Essential Conan Vol. 1

Essential Conan Vol. 1

First Published: July 2000

Contents: Conan the Barbarian #1 (October 1970) to #25 (April 1973)

Key Creator Credits: Robert E. Howard, Roy Thomas, Barry Windsor-Smith, and others

Key First Appearances: Conan the Barbarian, Fafnir Hellhand, Thoth-Amon, Kulan Gath, Elric, Red Sonja

Overview: Meet Conan, a sword-for-hire from the land of Cimmeria. He wanders the southern lands looking for the next job or quest, which will pay him gold, which he uses to pay for alcohol and women. When times are tough, Conan is not against resorting to thievery to survive. But given his skills with a sword, he very rarely is looking for work – the work comes to him.

Most of these stories are based on the original tales from the 1930s by Conan-creator Robert E. Howard  and are adapted by Roy Thomas. The art duties were given to a relatively young artist, Barry Smith, who shot to fame based on this work. After two years on the title, Smith left the book, with the art being handed off to John Buscema. Smith would take a break from comics, trying to put himself into the fine art world. (It was at this point that he added Windsor to his name.) Windsor-Smith would eventually return to comics in the 1980s.

In the issues collected in this volume, there are two additional characters that stand out to me from their initial debut:

  • Kulan Gath was a magician who crossed paths with Conan. Because he was created by Marvel, and did not come from the work of Robert E. Howard, Kulan Gath was incorporated into the Marvel Universe. I first encountered Kulan Gath when he battled Spider-Man and the X-Men in Uncanny X-Men #189 to #191, which can be found in Essential X-Men Vol. 5.
  • Red Sonja was created based off of a Howard character, Red Sonya. Red Sonja quickly became the female counterpart to Conan, one who could stand on her own against the Barbarian. Red Sonja would later move into her own title, and eventually even be featured in a movie. While the Conan rights are currently held by Dark Horse Comics, the Red Sonja rights are held by Dynamite Entertainment. (And to make things even more confusing, a version of Kulan Gath has appeared in the current Red Sonja title.)

What makes this Essential?: OK, full disclosure, I am not a big fan of the sword & sorcery stories. Never. I remember a next door neighbor of mine growing up was a huge fan of the Conan comics and the Elric novels by Michael Moorcock. Steve was always trying to get me to read them, but I would politely decline and ask if I could read some more of his Iron Man and Avengers issues. Maybe I should have tried them back then, or maybe I was better off sticking to what I knew and liked then. Reading through this very-hard-to-find Essential (check out the Dark Horse Comics Chronicles of Conan reprint books if you can’t track down this Marvel book!), I enjoyed the art from Barry Smith, as he went by in those days. I know that a lot of these stories came over from the Marvel black & white magazines of the time (edited to hide the nudity, naturally), so their inclusion in the Essential series makes them look spectacular. I haven’t read the original stories from Robert E. Howard which Roy Thomas used quite faithfully to develop this book, but it’s my understanding he did well with the adaption. I think what makes this “Essential” is that the comic book look of Conan came to be the definitive look of the character going forward. Prior to the comics, the cover images from Howard’s Conan collection show a more fully clothed man holding a sword with short hair. The comic book look of Conan helped inspire the movie franchise of the 1980s. Anyway, this is worth reading for a Conan fan, and from a historical perspective. But for me, I would rather get back to reading about heroes in capes.

Footnotes: Conan the Barbarian #22 is a reprint of Conan the Barbarian #1. The cover to issue #22 is included in this volume.

If you like this volume, try: the 2013 Red Sonja series from Dynamite Entertainment. I recommend this solely on the basis that Gail Simone is writing it. A lot of people will say that Simone is the best female writer in comics. Other people will say that Simone is the best writer of female characters in comics. Personally, I say Simone is one of the best writers period. Do not define her by her gender. No one cites Kurt Busiek as one of the best male writers in comics, or recognizes Chris Claremont as one of the best writers of male characters in comics. Anyway, back to Red Sonja. This is a fun, adventurous romp featuring the early adventures of the She-Devil with a Sword. If you are a fan of good comics, you need to be reading this title.

