Showcase Presents Legion of Super-Heroes Vol. 5

Showcase Presents Legion of Super-Heroes Vol. 5

First Published: December 2014

Contents: Legion of Super-Heroes stories from Superboy #193 (February 1973), #195 (June 1973), and #197 (September 1973) to #220 (October 1976); and Karate Kid #1 (March 1976)

Key Creator Credits: Cary Bates, Jim Shooter, Paul Levitz, Dave Cockrum, Mike Grell, Ric Estrada, and others

Key First Appearances: Drake Burroughs/ERG-1/Wildfire, Tyr, Hunter, Infectious Lass, Porcupine Pete, Roon Dyron, Chameleon Chief, Sun Emperor, Esper Lass, Magno Lad, Micro Lad, Leland McCauley IV, Tyroc, Diamondeth, Laurel Kent, Earth-Man

Story Continues From: Showcase Presents Legion of Super-Heroes Vol. 4

Overview: It’s time to go back to the future with the fifth Showcase Presents volume of the Legion of Super-Heroes. If you have been reading along in real time, it’s been more than four years since DC released Volume 4, so this is a long-overdue return to the teenage heroes of the 30th Century!

With this volume, we see the Legion stories slowly starting to take over the Superboy title. For most of these issues, the title on the cover reads Superboy Starring the Legion of Super-Heroes. Beginning with issue #231. the title officially changes to Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes. The takeover is finally completed in issue #259, as the title officially becomes Legion of Super-Heroes. 

While we just get two new Legionnaires added to the roster in this collection (ERG-1, quickly renamed to Wildfire, and Tyroc), we see the supporting cast and ancillary characters start to develop. While some of these may seem like throw-away characters, talented writers such as Paul Levitz and Geoff Johns have been able to mine these stories years later and bring these characters back to prominence. For example, in Superboy #218, Cary Bates introduces a character by the code-name of Earth-Man. We don’t see this character for 30 years before Johns brought him back as the main for during his Superman and the Legion of Super-Heroes arc in Action Comics (well worth a read!).

In this volume, we see the end of the Dave Cockrum run with the Legion. Cockrum would leave in late 1974 to head over to Marvel to work on a little book called Uncanny X-Men. Have you heard of it? I thought so…. Cockrum definitely had a particular style with his costumes that he developed for characters, and many people have pointed out the similarities between the Legion for DC and the Imperial Guard at Marvel. (See my review of Essential X-Men Vol. 1 for more details.)

Replacing Cockrum was Mike Grell, whose first published comic book work was these Legion issues. Grell brought a new level of detail to the artwork that had not been seen in Legion stories to date. Following his run on Legion, Grell would do memorable work with Green Lantern, Green Arrow, and Jon Sable.

Why should these stories be Showcased?: I’ll give you two great reasons why this should be Showcased: Dave Cockrum and Mike Grell. The two artists defined the look of the Legion in the 1970s. Whether it was co-creating new characters, or developing new costumes for the characters, Cockrum and Grell are the key components to the Legion’s success in this era. The story structure remains the same as from previous volumes, but we see the signs that the title is moving towards a more traditional comic with stories carrying over across multiple issues. By all means, pick this up for the art if nothing else. But I think you will enjoy the stories, too.

Footnotes: This volume includes the first issue of the Karate Kid solo series. This series ran bi-monthly for 15 issues, and it has not been reprinted in a collected edition.

If you like this volume, try: the 2011 Star Trek/Legion of Super-Heroes mini-series from IDW. Written by Chris Roberson, with art by the Moy brothers (Jeff and Philip), the series unites the greatest heroes from the 23rd Century with the greatest heroes of the 31st Century. Most of the senior crew of the Enterprise (Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Uhura, Sulu, and Chekov) find themselves on a planet where they meet a squad of Legionnaires (Cosmic Boy, Saturn Girl, Lightning Lad, Brainiac 5, Chameleon Boy, and Shadow Lass). After the obligatory skirmish between the two groups, they unite to work together to battle a common set of enemies, Q and Vandal Savage. The main covers for the series were done by Phil Jiminez, but the variant covers were done by legendary artists long associated with the Legion, such as Mike Grell, Keith Giffen, and Steve Lightle, among others. This has been collected as both a hardcover and a trade paperback, so it should be relatively easy to track down a copy. And while this isn’t a perfect story – and most media crossovers are not! – the Star Trek/Legion of Super-Heroes mini-series is a fun read.

