Showcase Presents All-Star Squadron Vol. 1

Showcase Presents All-Star Squadron Vol. 1

First Published: April 2012

Contents: All-Star Squadron preview from Justice League of America #193 (August 1981); All-Star Squadron #1 (September 1981) to #18 (February 1983); and All-Star Squadron Annual #1 (1982)

Key Creator Credits: Roy Thomas, Rich Buckler, Jerry Ordway, Adrian Gonzales, Rick Hoberg, Don Heck, and others

Key First Appearances: Danette Reilly/Firebrand, Dragon King

Overview: Early December 1941. While America has not entered the World War in Europe, the signs are pointing to the United States getting involved soon. President Roosevelt reaches out to members of the Justice Society to form a protection force for the American people. Call them an All-Star Squadron if you will! And so, a new team of heroes representing the greatest generation of heroes is formed.

While the Justice Society disbanded for the duration of the war to serve in the military, the members of the All-Star Squadron took over. Liberty Belle, who drew her power from reverberations from the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia; Johnny Quick, who uses the mathematical formula 3X2(9YZ)4A to run at super speeds; Firebrand, who takes her codename from her brother injured at Pearl Harbor and her powers from the Pacific volcanos; Robotman, who proved once again that anyone can be human with either skin or metal; and Commander Steel, a Captain-America wannabe with Wolverine’s skeletal structure.  Other heroes, such as Plastic Man, the Shining Knight, the Atom, and Hawkgirl would drop in and drop out as needed to protect FDR, Winston Churchill, and freedom everywhere.

Why should these stories be Showcased?: Yes, yes, a thousand times yes. This should be a must-read for historical comics, wherein the story takes place in a definitive time (in this case, December 1941 and January 1942). Writer Roy Thomas has done his research, resurrecting characters who appeared in comics in the early days of the Golden Age.There wasn’t a need to create an entire line-up of new characters, as plenty of characters were already available to use. Thomas was able to create a core team for these stories of Liberty Belle, Johnny Quick, Firebrand, Robotman, and Commander Steel, and then bring in various members of the Justice Society as needed. This was one of the first comics I read on a regular basis, providing me monthly history lessons on both DC characters as well as the events of the early days of World War II. Please give this a look.

Footnotes: Sit back, people, I am not happy with DC with this collection. Specifically, the 1982 team-up between the Justice League, the Justice Society, and the All-Star Squadron. This story ran across five issues: All-Star Squadron #14 & #15, and Justice League of America #207, #208, & #209. Reviewing the Contents list above (if you haven’t read this collection), you’ll notice that the JLA issues are not included in this volume. What?!?!? Please, DC, tell me why you would not include them! Adding the three more issues to this collection would have pushed the book close to 600 pages. No big deal, DC has had (and will have) larger Showcase Presents. Or omit the final three All-Star Squadron issues in this collection, and keep the page count roughly the same.

What is worse is that DC nearly repeated this same lack of common sense! DC has a line of books, Crisis on Multiple Earths, collecting the numerous JLA-JSA team-ups. When Volume 6 of this line was first solicited in the summer of 2012 (just months after this Showcase Presents release), it included the three JLA issues from the JLA-JSA-All-Star Squadron team-up, but it did not include the All-Star Squadron issues. The fanbase exploded online, and eventually DC re-solicited the Crisis on Multiple Earths book with the All-Star Squadron issues included. So, if you would like to read the complete story, please track down Crisis on Multiple Earths Vol. 6. Because you can’t read the complete story in this volume.

If you like this volume, try: reading Roy Thomas’ take on World War II superheroes at Marvel Comics, with The Invaders. Thomas did his take on the Golden Age heroes from Marvel leading the charge against the Axis powers. Roy Thomas first introduced the Invaders in Avengers #71 (December 1969), but it would not be until 1975 before the team got their own title. Captain America, Bucky, Human Torch, Toro, and Namor the Sub-Mariner formed the core of the team, but other heroes would soon join the team, such as Miss America and Union Jack. The series ran for nearly four years, before coming to an end with issue #41. Marvel released two volumes of a Complete Collection in 2014, collecting the entire series plus some other appearances outside the title. 

