Showcase Presents Metal Men Vol. 2

showcase_presents_metal_men_volume_2First Published: September 2008

Contents: Metal Men #16 (October-November 1965) to #35 (December 1968-January 1969); and The Brave and the Bold #66 (June-July 1966)

Key Creator Credits: Robert Kanigher, Ross Andru, Mike Esposito, Mike Sekowsky, Otto Binder, Gil Kane, and others

Story Continues From: Showcase Presents Metal Men Vol. 1

Overview: Those wacky robots that could only come out of the Silver Age, the Metal Men, return for more action. Behind the creative genius of Dr. Will Magnus, the Metal Men battle evil robots, travel across space, and protect the Earth from any threats. The issues in this collection follow the same formula as the previous volume, where the team fights the threat of the month. There are some stories that carry over into the next issue, but most of these are one-and-done comics.

For a quick recap, the primary team consists of the six robots created by Magnus, each containing a responsometer which helps animate the robots and provides them with a unique personality.

  • Gold, who leads the team in the field.
  • Mercury, who wants to lead the team in the field.
  • Iron, the strong man of the team.
  • Lead, nearly as strong but not as smart.
  • Tin, whose courage is his strength.
  • Tina, who believes a robot can love a human.

In addition, the team is joined by another female robot, Nameless, which we saw Tin put together in the last volume. Nameless appears throughout most of the volume, promising that one of the fans will get to name her in the letters column. While some names are given in issue #21, the Nameless name seems to stick. Unfortunately, Nameless disappeared (without explanation) when the book went in a new direction beginning in issue #33.

But going back to issue #21 for a minute, this is a quirky but important comic. First, we get cameos from Batman & Robin, Wonder Woman, and the Flash, which helps to firmly establish these heroes as part of the DC Universe. Next, the Metal Men take the initiative and seek out a mission, as Dr. Magnus is indisposed throughout the issue. (He spends 22 pages making out with the romantic interest of the month, much to Tina’s chagrin.) The fact that the Metal Men can act independently comes into play at the end of the book.

I’ve made mention twice now about the end of the book. Beginning with issue #33, the title shook things up, whether to increase sales and/or provide a new take on the characters. Mike Sekowsky and George Roussos take over the art duties, while Robert Kanigher continues to script the adventures. The Metal Men find themselves on the run. Dr. Magnus is in a coma and is unable to lead the team. In his place, his brother Col. David Magnus, who works for an unnamed branch of the military, takes over control of the robots. This initial arc ran three issues, which brings us to the end of the collection. Guess I will need to hit the back-issue bins to see how the rest of this story plays out.

Why should these stories be Showcased?: I want to like this more. I want to like this as much as I liked Volume 1. But this one just doesn’t match up for me. The stories feel very repetitive after awhile. We have no new characters introduced in this volume. They still just have just the one main arch-enemy in Chemo. The highlights of this volume came with the pair of Gil Kane issues towards the end of the collection. I’m still a fan of the Ross Andru art, and that has always been a good reason for me to pick up a book. But I don’t think you need to go out of your way to include this book in your library.

Footnotes: The Brave and the Bold #66 is also reprinted in Showcase Presents Metamorpho Vol. 1.

If you like this volume, try: the three-issue story arc in Superman/Batman #34-36 from 2007. Lucius Fox has hired the Metal Men to help protect WayneTech, after a string of attacks. The Metal Men are joined by a new female robot, Copper. Of course, in a title like Superman/Batman, you might expect some Superman foes to show up, which they do with Metallo and then Brainiac. The art in this arc is done by Pat Lee, who was most known for his work on the Transformers comics of the early 2000s. He gives the Metal Men a unique look that matches their various personalities. This was collected in 2016 in Superman/Batman Vol. 3 trade paperback, so it should be easy to track down if you can’t find the original back issues.

Essential Werewolf By Night Vol. 1

werewolf1First Published: October 2005

Contents: Marvel Spotlight #2 (February 1972) to #4 (June 1972); Werewolf by Night #1 (September 1972) to #21 (June 1979); Tomb of Dracula #18 (March 1974); Giant-Size Creatures #1 (July 1974); and Marvel Team-Up #12 (August 1973)

Key Creator Credits: Roy Thomas, Gerry Conway, Mike Friedrich, Doug Moench, Len Wein, Marv Wolfman, Mike Ploog, Gene Colan, Gil Kane, Tom Sutton, and others

Key First Appearances: Jack Russell/Werewolf, Lissa Russell, Phillip Russell, Buck Cowan, Tatterdemalion, Raymond Coker, Topaz, Tigra,

Story Continues In: Essential Werewolf By Night Vol. 2

Overview: Jack Russell is your typical teenage boy growing up in southern California in the 1970s. He’s just turned 18, he can’t stand his stepfather, and his mom is always nagging him about something. But turning 18 brings on a change to Jack Russell, as he finds out that he carries a recessive trait thanks to his birth father, who he never really knew. Turns out dear old dad was also a lycanthrope, and now Jack is too. Not familiar with the lycanthrope term? Let me save you the time of looking it up and clue you in on the more common term – a werewolf! This is Essential Werewolf By Night Vol. 1.

