Essential Avengers Vol. 8

avengers8First Published: April 2012

Contents: Avengers #164 (October 1977) to #184 (June 1979); Avengers Annual #7 (1977) and #8 (1978); and Marvel Two-in-One Annual #2 (1977)

Key Creator Credits: Jim Shooter, John Byrne, Jim Starlin, Joe Rubinstein, George Pérez, Sal Buscema, David Michelinie, Tom DeFalco, Jim Mooney, and others

Key First Appearances: Henry Peter Gyrich, Django Maximoff, Lord Chaos, Master Order

Story Continues From: Essential Avengers Vol. 7

Story Continues In: Essential Avengers Vol. 9

Overview: Get comfortable, loyal readers! It doesn’t get much more essential than Essential Avengers Vol. 8!

The book starts out with a bang with the return of Count Nefaria, last seen taking on the “All-New All-Different” X-Men, which led to the death of Warpath. Nefaria has hired a team of scientists to increase his powers to a level where he can go toe-to-toe with Thor. However, he finds out that the increase in his powers comes at a price, as he starts to age at an aggressive rate. The team is stretched to the limits to defeat Nefaria but the battle ends with the Avengers facing a new threat – government agent Henry Peter Gyrich. We’ll get back to him soon enough.

Next up is an epic battle that crosses over between two annuals, where the combined forces of the Avengers, Captain Mar-Vel, Warlock, the Thing, and Spider-Man must take on Thanos. This famous story by Jim Starline and Joe Rubinstein has been reprinted many times, including multiple Essential volumes as noted below.

We then find ourselves slowly building up to the next great Avengers epic. The Guardians of the Galaxy have traveled to Earth in search of Korvac, their foe with god-like powers. While this is going on, members of the Avengers start disappearing. Are the two stories linked? This is a great story that builds up over 10 issues to an explosive conclusion.

Now I mentioned Gyrich earlier. Seems he has a problem with the Avengers. Lack of security to get into the mansion. Too many people coming in and out of the line-up. Gyrich lays down the law with the team, placing new guidelines on the team in order to keep their government clearance. Gyrich not only imposes a limit of seven active members on the team, he also takes it upon himself to name the new line-up: Iron Man, Vision, Captain America, Scarlet Witch, Beast, Wasp, and the Falcon. Wait, the Falcon? We remember Captain America’s former partner, but he’s never been an Avenger before. But the government demands equal opportunities for minorities. The Falcon begrudgingly joins the team, and when the Scarlet Witch is forced to take a medical leave, she is replaced by Ms. Marvel. This gives us the new line-up for the team heading into Essential Avengers Vol. 9 and the epic Avengers #200 in the near-future.

What makes this Essential?: I just love this era of the Avengers! This has to be a must-own book for numerous reasons – the stories, the artwork, the character development, and more. The introduction of Henry Peter Gyrich opens the door for the concept that the government has some control over the Avengers. The Korvac Saga storyline may be one of the best multi-issue arcs since the Kree-Skrull War. The artwork of George Pérez and John Byrne looks spectacular in black & white. Please do yourself a favor and track down this collection!

Footnotes: Avengers Annual #7 was also reprinted in Essential Warlock Vol. 1.

Marvel Two-in-One Annual #2 were also reprinted in Essential Marvel Two-in-One Vol. 2 and Essential Warlock Vol. 1.

Even though he is announced as a new member of the team in issue #181, the Falcon does not actually join the team until Avengers #183.

If you like this volume, try: the 1990s Guardians of the Galaxy series, with the first half of the series done by Jim Valentino. For many years, the Guardians had been those interesting backup group of characters, who never got the chance to really shine in their own feature. The Korvac storyline in this Essential is one of the longest appearances of the team until the launch of their own series in 1990. Along with The New Warriors, the new GotG title kicked off a new wave of youthful superheroes at Marvel. Valentino left after issue #29 to become one of the founders of Image Comics, but the Guardians title ran until issue #62. The Valentino issues were recently reprinted in three trade paperbacks, so they should be readily available to track down.

