Essential Daredevil Vol. 6

First Published: November 2013

Contents: Daredevil #126 (October 1975) to #146 (June 1977); Daredevil Annual #4 (1976); Iron Man #88 (July 1976) and #89 (August 1976); and Ghost Rider #19 (August 1976) and #20 (October 1976)

Key Creator Credits: Marv Wolfman, Bill Mantlo, Jim Shooter, Chris Claremont, Archie Goodwin, Bob Brown, John Buscema, John Byrne, Sal Buscema, Gil Kane, George Tuska, and others

Key First Appearances: Heather Glenn, Brock Jones/Torpedo, Blake Tower, Bullseye

Story Continues From: Essential Daredevil Vol. 5

Overview: By now, I think we all know the Daredevil story. Blinded as a youth, Matt Murdock’s other senses have been heightened, allowing him to do spectacular feats beyond that of a normal man. Whether fighting crime on the streets at night or defending clients in court during the day, he is the Man Without Fear – Daredevil! This is Essential Daredevil Vol. 6.

Now at this point with the collection, Daredevil has been in business for over 10 years. Maybe it’s time for a change, to shake things up for the characters. For starters, let’s get the law firm of Nelson & Murdock out of their fancy offices. Instead, we are going to have them open up a storefront legal clinic in the middle of Hell’s Kitchen, where anyone can walk in off the street to discuss their legal problems. Let’s also introduce a new girlfriend, Heather Glenn, for Matt. A free spirit that makes you question what color the sky is in her world. (Given that this is a black & white collection, the answer should be white, but you never quite know how she might answer that question.) But just when things are getting comfortable between Heather and Matt, who should return but former romantic interest and secretary Karen Page.

Maybe we can add some new faces to the rogues’ gallery? In shoots Torpedo – but is he a hero or a villain. Or both?Then there is the new assassin known as Bullseye. He never misses regardless what the weapon is in his hands. But fans like the old foes too, so let’s bring in the likes of the Owl, Cobra, and Mr. Hyde. And being the in the Marvel Universe, you know you will have to cross paths with some other heroes, such as Iron Man, Black Panther, Namor, and Ghost Rider.

But Daredevil still shines brightest when he is a hero for the common man. Stopping a runaway bus, finding a lost boy in the big city, dealing with crooked cops, and the other challenges that come up from time to time. Going toe-to-toe with the villain of the month may sell comics, but protecting his city defines the man.

What makes this Essential?: I’ve got mixed opinions for this collection. Part of me says this is essential simply for the character introductions. Heather Glenn would be a long-time romantic interest for Matt. The Torpedo was a C-List hero but became a key part of the ROM book. District Attorney Blake Tower would become a fixture in many Marvel books, such as Amazing Spider-Man. Bullseye would become one of the most important Daredevil villains of all time, especially given the events during the Frank Miller run.

But…. these stories just seem very average. Marv Wolfman writes the majority of the stories in this collection, but I don’t feel like this is his best work. This was doing the era when Wolfman was also serving as Marvel’s Editor-in-Chief, so it makes sense that this title may not have had his full attention. I want this to be a stronger title, given the list of creators attached to these issues.

Footnotes: Ghost Rider #19 & #20, and Daredevil #138 are also reprinted in Essential Ghost Rider Vol. 1.

If you like this volume, try: Brian Michael Bendis’ legendary run on Daredevil in the early 2000s. I’ve previously recommended the Miller run, the Kevin Smith run, and the Mark Waid run with the Man Without Fear. It makes sense to cover the Bendis run, as he takes Matt Murdock and friends in a whole new direction. Bendis really makes this a psychological examination of what makes the hero, dragging him down to his lowest point ever. The Kingpin returns as the main protagonist for Daredevil, as well as the Owl and Bullseye. The highlight of the run is Matt Murdock being outed as Daredevil and forced to defend his name in court in a desperate attempt to maintain the dual identities. This series has been collected multiple times in trade paperbacks, hardcovers, and omnibus editions, so it should be easy to track down.

