Essential Doctor Strange Vol. 4

Essential Doctor Strange Vol. 4

First Published: July 2009

Contents: Doctor Strange #30 (August 1978) to #56 (December 1982); Man-Thing #4 (May 1980); and back-up story from Chamber of Chills #4 (May 1973)

Key Creator Credits: Roger Stern, Ralph Macchio, Tom Sutton, Chris Claremont, Gene Colan, Marshall Rogers, and others

Key First Appearances: Sara Wolfe, Madeleine Saint-Germaine, Morgana Blessing

Story Continues From: Essential Doctor Strange Vol. 3

Overview: You’ll have to pardon me here. I’ve read a lot of Doctor Strange issues over the last couple of years, and I think I am getting the feel for some of these spells. Let me practice a few of them as we go through this review for Essential Doctor Strange Vol. 4.

“By the Ruby Rings of Raggadorr!” OK, in terms of content, this book gives us a nice, uninterrupted run of full-length stories from the pages of Doctor Strange. The majority of this book is helmed by either Roger Stern or Chris Claremont, with art by a rotating crew of legendary and upcoming artists, such as Gene Colan, tom Sutton, Marshall Rogers, Brent Anderson, Michael Golden, and Paul Smith. While most stories remain one-and-done, we do get a couple of multi-issue story arcs, including one by Claremont that crossed over with another title he was writing, Man-Thing.

“By the Hoary Hosts of Hoggoth!” While a lot of random threats pop up from time to time to challenge the good Doctor, we do get a lot of Baron Mordo, Nightmare, and Dormammu throughout the collection. We get a fun time-travel story – consider that Strange usuals travels between dimensions, not time – that sends Strange back to World War II (where he encounters Sgt. Nick Fury and the Howling Commandoes) and ancient Egypt (where he inadvertently gets involved in one of the earliest adventures of the Fantastic Four.)

“By the Vapors of the Vishanti!” For many years, Doctor Strange has had a tight circle of friends. For some characters like Spider-Man or the Fantastic Four, I could fill up a blog post just listing their friends, family, and close associates. For Doctor Strange, you have Wong, Clea, and Victoria Bentley. That’s the list. However, in this volume, we see three new women enter the picture.

First up is Sara Wolfe, a Greenwich Village neighbor who starts working for Strange as an office manager of sorts, to handle the bills and accounts for the household. Then there is Madeleine Saint-Germaine, a former paramour of Stephen’s youth, who re-enters his life during a consultation that leads into a multi-issue arc traveling from England to the Florida Evergreens.

Finally, there came a point where Stephen realizes his relationship with Clea is not working. He can’t serve as a mentor to Clea, while being in a romantic relationship with her. So he puts that relationship on hold, so they can focus on her training. That opens the door for Morgana Blessing to come into the picture. She seems to be mystically-inclined, able to see through Strange’s spells. She also becomes a pawn for Baron Mordo, who disguises himself as Morgana’s missing cat in order to attack Strange when his defenses are down. Seriously! Going to go out on a limb here and just say that Mordo doesn’t win this battle!

What makes this Essential?: Want to know the sign that this was a good Essential? As soon as I finished this volume, I started searching for Doctor Strange #57 and subsequent issues to keep the story going. I’ve never been a big fan of Doctor Strange, as I have noted in these previous reviews, and generally, it has only been the art by the likes of Colan to keep me with the book. But this volume, written primarily by Stern, was a dramatic turn for me. Stern made this character his own, and a much more intriguing one at that. While a lot of the stories still remain one-and-done, there is an ongoing narrative that develops, as we see more and more about Stephen’s life when he is not being called to defend the Earth.