Essential Classic X-Men Vol. 2

Essential Classic X-Men Vol. 2

First Published: May 2006

Contents: The X-Men #25 (October 1966) to #53 (February 1969); and Avengers #53 (June 1968)

Key Creator Credits: Roy Thomas, Werner Roth, Gary Friedrich, Arnold Drake, Don Heck, George Tuska, Jim Steranko, Barry Windsor-Smith, John Buscema, and others

Key First Appearances: Sean Cassidy/Banshee, Cobalt Man, Candy Southern, Changeling, Frankenstein’s Monster, Grotesk, William Drake, Madeline Drake, Mesmero, Norton McCoy, Edna McCoy, Lorna Dane/Polaris

Story Continues From: Essential Uncanny X-Men Vol. 1

Story Continues In: Essential Classic X-Men Vol. 3

Overview: Welcome back to Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters. With a small enrollment, headmaster Charles Xavier is able to focus and help each student develop to the fullest extent of their abilities. Mutant abilities, that is! As all of the students are members of the X-Men, mutants working to build a world that homo-sapiens and homo-superior can live side-by-side.

In this volume, we get the first new member to join the team, as Mimic comes on board. However, he left quickly after fighting with Cyclops and losing his ability to mimic others’ abilities during a fight with the Super-Adaptoid. At this same time, future X-Man Banshee is introduced as a foe, but soon becomes a loyal friend to the X-Men. At the end of this volume, we do meet Lorna Dane, but more of her story will unfold in Essential Classic X-Men Vol. 3.

Now, over the years, many people have claimed that Charles Xavier can be an ass. A story arc in this volume would be Example #1. During a battle with Grotesk, the X-Men believe that Xavier has been killed. The students bury their mentor and figure out how they will function going forward. Out of nowhere, Xavier returns alive and well. Turns out he had been hiding in a secret basement at the mansion, so he could mentally prepare to stop an alien attack. Xavier hired the reformed criminal known as Changeling to impersonate him, giving him some of his mental powers. So it was the Xavier-impersonator that died in battle with Grotesk. Trust me, this is just the first of a long list of Xavier’s foibles.

Towards the end of these issues collected, a new format was introduced into the books. The stories would run around 15 pages, and then there would be a 5-page back-up which slowly revealed the origins of the original X-Men. In this volume, we get the origins for Cyclops, Iceman, and Beast.

What makes this Essential?: I actually feel that these stories are better than those found in Essential Uncanny X-Men Vol. 1. While I do not want to besmirch the work of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, I don’t believe the X-Men were ever their top priority. I think when writer Roy Thomas comes onboard, he is able to put his full effort into the stories, and we see the characters start to develop, becoming individuals with unique costumes and not just chess pieces controlled by Xavier. I almost think the casual X-Men fan would be better off starting with this volume first before ever reading Essential Uncanny X-Men Vol. 1.

Footnotes: X-Men #45 and Avengers #53 are also reprinted in Essential Avengers Vol. 3.

If you like this volume, try: Marvel Visionaries: Roy Thomas, which collects assorted issues from Thomas’ legendary career at Marvel. In the early 1960s, Stan Lee realized he needed help and hired Thomas to come in as an assistant. He was quickly promoted to writer, and one-by-one, Thomas would scribe the adventures of nearly every significant Marvel title at some point in the 1960s and 1970s. By my count, he has stories reprinted in over 35 Marvel Essentials (plus 2 DC Showcase Presents). The stories collected here give the reader some of the many highlights from Thomas’ resume – The Avengers, the X-Men, the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, Iron Man, Hulk, the Invaders, Dr. Strange, and Dracula.

Essential X-Men Vol. 7

Essential X-Men Vol. 7

First Published: April 2006

Contents: Uncanny X-Men #214 (February 1987) to #228 (April 1988); Uncanny X-Men Annual #10 (1986) and #11 (1987); and Fantastic Four vs. the X-Men #1 (February 1987) to #4 (June 1987)

Key Creator Credits: Chris Claremont, Barry Windsor-Smith, Alan Davis, Arthur Adams, Jackson Guice, Marc Silvestri, and others

Key First Appearances: Crimson Commando, Stonewall, Super Sabre, Mr. Sinister

Story Continues from: Essential X-Men Vol. 6

Story Continues In: Essential X-Men Vol. 8

Overview: After the events contained in the last Essential X-Men, you have to wonder where the X-Men can go from here. The Mutant Massacre have left the X-Men at half-strength, with Colossus, Nightcrawler, and Shadowcat severely injured. Magneto is overseeing the New Mutants, and the X-Men team is down to the still-powerless Storm, Wolverine, Rogue, and Psylocke.