Essential Avengers Vol. 9

First Published: September 2013

Contents: Avengers #185 (July 1979) to #206 (April 1981); Avengers Annual #9 (1979); and the Vision story from Tales to Astonish #12 (November 1980)

Key Creator Credits: Steven Grant, Mark Gruenwald, David Michelinie, Jim Shooter, Bill Mantlo, John Byrne, George Pérez, Roger Stern, Carmine Infantino, and others

Key First Appearances: Magda Lehnsherr, Taskmaster

Story Continues From: Essential Avengers Vol. 8

Overview: Did you think that Vol. 8 was incredible? Well, you are in for a special treat because Essential Avengers Vol. 9 reaches all new level of awesomeness. 

The book begins with Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch returning to Wundagore Mountain. Being used as pawns for Modred the Mystic, who was controlled himself by the demon Chthon, the rest of the Avengers come running to the rescue. Before it’s over, Wanda learns some more information about her birth mother, Magda, who apparently was married to a magnetic white-haired man who is always causing problems in the X-Men books. That’s going to make for an interesting family reunion in the future.

Once the Avengers finally make it back to the United States, after a quick stop in Russia to fight some deadly elements, the team finds itself finally free of Henry Peter Gyrich and the government restrictions. The first change has the Avengers increasing their numbers, bringing back Hawkeye and Wonder Man among others. Falcon leaves, because he never really fit in with this group and not particularly wanting to be the quota member of the team. Wasp, Yellowjacket, and guest star Ant-Man investigate the Solomon Institute, where they encounter a new villain by the name of Taskmaster. He has photographic reflexes, which allows him to replicate moves or actions from anyone he sees. Armed with a sword, shield, and bow & arrow, he becomes a worthy foe for the mighty Avengers.

We are quickly moving forward to Avengers #200. But before we can get there, the Avengers must stop Red Ronin from destroying New York City. For those not familiar with the giant robot, Red Ronin was designed by S.H.I.E.L.D. to stop Godzilla, so it’s going to take every available Avenger to stop the construct. Well, almost everyone is involved. Everyone except Ms. Marvel, who finds herself on an unplanned maternity leave. But more on that later…

Post issue #200, we finally get the one Avengers story that fans have been clamoring for – a solo Jarvis story. Jarvis takes on a neighborhood bully while visiting his mom, reminding us that he has done a lot more with his life than just serve as a butler to the Stark family. While this is going on, Ultron has returned with plans for world domination and killing his dad, Henry Pym. Some things never change!

What makes this Essential?: I wrote this for my review of Volume 8, and I will write it again: The artwork of George Pérez and John Byrne looks spectacular in black & white. It’s worth the cover price of this book just to see their artwork like this. There are interesting stories which will impact the Marvel Universe for years to come. But the reason to get this book is the art!

I got 200 problems but the cover ain’t one: So about Avengers #200…. There are positives to this book, primarily found with the outstanding art from George Pérez. But the story is a train wreck, perhaps with too many writers trying to tell a story. In issue #197, Carol Danvers a.k.a. Ms. Marvel suddenly finds herself pregnant. Over the next two issues, her pregnancy takes just days, not months, as she quickly comes to full term for issue #200. Carol gives birth to a boy, who is named Marcus. Much like the pregnancy, Marcus rapidly grows to adulthood in just hours, revealing himself to be the son of the long-time (pun intended) foe of the Avengers, Immortus. Marcus was trapped in Limbo following the death of Immortus, and his only way to escape was to be “born” in the world. So he had brought Ms. Marvel to limbo to impregnate her. As if this wasn’t bad enough, once the Avengers stop all of the time issues occurring brought on by Marcus’ equipment, Ms. Marvel volunteers to go back to Limbo with Marcus. The issue ends, and everyone seems OK with everything that has happened, right?

So, this issue gets resolved in Avengers Annual #10, which can be found in Essential Ms. Marvel Vol. 1. The Avengers find out that Ms. Marvel has returned from Limbo, and she has lost her powers to Rogue. When Rogue and the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants have been stopped, Carol Danvers gets the chance to unload on the Avengers, who turned a blind eye to the fact that Marcus mind-controlled Carol and raped her with his actions. No one came to her defense. No one thought twice about her returning to Limbo with Marcus. Annual writer Chris Claremont was not happy with issue #200 and used this issue as a way to address, if not repair, the damage previously done.