In some ways, Doctor Strange has become very much like DC’s Superman, in that as the strongest and best at what he does, the threats it takes to overcome him become greater and greater, and generally more and more absurd. To get away from that, a good writer has to reverse the direction and keep that title character more human with definite limitations. You create situations where the character has to not use their skill sets, but rather go in the opposite direction. For Superman, that means using his head more than his fists. For Doctor Strange, it would be the exact opposite, making him more physically involved in the action, versus standing safely in the background and recanting spells. Stern does a good job of getting Strange into the action, and showing that despite all of his talents, he is still a man with flaws and issues. Issues which I now want to keep reading about.

Footnotes: Man-Thing #4 and Doctor Strange #41 are also reprinted in Essential Man-Thing Vol. 2.

If you like this volume, try: the 2009 story arc from New Avengers, Search for the Sorcerer Supreme, from Brian Michael Bendis, Billy Tan, and Chris Bachalo. Within this volume, we saw Dr. Strange and the mysterious Brother Voodoo cross paths in issue #48, and given the nature of their line of work, it would not be their only encounter. Following the events of World War Hulk, where Dr. Strange was forced to use dark magic to stop his ally from the days of the Defenders, Stephen renounces his title as Sorcerer Supreme and protector of the dimension. The Eye of Agamotto leads the “new” Avengers on a search for a suitable replacement throughout the world, before leading them to New Orleans and giving the title to Brother Voodoo. Of course, what is not known at this time is that there really was a character by the name of Agamotto, and not only does he want his eye back, but he wants to take over our dimension. Dr. Voodoo and the other Avengers are able to keep that from happening. I know a lot of people have mixed reactions to Bendis’ run with the Avengers, but I found stories like this one to be fun “What If”-type stories actually occurring in ongoing big picture narrative of the Marvel Universe.

Essential Marvel Horror Vol. 2

Essential Marvel Horror Vol. 2

First Published: November 2008

Contents: Supernatural Thrillers #5 (August 1973), and #7 (June 1974) to #15 (October 1975); Brother Voodoo introduction from Tales of the Zombie #2 (October 1973), #6 (July 1974), and #10 (March 1975); Strange Tales #169 (September 1973) to #174 (June 1974), #176 (October 1974) and #177 (December 1974); Marvel Team-Up #24 (August 1974); Haunt of Horror #2 (July 1974) to #5 (January 1975); Monsters Unleashed #11 (April 1975); Marvel Two-In-One #11 (September 1975), #18 (August 1976), and #33 (November 1977); Marvel Chillers #1 (October 1975) and #2 (December 1975); Dead of Night #11 (August 1975); and Marvel Spotlight #26 (February 1976)

Key Creator Credits: Steve Gerber, Tony Isabella, Len Wein, Doug Moench, Mike Friedrich, Bill Mantlo, John Warner, Scott Edelman, Val Mayerik, Gene Colan, Tony Dezuniga, Sonny Trinidad, Billy Graham, and others

Key First Appearances: Living Mummy, Elementals (Hellfire, Hydron, Magnum, Zephyr), Asp, Jericho Drumm/Brother Voodoo, Daniel Drumm, Damballah, Black Talon, Gabriel/Devil-Hunter, Modred the Mystic, Chthon, Scarecrow (Straw Man)

Story Continues From: Essential Marvel Horror Vol. 1

Overview: Welcome back to more marvelous debuts of characters from the horror-themed titles of the 1970s. This volume features the first appearances of six characters of varying degrees of success.

