Essential Warlock Vol. 1

First Published: August 2012

Contents: Marvel Premiere #1 (April 1972) and #2 (May 1972); Warlock #1 (August 1972) to #8 (October 1973); Incredible Hulk #176 (June 1974) to #178 (August 1974); Strange Tales #178 (February 1975) to #181 (August 1975); Warlock #9 (October 1975) to #15 (November 1976); Marvel Team-Up #55 (March 1977); Avengers Annual #7 (1977); and Marvel Two-in-One Annual #2 (1977)

Key Creator Credits: Roy Thomas, Gil Kane, Mike Friedrich, Bob Brown, Gerry Conway, Herb Trimpe, Jim Starlin, Steve Leialoha, and others

Key First Appearances: David Carter, Jason Grey, Ellie Roberts, Eddie Roberts, Brute, Magus, Matriarch, Autolycus, Pip the Troll, Gamora, In-Betweener, Gardener

Overview: Do you remember Him? That’s Him with an uppercase H, as in a proper name. He first appeared many moons ago in Fantastic Four #67, then was brought back for four issues in Thor. He’s an interesting guy but he needs a better name. How does Warlock sound? Even better, let’s make it Adam Warlock. This is Essential Warlock Vol. 1!

Warlock has been found by the High Evolutionary, who takes in Warlock as a new project. Embedding the Soul Gem in his forehead, Warlock is sent to Alternate-Earth (which is located on the far side of the sun from Earth in the same orbit) to become a hero for a heroless world. Warlock befriends a group of teenagers trying to find their way in the world, and that way eventually leads the group to the White House. There we find that the President is actually the Man-Beast in disguise, who is looking to take over the world.

Warlock tries to stop the Man-Beast but it can’t be done before the cancellation bug brings his book to an end. So the final battle takes place over in the pages of the Incredible Hulk. The green giant finds himself on the Alternate-Earth and encounters Warlock being held prisoner by the Man-Beast. Warlock makes the ultimate sacrifice – his own life – to stop the Man-Beast but is resurrected a few days later in a new, more powerful form.

When Warlock returns to his own title, after a quick run in Strange Tales, he starts to find a new set of friends, as well as new enemies. Now traveling the galaxy, he meets Gamora and Pip the Troll, who end up tagging along on his adventures. He also meets Magus, a would-be god in the future who just happens to be Warlock. Our hero must destroy his future self in order to save the universe of today.

Now, this collection would not be complete without mentioning Thanos, the big bad heavy of the Marvel Universe. Warlock and Thanos have been linked together for a long time, and it starts with the issues in this collection. Thanos finds that he must work with Warlock to defeat Magus’ army, but once that battle is done, they go their separate ways. Thanos hatches a new plan to rule the universe, and it takes the combined efforts of Warlock and his crew, along with Spider-Man, the Thing, Captain Mar-Vel, and the Avengers to stop Thanos for good — for now at least.

What makes this Essential?: This collection makes for an interesting look at religion. With the initial arc from Roy Thomas and Gil Kane, the writer was inspired by the then-current Jesus Christ Superstar musical. Sharing a name with the first man in the Bible, Adam Warlock is sent to Earth (albeit Alternate-Earth) to help save the people from a false prophet. During the Jim Starlin arc, Warlock must battle a future version of himself who has been set up as a god across the universe. Given the teases for Warlock in both Guardians of the Galaxy movies, I anticipate the demand for this book to increase as he joins the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Footnotes: Incredible Hulk #176 to #178 were also reprinted in Essential Hulk Vol. 5.

Marvel Team-Up #55 was also reprinted in Essential Marvel Team-Up Vol. 3.

Avengers Annual #7 was also reprinted in Essential Avengers Vol. 8.

Marvel Two-in-One Annual #2 was also reprinted in Essential Marvel Two-in-One Vol. 2 and Essential Avengers Vol. 8.