If you like this volume, try: the Avengers/JLA mini-series from 2003, a joint collaboration between DC Comics and Marvel Comics. The crossover was originally conceived in the late 1970s, to be written by Gerry Conway and art by George Pérez. However, editorial disputes between the two companies shelved the project for nearly 20 years. When the new project was introduced, it was then Avengers writer Kurt Busiek attached the project, and Pérez was brought back for the pencils, as he had a clause in his Crossgen-exclusive contract which allowed him to do this project if it ever came to fruition. In this new series, Krona and the Grandmaster challenge each other to a wager, using the Avengers and the Justice League as their pawns. As with any crossover of this magnitude, the teams travel to the other characters’ universes, and the typical match-ups between similar characters (Flash/Quicksilver, Green Arrow/Hawkeye) live up to every fanboy’s dream. For me, as a life-long reader of each title, this is a must read if you are a fan of the Silver Age and/or Bronze Age runs of both the Avengers and the Justice League of America.

Essential Marvel Two-in-One Vol. 4

marvel2i1vol4First Published: January 2012

Contents: Marvel Two-In-One #78 (August 1981) to #98 (April 1983), and #100 (June 1983); and Marvel Two-In-One Annual #6 (1981) and #7 (1982)

Key Creator Credits: Tom DeFalco, Ron Wilson, David Anthony Kraft, Alan Kupperberg, David Michelinie, John Byrne, and others

Key First Appearances: American Eagle, Champion

Story Continues From: Essential Marvel Two-In-One Vol. 3

Overview: He’s the hero of millions, but still the #1 target of the Yancy Street Gang. That’s right, we’re back with another collection of adventures of Ben Grimm, better known as the Thing. This is Essential Marvel Two-in-One Vol. 4.

As we have seen in multiple team-up collections, the hero of the book (The Thing) meets up with another character that they generally would not be interacting with much in order to stop a villain that they generally would not be interacting with much. That’s how we get issues such as Thing + Machine Man vs. Ultron, or Thing + Captain America vs. MODOK, or my favorite Thing + Sandman vs. Miller Lite.

The issues in this book are mostly one-and-done. We do get a couple of multi-part stories, as well as plenty of references to events going on over in the Fantastic Four book. But this book can easily be read without needing to consult dozens of other comics from this era.

Sadly, Marvel Two-in-One came to an end during this volume. For the oversized final issue, creator John Byrne came in to revisit a favorite story he did more than four years ago, in Marvel Two-in-One #50. In that issue, the Thing teamed up with the Thing (on an alternate Earth). For issue #100, the Thing revisits that alternate Earth and teams up with Ben Grimm. It made for a nice character study to say goodbye (but not for long) to the Thing’s team-up title.

What makes this Essential?: My rule with this blog has been that all of the team-up collections are must reads. I stand by that statement, but…. I’m a little disappointed with this collection. It’s still very good and enjoyable, but it doesn’t match the quality level that we found in Volume 3. The stories seem rather average here when looking back to the Project Pegasus and Serpent Society stories. We do get some memorable issues, but no great stories. 

Footnotes: Marvel Two-in-One #99 is not reprinted in this collection. This issue features a team-up with the ROM, who Marvel no longer controls the publishing rights for to include in reprints.

Who’s Who:
Marvel Two-In-One #78 – The Thing & Wonder Man
Marvel Two-In-One Annual #6 – The Thing & American Eagle
Marvel Two-In-One #79 – The Thing & Blue Diamond
Marvel Two-In-One #80 – The Thing & Ghost Rider / Essential Ghost Rider Vol. 3.
Marvel Two-In-One #81 – The Thing & Sub-Mariner
Marvel Two-In-One #82 – The Thing & Captain America
Marvel Two-In-One #83 – The Thing & Sasquatch
Marvel Two-In-One #84 – The Thing & Alpha Flight
Marvel Two-In-One #85 – The Thing & Spider-Woman  
Marvel Two-In-One #86 – The Thing & Sandman
Marvel Two-In-One #87 – The Thing & Ant-Man
Marvel Two-In-One #88 – The Thing & She-Hulk
Marvel Two-In-One #89 – The Thing & the Human Torch
Marvel Two-In-One #90 – The Thing & Spider-Man
Marvel Two-In-One #91 – The Thing & the Sphinx
Marvel Two-In-One #92 – The Thing & Jocasta
Marvel Two-In-One #93 – The Thing & Machine Man
Marvel Two-In-One #94 – The Thing & Power Man and Iron Fist
Marvel Two-In-One #95 – The Thing & the Living Mummy
Marvel Two-In-One Annual #7 – The Thing & Champion
Marvel Two-In-One #96 – The Thing & the Marvel Universe
Marvel Two-In-One #97 – The Thing & Iron Man 
Marvel Two-In-One #98 – The Thing & Franklin Richards
Marvel Two-In-One #100 – The Thing & Ben Grimm