  • First up is the Living Mummy. Awakened after 3,000 years, the Living Mummy finds himself adapting to the world of 1973, whether in the streets of New York City or in the deserts of Egypt.
  • Next up is Brother Voodoo, perhaps the most successful of the characters featured in this collection. Jericho Drumm returns to his home in Haiti. Caught up in a spiritual war, Drumm learns the secrets of the Loa and becomes Brother Voodoo. With the spirit of his deceased brother Daniel living in him, Brother Voodoo challenges zombies, ghosts, vampires, and villains.
  • Gabriel, Devil Hunter comes to us from the pages of the horror magazines. With one good eye, the former priest conducts exorcisms to draw out the demons inhabiting innocent souls.
  • Golem hearkens back to Jewish folklore, as a clay figure comes to life, powered by love. The Marvel Comics’ Golem has very few appearances. (If you are interested in reading a great story about a Golem, check out Michael Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, which won a Pulitzer Prize in 2001.)
  • Modred the Mystic comes to us from King Arthur’s court. Modred was to become an apprentice to Merlin, but that tended to be red-shirt situation, if you catch my drift. He embarks on a path to explore the Darkhold, which casts him into suspended animation until he is revived in the 1970s.
  • Finally, the Scarecrow jumps out of a portrait to battle demons. (When he appeared later, he was renamed as Straw Man, to differentiate himself from the Silver Age villain known as Scarecrow.) I really want to write more about him, but there is not a lot to work with here.

What makes this Essential?: This is a book that can go either way — it’s a must-own book or it’s a do not own book. It’s all dependent on your personal tastes. I found that the Living Mummy and the Brother Voodoo stories worked the best, as we were given multiple issues to really dive into the characters. The other four characters each get 3-5 issues, which in most cases is not enough to really get a solid or favorable position on the character.

Personally, I might have preferred seeing more established Marvel Universe characters in this volume. For example, Greer Nelson debuted in the pages of The Cat in 1972. In 1974, she became Tigra in Giant-Size Creatures #1, followed up by a run in Marvel Chillers. She would later have stints in Fantastic Four and The Avengers (see the later Essential volumes of those titles), and has remained a fairly active character in the Marvel Universe since her introduction. This would have been a perfect showcase (pardon the use) for a female character, in a volume that is very male-centric to begin with. 

If any of the six featured characters interest you, then pick it up. If these characters do not interest you, stay far away from this book.

Footnotes: Marvel Two-in-One #11 and #18 were also reprinted in Essential Marvel Two-in-One Vol. 1.

Marvel Two-in-One #33 was also reprinted in Essential Marvel Two-in-One Vol. 2 and Essential Spider-Woman Vol. 1.

Marvel Team-Up #24 was also reprinted in Essential Marvel Team-Up Vol. 1.

If you like this volume, try: the 1980s Elementals series from Comico. The idea of characters with powers representing the basic elements is nothing new in comics. The argument could be made that the Fantastic Four is the best representation of this concept. In the Living Mummy stories in this collection, we see an actual team of adversaries called the Elementals. Over at DC Comics, a team of Elementals was introduced (but never used again) in the pages of Super Friends – see Showcase Presents Super Friends Vol. 1. But the greatest use of the concept came in 1984 at Comico, when Elementals #1 hit the comic book racks. The four characters that would comprise the Elementals (Vortex, Morningstar, Fathom, and Monolith) actually made their debut in the Justice Machine Annual #1 from 1983.  The basic set-up for Elementals is that the four element spirits find physical hosts (who have each recently died in that element) to help bring balance back to the universe due to the actions of the evil sorcerer Lord Saker. The book was written and drawn by Bill Willingham, many years before he became the grand storyteller of the Fables series. This is a really great series that sadly is not easily available today. Comico went through ownership changes and bankruptcy courts, and these characters have remained in limbo since the late 1990s. Comico released a trade paperback in 1988 collecting the initial story arc, but again, that is more than 25 years ago and its no longer in print. You might have to go to eBay or a really good back issue dealer to find these comics, but it’s well worth the hunt.

