Essential Classic X-Men Vol. 2

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 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 Hulk Vol. 2

Essential Hulk Vol. 2

First Published: September 2001

Contents: Hulk stories from Tales to Astonish #92 (June 19674) to #101 (March 1968), Incredible Hulk #102 (April 1968) to #117 (July 1969), back-up story from #147 (January 1972), and Incredible Hulk Special #1 (1968)

Key Creator Credits: Stan Lee, Marie Severin, Herb Trimpe, Gary Friedrich, Roy Thomas

Key First Appearances: Timberius

Story Continues From: Essential Hulk Vol. 1

Story Continues In: Essential Hulk Vol. 3

Overview: The tales of the angry green goliath continue in this second Hulk Essential volume. We see Bruce Banner still being hounded by General Ross and the U.S. Army. Betty Ross must rebuff the interest shown by Major Talbot, as her heart still remains true to Bruce. And the Hulk shows that most times the true monster in the book is not him, but the humans fighting him.

With these stories, we see the Hulk start to crossover with characters from other books. There is a multi-issue arc where the Hulk teams up with Thor and the Warriors Three; Bruce Banner and his alter identity cross paths with Ka-Zar in the Savage Land; and another story line features the Hulk battling the Mandarin, which leads to an obligatory appearance by Iron Man.

A highlight of the book would be the inclusion of the first Incredible Hulk Special (Annual). Written by Gary Friedrich with art by Marie Severin, the Hulk encounters the Inhumans, which had been exclusively supporting characters in the Fantastic Four book until this point. What makes this memorable is the cover by Jim Steranko, which shows the Hulk bent over while holding up the book logo made out of rock. The image has been the subject of numerous homages over the years.

What makes this Essential?: This should be a better book, given the talent of the creators. That said, this collection of stories feels very average. My opinion here, but it feels like Marvel was more concerned with just having a book on the newsstands each month compared to the content of the stories. If you are a Hulk fan, get it only if you are wanting to read his complete journey.

Footnotes: This Essential also includes a back-up Hulk story from Incredible Hulk #147. It is uncredited on the front cover of the Essential, but it is listed in the table of contents. The back-up story was also reprinted, along with the original story, in Essential Hulk Vol. 4.

The Hulk was one of two features printed each month in Tales to Astonish. Since issue #70, the other back-up feature was Namor, the Sub-Mariner. For issue #100, the two characters teamed up for a full-length story.

Tales to Astonish ends with issue #101 (March 1968). The following month, the title was renamed The Incredible Hulk, and continued with the same numbering. Namor jumped to a one-shot special, Iron Man and Sub-Mariner #1 (April 1968), before moving into his own solo book, The Sub-Mariner #1 (May 1968).

If you like this volume, try: Marie Severin: The Mirthful Mistress of Comics by Dewey Cassell. This book was released by TwoMorrows Publishing in the summer of 2012. Right or wrong, comics are perceived to be a man’s interest. Men are the primary creators (writers, artists, colorists, etc.) of primary male characters printed in books aimed at boys and men. The truth is that while men constitute the majority of creators, there are many female creators in the comics industry. Marie Severin got into the industry in the 1950s, when her brother John Severin needed help getting a project colored for EC Comics. From there, Marie pitched in as colorist, inker, penciller, letterer and whatever else needed to be done. She was a mainstay in the Marvel Comics offices for three decades, working on a variety of titles including The Incredible Hulk, The Sub-Mariner, Kull the Conqueror and others. She even colored the first issue of Marvel’s adaption of Star Wars in 1977. This book provides a detailed look at Severin’s career.