Showcase Presents Legion of Super-Heroes Vol. 4

Legion4First Published: October 2010

Contents: Legion of Super-Heroes stories from Adventure Comics #369 (June 1968) to #380 (May 1969) and #403 (April 1971); Action Comics #378 (July 1969) to #387 (April 1970) and #389 (June 1970) to #392 (September 1970); and Superboy #172 (March 1971), #173 (April 1971), #176 (July 1971), #183 (March 1972), #184 (April 1972), #188 (July 1972), #190 (September 1972), and #191 (October 1972)

Key Creator Credits: Curt Swan, Jim Shooter, E. Nelson Bridwell, Win Mortimer, Cary Bates, Dave Cockrum, George Tuska, and others

Key First Appearances: Mordru,  Chemical King, Marte Allon, Tornado Twins (Dawn and Don Allen), the Wanderers

Story Continues From: Showcase Presents Legion of Super-Heroes Vol. 3

Story Continues In: Showcase Presents Legion of Super-Heroes Vol. 5

Overview: Welcome back to the 30th Century! In the future, everyone speaks Interlac, which makes things easier when we are meeting new alien races every other issue. The United Planets is led by President Marte Allon, and security is provided by the Science Police. But for those larger than life threats that occur on a regular basis, there is the Legion of Super-Heroes, a group of teenage heroes with unique powers and abilities.

This is an interesting transition era for our teenage heroes. Jim Shooter brings his legendary run to an end during this era, but not before introducing a few more core characters into the vast Legion universe.

  • Mordru becomes one of the Legion’s main villains – a magician intent on conquering the universe.
  • Chemical King finally joins the team in Adventure Comics #372. We were first introduced to him in Adventure Comics #354, where a memorial room to deceased Legionnaires foretold a death of a Legionnaire that did not even exist yet. finallyWho are the Legion’s most fearsome villains? Find out in this book with the debut of the Fatal Five, the Sun-Eaters, Universo, and the Dominators!
  • We meet the above-mentioned President Allon, who also happens to be the mother of Gim Allon, who we know as Colossal Boy. That connection proves to be both helpful and hurtful for the Legion in the years to come.
  • Timber Wolf officially joins the team after graduating the Legion Academy.
  • The twin children of Barry Allen and Iris West make their first appearance not in the pages of The Flash, but in the 30th Century. And they seem to have inherited their father’s abilities.

There is a lot of action going on here, either in full-length stories or eight-page backup features. Put your Flight Ring on and dive into the future.

Why should these stories be Showcased?: I wish I was more behind this book. Don’t get me wrong, I love this book. I think Jim Shooter’s take on the characters is one of the most important runs on the Legion in their 50+ year history. My hesitation for this collection is how the Legion got relegated to backup status in the late 1960s. After a long run of being the lead or sole occupant of Adventure Comics, their run came to an end and the book was given over to Supergirl. After that, the Legion became an eight-page backup feature in Action Comics and Superboy. Now having read ahead, I know that the Legion ends up usurping Superboy’s book, as we will see in the next Showcase Presents volume. But the eight-page stories lead to smaller casts of characters per story, as well as limited character development during this time. If you are a Legion fan, get the book. If you are a casual fan, you may get frustrated by the last 200+ pages of the book. Buyer beware!

Footnotes: Adventures Comics #403 is a giant-size reprint issue, collecting four classic Legion stories. In addition, there is a three-page feature of new costume designs for Legionnaires submitted by readers, and a two-page diagram of the Legion headquarters. Those two features and the cover are included in this collection.

Class is in session at the Legion Academy beginning in Adventures Comics #372.

If you like this volume, try: Legion of Super-Heroes animated series, which aired for two seasons on Saturday mornings from 2006 to 2008. Following parts of the storyline that we all know by now, the founding members of the Legion travel to the 21st century to recruit a young Superman* to travel with them to the future and learn how to become the greatest hero ever. The two seasons each contained 13 episodes, and many familiar stories and characters made appearances. Watching this can be a little bit of a challenge. Both seasons are available on DVD. Season 1 is available for Amazon Prime members to watch for free, but season 2 is only available to purchase by the individual episodes. For those wanting to introduce the Legion to a younger generation, this may be the gateway to the future.

* At the time this show was on the air, there was an ongoing legal dispute between DC and the Jerry Siegel estate over who owned the rights to the Superboy concept. To avoid any conflicts, Clark is always referenced as Superman.