So now at the start of each full moon, Jack Russell undergoes a transformation into a werewolf. He retains very little of Jack’s memories and values, reverting more to a wild animal looking for the hunt and trying to escape the city for the forest. For three days, Jack must worry about the setting of the sun and the rise of the moon, when his transformation kicks in. He’s constantly looking for a cure and often falls into traps because someone offers him the solution to his monthly hairy situation.

I think we can all agree that being a werewolf is not the easiest of curses to deal with. For starters, you go through a lot of shirts – good thing you live in SoCal as the weather generally works in your favor. You try to protect your family members, like your sister. When people realize your secret, they create schemes or plans to make that work for their own personal gain.

Many of these issues are one-and-done, or they might have a story that carries across three issues with each issue covering one night of the current full moon. Right or wrong, there are a lot of foes or characters that only appear once or twice, and never appear again in any other comic.

Now, just because he is based in California doesn’t mean that he is isolated from the Marvel Universe. A trip to Europe in search of clues about his birth father leads to an encounter with Dracula in a memorable crossover between the respective books. Back in California, he meets up with Greer Nelson as she becomes Tigra for the first time. And in the craziest of meet-ups, the Werewolf meets up with Spider-Man in San Francisco, after Peter Parker is sent to the west coast to get pictures of Daredevil and Black Widow.

What makes this Essential?: There were parts of this collection that I really enjoyed. Reading individual issues were good, but reading these issues back-to-back seems to fall apart. The problem I had is that Jack Russell’s condition is triggered by the full moon, which runs for roughly three nights every 28 days, give or take. So as I am reading this, I’m curious to find out what is going on in the 3 1/2 weeks between the end of one transformation period and the start of the next transformation period. (I had this same problem with Showcase Presents Martian Manhunter Vol. 2 when he was fighting a villain that would only appear at the start of a full moon.) If I had been reading this month-to-month, I think I would have appreciated the title more. But reading this as a complete collection, I think it doesn’t hold up.

Footnotes: Werewolf By Night #15 and Tomb of Dracula #18 were also reprinted in Essential Tomb of Dracula Vol. 1.

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

Giant-Size Creatures #12 featured the first appearance of Greer Nelson as Tigra. However, Greer’s first appearance in comics was in The Cat #1 (November 1972). In this short-lived series, Nelson and another woman were part of an experiment to imbue them with cat-like abilities. Greer used her abilities for good, while the other woman used hers for bad. Guess how that worked itself out? Anyway, in the Giant-Size Creatures issue, we Greer transformed yet again, this time into Tigra. Somewhere along the lines, Greer’s original Cat costume was left in the care of the Avengers. It was later claimed by Patsy Walker, who went briefly by the name of the Cat as well before settling on Hellcat.

If you like this volume, try: the Fables series from DC/Vertigo and created by Bill Willingham. The basic concept of the series is that the fables we are told as kids to teach us morals and values are all true. The characters are real and still alive. In fact, they have migrated from the Old Lands and have set up residence in Fabletown, a hidden neighborhood in New York City. In addition, there is a farm in upstate New York to host the animal characters from the fables. One of the main characters from the series is Bigby Wolf, the Big Bad Wolf from ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ or ‘The Three Little Pigs’ fame. Bigby Wolf serves as the sheriff of Fabletown, and can switch back and forth between his human, werewolf, and wolf forms. This series ran for 150 issues and is easily found in trade paperbacks and hardcovers.

Showcase Presents Green Lantern Vol. 4

Showcase Presents Green Lantern Vol. 4

First Published: June 2009

Contents: Green Lantern #60 (April 1968) to #75 (March 1970)

Key Creator Credits: John Broome, Gil Kane, Sid Greene, Gardner Fox, Jack Sparling, Mike Sekowsky, Mike Friedrich, and others

Key First Appearances: Olivia Reynolds

Story Continues From: Showcase Presents Green Lantern Vol. 3

Story Continues In: Showcase Presents Green Lantern Vol. 5

Overview: Welcome to the end of the Silver Age! It’s been a turbulent age, and times are tough. Former jet test pilots are out of work and forced to take jobs as insurance adjusters or traveling toy salesmen. For a guy with one of the most powerful devices in the universe, Hal Jordan’s life sure seems dark at times. This is Showcase Presents Green Lantern Vol. 4.