Showcase Presents Dial H For Hero Vol. 1

DialHforHeroFirst Published: March 2010

Contents: Dial H for Hero stories from House of Mystery #156 (January 1966) to #173 (March-April 1968)

Key Creator Credits: Dave Wood, Jim Mooney, and others

Key First Appearances: Robby Reed

Overview: Robby Reed is a typical teenage boy growing up in Littleton, Colorado. He lives with his grandfather, affectionately referred to as Gramps, as well as their housekeeper, Miss Millie. Robby discovers an alien device that looks like a telephone dial hidden away in a cave. Taking it home, Robby begins the task of deciphering the language on the device, and determines that dial the characters that would spell our HERO. When he does, Robby finds himself transformed into an adult superhero. But with each subsequent dial of the device, he becomes a different superhero, with different powers that just happen to be what he needs to defeat the current threat of the month.

Along the way, Robby’s girlfriend Suzy has need to use the device. Of course, this being the 1960s, Suzy would have to dial HEROINE in order to change into a superhero herself. One would wonder that if a alien race could develop something like this, that it would work just by dialing HERO regardless of the bearer’s gender, but we’ll table that for now.

While most of the characters are one-and-done and are unique to the situation, there was one time, in House of Mystery #160 (July 1966), when Robby was changed into a recognizable hero – Plastic Man! Maybe this was done to test the waters for the return of the character, as later that year DC started a new Plastic Man series. A decade later, when the Plastic Man title was revived during the DC Explosion campaign, Robby Reed would cross paths with the actual Plastic Man, who ends up confiscating the device from our star due to irresponsible use.

Why should these stories be Showcased?: There are parts of this concept that I really, really like. The variety of characters used in each story. Revisiting the concept of a kid transforming into an adult hero (i.e., Captain Marvel/Shazam). The beautiful covers that truly represents the best of the Silver Age as that era was starting to come to an end. I think my biggest complaint is just how short this collection is at 285 pages. Yes, it collects all of the stories from House of Secrets in the 1960s. Maybe DC could have included the Robby Reed appearance in Plastic Man #13 (June-July 1976). Or maybe DC starts the Chris King-Vicki Grant run from Adventure Comics in the early 1980s. DC priced this book at $9.99, so at least we didn’t pay the standard rate for a Showcase Presents. But I think I would almost want to pay the higher price and get more stories with this concept.

Footnotes: House of Secrets switched formats following issue #173. The Dial H for Hero feature (as well as the Martian Manhunter feature) were dropped, and the title became a horror anthology with issue #174. Those issues have been collected in Showcase Presents The House of Secrets Vol. 1.

If you like this volume, try: the H.E.R.O. series from 2003-2004 by Will Pfeifer, Kano, Dale Eaglesham, and others. The concept of Dial H has been revisited several times over the years. In the 1980s, Dial H for Hero was revived in Adventure Comics and then later as a back-up in The New Adventures of Superboy. But with this iteration, DC allowed fans to submit character ideas to be used as the different heroes created by the dial. But this concept never had it’s own title until the H.E.R.O. series started up. But this title took a different spin, as the dial, now referred to as the H-Device, is passed around from stranger to stranger, and each person had a less-than-desirable experience, which would encourage them to get rid of the device. While this is going on, a grown up Robby Reed is on the hunt trying to find his old device, maybe in hopes of regaining the glory of his youth. The series ran for 22 issues, and the first six were collected in a 2003 trade paperback. But I think many of these issues can be found in the .50 cent bins at conventions and local stores. Go on the hunt and see if you can find all 22 issues – or your own H-Device!

Essential Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man Vol. 4

spectacular_spiderman_4First Published: August 2009

Contents: Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man #75 (February 1983) to #96 (November 1984); and Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man Annual #4 (1984)

Key Creator Credits: Bill Mantlo, Al Milgrom, Jim Mooney, Fred Hembeck, and others

Key First Appearances: Answer

Story Continues From: Essential Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man Vol. 3

Story Continues In: Essential Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man Vol. 5

Overview: With the last volume, I criticized Marvel for ending that book in the middle of the Doctor Octopus-Owl gang war. As disappointing as it was to finish Volume 3 that way, it also means that this volume starts off right in the middle of the action. So let’s get into the stories!

In case you are unfamiliar with this title, Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man (PPTSS)  is part of the ongoing story-arc of Spider-Man in the Marvel Universe. Each of the various books from this era had a set of characters they would use, with Peter, MJ, and Black Cat being in the center of the Spider-Man Venn diagram.

