Showcase Presents Enemy Ace Vol. 1

showcase_presents_enemy_ace_volume_1First Published: February 2008

Contents: Enemy Ace stories from Our Army at War #151 (February 1965), #153 (April 1965), and #155 (); Showcase #57 (July/August 1965) and #58 (September/October 1965); Enemy Ace stories from Star-Spangled War Stories #138 (April/May 1968) to #145 (June/July 1969), #147 (October/November 1969) to #150 (April/May 1970); #152 (August/September 1970), #158 (August/September 1971), #181 (July/August 1974) to #183 (November/December 1974), and #200 (June/July 1976); Enemy Ace stories from Men of War #1 (August 1977) to #3 (November 1977), #8 (August 1978) to #10 (November 1978), #12 (January 1979) to #14 (March 1979), #19 (August 1979) and #20 (September 1979); Enemy Ace stories from Unknown Soldier #251 (May 1981) to #253 (July 1981), #260 (February 1982), #261 (March 1982), and #265 (July 1982) to #267 (September 1982); and the Enemy Ace story from Detective Comics #404 (October 1970)

Key Creator Credits: Joe Kubert, Robert Kanigher, Frank Thorne, Howard Chaykin, John Severin, Ed Davis, Neal Adams, and others

Key First Appearances: Baron Hans Von Hammer, Black Wolf

Overview: Flying across “no man’s land” during the height of the Great War (later renamed as World War I), Baron Hans Von Hammer leads the German forces in the air. Flying his easily-recognized crimson Fokker triplane, the “Angel of Death” fights a noble battle against his opponents in defense of Germany. This is Showcase Presents Enemy Ace.

Created by Robert Kanigher and Joe Kubert, Enemy Ace is a loose adaptation of the Red Baron story, who was an actual German pilot during the Great War. von Hammer comes from a noble family, complete with their own family flag. He has not friends, save for his personal servant that spends most of his time polishing the trophies earned from each of von Hammer’s kills. When he needs a break, von Hammer goes hunting in the Black Forest, where he is joined by his kindred spirit, the Black Wolf. They both hunt alone in life but appreciate each other’s company when reunited in the woods. brothers from a Kansas farm enlist in the Army at the onset of World War

In the air, von Hammer follows a strict guideline when engaging the enemy. He refuses to fire on an opponent that is out of ammo, even turning on the pilots in his own squadron if they break that rule. His ruthless reputation precedes him at all times, with his familiar plane bringing fear to those on the ground and in the air.

Why should these stories be Showcased?: The art from Joe Kubert, followed later by Howard Chaykin and John Severin, definitely make this a volume worth looking at. My problem is the formulaic stories used for the first two-thirds of this collection. These stories were written as a one-and-done, and no thought was ever given to the idea that they would later be collected into a complete collection like this. The stories are repetitive, with the nationality of the opposing pilot being the main difference from issue to issue.

Footnotes: “Ghost of the Killer Skies” from Detective Comics #404 was reprinted in Showcase Presents Batman Vol. 5.

While he is referred to as the “Angel of Death” or the “Hammer from Hell”, von Hammer is never referenced as the “Enemy Ace”. That is just the name of the feature and not his call-sign.

If you like this volume, try: Jacques Tardi’s book, It Was the War of the Trenches. Quite honestly, there are not a lot of comics based in World War I. With many of the great comic artists and writers coming of age during the World War II era, so many of the war comics are focused during the second war. But the first war is just as brutal, as epically captured in this book by Tardi. The book focuses on the struggles of the French and German forces, moving back and forth across “no man’s land” bunkered in trenches filled with sewage and rotting corpses. This is not an easy book to read, certainly not for the faint of heart. Tardi is no fan of war and points out that the only ones who want war are the military leaders and the munitions manufacturers. The soldiers in the trenches, regardless of their uniforms, do not want to be there, and will do anything (literally risking life and limb) to get out of there and return home. Enemy Ace paints a sanitized view of the war, with a certain nobility and rules to be followed when dueling in the sky. It Was the War of the Trenches shows the real view (and costs) of the war.