If you like this volume, try: The Thing series that started following the cancellation of Marvel Two-in-One. John Byrne, who was overseeing the Fantastic Four title during this era, was asked to take on Marvel Two-in-One. While Byrne found Ben Grimm to be an interesting character, the stories he had in mind did not necessarily need a guest star each month. So the decision was made to bring Marvel Two-in-One to an end, and relaunch the book as The Thing with a #1 issue. The series ran for 36 issues and can be broken down into three arcs. The first arc covered the first ten issues, looking into Ben’s past and his relationships with his teammates and Alicia. The second arc went from issue #11 to #22, as Ben chose to stay on Battleworld following the end of the original Secret Wars. The final arc from #23 to #36 has Ben back on Earth, but not part of the Fantastic Four. Instead, he spends time traveling around the country and spends some time as a professional wrestler. The first and second arcs have been recently reprinted in The Thing Classic trade paperbacks, although many of the original issues should be easily found in back-issue bins.

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.

Essential Captain America Vol. 7

Essential Captain America Vol. 7

First Published: July 2013

Contents: Captain America #231 (March 1979) to #257 (May 1981)

Key Creator Credits: Roger McKenzie, Roger Stern, Sal Buscema, John Byrne, and others

Key First Appearances: Bernie Rosenthal, Joe Chapman/Union Jack (III), Kenneth Crichton/Baron Blood (III)

Story Continues from: Essential Captain America Vol. 6

Overview: Captain America continues his patriotic duty to his country. The first half of this volume has several one-and-done stories with a variety of creative teams. Beginning with #247, Stern and Byrne take over, pushing the title in a new direction. Over the next nine issues, Captain America battles MachineSmith; considers a run for the presidency; and battles Baron Blood to the death. The final issue of the Stern/Byrne run, #255, gives us the definitive origin story which is still in use, for the most part, to this day.

Other highlights from the book include Steve Rogers moving to Brooklyn to start establishing his own identity. He gets to know the other tenants in his apartment building, including Bernie Rosenthal, a law student that would be a key player in the Captain America stories of the 1980s. With no mention of his Avengers stipend, Rogers goes to work as a free-lance artist for magazines and other publications. His artist portfolio was large enough to hold his shield, to allow for quick changes into the Captain America costume as necessary.

What makes this Essential?: IBy definition, you should consider this Essential-worthy just to get the Stern-Byrne run on Captain America. BUT, those issues can be found together in various collections, usually under the Captain America: War and Remembrance title, in both hardcover and softcover, and always in color. I would be hard-pressed to name a better run of Captain America issues, so find a way to read them in full color. You’ll thank me later!

Footnotes: Captain America #241 was also reprinted in Essential Punisher Vol. 1.

On a personal note, this volume was the 100th Essential edition read by this reviewer. Finishing this volume is what prompted me to start the Essential Showcase blog back in 2013.

If you like this volume, try: the first Mark Waid and Ron Garney run on Captain America. Following Mark Gruenwald’s long run on the title, the stories (as well as the character) were feeling a little stale. The Waid/Garney run began with #444 (October 1995) and breathed new life into both Steve Rogers and Captain America. Going from #443 to #444 really felt like going from #246 to #247 with Stern/Byrne. The run came to an end with #454, so that the title could be included in the Heroes Reborn launch with WildStorm. The Waid/Garney issues have been collected into a Marvel Premiere Edition titled Captain America: Operation Rebirth, and, most recently, these issues were included in a Captain America Epic collection.