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 Doctor Strange Vol. 3

First Published: December 2007

Contents: Doctor Strange #1 (June 1974) to #29 (June 1978); Doctor Strange Annual #1 (1976); and The Tomb of Dracula #44 (May 1976) and #45 (June 1976)

Key Creator Credits: Steve Englehart, Marv Wolfman, Gene Colon, Frank Brunner, Jim Starlin, Roger Stern, Tom Sutton, and others

Key First Appearances: Silver Dagger, Gaea, Domini

Story Continues From: Essential Doctor Strange Vol. 2

Story Continues In: Essential Doctor Strange Vol. 4

Overview: As a part of the Marvel Universe for over 10 years, Doctor Strange served as the co-star of Strange Tales, which was later renamed (but not renumbered) as Doctor Strange; he was the focus of attention in Marvel Feature and Marvel Premiere; and he helped found a non-team in the Defenders. But it took until 1974 for Doctor Strange to finally get what every hero craves – a #1 issue!

Having finished his run in Marvel Premiere, Doctor Strange once again got his own bi-monthly title with the same creative team of Steve Englehart and Frank Brunner. But the title really picks up when Gene Colon returns to the title with issue #6.

There are some interesting stories in this volume. Doctor Strange becomes the last man alive, as the Earth is destroyed and then replaced with an exact duplicate. Doctor Strange travels to Boston where he encounters Dracula to save Wong from becoming a vampire. And who else could defeat Doctor Strange but a Doctor Stranger. Thankfully, Doctor Strange still has friends like Clea, the Ancient One, and Nighthawk to stand by his side as he faces down these new challenges.

What makes this Essential?: I do try to be original for each one of these reviews. But I run the risk of repeating myself with this review. So, I’m still not a big fan of Doctor Strange. But the art of this volume, in particular that of Gene Colan, is simply spectacular. I think that the black & white format actually enhances the art. This volume could serve as a primer for aspiring artists looking to understand page layouts and characters forms. The stories seem rather average against the artwork – for all of the talk about current writers stretching out stories for the trades, they should read some of these stories.

Footnotes: Doctor Strange #3 contains reprints of Doctor Strange stories from Strange Tales #126 and #127, framed with new pages. These Strange Tales stories were previously reprinted in Essential Doctor Strange Vol. 1.

Doctor Strange #14 and The Tomb of Dracula #44 and #45 were also reprinted in Essential Tomb of Dracula Vol. 2.

Doctor Strange #21 is a reprint of Doctor Strange #169, which retells the origin of Doctor Strange. This story was previously reprinted in Essential Doctor Strange Vol. 2.

If you like this volume, try: exploring the works of P. Craig Russell. Serving as the artist of Doctor Strange Annual #1 in this volume was one of Russell’s earliest jobs in comics. Over the years, he has been a modern master of the art, which a very distinct look and creative layouts. Russell is known for incorporating operatic themes into his work across multiple publishers and decades. He had a memorable run with Killraven, which can be found in Essential Killraven Vol. 1. Russell’s most recent work includes a two-volume graphic novel adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book.

Essential Daredevil Vol. 4

Essential Daredevil Vol. 4

First Published: September 2007

Contents: Daredevil #75 (April 1971) to #101 (July 1973); and Avengers #111 (May 1973)

Key Creator Credits: Gene Colan, Gerry Conway, Steve Gerber, and others

Key First Appearances: Man-Bull, Mister Fear (III), Angar the Screamer

Story Continues From: Essential Daredevil Vol. 3

Story Continues In: Essential Daredevil Vol. 5

Overview: It’s said that you cannot keep a good man down. Guess what, the same could be said about a good blind man, too! So sit back and enjoy the ride as Daredevil enters the 1970s with a new love interest, a new hometown, and new foes left and right.

Writer Gerry Conway came on board at the end of the last Essential. Traditionally when a new writer comes aboard, he or she likes to immediately put their own spin on the title, dropping past storylines from the previous writer, while introducing new situations. So Matt says goodbye to Karen Page, because his time as Daredevil keeps getting in the way of their relationship. Matt obviously needs a girlfriend in the superhero industry, someone who understands what it is like to wear the spandex and swing from rooftops. Enter the Black Widow, along with her guardian, Ivan Petrovitch. While we’re at it, goodbye New York City and hello San Francisco!