First up is to build up the ranks of the team. During a battle in the Mojo Universe that involved the X-Babies, Longshot returned with the team to Earth and became a member of the team. On a chance encounter, the X-Men extend an offer to Dazzler, the mutant with light powers that was first introduced prior to the Dark Phoenix Saga. Next up is Havok, the younger brother of Cyclops that once did time with the X-Men in the 1960s. He rejoins the team, as the world has become dangerous to all mutants with the Marauders on the loose. During this time, Havok’s former sister-in-law, Madeline Pryor, starts hanging out with the X-Men, leading to some awkward interactions when they cross paths with X-Factor.

While a lot of these stories are one or two-parters, the overarching storyline is building to a confrontation in Dallas, known as the Fall of the Mutants. This event also crossed over with X-Factor (see Essential X-Factor Vol. 2) and New Mutants, but each title had its own story thread under the Fall of the Mutants banner. Storm has traveled to Dallas to find Forge, and force him to find a way to return her powers to her. The X-Men follow and encounter Freedom Force, led by Mystique and comprised of the former members of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. Storm and Forge are battling the Adversary, a foe that has been tormenting Forge for years. The only way to stop the Adversary is by the X-Men sacrificing themselves, which they reluctantly do if it will save the Earth.

However, the sorceress Roma, who had been saved by the X-Men during this battle, saves the souls of the X-Men and gives them the chance to live again. They are still considered dead because they could put their loved ones in danger if it was known that the X-Men were still alive. As a side effect of saving them, the X-Men find out that their images cannot be recorded by electronic devices, keeping them hidden from most of the world. The volume ends as the world mourns the loss of the X-Men, and the X-Men prepare for a new direction for the team.

What makes this Essential?: I find it a challenge to review some of these volumes that collect issues that I originally collected off of the newsstand spinner rack. Truth be told, I think I actually had a mail subscription to Uncanny X-Men in this era. When I was reading this month-to-month, in a world without the Internet and spoilers, we were on the edge each month wondering where Chris Claremont and friends would take the mutants in the next issue. Twenty-five years later, reading them all in a row in a short time period, I really start to appreciate the grand vision that Claremont was laying out for us. This is a good volume for the X-Men fan. However, if you want to read the full Fall of the Mutants storyline, you need to pick up the Omnibus that collected all of that storyline.

If you like this volume, try: The X-Men vs. The Avengers mini-series from 1987, 25 years before the AvX nonsense of 2012. Released around the same time as the Fantastic Four vs. the X-Men mini-series, it was not included in this volume. The story takes place shortly after the events of Uncanny X-Men #200 when Magneto is brought to the World Court to be held accountable for his actions in Uncanny X-Men #150. The Russians are still upset with Magneto for his actions, and send the Soviet Super-Soldiers after him. At the same time, the Avengers are called on to stop a pair of asteroids falling towards Earth. They discover that one of the asteroids is Magneto’s former headquarters, so it is time to pay a visit to the X-Men. As with any of these meet-ups, a confrontation ensues pitting the teams against each other. The original plot by Roger Stern called for Magneto to resume his evil ways in the final issue, but Marvel editorial stepped in, wanting to let the Magneto story play out in the pages of Uncanny X-Men under Chris Claremont. That may help explain why Jim Shooter gets a writing credit for #4. This has been collected a couple of times, most recently as a premiere edition in 2010.

Essential Avengers Vol. 5

Essential Avengers Vol. 5

First Published: January 2006

Contents: Avengers #98 (April 1972) to #119 (March 1972); Daredevil #99 (May 1973); and Defenders #8 (September 1973) to #11 (December 1973)

Key Creator Credits: Roy Thomas, Harlan Ellison, Steve Englehart, Barry Windsor-Smith, Rich Buckler, Don Heck, Sal Buscema, Bob Brown, and others

Key First Appearances: Imus Champion, Mantis

Story Continues From: Essential Avengers Vol. 4

Story Continues In: Essential Avengers Vol. 6

Overview: In the aftermath of the Kree-Skrull war, the Avengers have returned to Earth to find that one of their members is missing. Tracking down the Warhawks, the Avengers are reunited with Clint Barton, who has dropped the Goliath act and is now back to the bow and arrows of Hawkeye. With him, they find another former Avenger, Hercules, confused and disoriented. What a way to start the next volume of Essential Avengers!