Essential Marvel Two-in-One Vol. 3

Essential Marvel Two-in-One Vol. 3

First Published: July 2009

Contents: Marvel Two-In-One #53 (July 1979) to #76 (June 1981); and Marvel Two-In-One Annual #4 (1979) and #5 (1980)

Key Creator Credits: Mark Gruenwald, Ralph Macchio, John Byrne, George Perez, Ron Wilson, Jerry Bingham, and others

Key First Appearances: Grapplers (Letha, Poundcakes, Screaming Mimi, Titania), Serpent Society (Anaconda, Black Mamba, Death Adder, Sidewinder), Deathurge, Maelstrom,

Story Continues From: Essential Marvel Two-In-One Vol. 2

Story Continues In: Essential Marvel Two-In-One Vol. 4

Overview: Let’s be honest as we start this review. This should not be called a Marvel Two-in-One book. Rather, it should be called Marvel Thing-and-Everyone, as most everyone in the Marvel Universe seems to cross paths with Ben Grimm in the pages of this Essential. With team-ups featuring the Avengers, the Inhumans, the Guardians of the Galaxy and more, you are getting way more than two heroes per book in this series.

This book is notable for the two main story arcs that developed under the leadership of co-writers Mark Gruenwald and Ralph Macchio. The first story arc became known as the Project: Pegasus Saga. The government facility was introduced in the prior Essential (in issues written by Macchio) as an energy research center. The Thing is brought in to help with security, as one of the items in the facility is the Cosmic Cube. (For those of you only familiar with Marvel from the cinematic universe, the Cosmic Cube would be the Tesseract!) As you can imagine, a plethora of foes come through with the intent of claiming the Cosmic Cube, and it is up to the Thing, Quasar, Giant-Man, Thundra and others to keep the facility safe and the cube in place. This story arc introduced a new set of villains known as the Grapplers. Two of the members would become quite prominent later on, as Titania became a feature foe in Secret Wars, and Screaming Mimi would change her name to Songbird and become part of the Thunderbolts and Avengers Forever.

The other story arc that developed was the Serpent Crown Affair. The Serpent Crown has long been floating around between the pages of The Avengers and The Defenders. Worlds have been destroyed over this crazy piece of headwear. This should come as no surprise to anyone at this point, but Ben Grimm finds himself caught up in the middle of it all. Thankfully, this is a team-up book, so he gets help from some of his friends along the way, such as Stingray, Triton, Hyperion, and the Scarlet Witch. And once again, this story arc introduced a new set of villains known as the Serpent Society. Gruenwald would bring back these characters quite often during his legendary run on Captain America.

In addition to these longer story arcs, there are still the traditional one-and-done stories scattered throughout the book. Two of my favorites came towards the end of this book. Issue #75 featured the Thing and the Avengers traveling to the Negative Zone to battle Annihilus and Blastaar. The outcome of this story set up the Negative Zone storyline from John Byrne in the pages of Fantastic Four two years later. The next issue, #76, featured the Thing and Iceman meeting up to stop the Ringmaster and his Circus of Crime. This was a back-issue purchase for me when I first started collecting. I’m showing my age here, but I was a big fan of the Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends Saturday morning show. When 12-year-old me saw this issue, I just had to have it because Iceman was featured in the book. I was a little disappointed when I realized later that neither Spider-Man nor, more importantly, Firestar would be making an appearance.

What makes this Essential?: This is a unique collection. First, as a team-up book, yes it should be essential to own. All of the team-up books from the 1970s and 1980s should be must own. Second, the approach to the comics in this collection is totally turned around. Generally, the team-up book is a one-and-done story, and the creative team may vary from issue to issue. Sometimes, an inventory story is used just to go ahead and clear the files. But with issue #53, Gruenwald and Macchio take over the book as co-writers. They developed an ongoing storyline that stayed within this book, creating multi-issue storylines that would continue to be referenced after the story arc had finished. Their first arc, the Project: Pegasus Saga, was so popular, it was reissued as a trade paperback in 1988. Mind you, at that time, trades were not the standard. They were few and far between back then. Give this collection a look!