Essential Ms. Marvel Vol. 1

Essential Ms. Marvel Vol. 1

First Published: February 2007

Contents: Ms. Marvel #1 (January 1977) to #23 (April 1979); Marvel Super-Heroes Magazine #10 (July 1992) and #11 (October 1992); and Avengers Annual #10 (1981)

Key Creator Credits: Gerry Conway, John Buscema, Chris Claremont, Jim Mooney, Sal Buscema, Carmine Infantino, Dave Cockrum, Mike Vosburg, Michael Golden, and others

Key First Appearances: Ms. Marvel, Destructor, Frank Gianelli, Tracy Burke, Deathbird, Raven Darkholme/Mystique, Rogue

Story Continues In: Essential Avengers Vol. 8

Overview: Welcome to a new era in Marvel Comics, as we dive into the adventures of Ms. Marvel. Longtime Marvel readers should already be familiar with Carol Danvers, a security officer at a military base when Captain Marvel first landed on Earth. (It will be several months before I get around to reviewing Essential Captain Marvel Vol. 1 where we see her debut, so take my word on this.)  In Captain Marvel #18, Carol is caught up in an explosion with the Kree captain. As a result, Carol Danver’s DNA now contains Kree DNA, which means she now has the same powers as Captain Marvel – superhuman strength, endurance, the ability to fly, and a precognitive sense. When Carol blacks out, her body undergoes a transformation and appears in costume (and with a new hairdo) as Ms. Marvel.

When our book starts, Carol Danvers has left the security world behind to become a magazine editor, working for the most bombastic publisher in New York City, J. Jonah Jameson. He is wanting to launch a women’s magazine and hires Danvers to oversee the publication. Being in New York puts her right in the middle of everything going on in the Marvel Universe. She crosses paths with Spider-Man and the Avengers, eventually becoming a member of that team.

While Ms. Marvel does face off against some traditional Marvel villains such as M.O.D.O.K., the Scorpion, and Tiger Shark, she also faced off against new characters created for her book. While some were lame (Steeplejack, anyone?), two new ones would come to the plague the X-Men for years. In issue #9, we meet Deathbird, who would later be revealed to be the older sister of Princess Lilandra of the Shi’ar Empire. But the big baddie came in issue #16 when the shape-shifter Mystique is introduced. Mystique will kill Carol’s boyfriend, Dr. Michael Barnett, whose murder will not be “solved” for 13 years (see Footnotes below).

What makes this Essential?: This should be an important book, more important than how it is viewed. The Carol Danvers character has been active in the Marvel Universe since her debut in 1968. Ms. Marvel was the first of four female-led books that Marvel launched in the late 1970s/early 1980s, all of which would go on to be major characters for Marvel. Outside of the first three issues, this book is written by Chris Claremont, who has proven to be one of Marvel’s best writers ever.

So why isn’t this better received or appreciated? Well, my first thought is that she is ignored because she is a derivative character. Following the lead of DC’s Supergirl and Batgirl, Ms. Marvel is a female copy of Captain Marvel. I think a lot of readers approach derivative characters just as a money grab from the publishers, who believe that readers will follow the costume regardless who is wearing the costume. That leads to my second thought – Ms. Marvel’s costume. For her first costume, she wore full-length sleeves, but bare legs, back, and belly. Her second costume was a little better – a one-piece swimsuit with a sash, thigh-high boots, and gloves that went up past the elbow. I realize that these are just characters, primarily created by men, and the goal is to sell comics, which are primarily purchased by men and boys. But neither of these outfits was extremely practical in the heat of battle nor are they necessarily appropriate for a character billed as such a strong feminist. 

Footnotes: Ms. Marvel was canceled following issue #23, despite a blurb for issue #24 (and presumed issue #25). The final stories were eventually printed in 1992 in Marvel Super-Heroes Magazine. The stories in this Essential volume are printed in story-order, so Avengers Annual #10 is printed after the Marvel Super-Heroes stories, even though it came out 10 years earlier. In addition, the cover art for issue #24 is included in this volume.

If Ms. Marvel #25 had been published, that would have been the first appearance of Rogue, Destiny, Pyro, Avalanche, and the Hellfire Club. It even establishes that Carol Danvers is friends with Wolverine. With the exception of Rogue, Chris Claremont would later introduce those other characters in the pages of Uncanny X-Men.

Avengers Annual #10 was also reprinted in Essential X-Men Vol. 3.