As mentioned earlier, we start off in the middle of the gang war between the Owl and Doctor Octopus, both underrated villains in my humble opinion. While both are taken out, you know they will both be back again to cause trouble for Spider-Man.

I love that this book gets to feature multiple return appearances by Cloak & Dagger, the drug-triggered mutants who made their debut in the last volume. While Cloak and Dagger remain focused on ridding New York City of the drug traffic, their methods often put themselves at odds with our title hero. Another anti-hero crosses through this title is the Punisher, who is finally brought to trial for his many incidents. The Punisher is sentenced to prison, which led to his own mini-series, followed quickly by his ongoing series.

As with the Amazing Spider-Man book in this era, we see the Kingpin pulling a lot of strings in the background, with the Rose and the Answer being in the forefront. Kingpin still remains a thorn in the side of Spider-Man on many levels, in particular when the Kingpin aids the Black Cat in giving her powers to allow her to be equal to Spider-Man during their adventures. The Black Cat gets a “bad luck” aura about her, causing bad things to happen to people around her trying to threaten her.

The final issues in this collection feature the return of Spider-Man in his black costume following his adventures on Battleworld. The costume is slick and new and alive, although he won’t find out about the “alive” bit for a few months.

What makes this Essential?: I really like the direction that PPTSS took during this era. It finally feels like the book is now the equal to Amazing Spider-Man and not just a secondary book on the stands. The Marvel Bullpen more evenly coordinated storylines between the books, along with Marvel Team-Up, to create a near-seamless story arc for Peter Parker, yet each title could be read on its own. Creators Bill Mantlo and Al Milgrom had a great run in this era that doesn’t get enough recognition. I think it worth the pick-up, if for no other reason than to revisit the Black Costume storyline post-Secret Wars, which the Essential Spider-Man and Essential Marvel Team-Up series never reached.

Footnotes: Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man #81, #82, and #83 were also reprinted in Essential Punisher Vol. 1.

If you like this volume, try: The Nearly Complete Essential Hembeck Archives Omnibus collection from 2008. While there are many interesting storylines in this volume, the highlight of this Essential was Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man #86, featuring art by Fred Hembeck. This issue was part of the Assistant Editor’s Month – while the editors went to San Diego Comic Con, the assistant editors were left in charge for a month and hi-jinx ensued. We got the Avengers appearing on David Letterman; Aunt May and Franklin Richards teaming-up to stop Galactus; and Steve Rogers’ girlfriend Bernie Rosenthol becoming a new super-hero. With this issue of Peter Parker, the story remained true, but Hembeck was brought in to do the art in his very distinctive art-style. Hembeck has been a long-time fixture in the comic scene, offering a humorous look at Marvel and DC characters. In the 1970s, he contributed a comic strip to the Daily Planet pages at DC. In the 1980s, he was a regular contributor to the Marvel Age comic. In 2008, Image Comics put out this trade paperback collection of Hembeck’s fanzine and self-published work. It’s 900 over-sized pages, printed in black and white with the same paper quality of the Essentials, collecting most of Hembeck’s work to that date. With a MSRP of $24.99, it’s an incredible bargain. Give this book a read, and check out Hembeck’s eBay store to get an original sketch.

Showcase Presents Supergirl Vol. 2

Showcase Presents Supergirl Vol. 2

First Published: November 2008

Contents: Supergirl stories from Action Comics #283 (December 1961) to #321 (February 1965)

Key Creator Credits: Jim Mooney, Jerry Siegel, Leo Dorfman, and others

Key First Appearances: Jax-Ur, Comet the Super-Horse

Story Continues From: Showcase Presents Supergirl Vol. 1

Overview: Forget her status as a secret weapon, Supergirl is introduced to Earth as it’s newest protector from Krypton. Working with Superman, she helps patrol the planet during all of the numerous times that Superman is called off into space; called into the future to assist the Legion of Super-Heroes; or called back into the past for whatever reason. 1960s Superman comics – nothing else like it!