Essential Killraven Vol. 1

First Published: July 2005

Contents: Amazing Adventures #18 (May 1973) to #39 (November 1976); Marvel Team-Up #45 (May 1976); Marvel Graphic Novel #7 (August 1983); and Killraven #1 (February 2001)

Key Creator Credits: Roy Thomas, Neal Adams, Gerry Conway, Marv Wolfman, Don McGregor, Keith Giffen, Howard Chaykin, Herb Trimpe, P. Craig Russell, and others

Key First Appearances: Killraven, M’Shulla, Hawk, Old Skull, Carmilla Frost, Grok, Mint Julep, Volcana Ash

Overview: You remember the Martian invasion back in 2001, right? The Martians came to Earth, destroyed governments, and left the planet as a human-breeding farm to feed the growing Martian-population. Don’t worry though, in just two short years, a red-headed human will escape the slave pits to lead a revolution, to rid the Earth of Martians and reclaim the planet for the humans. Welcome to the future (or alternate) world of Killraven!

In the early 1970s, Roy Thomas and Neal Adams collaborated to find a way to work H.G. Wells classic story, The War of the Worlds, into comic book form. Rather than do a direct adaption of the original story, they instead took the situation from the book and told a story based on the Martians successfully taking over the Earth. What would the Martians do once they occupied the Earth, and how would the humans respond. From there, the character of Killraven was developed. Originally designed to be a next generation version of Doc Savage, Killraven borrows heavily from other concepts – from Conan the Barbarian to Flash Gordon and more.

Early on in the story, Killraven breaks free from the slave pits, and sets off on a mission to track down his long-lost brother. Along this journey, Killraven builds a band of followers that all look to him for leadership. Unfortunately, the Martians kept getting in the way of Killraven’s band on their haphazard travels around the country, and eventually the goal becomes more to rid the world of the Martians. (And yes, it if’s Marvel in the 1970s, you can fully expect a cameo crossover with Spider-Man along the way!)

Eventually, the band of freedom fighters find themselves in Florida at the Martian headquarters, and their Killraven finds his brother, who has betrayed his brethren and is working with the Martians directly. The rebels destroy the Martian base, crippling their hold on the humans, and Killraven parts ways with his brother in a final battle. But the battle is not over yet, and Killraven moves on to the next untold adventure to save the Earth.

What makes this Essential?: This is an interesting story, in particular when we get the creative team of Don McGregor and P. Craig Russell. Those two were definitely in sync with the direction and the flow of the book. These are some of the most creative comics that came out of this era, when compared against many of the other Essential volumes from this era that I have read. BUT… in the grand scheme of the Marvel Universe, this seems to be an isolated aspect that doesn’t get revisited much. With the bulk of these stories taking place in the (then) future, and it later being determined that it was an alternate Earth’s future that faced the Martian invasion, there hasn’t been the demand/need to go back to this story. Killraven is occasionally brought in for the rare cameo appearance in other Marvel Universe titles, but I feel that is more to keep a copyright in place rather than to continue Killraven’s story. I think this is an important volume to have for the sci-fi/fantasy fan, but I can think of multiple Marvel Universe characters that probably deserved an Essential volume ahead of Killraven.

Footnotes: Marvel Team-Up #45 is also reprinted in Essential Marvel Team-Up Vol. 2.

If you like this volume, try: Weirdworld, the five-issue miniseries from Marvel earlier this year that tied in with the 2015 Secret Wars event. Written by Jason Aaron with art by Mike Del Mundo, this fantasy epic touched on so many familiar elements of the Marvel Universe from the 1970s and 1980s. Arkon, a long-time foe for the Avengers and the Fantastic Four, is struggling to find his home, Polemachus. Unfortunately, he is stuck traveling through the Weirdworld zone of Battleworld in order to find his home. Along the way, he encounters the likes of Warbow, Skull the Slayer, Jennifer Kale, and others. At the same time, he finds that Morgana Le Fay is working in the background to stop him. Del Mundo’s art is spectacular in this series, giving it a dream-like appearance from page to page. This has been one of my favorite comics from 2015, and I hope you got a chance to read it too.