Essential Daredevil Vol. 5

Daredevil5First Published: February 2010

Contents: Daredevil #102 (August 1973) to #125 (September 1975); and Marvel Two-in-One #3 (May 1974)

Key Creator Credits: Steve Gerber, Tony Isabella, Bob Brown, Don Heck, Gene Colan, and others

Key First Appearances: Ramrod, Candace Nelson, Silver Samurai, Death Stalker, Blackwing

Story Continues From: Essential Daredevil Vol. 4

Story Continues In: Essential Daredevil Vol. 6

Overview: For a book featuring a blind lawyer-by-day, hero-by-night lead character, Essential Daredevil Vol. 5 is all over the place, but in a good way. Sure, the story bounces back and forth between San Francisco and New York City. Yes, we get plenty of Black Widow and Foggy Nelson, as to be expected. But it’s the other stories that take you by surprise in this collection.

For starters, show of hands here, who remembers the time Daredevil led a group of heroes against Thanos? Seriously this happened! During the initial story which introduced Thanos to the Marvel Universe, he crossed paths with Daredevil, who got an assist from Captain Marvel and Moondragon. Too good to be true, you say? Check out Daredevil #107 to see it play out!

The surprise foe of this book has to be the Mandrill, who has the ability to control women through pheromones. Certainly not due to his looks, that’s for sure. Thankfully, the Man Without Fear must dive into action to free the Black Widow and Shanna the She-Devil, as well as rescue Washington, D.C., from Mandrill’s takeover bid in Daredevil #110 to #112.

What about the time Nick Fury stops by to see if Foggy would join S.H.I.E.L.D.’s Board of Directors? Public knowledge of that would paint a huge target on Foggy’s head, putting Daredevil and Black Widow on high alert against the forces of HYDRA! See Tony Isabella’s run from Daredevil #119 to #123 to get the origins of HYDRA and Foggy’s answer.

What makes this Essential?: This was a more interesting read for me compared to the previous collection. I really like both Steve Gerber’s and Tony Isabella’s stories in this collection. (Side note – but I really believe that Gerber, Isabella, and Chris Claremont were probably Marvel’s most important writers in the 1970s.) Getting Daredevil back to New York was important, but the plot thread with Black Widow still in San Francisco dangled on for too long in my opinion.

Perhaps the most essential part of this volume is the introduction of the Silver Samurai in Daredevil #111. Created by Gerber and Bob Brown, he sat dormant for three years before Claremont started bringing him into Marvel Team-Up on a frequent basis. That lead to an appearance in Spider-Woman, again written by Claremont. Two months later, he appears in both New Mutants and Uncanny X-Men, tying him forever into the mutant books from that point forward.

Footnotes: Marvel Two-in-One #3 is also reprinted in Essential Marvel Two-in-One Vol. 1.

If you like this volume, try: the Kraven’s Last Hunt storyline from the Spider-Man books in 1987. OK, yes, I know this post is a review of Essential Daredevil Vol. 5. But I find the inclusion of Kraven the Hunter in Daredevil #104 and #105 very interesting. See, Kraven was not a villain that appeared in many books that didn’t involve Spider-Man. We never saw Kraven going after the X-Men or the Fantastic Four. And it really surprised me that despite being one of the memorable creations from Lee & Ditko during that initial run on Amazing Spider-Man, Kraven really didn’t get used that much period. So to have him show up here was a surprise to me.