The books in this collection fall into some story groups. First up is the introduction of Comet the Super-Horse. Unlike everyone else with the “Super” in their name, Comet does not hail from Krypton. Instead, he was a centaur from ancient Greece. He petitioned the witch Circe to make him into a man, but another sorcerer interferes and tricks the witch into making him into a full blown horse. Unable to change him back, Circe grants Comet superpowers, including immortality. (Because when you are forced to be a horse, everyone wants to live forever.) Arriving on Earth, he meets Supergirl and finds that he can communicate with her telepathically. (Seriously, don’t think too hard about this one….)

The next set of stories deals with Lena Thorul, a resident of Midvale and the younger sister of super-criminal Lex Luthor. Lena has developed ESP, so it’s a challenge for Supergirl to keep her identity a secret from her friend. Lena wants to become an FBI agent but is afraid that her brother’s history will keep her out. When her family connection is revealed, she buys a one-way ticket to Africa and becomes a Tarzan-like jungle girl. (I cannot make this stuff up, people!)

Another set of stories deals with Supergirl’s parents, Zor-El and Alura. We all thought they had perished in Argo when the kryptonite radiation killed off the residents of the floating city in space. Turns out, they managed to exile themselves into the Survival Zone, which is very similar to the Phantom Zone, just without the criminals. Supergirl finds a way to rescue her parents, but now faces a dilemma of having two sets of parents. What is a girl to do? The first thought is to have her birth parents move to the bottled city of Kandor, and live with their fellow Kryptonians. However, Alura’s health starts to fail, as she is suffering from heartbreak over her missing daughter. So, to heal her birth mom, Supergirl convinces her step-parents, Fred and Edna Danvers, to trade places with her real parents, and the three Kryptonians become a super-team family. But then Edna is exposed to an evil spore and attacks Supergirl. Realizing that Kandor is not the best home for them, once again the Danvers exchange places with Supergirl’s parents. 

The volume concludes with Supergirl graduating high school and enrolling in Stanhope College. Unfortunately, some of Supergirl’s sorority sisters are a little catty, and Linda must find ways to outwit them to protect her identity.

Why should these stories be Showcased?: Oh boy, where to start…. I gave Volume 1 a lot of praise for telling positive female stories, especially with it being a DC Silver Age collection. This volume falls short on all marks. The various story arcs might have worked better in a romance comic, but these stories are all from Action Comics, the home of Superman and his family. We finally see Supergirl revealed to the world, and then her storylines dive down into mediocrity. Ugh! I know this book is a product of its time, but it has a hard time holding up 50 years later.

Footnotes: Action Comics #285 is also reprinted in Showcase Presents Superman Vol. 3.

The “Superman’s Super-Courtship!” story from Action Comics #289 is also reprinted in Showcase Presents Legion of Super-Heroes Vol. 1.

The “Monster From Krypton!” story from Action Comics #303 is also reprinted in Showcase Presents Superman Vol. 4.

If you like this volume, try: the 2009 Power Girl series, initially done by Justin Gray, Jimmy Palmiotti, and Amanda Conner. 2009. Power Girl was introduced in All-Star Comics #58 as the Earth-2 version of Supergirl – see Showcase Presents All-Star Comics Vol. 1 for Power Girl’s debut. Over the years, she served as a member of the Justice Society, Infinity, Inc, and even Justice League Europe. It was probably easier to use her in a story rather than Supergirl, as the big red S shield on Supergirl’s costume carries a lot of baggage with it. The one downside to Power Girl is her longevity; her origin has been changed multiple times due to one crisis or another. She became a hard character to work with, given all of the changes to her back story. Flash forward to 2009, and Power Girl earned her own monthly comic. This is one of the best runs using the Power Girl character, focusing more on the present rather than reliving the past. Most of this series has been collected in trade paperbacks, so give this a look.