If you like this volume, try: The Infinity Gauntlet mini-series from 1991. Written by Jim Starlin with art by George Perez and Ron Lim, Thanos has acquired all six infinity gems and mounted them onto his glove. Seeking to win the affection of Death, Thanos kills half of the galaxy, including the Fantastic Four and the X-Men. The remaining heroes are given a chance to stop Thanos, but they are unable to prevail. Transcending into a god-like being, Thanos leaves his body unprotected, and his reported granddaughter Nebula steals the glove and restores the universe to how it was before. When things have settled, the recently returned Warlock takes possession of the glove, which led into a new ongoing series titled Warlock and the Infinity Watch.

Showcase Presents Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew! Vol. 1

Showcase Presents Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew! Vol. 1

First Hatched: September 2014

Contents: Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew story from The New Teen Titans #16 (February 1982); Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew #1 (March 1982) to #20 (November 1983); and The Oz-Wonderland Wars #1 (January 1986) to #3 (March 1986)

Key Cre-gator Credits: Roy Thomas, Gerry Conway, Scott Shaw, Mike Sekowsky, Stan Goldberg, E, Nelson Bridwell, Rick Hoberg, Joey Cavalieri, and others

Key First Ape-arances: Rodney Rabbit/Captain Carrot, Felina Furr/Alley-Kat-Abra, Timmy Joe Terrapin/Fastback, Peter Porkchops/Pig-Iron, Byrd Rentals/Rubberduck, Rova Barkitt/Yankee Poodle, Just’a Lotta Animals (Aquaduck, Batmouse, Crash, Green Lambkin, Super-Squirrel, Wonder Wabbit), Chester Cheese/Little Cheese

Birds-eye-view: At the start of the Silver Age, as a new generation of heroes was being introduced, DC developed the concept of parallel earths, as these were the worlds where other heroes lived and had their adventures. The heroes of the Justice League were assigned to Earth-One, while the Justice Society was on Earth-Two. The Shazam Family protected Earth-S, while the Quality Heroes could be found on Earth-X.

In the early 1980s, a new parallel Earth was discovered when Superman crashed into a meteor approaching his Earth. The resulting collision transported Superman and the meteor fragments to a new Earth. Let’s call it Earth-C for now. This Earth was populated not with humans, but with anamorphic animals living lives and doing tasks that normal people would do. We meet Rodney Rabbit, a cartoonist on the hit comic Just’a Lotta Animals. One of those meteors lands in Rodney’s garden box, where he grows carrots. Munching on an irradiated carrot leads to a transformation, and Rodney Rabbit becomes Captain Carrot, the first hero of Earth-C.

Captain Carrot quickly finds out that while he may be the first, he is not the only hero showing up thanks to the meteorites. Captain Carrot is joined by the likes of Rubberduck, Yankee Poodle, Alley-Kat-Abra, Fastback, and Pig-Iron. Together, the become the amazing Zoo Crew, setting up headquarters in the Z-Building in Los Antelope. The Zoo Crew face off against the likes of Frogzilla, Armordillo, Bow-Zar the Barkbarian, and even Gorilla Grodd!

Rodney soon discovers that the Just’a Lotta Animals that he has been drawing in comics are real, and living on yet another parallel Earth, which we will dub Earth-C Minus. That leads to a couple of team-ups between the two squads, and a love triangle develops between Captain Carrot, Wonder Wabbit, and Super-Squirrel.

The series concludes with a new member, Little Cheese, joining the Zoo Crew, but their adventures are not over. The team is drawn into a conflict between Lewis Carroll’s Wonderland and L. Frank Baum’s Oz. Captain Carrot and the Zoo Crew team up with Dorothy, Scarecrow, Cowardly Lion, Tin Man, and many others to rescue Oz from the Nome King.

Why should these tails be Showcased?: You can approach this one of two ways. If you view this as only a funny-animal book, it might not be for you. But you could get this for a young reader to enjoy. HOWEVER, if you look at this as a creative exercise, this has the makings of a good read. The book is filled with animal references and puns. Brush it off if you will, but try it yourself. When’s the last time you intentionally tried to write something funny? It’s much harder than it looks. Writing standard super hero stories, dramatic stories or even dark and gritty stories are a piece of cake compared to writing comedy. Credit should really be given to all of the writers on this book for pulling it off each issue.