So in 1987, Kraven’s Last Hunt ran across the three books featuring Spider-Man (Amazing, Spectacular, and Web of) for two months. In a surprising move at that time, all six issues were written by J.M. DeMatteus and drawn by Mike Zeck. (Hindsight being 20/20, having the one team for the story arc worked out well over the years, as Kraven’s Last Hunt became one of the first trade paperback collections.) In the story, Kraven takes out Spider-Man by shooting him in the back with a dart and burying him in a shallow grave. Kraven then takes the black costume and embraces the Spider-Man totem as he hunts down Vermin, a sewer-based villain that could control rats. Eventually, Spider-Man is able to free himself and track down both Kraven and Vermin. Despondent over how things have played out, Kraven takes his own life.

The story and art are perfect for this, and it has remained in print over the years across numerous formats. If by chance you have not read it yet, stick around because we get all six issues of the story collected in Essential Web of Spider-Man Vol. 2.

Essential Classic X-Men Vol. 3

Essential Classic X-Men Vol. 3

First Published: February 2009

Contents: The X-Men #54 (March 1969) to #66 (March 1970); Amazing Spider-Man #92 (January 1971); Incredible Hulk #150 (April 1972) and #161 (March 1973); the Beast stories from Amazing Adventures #11 (March 1972) to #17 (March 1973); and Marvel Team-Up #4 (September 1972)

Key Creator Credits: Roy Thomas, Werner Roth, Arnold Drake, Don Heck, Neal Adams, Tom Palmer, Steve Englehart, Tom Sutton, Herb Trimpe, and others

Key First Appearances: Living Monolith, Lawrence Trask, Karl Lykos/Sauron, Savage Land Mutates (Amphibius, Barbarus, Brainchild, Equilibrius, Gaza, Lorelei, Lupo, Piper), Shiro Y0shida/Sunfire

Story Continues From: Essential Classic X-Men Vol. 2

Story Continues In: Essential X-Men Vol. 1

Overview: Here we go, readers! It’s the final adventures of the original X-Men as members of Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters. Cyclops, Marvel Girl, Angel, Beast, Iceman, Havok, and now Polaris go on a non-stop run of adventures that take them from the sands of Egypt to the jungles of the Savage Land to the bright lights of the Las Vegas strip.

The highlight of this collection is the Roy Thomas and Neal Adams all-to-brief run on the title. Adams had been doing work for DC for about two years when he came over to do some work at Marvel. (At that time, creators generally worked for just one company at a time. If someone did work for more than one publisher, one of their jobs would be done under a pseudonym.) At the time that he came onboard with X-Men #56, the book was floundering in the sales column. Adams came in and helped plot a wild adventure ride, introducing new threats to the mutants.

While this is the most creative peak in the title’s seven-year run, it could not stop the cancellation ax. The final issue with original content was X-Men #66. Beginning with issue #67, the title ran reprints of old X-Men stories. Let this sink in for a minute. There was a time when X-Men was strictly a reprint book. It was more profitable for Marvel to re-run old stories versus commissioning new stories. Unbelievable!

Now, the title may have been in reprint mode, but the characters still existed and became free game to use in other books. So Iceman makes an appearance in Amazing Spider-Man, and Havok & Polaris show up in the pages of the Incredible Hulk.

The volume concludes with the solo adventures of Hank McCoy, who finally graduated Xavier’s school and landed a job in a Brand Corporation research lab. McCoy works on isolating the chemical cause of mutation into a liquid solution. Trying to keep his work from falling into the hands of corporate spies, McCoy swallows the formula, and his body is mutated into a furry gray Beast. (In later issues, the fur would change permanently to blue, but that’s not important for this black & white collection.) The Beast finds that he is trapped in this further-mutated body. Despite attempts to hide his mutation, Hank finally embraces his blue-furred identity. These stories are written by Steve Englehart, and he would continue the Beast’s story in the pages of The Avengers.

What makes this Essential?: In my humble opinion, this really is an essential volume to own. First, the Thomas-Adams run on this title is the first “great” story-arc in the history of the X-Men. The Sentinels are more menacing, the Savage Land is more savage, and the introduction of Sunfire opens the door for the international approach to the X-Men in the mid-1970s. In addition, by collecting the X-Men adventures in the other Marvel titles of the 1970s, it highlights how a proper Essential should be put together. The books should be reprinting the character stories, and not necessarily just within a specific title. The solo adventures of the Beast would never have been reprinted in any other Essential volume, so including them here was perfect. While some of the characters’ appearances can be found in other Essentials (see Footnotes), having these stories in one book reads so much better for the X-Men fan.