Showcase Presents World’s Finest Vol. 2

Showcase Presents World's Finest Vol. 2

First Published: October 2008

Contents: Superman, Batman, and Robin stories from World’s Finest Comics #112 (September 1960) to #145 (November 1964)

Key Creator Credits: Curt Swan, Dick Sprang, Edmond Hamilton, Bill Finger, Jerry Coleman, Jim Mooney, Dave Wood, and others

Key First Appearances: Composite Superman

Story Continues From: Showcase Presents World’s Finest Vol. 1

Story Continues In: Showcase Presents World’s Finest Vol. 3

Overview: Sometimes the smartest creations in life is simply combining two great things together. For example, milk chocolate is awesome all on its own. So is peanut butter. Those two by themselves are some of the tastiest sweets in the world. But in 1928, Harry Reese had the brilliant idea to combine the two together. Now, some 80 years later, the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup is the most popular candy bar in United States. <Excuse me for a moment, I think I need to run to the store to pick up a Reese’s!>

So peanut butter and chocolate, two great tastes that go great together. We all get that. But you are here to read about comics, right? So let’s take two great heroes (Batman and Superman), merge them together into one title, and we get the Showcase Presents World’s Finest Vol. 2.

The stories here follow the same pattern as the previous volume. Something happens that brings the two heroes together. Between Superman’s strength and Batman’s smarts, the heroes find themselves on the winning end of things at the end of each 15-page story. There is no continuity with these stories, so you can read them in any order. The supporting casts for both characters make numerous appearances along the way, as well as their rogues galleries.

It’s funny that I used the word ‘merge’ in the first paragraph. (Truthfully, not funny, but rather deliberate on my part!) The highlight of this volume involves the introduction in World’s Finest #142 of the Composite Superman, who might be just the greatest DC Silver Age character of all time. Joe Meach was a down-in-his-luck diver (don’t most divers head down eventually?), and Superman helps him out by getting him a custodian job at the Superman Museum. One night while Meach was cleaning up in front of a Legion of Super-Heroes exhibit, lightning hits the Legion figurines, and the electrical energy passes on to Meach. Suddenly, Meach finds that he has all of the powers of the Legionaires. Using Chameleon Boy’s shape-changing ability, Meach creates a hybrid costume that is half Superman, half Batman. Dubbing himself the Composite Superman, he appears to befriend Superman and Batman, but his long term goal is to destroy Superman’s life. Fortunately, our heroes see though his scheme, and stop Meach until he exhausts his powers. The Composite Superman, be it Meach or other characters, will return time and time again to face off against Superman and Batman.

Why should these stories be Showcased?: I can think of two good reasons why these stories should be showcased. The first is Batman, and the second is Superman. Seriously, this is a no-brainer. Of course these should be collected. Sure, they are Silver Age stories, but I would contend that the best Batman or Superman Silver Age stories from this time period are in this collection, and not in the Showcase Presents Batman or Showcase Presents Superman volumes. This is a perfect volume to skip around and read the stories that most interest you. I was always fond of the Joker-Lex Luthor team-ups. (DC tried to duplicate that team-up magic with a Clayface-Brainiac collaboration. Yeah, not quite as interesting as Joker-Luthor!)

Footnotes: The story from World’s Finest Comics #141 is also reprinted in Showcase Presents Robin Vol. 1.

If you like this volume, try: the Batman & Superman: World’s Finest maxi-series from 1999. Written by Karl Kessel, with art by Dave Taylor, Peter Doherty, and Robert Campanella, the series looks that the Batman/Superman team-ups over a 10-year period. Issue #1 takes place ten years before present day, issue #2 takes place nine years before present day, and so on. This is set in the Post-Crisis universe and reflects events that happened in their comics between 1986 and 1998. In the first issue, the two heroes team-up for the first time, but fail to save a doctor. With each issue, the two heroes re-unite on the anniversary of the doctor’s death. This collection is a solid story, with glimpses into the expanded families of both characters. We get a funny Bat-Mite/Mr. Mxyzptlk team-up in issue #6 that brings along Robin and Lois Lane. The standout issue in this story is #7. Taking place sometime after the death of Jason Todd and after Superman’s return from his space exile, Superman takes Batman to his hometown of Smallville, Kansas. The two actually spend time talking through their issues and emotions. No super villains interrupt the discussion. In fact, the heroic actions by the two stars are actions that anyone could do in their daily life; Superman assists a woman delivering a baby, while Batman performs CPR on a doctor. A trade paperback collecting all ten issues was released in 2003. I can’t recommend this title, and in particular issue #7, strongly enough – PICK THIS UP!