Pawnotes: When the series started, Captain Carrot’s identity was Roger Rabbit. Over the course of the series, his name was modified from Roger Rabbit to Roger Rodney Rabbit to R. Rodney Rabbit to finally just Rodney Rabbit. While many people are familiar with the 1988 film Who Framed Roger Rabbit, most people are unaware that it is based on a 1981 novel, Who Censored Roger Rabbit? by Gary Wolf. DC opted to change the title character’s name to avoid any legal issues. 

Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew was canceled with issue #20, even though issues #21 to #26 were in various stages of production. At that time of the cancellation, DC indicated that the series would continue as a series of mini-series. The content from those unreleased six issues were collected into three double-sized issues which became The Oz-Wonderland Wars.

If ewe like this volume, try: the Marvel Comics series of adaptions of L. Frank Baum’s original Oz novels by Eric Shanower and Skottie Young. Shanower has been linked to the Oz universe for most of his career, scripting adaptions for First Comics, Dark Horse Comics, IDW, and others. Beginning in 2009, he partnered with artist Skottie Young to adapt the six novels as mini-series, ranging anywhere from five to eight issues each. These stories have been collected into multiple hardcovers and trade paperbacks. In addition, all of the series were collected into an Oz Omnibus in 2014. These are fun reads that remain true to the books. Young’s art style may take some getting used to early on, but I grew to love the look of these books.

  • The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
  • The Marvelous Land of Oz
  • Ozma of Oz
  • Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz
  • The Road to Oz
  • The Emerald City of Oz

Showcase Presents Justice League of America Vol. 6

jla6First Published: February 2013

Contents: Justice League of America #107 (September/October 1973) to #132 (July 1976)

Key Creator Credits: Len Wein, Dick Dillin, Elliot S! Maggin, Cary Bates, Gerry Conway, Martin Pasko, and others

Key First Appearances: Freedom Fighters, Libra, Golden Eagle

Story Continues From: Showcase Presents Justice League of America Vol. 5

Overview: The Justice Leauge is back in their sixth (and sadly last) Showcase Presents volume. The run goes out with a bang, as we get multiple JLA-JSA team-ups, new character introductions, and pivotal moments in DC history.

The volume starts out with the JLA and JSA teaming up on Earth-X, with the introduction of the Freedom Fighters. While the members all date back to the Golden Age, the coming together as the Freedom Fighters on Earth-X was a brand new concept. In this world, Germany won World War II and this group of heroes (Uncle Sam, the Ray, Phantom Lady, the Human Bomb, and Doll Man) is working together to free America. Following this introduction, the Freedom Fighters would move onto their own ongoing title.

This volume gives us the second appearance ever of John Stewart as Green Lantern. Hal Jordan was out of action (he slipped on the soap in the shower and knocked himself out) so the ring went to Stewart to serve in his place. It would be three more years before we see Steward in action again. Also making his first appearance in this volume was Golden Eagle, who would go on to become a member of Teen Titans West.

We get introduced to the villain known as Libra, who’s gimmick is to steal half of a hero’s powers. After his initial appearance here, he was not used again until he came one of the main bad guys in Final Crisis in 2008.

 

While we don’t get any new members in this collection, Red Tornado does modify his appearance into his more traditional look with the stripes. Getting away from the more robotic look was the first step on his journey to becoming more human. And the volume’s most memorable moment came not in battle but with a wedding between the long-time friend of the League Adam Strange and his beloved Alanna.

Why should these stories be Showcased?: This may be my favorite volume in the series, but I will also admit I am biased to these stories. These are some of the first comics I ever read, and Dick Dillin has been my definitive JLA artist for years. The writing duties seem to rotate around between Bates, Maggin, and Conway, but it works here. The stories take on a narrative quality, encouraging the reader to pick up the title each month.

Footnotes: Justice League of America #110 to #116 were 100-page books published bi-monthly. Each issue would feature a new story, a reprint of a prior JLA story, and a reprint of a Golden Age story from a Justice Society member. Only the new stories are included in this book.

If you like this volume, try: the Elseworlds story Kingdom Come by Mark Waid and Alex Ross. This story presented a future look at DC Universe, where the characters have aged and the children have taken over roles from their parents. A new generation of heroes has developed, but they don’t hold the same moral views as the prior generation of heroes. So the older heroes, such as Superman, Wonder Woman, and Batman, must don their costumes again to bring the heroes in line as well as stop yet another scheme from Lex Luthor. This is a brilliant story that almost demands multiple readings to pick up on everything. Heck, you need a second or third reading just to catch all of the Easter Eggs that Ross has left hidden in the backgrounds of every panel. If you have the chance, pick this up as an Absolute that includes the notes detailing who’s who in every panel.