Green Lantern is at an interesting crossroads during this time period. The stories in this era fulfill the primary obligation of getting a monthly book out on time. (And I say monthly, but most DC books in this era came out eight times a year, not 12.) But the there wasn’t any kind of ongoing story from issue to issue. In fact, the creative teams seemed to change quite a bit from issue to issue. You might get a Broome/Kane issue one month, and a Fox/Sekowsky issue the next.

We also face a lack of new characters being introduced in this volume. Instead, most of the stories have Hal Jordan arriving in a location, dealing with the problem of the month, and then moving on. As this volume draws to a close, we finally get a return of some familiar faces with Carol Ferris and Tom Kalmaku, while Sinestro drops in to wreck havoc on the reunion.

Why should these stories be Showcased?: I don’t know that I can strongly recommend this volume. Hear me out on this one. The art is incredible as always. I’ve said before that any issues by Gil Kane can give you a proper lesson on comic-book storytelling. The stories themselves are decent, but I don’t know that any of them were memorable. The biggest issue I have with this volume is just that — the issues. This collection only has 16 issues, coming in at just under 400 pages. Yet it still carried the standard cover price of $16.99, the going rate for Showcase Presents volumes at that time in 2009. Now, I get why DC truncated this volume as they did. The first issue of Showcase Presents Green Lantern Vol. 5 is #76, which starts the legendary O’Neil/Adams run that ushered in the Bronze Age at DC Comics. DC wanted to get all of those stories in one collection. But if you are going to do that, then either find additional material to put into Vol. 4 or adjust the price down to compensate for the lower page count.

If you like this volume, try: the Sinestro Corps War from 2007. Inspired by an Alan Moore story from 1986, writer Geoff Johns brought together several story threads that had been building for two years in the pages of Green Lantern and Green Lantern Corps. Longtime Green Lantern foe Sinestro has put together his own corps of yellow lantern wielders. Over the course of the series, the Guardians reveal the legend of the Blackest Night, which set the stage for the future story arc, and even referenced the five other color rings that would play a part in that storyline. The Sinestro Corps War has been collected multiple times in multiple formats, so it should be easy to track down.

Showcase Presents Strange Adventures Vol. 1

Showcase Presents Strange Adventures Vol. 1

First Published: December 2008

Contents: Strange Adventures #54 (March 1955) to #73 (October 1956)

Key Creator Credits: John Broome, Otto Binder, Edmond Hamilton, Carmine Infantino, Gil Kane, Bill Finger, Sid Greene, Joe Samachson, Gardner Fox, and others

Story Continues In: Showcase Presents Strange Adventures Vol. 2

Overview: Who wants to go on an adventure today? Specifically, a Strange Adventure? Tighten your belt, grab a hat, and let’s see where the Showcase Presents Strange Adventures Vol. 1 takes us!

Let’s start with a quick explanation about Strange Adventures. This was an anthology title started in 1950, and would feature four 6-page stories. The themes of the stories were all sci-fi in nature, whether it aliens looking to take over or destroy the Earth, or mind transference between man and gorilla. A story might feature a character gaining temporary powers, which he would then use to solve whatever problem society was dealing with at the moment. There is no continuity between the stories, so these can be read in any order.

What’s great about this collection is the legendary comic talent doing some of their earliest work for DC Comics. Whether it writers like John Broome, Edmond Hamilton, or Gardner Fox, or artists like Carmine Infantino, Bill Finger, and Gil Kane, these are all names that could be on a Mount Rushmore of DC creators.

Why should these stories be Showcased?: Strange Adventures as a title ran for 24 years, going from 1950 to 1973. So historically, this is an important part of DC’s history. During it’s run, characters such as Captain Comet, Immortal Man, Animal Man and Deadman would make their debut in this title — but not in any issues collected here. These are interesting tales if you are fans of the 1950s sci-fi stories. And yes, there are enough stories featuring gorillas to make me take a look. But for the casual fan, this may not be the best book. I struggled to finish this volume. Not because the stories were bad. They were just not that interesting to me.

Turning Gold Into Silver: Comic fans love a great debate. Whether it’s simple topics like Betty or Veronica, or more complex query like which character is the strongest. Even away from the comic characters, we tend to argue a lot about the eras of the comics. I’m talking the Golden Age, Silver Age, Bronze Age, and so on. Does the Golden Age start with Action Comics #1, or does it begin with the very first comics? When did we move from the Silver Age to the Bronze Age? Those are debates for other forums. I have discussed that the generally accepted starting point for the Silver Age is Showcase #4, which featured the debut of the Barry Allen Flash. That issue had a cover date of October 1956. Now scroll back up to the top of the post, and you’ll see the final issue in this collection, Strange Adventures #73, also had a cover date of October 1956. So, in my opinion, you could make the case that this Showcase Presents Strange Adventures Vol. 1 could be a collection of Golden Age comics. Admittedly, there is not much difference between issues #73 and #74, so it was more of a rolling transition into a new era of comics.