Essential Man-Thing Vol. 2

Essential Man-Thing Vol. 2

First Published: September 2008

Contents: Man-Thing #15 (March 1975) to #22 (October 1975); Giant-Size Man-Thing #3 (February 1975) to #5 (August 1975); Man-Thing story from Rampaging Hulk #7 (February 1978); Marvel Team-Up #68 (April 1978); Marvel Two-in-One #43 (September 1978); Man-Thing #1 (November 1979) to #11 (July 1981); and Doctor Strange #41 (June 1980)

Key Creator Credits: Steve Gerber, Chris Claremont, Jim Mooney, Ed Hannigan, John Byrne, Don Perlin, Michael Fleisher, and others

Key First Appearances: Scavenger, D’Spayre, Sheriff John Daltry

Story Continues From: Essential Man-Thing Vol. 1

Overview: The Man-Thing is back! Still based out his swamp in the Florida Everglades, the spirit of Ted Sallis still propels the monster forward, as he seeks out human emotion. But make sure to feel some happy thoughts. That last thing you want to do is show fear because whatever knows fear burns at the Man-Thing’s touch!

The first half of this book finishes the Steve Gerber run of the character. Picking up where things left off in Volume 1, the Man-Thing trudges from one adventure to the next, befriended along the way by Richard Rory, Jennifer Kale, and Howard the Duck, among others. As with any other of his other work, the reader feels like Gerber is using the comics as a social commentary on the events of the era. (I realize Gerber passed away in 2008, but I do wonder what it would have been like to have seen and interacted with Gerber in today’s social media world. Like it or love it, it would be entertaining regardless!)

Following the end of the Gerber run, the Man-Thing spent some time in character limbo. He made various guest appearances in other Marvel Comics of the time, some of which are collected in this volume. In late 1979, the Man-Thing once again moved back into his own monthly title. It was initially written by Michael Fleisher, but then Chris Claremont took over during a cross-over with Doctor Strange. This volume of Man-Thing feels more like a “super-hero” comic book, and not a social diatribe. A new supporting character is introduced, John Daltry, who is the local sheriff outside the swamp in Florida. Despite the more traditional approach, the title came to an end with issue #11.

And here is an interesting twist to close the book. Man-Thing has had two different series with his name on the masthead, and the final issues for both series are contained in this Essential. In Man-Thing #22 (October 1975), writer Steve Gerber writes himself into the story, going on an adventure with Man-Thing to wrap up as many story threads as possible from the last four years. If you have read other works by Gerber, you know that Gerber has no qualms about including himself in the stories – in particular, see my review for Essential Howard the Duck Vol. 1. Now, let’s jump ahead six years. In Man-Thing #11 (July 1981), writer Chris Claremont writes himself into the story, going on an adventure with Man-Thing to wrap up the story threads from the last two years. While Claremont has “appeared” in comics in the past, this is the only time when he was an active participant in the story. If I’m wrong, I trust one of you out there to correct me!

What makes this Essential?: This may be an unpopular stance, but I don’t believe these issues are essential. In fact, I would suggest that Man-Thing should never be a title character. He’s great in a back-up or supporting role, but he should not be the star of the book. Now hear me out before you get the rope and look for a tall tree branch. He’s a speechless, mindless character. For writers, you need some kind of supporting characters around him in order to advance the story. Richard Rory and John Daltry just did not work for me in that role. For artists, this is a love/hate character. Sure, you don’t have a detailed costume to replicate panel after panel, but you still have to detail the bulky character with his key facial features. So bottom line, I really believe Man-Thing is best used as a supporting character. His appearances in Marvel Team-Up and Marvel Two-in-One are the highlights of this book for me. 

Footnotes: Marvel Team-Up #68 is also reprinted in Essential Marvel Team-Up Vol. 3.

Marvel Two-in-One #43 is also reprinted in Essential Marvel Two-in-One Vol. 2.

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

If you like this volume, try: diving into the back issue bins to find the first 12 issues of Marvel Comics Presents. This was a new anthology title that launched in 1988 as a bi-weekly book. Story arcs would carry over from one issue to the next, and when a story finished, a new character would start a different story in the next issue. Over the first 12 issues, Steve Gerber and Tom Sutton did a Man-Thing story titled Elements of Terror. This has never been collected, so you need to find the back issues. Gerber is back with another Gerber-esque story arc, which touches on the Iran-Contra affair (with the government trying to arm rebels in Doctor Doom’s Latvia), Satanism, and whatever other thoughts happened to be dominating Steve’s mind at the time. Gerber is definitely a unique voice in the world of comics, one that you either get & appreciate, or one that you avoid. It’s taken awhile, but I have grown to enjoy the Gerber stories through readings of his work on Man-Thing, Defenders, and Howard the Duck.