Showcase Presents DC Comics Presents: The Superman Team-Ups Vol. 2

supermanteamup2First Published: July 2013

Contents: DC Comics Presents #27 (November 1980) to #50 (October 1982); and DC Comics Presents Annual #1 (1982)

Key Creator Credits: Martin Pasko, Len Wein, Jim Starlin, Gerry Conway, Paul Levitz, Rich Buckler, Roy Thomas, Curt Swan, Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, Irv Novick, Paul Kupperberg, and others

Key First Appearances: Mongul, Waldo Flynn, Alexander Luthor, Lois Lane-Luthor

Story Continues From: Showcase Presents DC Comics Presents: The Superman Team-Ups Vol. 1

Overview: Superman can be a tricky character to write. As silly as that may sound, give it some thought. In the Bronze Age, Superman was an all-powerful character. Outside of magic or kryptonite, what threats are there to stop or slow down a guy like Superman? Quite honestly, given his powers and abilities, why would Superman ever need to team up with any other hero? That’s a good question, one which was answered each and every month in the pages of DC Comics Presents.

The stories in this volume are a mix of different stories, with one-and-done issues with offbeat co-stars (the Joker, the Masters of the Universe, Dial H for Hero) to multi-part stories (Shazam Family).

The highlight in this volume is the multi-issue arc that starts this collection. Superman is introduced to a new villain in the universe, Mongul, and it takes the combined help of the Martian Manhunter, Supergirl, and the Spectre to stop him. Mongul would become a mainstay in the DC Universe in the years to come and plays a key role in one of the greatest Superman stories ever, “For the Man Who Has Everything…” (Superman Annual #11).

 

One of the final issues in this collection is the first DC Comics Presents Annual, which involved the Superman of Earth-1 teaming up with the Superman of Earth-2. The two heroes must travel to Earth-3, where roles are reversed and the heroes are actually villains. So the two Supermen find themselves teaming up with the one hero of Earth-3, Alexander Luthor. This Luthor would play a key role many years later during Crisis on Infinite Earths.

Why should these stories be Showcased?: Rather than have me write up some kind of reason why you should own this book, I want to throw the challenge your way, dear reader. Tell me why these stories should not be showcased? Send me a note at essentialshowcase@gmail.com. I will be the first to admit when I’m wrong, and maybe I am overlooking something here. Maybe I am blinded by my love for the team-up concept. I could read this title, along with The Brave and the Bold, Marvel Two-in-One, and Marvel Team-Up, all day long. As a cheap black & white reprint collection, this seems like a no-brainer to have on your shelf. Loan it to your friends or your kids or your friends’ kids. These books are awesome, and I stand by my opinion!

Footnotes: DC Comics Presents #46 features Superman teaming up with the Global Guardians, which were made up of heroes from other countries around the world. These heroes all made their appearance in the Super Friends comic book, which was released to support the Saturday morning cartoon. There was some debate as to whether or not that comic was part of the DC Universe proper. While it made reference to ongoing storylines in other DC books, it really wasn’t until this issue of DCCP that it was firmly considered to be part of the DC Universe. The members would go on to varying degrees of success – Green Fury would be renamed Fire and Ice Maiden would become Ice before joining Justice League International.

Who’s Who:
#27 – Superman & Martian Manhunter
#28 – Superman & Supergirl
#29 – Superman & Spectre / Showcase Presents The Spectre Vol. 1
#30 – Superman & Black Canary
#31 – Superman & Robin
#32 – Superman & Wonder Woman
#33 – Superman & Shazam
#34 – Superman & the Shazam Family
#35 – Superman & Man-Bat
#36 – Superman & Starman
#37 – Superman & Hawkgirl
#38 – Superman & the Flash
#39 – Superman & Plastic Man
#40 – Superman & Metamorpho
#41 – Superman & the Joker
#42 – Superman & the Unknown Soldier
#43 – Superman & the Legion of Super-Heroes
#44 – Superman & Dial H for Hero
#45 – Superman & Firestorm
#46 – Superman & the Global Guardians
#47 – Superman & the Masters of the Universe
#48 – Superman & Aquaman
#49 – Superman & Shazam
Annual #1 – Superman & Superman
#50 – Superman & Clark Kent