Conway tries to toughen up Daredevil’s rouges. The Owl becomes a key foe, but is now outfitted with more weapons. A robot from the future travels to throw test after test at Daredevil. Man-Bull is introduced, giving Daredevil a Rhino-type physical villains to go up against. Purple Man returns and starts to actually be perceived as a true threat!

The volume concludes with a crossover, as Daredevil and Black Widow team up with the Avengers to battle Magneto. When the battle is finished, the Avengers offer Matt and Natasha membership in their ranks. Matt quickly turns the Avengers down, but Natasha says yes. Not to worry, she doesn’t stay with the Avengers for long (considering her name is still on the masthead of the book), and she returns in the next issue of Daredevil to assist him in fighting Angar the Screamer.

What makes this Essential?: Not to sound like a broken record here, but the reason to buy this Essential Daredevil book is for the artwork once again. If IDW would ever consider doing a Gene Colan’s Daredevil Artist Edition, I would be the first in line to pick this up. Daredevil seems so realistic on the pages, and Colan’s female figures in Karen Page and Black Widow are exquisite. In terms of the story, well, hmmm…. Gerry Conway writes the majority of this volume, so I will focus on him. The stories are very average. These are entertaining stories, but I don’t believe they are memorable stories. The biggest events are Matt Murdock finally breaking things off with Karen, and the law practice moving to San Francisco. So get this for the Colan art, and read it if you wish.

Footnotes: Beginning with issue #93, the title was rebranded as Daredevil and the Black Widow. It would stay this way until issue #108.

Daredevil #99 and Avengers #111 are also collected in Essential Avengers Vol. 5.

If you like this volume, try: the Black Widow: Sting of the Widow hardcover. In 1970, Marvel relaunched Amazing Adventures as a new anthology book starring the Inhumans and the Black Widow. Written by Gary Friedrich with art by John Buscema, the Black Widow feature ran for eight issues, before she was bumped out of the book due to the popularity of the Inhumans feature. Not to worry, Black Widow immediately left that title to join up with Matt Murdock in Daredevil #81. The Amazing Adventures stories were collected in a premiere edition hardcover in 2009, around the time that Black Widow was making in her big screen debut in Iron Man 2.

In addition, I know I recommended the first volume of Mark Waid’s Daredevil with Essential Daredevil Vol. 1. That title came to an end earlier this year and has relaunched with a new volume still written by Waid. With this second run, Waid has moved Matt Murdock and his practice back out to San Francisco, where many of the stories in this Essential are set. Any fan of Daredevil should be reading this series.

Essential Captain America Vol. 3

Essential Captain America Vol. 3

First Published: December 2006

Contents: Captain America #127 (July 1970) to #133 (January 1971); Captain America and the Falcon #134 (February 1971) to #156 (December 1972)

Key Creator Credits: Stan Lee, Gene Colan, Gary Friedrich, Gerry Conway, Steve Englehart, John Romita, Sr., Sal Buscema, and others

Key First Appearances: Leila Taylor, Boss Morgan, Jack Monroe/Bucky

Story Continues From: Essential Captain America Vol. 2

Story Continues In: Essential Captain America Vol. 4

Overview: Welcome back to the continuing adventures of Captain America and the Falcon. This volume features an all-star list of comic greats, as Stan Lee and Gene Colan wrap up their long run on the book, and familiar Marvel Bullpen creators like Steve Englehart, John Romita, Sr., and Sal Buscema get their chance to take on star-spangled superhero.

Our duo continues helping out Nick Fury, Sharon Carter, and S.H.I.E.L.D. with a variety of familiar foes, such as the Red Skull, Hydra, and the Grey Gargoyle. Heroes like Spider-Man and the Avengers make cameo appearances, as New York City is the hub for all Marvel super-heroes.