Showcase Presents Legion of Super-Heroes Vol. 2

Showcase Presents Legion of Super-Heroes Vol. 2

First Published: April 2008

Contents: Legion of Super-Heroes stories from Adventure Comics #322 (July 1964) to #348 (September 1966); Superboy #117 (December 1964), #124 (October 1965), and #125 (December 1965); and “The Origin and Powers of the Legion of Super-Heroes” pages from Superman Annual #4 (1962), Adventure Comics #316 (January 1964) and Adventure Comics #365 (February 1968)

Key Creator Credits: Otto Binder, Curt Swan, Jerry Siegel, Sheldon Moldoff, George Klein, Jim Mooney, John Forte, Edmond Hamilton, Jim Shooter, and others

Key First Appearances: Spider-Girl, Heroes of Lallor (Beast Boy, Duplicate Boy, Evolvo Lad, Gas Girl, Life Lass), Timber Wolf, Magnetic Kid, Glorith, Computo, Duo Damsel, Color Kid, Ferro Lad, Karate Kid, Nemesis Kid, Princess Projectra, Doctor Regulus, Kid Psycho

Story Continues From: Showcase Presents Legion of Super-Heroes Vol. 1

Story Continues In: Showcase Presents Legion of Super-Heroes Vol. 3

Overview: From across the vast reaches of the known galaxy, the most powerful teenagers gather together to protect the universe. With unique abilities across the members, these teenagers are united to peace and prosperity to all beings. This is the Legion of Super-Heroes. Sit back and enjoy the ride, as we have a fun set of stories in this second Showcase Presents volume.

Part of the charm of the Legion is the ever growing line-up, as new heroes are introduced to join the clubhouse – from Timber Wolf to Ferro Lad to Karate Kid to Princess Projectra. Not everyone is truly Legion material, but not to worry as the Legion of Substitute Heroes always has a spot open for them. And sometimes you let the wrong person in, as the Legion found out with the introduction of Nemesis Kid.

One of the Legion’s greatest threats to come is introduced in a rather humble beginning. The murderous living computer Computo (accidentally created by Brainiac 5) shows up, intent on killing off all life. During the course of the battle, Triplicate Girl makes the ultimate sacrifice to protect her teammates.

In terms of creators, a (then) true teenager took over the writing duties of the Legion in this volume. Legendary comic creator Jim Shooter begins his long run with the kids of the future in Adventures Comics #346. Shooter’s Legion run is often cited as one of the more influential runs with the characters. We will get more of the Shooter stories in the next Showcase volume.

Why should these stories be Showcased?: For the most part, the Silver Age stories from DC Comics do not hold up. However, with the Legion of Super-Heroes, this volume surprisingly does stand the test of time. The stories are fun adventures that can go anywhere and everywhere in the course of 15 pages. We’ve gotten past the need to re-introduce characters and their powers each month, and just get into the telling of the story. There are several key Legionnaires introduced in this volume, which makes for interesting reading to see how they began compared against how they came to be used later.

Footnotes: The Legion Flight Ring makes it’s debut in Adventures Comics #329 (February 1965).

If you like this volume, try: the 2005 reboot of The Legion of Super-Heroes by Mark Waid and Barry Kitson. Over the years, the Legion has had their story rebooted numerous times. Sometimes it’s a soft continuation of where things left off, and other times it takes the Legion in a completely different direction. With this relaunch, if felt like a modern refresh of the original LSH, in terms of number of Legionnaires as well as a general positive approach to the story. From issues #16 to #36, the title was renamed as Supergirl and the Legion of Super-Heroes. With issue #37, it went back to just Legion of Super-Heroes, as Jim Shooter returned to the teenage heroes where he got his start. Personally, I would stick to the first 36 issues, which have all been collected across six trade paperbacks. That said, I see these issues in back issue bins, so it may be a fun hunt to track them down at conventions.