Footnotes: Amazing Spider-Man #92 is also reprinted in Essential Spider-Man Vol. 5.

Incredible Hulk #150 and #161 are also reprinted in Essential Hulk Vol. 4.

Marvel Team-Up #4 is also reprinted in Essential Marvel Team-Up Vol. 1.

Amazing Adventures #17 reprinted the origin of the Beast, originally told in backup stories from X-Men #49 to #53 (see Essential Classic X-Men Vol. 2). The cover to issue #17 and new framing pages are included in this Essential.

X-Men #67 to #93 and X-Men Annual #1 & #2 reprinted classic X-Men stories from the 1960s. New covers were created for those issues, and the covers are included in this Essential.

If you like this volume, try: the X-Men: Hidden Years series by John Byrne from 1999 to 2001. This series was designed to pick up the story of the original team following X-Men #66, the last original issue of the series. Byrne begins his story with what should be issue #67, but numbered as #1, and continues the adventures. Over the next two years, Byrne told new stories set in the Marvel Universe of the early 1970s, so the mutants encounter a Fantastic Four with Crystal subbing for Invisible Girl. We meet a young Ororo before she has her official first appearance as Storm in Giant-Size X-Men #1. The problem with this book is that it was written and drawn by John Byrne. Not that he necessarily did a bad job with either, but more that Byrne became a very polarizing figure in comics by the early 2000s. A new leadership team took over the reigns as Marvel’s Editor-in-Chief and opted to cancel the book as the X-Men universe was too convoluted and needed to be streamlined. (Note that streamlining of the X-Men books lasted for about one month.) You can read into that the cancellation was due more to personality conflicts between Byrne and management, and not due to poor sales, poor stories, or a convoluted X-Men universe. This entire series was collected in two trade paperbacks in 2012, so it should be relatively easy to track down. If you are a Byrne fan, by all means check this series out.

Essential Avengers Vol. 7

Essential Avengers Vol. 7

First Published: January 2010

Contents: Avengers #141 (November 1975) to #163 (September 1977); Avengers Annual #2 (1976); and Super-Villain Team-Up #9 (December 1976)

Key Creator Credits: Steve Englehart, Gerry Conway, Jim Shooter, George Perez, Don Heck, John Buscema, Sal Buscema

Key First Appearances: Hellcat, Amphibian, Cap’n Hawk, Black Talon, Tyrak, Graviton, Jocasta

Story Continues From: Essential Avengers Vol. 6

Story Continues In: Essential Avengers Vol. 8

Overview: This Essential volume has a little bit of everything we want and love of the Avengers. Time travel story? Check! Battles in an alternate dimension? Check! Stopping a war between Namor and Dr. Doom? Check! Return of classic villains such as Kang or Ultron? Check and check! Introducing new and returning Avengers? Check and check!

The first third of the book details the Serpent Crown affair, which involved the Squadron Supreme from an alternate Earth. Bringing that case to a close, the Avengers once again find themselves in a familiar position – too many Avengers and who is going to lead the team. Avengers #150 takes a look back at Avengers #16 while the team is whittled down to a more manageable seven members.

We get the return of Wonder Man, last seen in the pages of Avengers #9. Initially shown as a zuvembie, Simon Williams eventually regains his humanity to discover that he now has a step-brother of sorts in the Vision.

The next big Avengers story was too much for just this title, as the battle between Atlantis and Latveria crossed over into Super-Villain Team-Up. Attuma is once again trying to take over Atlantis and puts plans in place to bring Namor and Dr. Doom to war with each other, figuring that the winner of that battle would be easy pickings for someone like Attuma. But no one counts on the interference by the Avengers and the Shroud.