Who’s Who:
Marvel Two-In-One #53 – The Thing & Quasar
Marvel Two-In-One #54 – The Thing & Deathlok
Marvel Two-In-One #55 – The Thing & Giant-Man
Marvel Two-In-One #56 – The Thing & Thundra
Marvel Two-In-One #57 – The Thing & Wundarr
Marvel Two-In-One #58 – The Thing & Aquarian 
Marvel Two-In-One Annual #4 – The Thing & Black Bolt
Marvel Two-In-One #59 – The Thing & Human Torch
Marvel Two-In-One #60 – The Thing & Impossible Man  
Marvel Two-In-One #61 – The Thing & Starhawk
Marvel Two-In-One #62 – The Thing & Moondragon
Marvel Two-In-One #63 – The Thing & Warlock
Marvel Two-In-One #64 – The Thing & Stingray
Marvel Two-In-One #65 – The Thing & Triton
Marvel Two-In-One #66 – The Thing & Scarlet Witch
Marvel Two-In-One #67 – The Thing & Hyperion
Marvel Two-In-One #68 – The Thing & the Angel
Marvel Two-In-One #69 – The Thing & the Guardians of the Galaxy
Marvel Two-In-One #70 – The Thing & the Yancy Street Gang
Marvel Two-In-One #71 – The Thing & Mr. Fantastic 
Marvel Two-In-One #72 – The Thing & the Inhumans 
Marvel Two-In-One #73 – The Thing & Quasar
Marvel Two-In-One #74 – The Thing & the Puppet Master
Marvel Two-In-One Annual #5 – The Thing & the Hulk
Marvel Two-In-One #75 – The Thing & the Avengers
Marvel Two-In-One #76 – The Thing & Iceman
Marvel Two-In-One #77 – The Thing & Man-Thing

If you like this volume, try: the Squadron Supreme mini-series from 1985. The 12-issue series was written by Mark Gruenwald, with art by Bob Hall and Paul Ryan. The Squadron Supreme was first introduced in the early 1960s as a Justice League analog to fight the Avengers, then known as the Squadron Sinister. Later, a new Squadron Supreme was introduced as living on a parallel earth to the traditional Marvel Universe. Throughout the 1970s and early 1980s, the Squadron was brought in anytime a writer needed a JLA-type group for a story. In 1985, Gruenwald pitched a concept that would become his most famous work. The Squadron Supreme mini-series had the team of heroes decide that they needed to take over the world in order to rebuild their war-ravaged planet (yes, they had issues with the Serpent Crown here). The majority of the heroes vote to create the perfect Utopia, even if it means that some citizens must sacrifice their personal liberties. However, even the best of intentions can fall short. The Batman analog, Nighthawk, opposed the Utopia plan, and left the team, eventually building his own team (of former villains) to oppose the Squadron. The Green Arrow analog, Golden Archer, abused the power available to him to get a teammate to love him. The series finishes with the two sides in an all-out war to decide the future of Earth. Overall, this is an intriguing look at what could happen if the superheroes were real. This came out in the same era as Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns, helping to change how superhero stories could be told. Squadron Supreme has remained in print over the years, in various trade paperback, hardcover, and omnibus collections. This should be a must-read for any comic fan.

Essential Spider-Man Vol. 9

Essential Spider-Man Vol. 9

First Published: May 2009

Contents: Amazing Spider-Man #186 (November 1978) to #210 (November 1980); Amazing Spider-Man Annual #13 (1979) and #14 (1980); and Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man Annual #1 (1979)

Key Creator Credits: Marv Wolfman, Denny O’Neil, Keith Pollard, John Byrne, Sal Buscema, John Romita Jr., and others

Key First Appearances:  Felecia Hardy/Black Cat, Deb Whitman, Calypso, Cassandra Webb/Madame Web

Story Continues From: Essential Spider-Man Vol. 8

Story Continues In: Essential Spider-Man Vol. 10

Overview: With this publishing of this post, this will be the 14th Essential that features Peter Parker as Spider-Man. I think we all know the “Great Power, Great Responsibility” origin that got Peter into the costume business. Let’s skip the recap and get right into learning about Essential Spider-Man Vol. 9.