If you like this volume, try: the Superman animated series from the late 1990s. Running for 54 episodes over three seasons, Superman tied in perfectly with Batman: The Animated Series, as the two shows were set in the same universe. Many characters crossed over between the two series, and the success of both would lead to the Justice League animated series. In Superman, we were given a Man of Steel that closely resembled the John Byrne Superman post-Crisis. But the designs of the backgrounds were firmly set in the world of the Max Fleisher cartoons. There is not a better representation of Superman anywhere. DVDs of this series are readily available, so even if you missed it the first time, you can still track it down.

Essential Thor Vol. 6

Essential Thor 6

First Published: October 2012

Contents: Thor #221 (March 1974) to #247 (May 1976)

Key Creator Credits: Gerry Conway, John Buscema, Rich Buckler, Roy Thomas, Len Wein, Joe Sinnott, and others

Key First Appearances: Firelord, Dweller-in-Darkness, Horus, Isis, Osiris, Seth, Mimir, Servitor

Story Continues From: Essential Thor Vol. 5

Story Continues In: Essential Thor Vol. 7

Overview: Given his success in the cinematic Marvel Universe, you can fully expect Marvel to keep cranking out Essentials of the Bronze Age adventures of our favorite Norse deity, Thor.

This volume could be divided up into two sections, with the first section of 18 issues featuring stories from Gerry Conway and John Buscema. With the first issue of this volume, #221, Thor is joined on a series of adventures with his old friend, Hercules, the Demi-God from the Greek pantheon. The title becomes a “buddy cop” team-up of sorts, as the two hang-out around New York City, stumbling from one misadventure to the next.

There are several key stories during this run of Thor & Hercules: Galactus returns to Earth once again, this time with his new herald, Firelord. But Galactus is not here for dinner; rather, he needs Thor’s help in dealing with Ego, the Living Planet. Upon resolving that conflict, Thor arranges a swap with Galactus, giving Firelord his freedom on Earth, and in exchange, he gives Galactus the old guardian of Asgard, the Destroyer, to animate and use as his herald.

During another adventure, the long-lost love of Thor, Jane Foster, returns but she is on the brink of death. Thor does anything he can to help prolong her life, but nothing is helping. Finally, Lady Sif sacrifices her life, and merges her soul with that of Jane Foster, reviving the former nurse. From that point forward, Thor and Jane Foster are inseparable. However, Odin feels that Thor has once again disobeyed his orders, and banishes Thor from Asgard (again!). Foster still has some of the memories of Sif, and often picks up a sword and jumps into battle with Thor.

The second section would cover the final nine issues, where Roy Thomas and then Len Wein take over the scripting duties from Conway. In this section, we meet the Egyptian pantheon of gods, such as Horus, Isis, and Osiris, as a pyramid springs up in Southern California. Thor is forced to team-up with the Egyptians to save his amnesiac father, Odin. In other issues, Thor, Jane Foster, and the Warriors Three travel to the end of time to stop the Time-Twisters from destroying the universe. And we get one final match-up with Firelord, who has been mesmerized into helping rebels trying to overthrow a democratically elected government in South America.

What makes this Essential?: I honestly had no idea of the Thor & Hercules team-up adventures that dominate the majority of this book. For those issues alone, you should track down this Essential. These are solid stories from the mid-1970s that do not get revisited often enough. The art from Buscema and friends remains stellar. Buscema’s artwork is solid enough that it works just as well, if not better, in black & white as it does in color. With the developments between Thor, Jane Foster, and Lady Sif, this is a worthy read for the advancement of the characters. 

Footnotes: When Thor #231 was published, page 14 was printed out of order. For this Essential, the pages were placed in the correct reading order.

Also in issue #231, a reference is made to an adventure that Hercules had with Spider-Man in Marvel Team-Up #28. That issue can be found in Essential Marvel Team-Up Vol. 2.