If you like this volume, try: the JSA: Strange Adventures mini-issue series from DC Comics from 2005. This has been collected as a trade paperback. Written by science fiction author Kevin J. Anderson and art by Barry Kitson, the story is set firmly in the Golden Age era of World War II. Johnny Thunder decides to try writing stories for the popular science-fiction magazines of the time, by scripting stories about the Justice Society members fighting against monsters and aliens. At the same time, a new villain appears on the scene in Lord Dynamo, and it takes the entire line-up of the JSA to defeat this new threat. This really is a great homage to so many elements – whether it’s the type of stories from the Golden Age, or the fact that so many of DC Comics Silver Age writers came from the sci-fi magazines of the 1940s (Julie Schwartz, Gardner Fox, etc.).

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.

Showcase Presents The Atom Vol. 2

Showcase Presents The Atom Vol. 2

First Published: August 2008

Contents: The Atom #18 (April-May 1965) to #38 (August-September 1968)

Key Creator Credits: Gardner Fox, Gil Kane, and Murphy Anderson

Key First Appearances: Bug-Eyed Bandit

Story Continues In: Showcase Presents The Atom Vol. 1

Story Continues In: Showcase Presents Hawkman Vol. 2

Overview: The Mighty Mite of Ivy Town returns in the second volume of Showcase Presents The Atom. Scientist Ray Palmer discovered a way to miniaturize himself using a white dwarf star and ultra-violet rays. Donning a costume, Ray Palmer adopts the identity of the Atom, who can shrink and enlarge himself, as well as adjusting his weight for emphasis when needed. In addition to fighting the various costumed foes that threaten Ivy Town, the Atom also takes a dive into the time pool, when he is able to travel to events in the past.

The stories follow the same formula from the previous volume, where we either get one full-length story or two shorter stories per issue. The highlights of this volume is Ray Palmer meeting his Golden Age counterpart in Al Pratt, the Earth-2 Atom. The two Atoms actually had their first meetings in the first and second meetings of the Justice League and the Justice Society. But this volume features two issues, #29 and #36, that brings the two pint-size heroes together.

Why should these stories be Showcased?: As we move further and further away from the Golden Age and Silver Age of comics, we start to overlook some of the great people that worked on those books. Case in point, I would like to speak about editor Julie Schwartz. He came of age in the 1930s as a science fiction editor, helping writers to place stories in magazines. In 1944, he joined All-American Comics (one of the companies that would become DC Comics) as an editor. During his tenure, he brought in numerous science fiction authors to write comics. Schwartz oversaw the “Silver Age” debut of new versions of the Flash, Green Lantern, Hawkman, and the Atom. In the mid-1960s, he took over the editor reigns for the Batman books, overseeing that revitalization of that franchise. In the early 1970s, he did that again with the Superman family of books. What makes the Schwartz books stand out, particularly on titles like The Flash or The Atom, is that the stories were based in science, not just in fiction. The characters were scientists in their civilian lives. I know as a kid, I learned actual knowledge reading some of these comics. So yes, all Julie Schwartz edited books should be showcased, and The Atom is a great place to start!

Footnotes: The Atom #31 is also reprinted in Showcase Presents Hawkman Vol. 2.

The Atom #38 was the final issue with Ray Palmer as the solo feature of the title. Beginning with issue #39, the title was renamed The Atom and Hawkman, as Hawkman’s title had just been canceled. The Atom and Hawkman ran for seven issues before it was canceled as well. Parts of those seven issues can be found in Showcase Presents Hawkman Vol. 2. Excuse me for a moment while I get very angry with DC Comics. See, for The Atom and Hawkman #40, #41, #43, and #44, the two title characters have separate stories. However, Showcase Presents Hawkman Vol. 2 only reprints the Hawkman stories from those issues. That means that the Atom stories from issues #40, #41, #43, and #44 have not been reprinted! These were 10-12 page stories, so that would have meant 40-50 to include those four Atom stories, either in the Hawkman Showcase or this Atom Showcase.

If you like this volume, try: the All-New Atom series that debuted in 2006 from Gail Simone and John Byrne. In this series, we meet Ryan Choi, an Asian-American protege of Ray Palmer. Choi has recently moved to Ivy Town in hopes of taking Ray Palmer’s position at the university. Discovering some of Palmer’s notes, Choi tracks down one of the old size-changing belts used by the Atom. Developing a new costume, Choi takes on the name of the Atom, to further fill the void of Ray Palmer’s absence from Ivy Town. This series ran for 25 issues, and almost all of the series has been collected into four trade paperbacks. Choi was a fresh character that truly paid homage to the Atom of the 1960s, where the science was just as important as the fiction. Sadly, Choi was not brought into the “New 52” universe, so tracking down this series is your best bet to discover the character.

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.