Now, one of the struggles for our title character is to find something to occupy his time when he is not in costume. Sam Wilson works as a social worker in Harlem, and now has a steady girlfriend in Leila Taylor. But what can Steve Rogers do? Well, with good intentions, he joins the New York City Police Department. He works with Police Commissioner Feingold to set it up, but they agree to tell no one of Rogers’ other identity. Of course, this leads into all kinds of crazy excuses that Rogers must come up with to explain missing his shift, much to the annoyance of Rogers’ sergeant, Brian Muldoon (who bears a solid resemblance to Jack Kirby, one of Captain America’s co-creators).

The volume concludes with a face-off with the Captain America and Bucky from the 1950s. We find out that the government tried to introduce a new Captain America during the early days of the Cold War. William Burnside is an avid Captain America fan, and while researching his hero, he discovers the super soldier formula long thought lost. He undergoes plastic surgery to have his face shaped to look like Steve Rogers. Bringing in a young Jack Monroe that shares Burnside’s beliefs, the two teamed up as Captain America and Bucky. But their version of the super soldier formula causes psychotic breakdowns in the heroes, and the government is forced to put the two into suspended animation. Reanimated in the early 1970s, the 1950s Cap and Bucky come to blows with our Cap and Falcon. Our fearless heroes triumph, and the 1950s heroes are put back on ice. (In later years, Jack Monroe would return to Captain America’s side, adopting the Nomad costume identity in the 1980s. For more on Nomad, come back for Essential Captain America Vol. 4!)

What makes this Essential?: This volume really has me on the ropes. I don’t want to write a negative review about it, but I don’t know that I can write a positive review either. Given the incredible talents of the creators involved with the volume, one might expect the stories to be more epic in nature, or even more memorable. I don’t believe they were phoning it in during this era, but this is one of those books that felt like priority 1 was to just get a book out each month. This is a very good read for the Captain America fan, but I believe the casual Marvel Universe fan will find it disappointing.

Footnotes: Captain America Special #1 (1971) and #2 (1972) are reprint issues. collecting previously published stories from Tales of Suspense and Not Brand Echh. The covers for the two issues are in this volume.

Beginning with issue #134, the title of the comic changed to Captain America and the Falcon. This remained the title until issue #222, which can be found in Essential Captain America Vol. 6.

If you like this volume, try: the Captain America movies from 2011 and 2014. In all fairness, this may seem like a cheat. Maybe I am struggling to find another book to recommend based on the events of these comics. But at this point, if you are reading Volume 3, you probably have also read Volumes 1 and 2, which gives you 8 years worth of Captain America stories. So you understand who the character is and how he should be portrayed. So jump over to the movies. The 2011 Captain America: The First Avenger film portrays our hero’s origin, using the story from Captain America #255, which is viewed as the definitive Captain America origin, during the Roger Stern-John Byrne run in 1980 (see Essential Captain America Vol. 7). Jump ahead to the 2014 Captain America 2: The Winter Soldier and we see Captain America working with S.H.I.E.L.D., which we have seen a lot in these Essentials. Look at the opening to Captain America #153, as Captain America comes home and finds Nick Fury sitting in the dark. That scene was later mimicked in the movie. Chris Evans visually personifies Captain America in the flesh, even more so than Robert Downey, Jr. as Iron Man. The Captain America films have done an excellent job of aligning the movie character to that of the comic character, They are worth the re-watch to appreciate how faithful they were to the comics.

Essential Marvel Horror Vol. 1

Essential Marvel Horror Vol. 1

First Published: November 2006

Contents: Ghost Rider #1 (September 1973) and #2 (October 1973); Marvel Spotlight #12 (October 1973) to #24 (October 1975); Son of Satan #1 (December 1975) to #8 (February 1977); Marvel Two-In-One #14 (March 1976); Marvel Team-Up #32 (April 1975), #80 (April 1979), and #81 (May 1979); Satana stories from Vampire Tales #2 (October 1973) and #3 (February 1974); Satana stories from Haunt Of Horror #2 (July 1974), #4 (November 1974), and #5 (January 1975); Marvel Premiere #27 (December 1975); and Marvel Preview #7 (June 1976)