If Gerry Conway is writing a book in the 1970s, you can expect the title character to make a visit to see Tom Fagan, as Thor did once again in issue #232. For more information on Tom Fagan in Rutland, Vermont, see the review for Essential Avengers Vol. 4.

If you like this volume, try:  the Hercules: Prince of Power Premiere Edition from 2009. This collects the two Hercules miniseries from 1982 and 1984, both done by Bob Layton. The two series each took place roughly 500 years into the future, as Hercules is traveling the galaxy. Accompanied by a Recorder, he crosses paths with the Skrulls, Starfox, and even Galactus. This is Hercules at his bombastic peak, bold and brash and looking for fun. Set so far into the future, you do not need to be deeply versed in Hercules’ history in the Marvel Universe. Track this book down – you will thank me later!

Showcase Presents All-Star Comics Vol. 1

Showcase Presents All-Star Comics Vol. 1

First Published: September 2011

Contents: All-Star Comics #58 (January-February 1976) to #74 (September-October 1978), Justice Society stories from Adventure Comics #461 (January-February 1979) to #466 (November-December 1979)

Key Creator Credits: Paul Levitz, Joe Staton, Gerry Conway, Keith Giffen, and Wally Wood

Key First Appearances: Karen Starr/Kara Zor-L/Power Girl, Vulcan, Helena Wayne/Huntress

Overview: In 1976, Jenette Kahn led an effort at DC Comics to reclaim the market share from Marvel Comics by increasing the number of titles published each month. Known as the DC Explosion, one of the titles launched was a relaunch of the All-Star Comics title, which had been home to the Justice Society of America in the 1940s and 1950s.

With the new launch of the JSA, three new members were brought into the team: The Earth-2 Robin, grown up and living on his own away from the Batcave; the Star-Spangled Kid, recently rescued from the past in the pages of Justice League of America; and in her first appearance anywhere, we meet Power Girl, the Earth-2 equivalent to Supergirl.

Over the next two years, many familiar faces would return to the JSA Brownstone Headquarters in Gotham City. Another new hero joins the team in Huntress, the daughter of the Earth-2 Batman and Catwoman. As always, familiar foes challenge the heroes, such as Brainwave, Vandal Savage, and the Injustice Society.

Sadly, in 1978, DC Comics’ parent company, Warner, forced the publisher to scale back costs and operations, which led to the cancellation of many titles and letting go of many staffers. Unofficially known as the DC Implosion, All-Star Comics fell victim to the cancellation ax. However, Levitz and Staton were able to continue their run on the JSA over in Adventure Comics, which became a large ‘Dollar Comic’ anthology for other titles that had been canceled. Here we see the final battle for the Earth-2 Batman, and a revisit to All-Star Comics #57 to explain why the Justice Society disappeared in the 1950s.

Why should these stories be Showcased?: This is a fun, easy read that should be on many bookshelves. Power Girl and Huntress, which have both been mainstays in the DC Universe for 35+ years now, both get their starts here. For years, fans had been given teases of the JSA with their crossovers with the JLA. This was the first time readers got an extended ongoing storyline featuring just these characters. The JSA would generally remain as supporting characters for the next 20 years until Geoff Johns and friends brought back the JSA as a powerful super-hero team in the early 2000s. Fans of that series should definitely give this title a look.

Footnotes:  The original run of All-Star Comics ended with issue #57 (February-March 1951). The next issue featured a new title, All-Star Western Comics, and it continued the numbering, beginning with #58.

With All-Star Comics #57, that was the last Golden Age Justice Society story. The team was unseen for 12 years until they were brought back in The Flash #137 (June 1963).