Finally, no collection would be complete without an appearance by Ultron. Once again trying to take revenge on his father Hank Pym, Ultron decides that in order to be complete, he must create a bride to be by his side. Kidnapping the Wasp to use as a pattern, Ultron creates Jocasta, who would quickly revolt against her creator and side with the Avengers.

What makes this Essential?: With this volume (and the subsequent volumes #8 and #9), the Avengers begin a five-year upward climb that reaches a climax with issue #200. We get a core team of members (Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Vision, Scarlet Witch, Beast, and Wonder Man) that comprise the bulk of the line-ups during this era. The story-arcs become five or six issues in length, building on clues planted issues in advance. These issues have appeal to the casual fan aware of the Avengers, as well as the seasoned fan who will recognize the classic stories and how they impact later stories to come.

Footnotes: Avengers #154 to #156, and Super-Villain Team-Up #9 were also reprinted in Essential Super-Villain Team-Up Vol. 1.

If you like this volume, try: digging through some back issue bins for a 2000 mini-series titled Avengers Two: Wonder Man and Beast. The stars of this title both (re)joined the Avengers during this Essential volume. The two characters each had insecurity issues  – Beast feeling outclassed on a team with the likes of Thor, Iron Man, and Vision; and Wonder Man fearful of dying again. Whether it was planned or just developed as the story went along, the Beast and Wonder Man became best friends within the Avengers, and would often be seen hanging out together during their downtime from the team. In this three issue mini-series from Roger Stern and Mark Bagley, we see the duo reunite for one grand adventure together. Sadly, this has never been reprinted as a complete story, so you may have to do some searching for these issues.

Showcase Presents Blue Beetle Vol. 1

Showcase Presents Blue Beetle Vol. 1

First Published: January 2015

Contents: Blue Beetle #1 (June 1986) to #24 (May 1988); and Secret Origins #2 (May 1986)

Key Creator Credits: Len Wein, Paris Cullins, Ross Andru, Don Heck, Gil Kane, and others

Key First Appearances: Melody Case, Carapax, Jeremiah Duncan, Lt. Max Fisher, Angela Revere, Dr. Murray Takamoto, Catalyst, Overthrow

Overview: Stop me if you read this story before. Wealthy playboy oversees a large scientific company, but has a hidden life, where he dresses up in a costume, flies around in a vehicle that matches his motif and stops super-villains and other forms of crime. You’re thinking of Blue Beetle, right? Yes, one of the stars of the Charlton Comics’ Action Hero line jumps into the pages of DC Comics. Following his successful appearance in Crisis on Infinite Earths, the Blue Beetle becomes the first Charlton hero to get his own monthly title.

So let’s meet Ted Kord. He’s rebuilt KORD (Kord Omniversal Research & Development), Inc. after his father left it in ruins. He’s rich, good-looking, and mostly single — he’s been dating his girl Friday, Melody Case. Ted also has a secret identity – the Blue Beetle. With a hidden base located under the company headquarters in Chicago, Blue Beetle battles a mix of foes from the Charlton days (Madmen) as well as long-time DC foes (Doctor Alchemy, Chronos), and crosses paths with many DC heroes, such as the Teen Titans, the Justice League, and the Question.

We also learn that Ted Kord is not the first person to wear the mantle of the Blue Beetle. The original Blue Beetle was Dan Garrett, a university professor and archaeologist. Well before Professor Henry Jones, Garrett was exploring the Egyptian dig of Kha-Ef-Re where he discovers a mystical blue scarab. The token grants Garrett super-strength, turning him into the first Blue Beetle. Dan Garrett had many adventures, before finally meeting his fate on mysterious Pago Island. While on his death bed, he got Kord, a former student of his, to promise to carry on his secret calling. Unable to use the blue scarab, Kord develops gadgets, weapons, and a flying ship (“the Bug”) to allow him to carry on the mantle of the Blue Beetle.