We all know that Peter Parker is a free-lance photographer for one of New York City’s most distinguished newspapers, the Daily Globe. Wait, what’s that? What happened to the Daily Bugle? Well, once again, J. Jonah Jameson fired Peter Parker due to a missed assignment. But before he could be hired back, Peter took his services and photos over to the Daily Globe. Setting Peter up in a new newsroom gave Peter a whole new set of characters to interact with.

Speaking of new characters, Peter gets a pair of new women in his life that are stretching him in all directions. First, there is Deb Whitman, a fellow student at Empire State that has the dreamy eyes for Peter Parker. She makes a great lab partner, but she just can’t take the hint when Peter’s spider-sense starts tingling. On the opposite side, we meet Felicia Hardy, a.k.a. the Black Cat. Is she a villain? Is she a misunderstood hero at heart? What makes this romance interesting is that the Black Cat has the dreamy eyes for Spider-Man and only Spider-Man. In fact, she finds Peter Parker to be very boring. She just wants her Spider in costume and has a hard time respecting the secret identity that Peter does his best to maintain.

The last volume ended with a large complex Green Goblin story so that villain goes into limbo for awhile. So we get some good appearances from Doctor Octopus, Electro, Mysterio, Mesmero, and more. And with Amazing Spider-Man still being the core title of the Marvel Universe, you can count on numerous guest appearances, such as Dazzler, the Human Fly, and the Punisher.

What makes this Essential?: Change is good, right? EMBRACE CHANGE, PEOPLE! OK, these are some of the most creative issues of Amazing Spider-Man since some guy named Stan Lee wrote the book. Not a knock on anyone that has written the book between then and now, but writer Marv Wolfman was not afraid to try new things with Peter Parker and his costumed alter-ego. The new employer, new love interests, both in and out of costume. And while we are boldly moving forward in new directions, Wolfman takes us back to the very beginning, questioning why the burglar would even be wanting to invade Ben and May Parker’s home all those years ago in Amazing Fantasy #15. When Wolfman ends his two-year run on the title, he hands over the duties to Denny O’Neil, who knows a thing or two about telling a good comic story. And if you need yet another reason to pick this up, we get the start of the John Romita, Jr. run with Spider-Man, that would run throughout the early 1980s and be picked back up again in the late 1990s. You would be hard pressed to find a bad Spider-Man book that has a Romita (Sr. or Jr.) attached to it.

Footnotes: Amazing Spider-Man #201 and #202 were also reprinted in Essential Punisher Vol. 1.

Amazing Spider-Man #203 was also reprinted in Essential Dazzler Vol. 1.

Amazing Spider-Man Annual #13 and Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man Annual #1 were also reprinted in Essential Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man Vol. 2.

Amazing Spider-Man Annual #12 (1978) was not reprinted in this Essential or the previous volume. Annual #12 featured reprints of Amazing Spider-Man #119 and #120, which can be found in Essential Spider-Man Vol. 6.

If you like this volume, try: the Spider-Man: Brand New Day storyline from 2008. OK, I know that a lot of fans were not happy with how Marvel was handling the Spider-Man books in this era. The previous storyline, One More Day, magically ended the Peter and Mary Jane’s marriage, which proved to be a jumping off point for a lot of readers. Following that event, Marvel retooled the Spider-Man line of books. Sensational Spider-Man and Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man were canceled, and Amazing Spider-Man started coming out three times per month. Marvel formed a creative team (Dan Slott, Marc Guggenheim, Bob Gale, & Zeb Wells) to provide the direction for Peter Parker. In this new reality, Peter Parker’s identity is a secret to the world once again; he’s single and living with his Aunt May. The Daily Bugle is struggling financially, and a new investor buys out J. Jonah Jameson and turns the paper into a tabloid. Spider-Man fights a mix of new and returning villains in these issues. Reading the Brand New Day story arc really reminded me of the Spider-Man era reprinted in this Essential — a lot of energy in the title, a mix of old and new, and willingness to take chances by changing the status quo. The Brand New Day story has been reprinted in numerous collections, so it should not be hard to track down.