The disoriented Hercules leads into a storyline that leads into #100 anniversary issue, which brought back every former Avengers – including the Hulk – in a battle between Earth, Asgard, and Olympus. Following that, the Avengers face numerous familiar foes, including the Grim Reaper, the Sentinels, the Space Phantom, and Magneto.

The highlight of this volume is the Avengers-Defenders War, which crossed over between the two titles, both scripted by Steve Englehart. Loki, the step-brother of Thor, and Dormammu, long-time foe of Doctor Strange, manipulate the two super-teams into battle. This has been reprinted multiple times, including in the Essential Defenders books.

The volume concludes as the Avengers make another return to Rutland, Vermont, for the annual Halloween parade. Once again, chaos ensues as the Collector shows up trying to complete a set of Avengers.

What is interesting with this volume is Englehart advancing the characters into relationships, bordering on a soap opera. The Scarlet Witch and the Vision start a relationship, much to Quicksilver’s chagrin. Mantis shows up, and wants to claim the Vision as her own. The Swordsman has fallen head over heels in love with Mantis, but can’t get the time of day from her. All of this gets resolved in the next volume.

What makes this Essential?: We see another transition in the Avengers title as Roy Thomas steps down as writer, and Steve Englehart comes in as the new scribe of the book. The X-Men – friend and foes – make numerous appearances during a time when their book was strictly a reprint title. Englehart scripts one of the first multi-part crossovers between the Avengers and the Defenders. With the introduction of Mantis, we start approaching the Celestial Madonna storyline that will dominate Essential Avengers Vol. 6. The downside to this volume is the art, which suffers from a lack of consistency. If you liked Essential Avengers Vol. 4, you should probably have this volume as well to continue the run.

Footnotes: Avengers #111 and Daredevil #99 was also reprinted in Essential Daredevil Vol. 4.

Avengers #115-#118 and Defenders #8-#11 are also reprinted in Essential Defenders Vol. 1.

If you like this volume, try: Avengers: Under Siege by Roger Stern and John Buscema. Running in Avengers #270-#277, the Masters of Evil are back with a vengeance, taking down the Avengers one-by-one. During the onslaught, Hercules is beaten within inches of his life; control of the Avengers Mansion falls over to the bad guys; and even the butler Jarvis is caught up and injured. But falling back to the group’s origins, the Wasp rallies the troops, calling in Thor and Captain America to defeat the Masters of Evil. When fans are asked to name the best Avengers stories, this is easily in the top five for everyone, if not the top choice. This has been collected multiple times and remains in print nearly 30 years after it initially ran in the monthly book.

Essential X-Men Vol. 6

Essential X-Men Vol. 6

First Published: September 2005

Contents: Uncanny X-Men #199 (November 1985) to #213 (January 1987); Uncanny X-Men Annual #9 (1985); New Mutants Special Edition #1 (1985); New Mutants #46 (December 1986); Power Pack #27 (December 1986); Thor #373 (November 1986) and #374 (December 1986); and X-Factor #9 (October 1986) to #11 (December 1986)

Key Creator Credits: Chris Claremont, John Romita, Jr., Barry Windsor-Smith, Walt Simonson, Alan Davis, Arthur Adams, and others

Key First Appearances: Phoenix (Rachel Summers), Freedom Force, Brightwind, Hrimhari, Nathan Summers, Marauders (Arclight, Blockbuster, Harpoon, Malice, Prism, Riptide, Scalphunter, and Scrambler)

Story Continues from: Essential X-Men Vol. 5

Story Continues In: Essential X-Men Vol. 7

Overview: Welcome back to the ongoing adventures of the students of the Xavier School for Gifted Children, led by the headmaster Magneto. Wait, what the?!? Magneto leading the Xavier School? What is going on here?

Once again, Chris Claremont introduces one change after another in the newest Essential X-Men volume from Marvel Comics. Magneto is brought before a world court to face charges for his actions back in Uncanny X-Men #150 (see Essential X-Men Vol. 3 for that story). During a battle, Xavier is gravely injured and is taken away by Lilandra and the Starjammers for treatment, leaving the reluctant Magneto in charge of the school. At that same time, the powerless Storm defeats Cyclops in a Danger Room fight to determine the leadership of the X-Men. Cyclops, his wife Maddie, and their son Nathan opt to leave the team behind and try to start a new normal life. That plan gets derailed later in the pages of X-Factor.