As the story develops, Ted Kord finds himself spending more and more time as the Blue Beetle, and less time managing the work of KORD, Inc. This leads to Case reaching out to Ted’s missing father, Thomas Kord, to return and take over the reigns of the company, just as it all comes crashing down (literally and figuratively). The series ends with Ted Kord walking off into the sunset, content with becoming Blue Beetle full-time and leaving the corporate life behind.

Why should these stories be Showcased?: Much like the situation I found myself in when reading Showcase Presents Booster Gold, I was prepared to overlook this collection, having loosely followed the Blue Beetle run 28 years ago. With the re-read of this title, I’m a little more impressed with the stories. Len Wein did a noble job in integrating Blue Beetle and his cast into the DC Universe, with nods to his Charlton roots. But as with Booster Gold, it’s not the solo book that fans came to know these title characters – it’s the Justice League of the late 1980s that gave us the defining view of Blue Beetle, which right or wrong, is that of comedy relief. I find myself reconsidering my position on this. I really want Blue Beetle to be a more serious hero, along the lines (but not as dark) as Batman. But as I read this title, I found myself wishing that DC would publish a Showcase Presents Justice League Vol. 1 sometime soon.

Meet the Action Heroes: From 1946 to 1986, Charlton Comics published comics in a variety of genres, from war to romance to licensed books to super-heroes. In fact, in the mid-1960s, then Charlton editor Dick Giordano developed a line of characters dubbed the “Action Hero”, which included Blue Beetle, Captain Atom, the Question, the Peacemaker, the Judomaster, and Peter Cannon, Thunderbolt. These characters had varying degrees of success, but most of the titles were canceled by the end of that decade. Jump ahead to 1983, and Charlton was struggling to survive. Then DC Managing Editor Dick Giordano worked out a deal to buy the rights for the Action Heroes from Charlton. DC incorporated these characters into the Crisis on Infinite Earths mega-event, and then put Blue Beetle, Captain Atom, and the Question into their own monthly books. In addition, Alan Moore used archetypes of these characters when he created Watchmen with Dave Gibbons. 

Footnotes: In terms of the reading order, jump to the back of the book and read Secret Origins #2 first. Look at the publishing dates – the Secret Origins issue came out the month BEFORE Blue Beetle #1. In addition, the early issues of Blue Beetle make reference to his origin story which is detailed in the Secret Origins issue.

If you like this volume, try: reading the Legends mini-series from 1986 by Len Wein, John Ostrander, and John Byrne. Following the events of Crisis on Infinite Earths, Darkseid plots to undermine humanity, sending Glorious Godfrey to Earth to incite riots and turn people against super-heroes. Blue Beetle had a featured role in this series, and the odd collection of heroes at the end of the series come together to become the new Justice League. DC also had other titles spinning out of the events of Legends, including Suicide Squad, The Flash, and a Shazam mini-series. Legends has only been collected one time in a trade paperback, back in 1993, so you might have better luck finding the original issues in a back-issue bin.

Essential Captain Marvel Vol. 1

Essential Captain Marvel Vol. 1

First Published: May 2008

Contents: Marvel Super-Heroes #12 (December 1967) and #13 (March 1968); Captain Marvel #1 (May 1968) to #21 (August 1970); and the Captain Marvin story from Not Brand Echh #9 (March 1981)

Key Creator Credits: Stan Lee, Gene Colan, Roy Thomas, Arnold Drake, Don Heck, Gil Kane, Gary Friedrich, Dick Ayers, and others

Key First Appearances: Mar-Vell/Captain Marvel, Una, Yon-Rogg, Carol Danvers, Mordecai Boggs

Story Continues In: Essential Captain Marvel Vol. 2

Overview: Unbeknownst to most of the people of Earth, alien races have been keeping an eye on our home planet. One of those races, the Kree, has parked a spaceship in orbit to do a further observation of the Earthlings. Captain Mar-Vell is sent to the surface for further investigation, finding himself near a military base in Florida. Mar-Vell’s commander, Col. Yon-Rogg, despises his assignment and wants nothing more than to blast our planet to bits and return to the Kree home world. Finding himself at odds with his commander, Mar-Vell breaks ranks with the Kree and vows to protect the Earth as Captain Marvel!