Prior to reading Avengers Annual #10 in this Essential, readers are advised/encouraged to read Ms. Marvel’s adventures as a member of the Avengers. In particular, Avengers #200 (which can be found in Essential Avengers Vol. 9) is a must read for the proper understanding of the events of Avengers Annual #10.

If you like this volume, try: the Ultra mini-series from Image Comics. Created by the Luna Brothers, Ultra tells the story of three super-heroines who work to protect Spring City. Pearl Penalosa aka Ultra is the main star of the title and in the city. She’s beautiful and rich, but sadly single, having thrown herself into her career. How in the world does anyone find time to meet someone, much less date, when the city is in constant danger. What stood out for me were the covers to the individual eight issues – each one was modeled after a popular magazine, such as Time, Rolling Stone, People, Wired, and others. This was the breakout debut for Josh and Jon Luna, who would go on to do other series for Image Comics such as Girls and The Sword. Ultra is still available as a trade paperback, but I believe the back issues could still be easily found in the back-issue bins.

Essential X-Men Vol. 4

Essential X-Men Vol. 4 (second edition)

First Published: June 2001

Contents: First Edition: Uncanny X-Men #162 (October 1982) to #179 (March 1984), and Uncanny X-Men Annual #6 (1982); Second Edition: Uncanny X-Men #162 (October 1982) to #179 (March 1984), Uncanny X-Men Annual #7 (1983), and Marvel Graphic Novel #5 (1982);

Key Creator Credits: Chris Claremont, Dave Cockrum, Brent Anderson, Paul Smith, John Romita, Jr., Michael Golden

Key First Appearances: William Stryker, Binary, Brood Queen, Lockheed, Madelyne Pryor, Callisto, Masque, Sunder, Morlocks, Plague, Dr. Valerie Cooper,

Story Continues from: Essential X-Men Vol. 3

Story Continues In: Essential X-Men Vol. 5

Overview: Marvel revisits the X-Men after a nearly three-year span between Essential volumes. What a rough time it is to be a member of the X-Men! The story starts out with the first Brood war, and introduces us to the second costumed identity for Carol Danvers, as Binary. A new member of sorts joins the team as Lockheed the Dragon is paired with Kitty Pryde. Following this battle with the Brood, which nearly claimed the life of Charles Xavier, we see the X-Men return to Earth to literally find New Mutants living in Xavier’s Mansion, forever changing the dynamic in the X-books.

A new group of mutants, the Morlocks, are found living in the tunnels of New York City. To save her teammates, Storm must fight for control of the Morlocks with Callisto. At this same time, the X-Men face a moral challenge as a reformed Rogue comes to Xavier asking for help in controlling her mutant power. Not only is she welcomed into the mansion, she is placed on the team despite the objections from many of the active X-Men.

A new romantic interest is presented to Cyclops in the form of Madelyne Pryor, who bears a sinister resemblance to Scott’s former love and fellow X-Man Jean Grey. In a whirlwind romance being manipulated by Mastermind, it culminates in the wedding of Scott and Madelyne and the retirement of Cyclops from the team.

For anyone reading the second edition of this Essential, Annual #7 is a fun romp as the Impossible Man sends the X-Men on a scavenger hunt.  Every now and then, the writers throw in an issue like this, where things are not grim and gritty for the mutant team. You get to see them unwind, whether playing baseball on the lawn of the mansion or watching a movie together. There is a lot of humor in this particular issue, and this is one of the first times we’ve seen the Impossible Man used in a book other than the Fantastic Four.

What makes this Essential?: This is a must-have volume in anyone’s collection. Between the Brood war, the introduction of the Morlocks, an apparent wedding for Wolverine (left at the altar) and a wedding for Cyclops (preceded by a drag-out fight with Mastermind). In particular, the famous “God Loves, Man Kills” story is one of the most-important X-Men stories of the 1980s. For years, writers have used the X-Men and the subject of mutants as a soft allegory for race and ethnic relations in America. Beginning here, Claremont and others make this an ongoing discussion point in the books.

John Romita, Jr., starts a three-year run on the title in this volume, taking over from Paul Smith’s beautiful run. These are some of my personal favorite stories, as I started collecting the title off the rack in this era. Uncanny X-Men #171, with Rogue joining the team, was my first purchase in this corner of the Marvel Universe, and I was hooked for life.

Footnotes: In an ongoing move to include additional material, Marvel adjusts the content listings between the first edition and the second edition of this Essential volume. The first edition contains annual #6, while the second edition contains annual #7, along with Marvel Graphic Novel #5.