The highlight of this volume is the Mutant Massacre, which spread out into other Marvel titles such as New Mutants and X-Factor. The bulk of the Morlocks were killed by the Marauders; The Angel’s wings were badly damaged when he was pinned to a wall, leading to his wings needing to be amputated. Colossus, Nightcrawler, and Shadowcat are all severely injured and leave the team – this leads to the later creation of Excalibur. A new member joins the team in Psylocke. And we are treated to a nasty dogfight between Wolverine and Sabretooth.

The art in this volume is just stellar. In addition to the talents of John Romita, Jr., the ongoing series artist, we are also treated to art by Arthur Adams and Barry Windsor-Smith.

What makes this Essential?: If you like your X-Men to be EPIC, this is the volume to pick up. Between the finale of the Asgard arc that started in the previous Essential to the Mutant Massacre that crossed over with New Mutants, X-Factor, Thor, and Power Pack, this covers all aspects of the team’s greatness. In addition, Rachel Summers becomes Phoenix, the future Cable is born, and Psylocke joins the team. These stories are the ones that drove all of the various X-Men storylines of the 1990s. If you have not read these stories yet, this is the most affordable way to read all of the issues at one time.

Footnotes: Power Pack #27, Thor #373 and #374, and X-Factor #9 to #11 were also reprinted in Essential X-Factor Vol. 1.

If you like this volume, try: the New Mutants Classic line of trade paperbacks. The New Mutants were introduced in 1982 in Marvel Graphic Novel #4 and earned their own title the following year. For many years, the New Mutants title was required reading if you were also reading Uncanny X-Men. The New Mutants were a new group of teenage mutants brought to the Xavier school to train them on how best to use their powers for the benefit of mankind. Sadly, this title has not been collected (as of yet) in the Essential format. The first 4 1/2 years of the title have been collected in seven Classic trade paperbacks, which is a line that Marvel has used for a lot of 1980s titles. With this Essential, we are getting into a period where the big X-Men crossover events (Mutant Massacre, Fall of the Mutants, Inferno, etc.) will be collected in both the Essential X-Men and Essential X-Factor volumes. Reading the New Mutants Classic books will give you an understanding of what was going on in the other area of the Marvel mutant community.

Essential Daredevil Vol. 3

Essential Daredevil Vol. 3

First Published: August 2005

Contents: Daredevil #49 (February 1969) to #74 (March 1971); and Iron Man #35 (March 1971) and #36 (April 1971)

Key Creator Credits: Roy Thomas, Gene Colan, Barry Windsor-Smith, Gerry Conway, Gary Friedrich, Don Heck, and others

Key First Appearances: Starr Saxon/Mister Fear (Machinesmith), Stunt-Master, Turk Barrett, Thunderbolt,

Story Continues From: Essential Daredevil Vol. 2

Story Continues In: Essential Daredevil Vol. 4

Overview: Welcome back to the continuing adventures of Daredevil, the Man without Fear. In this volume, we say goodbye to writer Stan Lee, as he gives up the reigns to Rascally Roy Thomas and, later, Gerry Conway. Most of the art in this volume comes from the talented Gene Colan, although we do get a taste of early Barry Windsor-Smith in this collection.

This volume starts off with Matt suffering from a crisis of conscience. Foggy Nelson has been elected District Attorney and has gone his separate ways from Matt. Matt wants to ditch his red union suit and try to settle down into a reasonably normal life with Karen Page. Sadly, circumstances force Matt back into costume, as Daredevil has a city to protect.

One of the early villains introduced is Star Saxon, a genius who builds killer robots. (Saxon later appears in this same volume as Mister Fear, but his fame would eventually peak when he takes the name Machinesmith, being a foil for Daredevil, Captain America, Spider-Man, and others.) Long time foes Gladiator and Jester make return appearances to take on Daredevil, as well as Cobra and Mr. Hyde coming over from the pages of Thor.

The volume concludes with a crossover between Iron Man and Daredevil, as they battle the Zodiac. It makes for a nice change of pace to see Don Heck’s take on Daredevil for these issues.

What makes this Essential?: Once again, the artwork steals the show with this volume. I’ve praised Gene Colan’s talents many times in this blog, and there is not much else I can say to convince you on his art. This volume is no exception. In terms of the stories themselves, the tales in here are generally forgettable, quite honestly. This feels like a time in the character’s history where the primary concern was just to get a monthly book out, and any character development was a secondary concern. By all means, get this volume for Colan’s art. Just don’t get your hopes up if you are getting this for the Daredevil stories.