Captain Marvel finds that the Kree are not happy with his decision, as he is forced to face off against Yon-Rogg and Ronan the Accuser. And given that the Kree are the mortal enemies of the Skrulls, of course, the Super-Skrull has to cross paths with Captain Marvel.

In issue #17, Roy Thomas returned to script the book and brought along with Gil Kane for the art chores. Captain Marvel was given his more familiar red and blue costume, and the story starting progressing in new directions. Rick Jones, the official sidekick of the Marvel Universe, joins up with Captain Marvel, and the two find themselves bonded via the Nega-Bands. Because of that, when one is on Earth, the other is transported to the Negative Zone. (And if you know your Marvel history, if Rick Jones is around than the Hulk will soon follow!)

One of the supporting characters created for this series was Carol Danvers, a security officer at the military base during the origin issues of our hero. However, in issue #18 (November 1969), Carol is caught up in an explosion with Captain Marvel. After she has fully recovered, she later finds out that her DNA has been fused with Kree DNA, and it has given her many of the same powers as Captain Marvel. Carol’s story will continue in the pages of her own comic, which have been reviewed in Essential Ms. Marvel Vol. 1.

What makes this Essential?: OK, full disclosure and SPOILER warning time. I never really got into the Captain Marvel character. Want to know why? Because the first time I ever saw the character was in Marvel Graphic Novel #1: The Death of Captain Marvel. He was killed off the first time I read him! And it was a shocking move by Marvel, having a heroic character die not in battle but in a bed from cancer. So given the dramatic finale to his career, I had not desire to go back and read his adventures. In all fairness, the early 1980s still was part of the era where characters that were deceased stayed deceased. Of course, Marvel would reuse the name Captain Marvel (to protect the trademark) with later characters. But in today’s era, sometimes the best characters to use are the dead ones, and a good writer finds a way to resurrect the dead.

So I read this volume only knowing the character’s end. This is a mixed introduction to Captain Marvel. I fully believe this is a book that got much better as the story progressed, so I am looking forward to reading Essential Captain Marvel Vol. 2 sometime soon. (You can read into that if the book got better as the story progressed, then the early issues must have been a rough ride to get through.) The Gil Kane issues in the end of the book were my favorites, as the artist finds a way to make Captain Marvel feel more alive. (I’m still a big fan of Gene Colan, but these issues just didn’t do it for me. Thankfully I have plenty of Colan Daredevil and Dracula issues to enjoy!) Bottom line – I think this is worth reading, but I don’t know that this is worth owning.

Footnotes: Captain Marvel #20 and #21 are also reprinted in Essential Hulk Vol. 3.

Read my review of Showcase Presents SHAZAM! Vol. 1 to learn about the name battle between Captain Marvel and Captain Marvel.

If you like this volume, try: the Captain Marvel series from 2000 by Peter David and ChrisCross. This is a new Captain Marvel, Genis-Vell, who is the gentically-engineered son of the late Mar-Vell. Introduced in a 1996 Captain Marvel mini-series, the character went by the code name of Legacy. He rose in popularity when he was included in Avengers Forever maxi-series, as a future Avenger plucked from time to fight in the Destiny War. At the climax of that story, Captain Marvel finds that he must use the Nega-Band connection to save Rick Jones. Following that series, Genis-Vell moved into his own monthly book, still bonded to his father’s former side-kick. The series ran for 35 issues, before being rebooted in a Marvel promotion in 2002. The reboot, still written by Peter David, ran for another 25 issues. David is one of the best comic book writers, so any of these issues are a treat. Sadly, this is not a series that has been reprinted beyond one trade paperback, so you may need to dive into some back-issue bins to track this one down.

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.