The inclusion of Marvel Graphic Novel #5 causes some issues with the look of the reprint. The Marvel Graphic Novel line was a deluxe book printed on a heavier paper stock. The dimensions of these books were just a smudge smaller than an 8 1/2″ by 11″ sheet of paper. In comparison, a standard modern-size comic comes in at approximately  6 1/2″ by 10″. As a result, it was necessary to reduce the size of the Marvel Graphic Novel reprint in order to fit the Essential format. While it is still readable, having a pair of magnifying glasses handy might be helpful when re-reading this story.

If you like this volume, try: the Leave It To Chance series by James Robinson and Paul Smith. This incredible series from Image Comics in the late 1990s told the story of a teenage girl, Chance Falconer, and her pet dragon, St. George – a nod of the hat to Kitty Pryde and Lockheed, perhaps. Chance is the daughter of Lucas Falconer, a paranormal investigator in the city of Devil’s Echo, a world where magic is common. Chance finds herself getting into trouble as she tries to assist her father in solving cases. This all-too-short series started very strong, but was plagued with publishing delays towards the end. Smith’s art follows the 1990s animated style, with smooth, clean drawings that look to have been taken from a TV screen. Nearly the entire series has been reprinted in a series of hard cover collections from Image. This is a great all-ages storyline that should be in all collections.

Essential X-Men Vol. 3

Essential X-Men Vol. 3

Essential X-Men Vol. 3

First Published: August 1998

Contents: First Edition: Uncanny X-Men #145 (May 1981) to #161 (September 1982), Uncanny X-Men Annual #3 (1979) to #5 (1981); Second Edition: Uncanny X-Men #145 (May 1981) to #161 (September 1982), Uncanny X-Men Annual #5 (1981) and #6 (1982), Avengers Annual #10 (1981);

Key Creator Credits: Chris Claremont, Dave Cockrum, Brent Anderson, Bill Sienkiewicz, Michael Golden

Key First Appearances: Caliban, the Brood, Anna Marie Raven/Rogue, S’ym, Gabrielle Haller

Story Continues from: Essential X-Men Vol. 2

Story Continues In: Essential X-Men Vol. 4

Overview: Things never slow down for the X-Men, as evidenced in this third volume. The team finds themselves at odds with Dr. Doom and Arcade; the Hellfire Club; and the return of Magneto. The Starjammers return to Earth, inadvertently bringing the X-Men in first contact with the Brood. Cyclops rejoins the team, and comes face-to-face with his estranged father. Storm catches the eye of Count Dracula. An untold tale of Xavier and Magneto in their youth introduces Gabrielle Haller, who would become the mother of Legion. All of this plus Kitty tells Illyana a fairy tale of uncanny proportions.

What makes this Essential?: This is a good volume to read, but it is not a required volume to own. Claremont delivers solid stories which he re-uses later multiple times with later stories: Magneto’s attack in issues #149 and #150 lead to him being brought before a world court in issue #200; Emma Frost trades bodies with Storm in #151 and #152, setting up an ongoing rivalry between the two women; the Brood are introduced in 1982, but the first epic story happens the following summer (see Essential X-Men Vol. 4); and Illyana grows up in #160 (see below), which sets the stage for multiple stories in Uncanny X-Men, New Mutants, and other titles for years to come. These stories are good, but the impact/fall-out of the stories are much more important for the total Claremont run with the mutants.

Footnotes: Once again, Marvel juggles the content listings between the first edition and the second (and later) editions of this Essential volume. The first edition contains annuals #3, #4, and #5, while the second edition contains annuals #5 and #6, along with Avengers Annual #10. 

Avengers Annual #10 is also reprinted in Essential Ms. Marvel Vol. 1.

If you like this volume, try: the Magik (Illyana and Storm) mini-series from 1983/84. In Uncanny X-Men #160 (August 1982), 8-year-old Illyana Rasputin is drawn into the Limbo realm by the demon Belasco. The X-Men rush to the rescue of Colossus’ younger sister. During the battle, Kitty Pryde grabs hold of Illyana’s arm to pull her back out of Limbo. A short tug-of-war ensues before Kitty finally pulls Illyana back, but Illyana is now 13. The mini-series, by Claremont and John Buscema, details the five years that Illyana was in Limbo, receiving her training in the dark arts, that took place between two panels of #160.