Key Creator Credits: Gary Friedrich, Herb Trimpe, Steve Gerber, Roy Thomas, Chris Claremont, John Romita, Sr., Gene Colan, Esteban Maroto, and others

Key First Appearances: Daimon Hellstrom/Son of Satan, Satana, Dr. Katherine Reynolds

Story Continues In: Essential Marvel Horror Vol. 2

Overview: Are you ready for something different? If so, then dive into this volume as we follow the adventures of the offspring of Satan.

First up is Daimon Hellstrom, a learned scholar who specializes in the occult. However, when the cases get dangerous, he changes into his Son of Satan persona. Armed with a trident and possessing the power of the Darksoul, the Son of Satan fights many of the lesser demons of Hell looking to gain favor with Daimon’s father. Daimon’s story ran through Marvel Spotlight before he graduated into his own short-lived title.

Also debuting at the same time is Daimon’s sister, Satana. The two siblings were separated as kids following their mother’s death and raised completely different. Satana embraces her heritage more than her brother. Satana feeds on the souls of men, which she absorbs by kissing them. When she finishes, the man collapses dead and a butterfly is released. Satana’s story jumped around between various Marvel/Warren magazines before it comes to an end in the pages of Marvel Team-Up. Is this the end of Satana? Time will tell….

What makes this Essential?: I’ve got mixed opinions on this book. Most Essentials follow a character through the run of their book, and will include any additional appearances in other titles. So while this is titled the Essential Marvel Horror Vol. 1, it could better be named as Essential Son of Satan & Satana. But I don’t know if that volume would have sold. So, for following the adventures of these two characters, this is a serviceable volume if you are fans of the characters. I found the Satana stories more interesting, being a mix of illustrated tales and prose pieces. 

But personally, after seeing the Satana stories from Vampire Tales and Haunt of Horror, I would much rather see Essential Marvel Horror collect the entire run of those magazines in a volume. There are a lot of Marvel/Warren magazines that have not been reprinted, and the Essential line would be the perfect place to present them again. 

Footnotes: Ghost Rider #1 & #2, and Marvel Spotlight #12 were also reprinted in Essential Ghost Rider Vol. 1.

Marvel Two-in-One #14 was also reprinted in Essential Marvel Two-in-One Vol. 1.

Marvel Team-Up #32 was also reprinted in Essential Marvel Team-Up Vol. 2.

Marvel Two-in-One #80 and #81 were also reprinted in Essential Marvel Team-Up Vol. 4.

If you like this volume, try: the Rachel Rising series from Terry Moore. For me, the highlight of this entire volume is ‘The Kiss of Death’ story from Vampire Tales #3. Gerry Conway’s script is good, but the artwork by Esteban Maroto steals the show. This story is breathtaking and worth the price of the Essential just to read this story. For those unfamiliar with his work, Maroto is a Spanish artist that did a lot of work for the various horror magazines of the 1970s. He helped design the metal bikini for Red Sonja with her debut. He also did an Amethyst mini-series for DC and a story in an X-Men: Unlimited issue for Marvel. Maroto’s female forms are exquisite, ranking up there for me with the likes of George Perez, Phil Jiminez, Adam Hughes, and Terry Moore. Since the early days of Moore’s Strangers in Paradise series, his female characters have jumped off the page, laughing and loving and living. In 2012, Moore launched his first horror series with Rachel Rising, about a young woman waking up one morning dead, but she remembers who killed her. Over the series, other friends die but remain alive; deals with the devil are made, and a mystery dating back hundreds of years is slowly revealed. This is some of Moore’s best work ever, and you are missing out if you’re not picking it up every six weeks. The early issues are collected in trade paperbacks to bring you up to speed with one of the best (and creepiest) books on the market today.