If you like this volume, try: tracking down the Infinity Inc. series of the 1980s. Other than the annual crossovers with the Justice League, this is the continuation of the Justice Society storyline from this Showcase. The sons and daughters of the Justice Society members unite, along with the younger members of the JSA (Star-Spangled Kid, Power Girl, and Huntress), to form a new team for the new generation. Infinity, Inc., premiered in the pages of All-Star Squadron in 1983 and moved into their own title in 1984. This was a prestige-format book and was only available in comic book stores. It started out very strong, but then was damaged by the Crisis on Infinite Earths. With the multiple Earths being merged into one Earth, it altered the origin stories of many characters such as Fury (daughter of the Earth-2 Wonder Woman), Power Girl (cousin of the Earth-2 Superman), and Huntress (daughter of the Earth-2 Batman). The final year of the title limped to the finish, leading to the murder of the Star-Spangled Kid. There is a hardcover edition reprinting part of the All-Star Squadron crossover and part of the first Generations storyline. Sadly, DC has not issued a second edition to finish collecting Generations, so you are better off looking for these issues in a back issue bin.

Essential Thor Vol. 5

Essential Thor Vol. 5

First Published: May 2011

Contents: Thor #196 (February 1972) to #220 (February 1974)

Key Creator Credits: Gerry Conway, John Buscema, and others

Key First Appearances: Silas Grant, Ego-Prime, Young Gods, Mercurio the 4-D Man, Ultimus, Krista

Story Continues From: Essential Thor Vol. 4

Story Continues In: Essential Thor Vol. 6

Overview: If you are worthy, it is time to hold up the hammer and possess the power of Thor. Welcome back to another Essential Thor volume.

In this volume, Thor battles new foes such as Ego-Prime and Mercurio, but must still deal with familiar villains such as Pluto, the Absorbing Man, and Loki. Of course, Thor’s ego gets the better of him once again in Asgard, and Odin banishes his son (and some of his friends) to Earth for some time. Which leads to some humorous moments as the Asgardians hanging out at Avengers Mansion with Jarvis, the butler.

A battle with Ulik forces Thor and his friends to return to Asgard, which they find empty of all people. That mystery leads them into space chasing intergalactic slavers. That, in turn, leads to another battle against Mercurio, whom we thought was destroyed six issues past. Finally, Thor defeats all enemies, and returns to Asgard with his friends and Odin, only to find Asgard ruled by another Thor and Odin. Confused yet? Trust me, go pick up this volume and see how this wraps up!

An interesting insert occurs with issue #200. I don’t know if this was planned from the start for the anniversary issue, or the need to meet a production deadline, but this appears to be a filler issue by Stan Lee and John Buscema (with a prolog and epilog by Gerry Conway and Buscema). It has nothing to do with issues #199 or #201, which makes me lean towards Marvel just trying to meet a deadline. Anyway, Lee gets the chance to tell his take on the Ragnarok story, which according to Norse legend is the end of the gods in a final battle. In Asgard, Odin has a prophetess share how the Ragnarok would play out: Loki triggers the start of Ragnarok, then does battle with Thor while the world around them falls. The Asgardians and the world dies and is reborn again. As the prophetess ends her tale, Odin cautions Loki that only those deemed worthy are reborn in the new world, and Loki slinks off wondering if he is part of that number.

What makes this Essential?: The stories in this volume are interesting. Not Gerry Conway’s best work ever, but by no means his worst work either. The stories split nearly evenly between those on Earth, those on Asgard, and those in space. The Earth and Asgard stories seem to be the more-complete stories, but the space stories feel like they are not fully complete. Almost like Conway wanted to do something a little more with them but held back, either by choice or editorial constraint. Buscema’s art once again shows the epic proportions of Thor and his entourage. These stories are an interesting read for a Thor fan, but I don’t know if I would say these are truly Essential. 

Footnotes: Thor makes his first visit to Rutland, Vermont, in Thor #206 and #207. For more information on Rutland, see Essential Avengers Vol. 4.

If you like this volume, try:  the Ragnarok story from 2004 from Michael Avon Oeming and Andrea DiVito. This wrapped up the 1998 Thor series, as all of the Avengers-related titles were disassembling around the characters (and the readers). The Thor story was the best ending of those titles, Once again, Loki has aspirations of taking over the throne of Asgard, and resurrects Surtur to begin the Ragnarok. Over the course of six issues, spanning many months, the various Norse gods meet their demise in battle. At the end, Thor beheads Loki, and places himself into hibernation, until it is time for Thor to return. This story has been collected in two editions – a 2009 Avengers Disassembled hardcover that collected the ends of the Thor, Captain America, and Iron Man titles; and a 2005 Thor: Disassembled trade paperback.