to understand how far the character has come since she first debuted.

Footnotes: Marvel Two-In-One #29 to #32 are also reprinted in Essential Marvel Two-in-One Vol. 2.

Marvel Two-In-One #33 is also reprinted in Essential Marvel Two-in-One Vol. 2 and Essential Marvel Horror Vol. 2.

If you like this volume, try: reading the Alias series from Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Gaydos. Jessica Jones is a super-hero turned private investigator. She went to high school with Peter Parker. As the super-hero Jewel, she was once an Avenger. Now, life is just scraping by from one assignment to the next. Her circle of friends includes Luke Cage, Carol Danvers, and Jessica Drew. This series was part of the Marvel MAX line, which was designed to tell R-rated stories set within the Marvel Universe. The series ran for 28 issues, and was replaced by the short-lived title The Pulse, which really was Alias without the MAX heading. Alias has been collected in multiple formats, including an Omnibus. Jessica Jones is one of the featured characters in the Marvel/Netflix deal, so catch up on Alias now.

Showcase Presents The Unknown Soldier Vol. 1

Showcase Presents The Unknown Soldier Vol. 1

First Published: November 2006

Contents: Star Spangled War Stories #151 (June-July 1970) to #188 (June 1975)

Key Creator Credits: Joe Kubert, Bob Haney, Robert Kanigher, Archie Goodwin, Jack Sparling, Gerry Talaoc, Frank Robbins, David Michelinie, and others

Key First Appearances: The Unknown Soldier

Story Continues In: Showcase Presents The Unknown Soldier Vol. 2

Overview: Two brothers from a Kansas farm enlist in the Army at the onset of World War II, and are assigned to the same unit serving in the Philippines. Trapped in a foxhole, one brother jumps on a live grenade to protect his sibling. While the grenade killed the first brother, the second brother is horribly disfigured. Given the option of a medical discharge, the disfigured soldier turns it down, wishing to remain on duty. His late brother had make a comment that one man in the right place can affect the outcome of a battle or a war. He takes on the designation of The Unknown Soldier, and returns to the front lines, undertaking special missions.

These stories are generally one-and-done stories, which alternate between the European and Pacific fronts. The stories follow a predictable formula, all the way down to the page layouts to start each story. Towards the end of this volume, we get two multi-issue stories. Otherwise, these stories could be read in any order.

Why should these stories be Showcased?: This is an interesting volume. From a historical perspective, these stories should be showcased. Anything that Joe Kubert worked on should be reprinted, and his art shines brighter in the black & white format. My concern is that I don’t think this is Kubert’s best work in the medium. I think you need to read his Sgt. Rock stories to really experience a Kubert war comic.

Footnotes: Star Spangled War Stories #157 reprints a Sgt. Rock story where Easy Company encounters an unknown soldier but not “The Unknown Soldier”. That original story, from Our Army At War #168, was reprinted in Showcase Presents Sgt. Rock Vol. 3.

If you like this volume, try: Joe Kubert’s book, Fax from Sarajevo: A Story of Survival. Based on communication from European comics agent Ervin Rustemagić, Kubert put together a disturbingly real look at what modern warfare looks like, detailing the Serbian takeover of the agent’s homeland. Rustemagić and his family survive for nearly two years before finally escaping Sarajevo for good in 1993. During this time, Rustemagić would communicate with the outside world via a fax machine, giving updates of the situation. One of the recipients of the faxes was Kubert, who later worked with Rustemagić to turn this into a graphic novel. Released in 1996 by Dark Horse Comics, Fax from Sarajevo received multiple awards both within the comics industry as well as within the publishing industry.

Essential Wolverine Vol. 1

Essential Wolverine Vol. 1

Essential Wolverine Vol. 1

First Published: October 1996

Contents: Wolverine #1 (November 1988) to #23 (April 1990)

Key Creator Credits: Chris Claremont, John Buscema, Peter David, Archie Goodwin, John Byrne, and others

Key First Appearances: Bloodscream, Roughhouse, Archie Corrigan, Silver Fox, Geist

Story Continues In: Essential Wolverine Vol. 2

Overview: Welcome to the solo adventures of Wolverine. Under the guidance of writer Chris Claremont, Wolverine had developed into one of the most popular characters in the Marvel Universe in the 1980s. At a time when the X-Men were confined to just one book per month – yes, that’s true – it made sense to spin Wolverine off into his own title and give the character even more exposure.

Most of the stories in this volume take place on an island nation, Madripoor, where Wolverine loses his costume and goes by the name of Patch, complete with a trademark eyepatch. Add in a small supporting cast, such as Jessica Drew and Lindsey McCabe from the pages of Spider-Woman, and Wolverine is a distinct book that can be read without also reading the Uncanny X-Men.

In the lead story, Wolverine is caught up in a turf war on Madripoor, and must get his hands dirty to protect his friends and help free Karma from the New Mutants. Another story arc dealt with Wolverine’s pilot friend, Archie Corrigan, whose brother stands to inherit a lot of money, but has delusions of grandeur. That story arc brings the characters to San Francisco before returning to Madripoor.

The final story arc, from the creative team of Archie Goodwin and John Byrne, takes Wolverine to Central America, where he must keep a general from using tainted heroin to turn his own son into his own super-soldier.

What makes this Essential?: At the time this first volume was released, I was adamantly opposed to this being collected as an Essential. This was first released in 1996, so these stories were less than 10 years old. I wanted to see more of the older material being collected, and not issues I could have bought (and sometimes did buy) on the newsstand when it was first released. Jump ahead to the spring of 2014, and I am now looking at this volume for the first time, nearly 17 years after it was first released, and these stories are now more than 20 years old. With that frame of mind, yes, these stories should be collected as an Essential. Wolverine was an extremely popular character and worth being featured in his own book. Given the talented creators attached to this book, it should be part of any collection. 

Footnotes: At the same time that Marvel launched the ongoing monthly Wolverine comic, the tittle character could also be found in a new bi-weekly anthology, Marvel Comics Presents. This title would feature 3-4 stories per issue, with Wolverine being the anchor character and the other stories rotating throughout the Marvel Universe. The Wolverine stories were not included in the Essential Wolverine volumes, focusing strictly on the character’s monthly title.

If you like this volume, try: the original Wolverine mini-series from 1982 from Chris Claremont and Frank Miller. This was one of the first mini-series that Marvel released, and was a break-out hit. It is still a popular book in the back issue marketplace. Wolverine gets word that his beloved, Mariko, has been married off, and Logan travels to Japan to find out what is going on. Along the way, Wolverine gives us his famous catchphrase, “I’m the best there is at what I do…” while taking on ninjas and double-crosses. This series has been collected many, many times, so it should not be hard to track this down. Sadly, this series has never been collected in an Essential volume, although Marvel had two opportunities to include the book. Obviously, it could have been included in this Essential volume. With this edition serving as one of the first volumes released, it appears Marvel was trying to keep page count in the 500-550 range. If they had included the mini-series in this Essential, it would mean breaking up the Archie Goodwin-John Byrne storyline. The second choice to place this volume would be Essential X-Men Vol. 4. Readers will find that most reprint collections of the Wolverine mini-series include Uncanny X-Men #172 and #173, which featured the X-Men traveling to Japan for Wolverine and Mariko’s wedding. Those two issues are included in Essential X-Men Vol. 4. Bear in mind, there was a lot going on in the Uncanny X-Men book at the time, so including the Wolverine mini-series there might be an issue, but it does complete the story. If you are only reading the X-Men title, Wolverine’s wedding comes as a big surprise to the reader. Regardless, this story should be a must-own read in any fan’s collection.