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

If you like this volume, try: the Daredevil run from Frank Miller. In the late 1970s, Miller came onto the book as the artist and eventually took over the writing chores as well. During his run, Miller took a throwaway character introduced in Daredevil #69, Turk Barrett. Turk made that one appearance and then did not appear again for nearly 10 years until the Miller run. Turk was a two-bit thug that had dreams of bigger jobs with greater rewards, but he always seems to make the wrong choice. Daredevil would crash into whatever bar Turk was drowning his sorrows in, smash everything (and everyone) up, and then question Turk, who would squeal and give Daredevil whatever info he was needing.

Notwithstanding the use of Turk, the Miller run on Daredevil is the first one mentioned when people talk about the best Daredevil runs. Miller pushed the boundaries for a monthly newsstand comic and helped set the tone for comics to come in the 1980s. This has been collected numerous times as both hardcovers and trade paperbacks. If you haven’t read this yet, you are missing out on one of the all-time great Daredevil stories.

Essential Doctor Strange Vol. 2

Essential Doctor Strange Vol. 2

First Published: March 2005

Contents: Doctor Strange #169 (June 1968) to #178 (March 1969) and #180 (May 1969) to #183 (November 1969), Avengers #61 (February 1969), Sub-Mariner #22 (February 1970), Incredible Hulk #126 (April 1970), Marvel Feature #1 (December 1971), and Marvel Premiere #3 (July 1972) to #14 (March 1974).

Key Creator Credits: Roy Thomas, Steve Englehart, Gene Colon, Frank Brunner, Barry Windsor-Smith, Dan Adkins

Key First Appearances: Satannish, the Vishanti, Shuma-Gorath

Story Continues From: Essential Doctor Strange Vol. 1

Story Continues In: Essential Doctor Strange Vol. 3 and Essential Defenders Vol. 1

Overview: Doctor Strange moves into his own title with full-length stories with this second Essential volume. This book can be broken up into three distinct parts:
* Part 1 covers Doctor Strange #169-182 and Avengers #61, with the start of new writer Roy Thomas joined quickly by Gene Colan to tell some breath-taking stories of the Sorcerer Supreme. Colan’s art is incredible in this edition and jumps off the page with pure energy.
* Part 2 covers Doctor Strange #183, Sub-Mariner #22, Incredible Hulk #126, and Marvel Feature #1, which gives us the origin story of the non-group of heroes known as the Defenders (Doctor Strange, Namor the Sub-Mariner, the Hulk, and the Silver Surfer). To get the full story arc for this, I suggest reading Essential Defenders Vol. 1, as not all parts of the complete origin are contained in this volume.
* Part 3 covers Marvel Premiere #3-14, where once again Doctor Strange is given the chance to be the lead in the book. His run would end in this title with issue #14 but picks up the next month with a new Doctor Strange #1, which can be found in Essential Doctor Strange Vol. 3. The highlight of this run is the start of Steve Englehart’s association with Doctor Strange, which would continue on for many years.

What makes this Essential?: For me, the highlight of this book is the Gene Colan art in the first part of the book. I have never been a big fan of the character of Doctor Strange, but I found myself pulled into these stories by the artwork. I don’t know if this volume is truly essential, even if you are a fan of Doctor Strange.

Footnotes: Doctor Strange #169 was the “first” issue of the character’s own title. Prior to this issue, Doctor Strange shared the Strange Tales comic with Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. Strange Tales came to an end with issues #168. The title was renamed Doctor Strange for #169, keeping the previous numbering, which was the norm for this time.

Avengers #61 was also reprinted in Essential Avengers Vol. 3.

Doctor Strange #179 was not collected in this volume. The issue reprinted Amazing Spider-Man Annual #2, which has been included in Essential Spider-Man Vol. 2.

For Marvel Premiere #11, the cover and the framing sequences are included in this volume. The issue contains reprinted stories from Strange Tales #115 and #117, which were included in Essential Doctor Strange Vol. 1.

If you like this volume, try: Superman: The Phantom Zone TPB, which was recently re-released by DC Comics. The main story is written by Steve Gerber with art by Gene Colan (hence the recommendation). This was originally a mini-series from 1982. The paperback is printed on a bright white glossy paper, which accentuates Colan’s art beautifully. The story features the Phantom Zone villains (more famously featured in the Superman motion pictures) escaping to Earth and imprisoning Superman in the zone. He must travel through the different worlds of the Phantom Zone before he is able to escape and return the Kryptonian criminals to their rightful place.