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.

Showcase Presents The House of Secrets Vol. 1

Showcase Presents The House of Secrets Vol. 1

First Published: August 2008

Contents: The House of Secrets #81 (August-September 1969) to #98 (June-July 1972)

Key Creator Credits: Sergio Aragonés, Neal Adams, Bernie Wrightson, Alex Toth, Marv Wolfman, Len Wein, Gerry Conway, Dick Dillin, Michael William Kaluta, Gray Morrow, and others

Key First Appearances: Swamp Thing

Story Continues In: Showcase Presents The House of Secrets Vol. 2

Overview: Do you dare enter the House of Secrets? It’s a strange house, filled with locked rooms, dusty corridors, a musty basement, and a mysterious attic. It also inspires a lot of stories of ghosts, demons, and witches.

Not to sound like I am repeating myself here, but the origins of this title are the same as The House of Mystery. In 1968, industry veteran Joe Orlando was brought in from EC Comics to take over the editor duties of numerous books at DC, including the horror line. The content took a darker tone, as Orlando introduced the EC-story style which was pushing the boundaries of the Comics Code Authority. The House of Secrets was revived as a title to serve alongside The House of Mystery.

The comic is hosted by Abel, the caretaker of the house, who introduces a lot of the stories and talks to his imaginary friend Goldie. (Abel’s brother Cain was the host for The House of Mystery.) The stories range from 4-12 pages, so each issue has 4-5 features each month. There is no continuity between the stories, so these can be read in any order.

The highlight of this book is issue #92 (July 1971), in which the Swamp Thing makes his first appearance in comics. This Swamp Thing is Alex Olsen; the more recognizable Alec Holland Swamp Thing would debut in 1972  in Swamp Thing #1.

Why should these stories be Showcased?: For these anthology titles, it’s hard to strongly recommend or strongly downplay this collection. Given the wide variety of stories, there is probably something in this volume that a reader will really enjoy and something in this volume that will bore a reader. It’s worth a look given the incredible talents working on this book. I don’t know that this is a must-own volume, but I don’t think you will be disappointed if you do own it.

Cover Girl: The cover to The House of Secrets #92 is used for the cover of this Showcase Presents. The cover by Bernie Wrightson shows the Swamp Thing approaching a young woman. That young woman was modeled by Louise Jones, who would later become the popular Marvel writer and editor Louise Simonson.

Footnotes: The House of Secrets was not always a home just for horror tales. In the issues prior to those collected in this Showcase Presents edition, The House of Secrets was an anthology title, including a long run of Eclipso stories from issue #61 to #80 (reprinted in Showcase Presents Eclipso Vol. 1). The House of Secrets was canceled with issue #80 in 1966 but was revived three years later, keeping the same issue numbering, as a horror title.

“The Day After Doomsday…” stories from The House of Secrets #86, #95, and #97 were also reprinted in Showcase Presents The Great Disaster Vol. 1.

If you like this volume, try: researching the career of artist Alex Toth, who has some stories collected in this Showcase Presents. Toth is a legendary artist from the Golden and Silver Age of comics but is perhaps more recognized for his work done with tv animation. Toth was involved in the creation of Space Ghost, the Herculoids, Birdman, and even Super Friends. His comic career spanned multiple decades, which included stops at DC, Marvel, Dell, Gold Key, Standard, and Warren Publishing. While Toth did do some superhero stories, the bulk of his comic book resume was spent working on horror, romance, war and other genres which interested him. Although Toth passed away in 2006, his art still lives on. IDW has been publishing a series of books (Genius, Isolated in 2011; Genius, Illustrated in 2013; and Genius, Animated in 2014) showcasing the legacy of Alex Toth. 

Essential Doctor Strange Vol. 3

First Published: December 2007

Contents: Doctor Strange #1 (June 1974) to #29 (June 1978); Doctor Strange Annual #1 (1976); and The Tomb of Dracula #44 (May 1976) and #45 (June 1976)

Key Creator Credits: Steve Englehart, Marv Wolfman, Gene Colon, Frank Brunner, Jim Starlin, Roger Stern, Tom Sutton, and others

Key First Appearances: Silver Dagger, Gaea, Domini

Story Continues From: Essential Doctor Strange Vol. 2

Story Continues In: Essential Doctor Strange Vol. 4

Overview: As a part of the Marvel Universe for over 10 years, Doctor Strange served as the co-star of Strange Tales, which was later renamed (but not renumbered) as Doctor Strange; he was the focus of attention in Marvel Feature and Marvel Premiere; and he helped found a non-team in the Defenders. But it took until 1974 for Doctor Strange to finally get what every hero craves – a #1 issue!

Having finished his run in Marvel Premiere, Doctor Strange once again got his own bi-monthly title with the same creative team of Steve Englehart and Frank Brunner. But the title really picks up when Gene Colon returns to the title with issue #6.

There are some interesting stories in this volume. Doctor Strange becomes the last man alive, as the Earth is destroyed and then replaced with an exact duplicate. Doctor Strange travels to Boston where he encounters Dracula to save Wong from becoming a vampire. And who else could defeat Doctor Strange but a Doctor Stranger. Thankfully, Doctor Strange still has friends like Clea, the Ancient One, and Nighthawk to stand by his side as he faces down these new challenges.

What makes this Essential?: I do try to be original for each one of these reviews. But I run the risk of repeating myself with this review. So, I’m still not a big fan of Doctor Strange. But the art of this volume, in particular that of Gene Colan, is simply spectacular. I think that the black & white format actually enhances the art. This volume could serve as a primer for aspiring artists looking to understand page layouts and characters forms. The stories seem rather average against the artwork – for all of the talk about current writers stretching out stories for the trades, they should read some of these stories.

Footnotes: Doctor Strange #3 contains reprints of Doctor Strange stories from Strange Tales #126 and #127, framed with new pages. These Strange Tales stories were previously reprinted in Essential Doctor Strange Vol. 1.

Doctor Strange #14 and The Tomb of Dracula #44 and #45 were also reprinted in Essential Tomb of Dracula Vol. 2.

Doctor Strange #21 is a reprint of Doctor Strange #169, which retells the origin of Doctor Strange. This story was previously reprinted in Essential Doctor Strange Vol. 2.

If you like this volume, try: exploring the works of P. Craig Russell. Serving as the artist of Doctor Strange Annual #1 in this volume was one of Russell’s earliest jobs in comics. Over the years, he has been a modern master of the art, which a very distinct look and creative layouts. Russell is known for incorporating operatic themes into his work across multiple publishers and decades. He had a memorable run with Killraven, which can be found in Essential Killraven Vol. 1. Russell’s most recent work includes a two-volume graphic novel adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book.

Essential Marvel Two-in-One Vol. 2

Essential Marvel Two-in-One Vol. 2

First Published: June 2007

Contents: Marvel Two-In-One #26 (April 1977) to #52 (June 1979); and Marvel Two-In-One Annual #2 (1977) and #3 (1978)

Key Creator Credits: Marv Wolfman, John Byrne, Bill Mantlo, Jim Starlin, John Buscema, Sal Buscema, Ron Wilson, and others

Key First Appearances: Machinesmith, Crossfire, Lord Chaos, Master Order

Story Continues From: Essential Marvel Two-In-One Vol. 1

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

Overview: Welcome back to the continuing adventures of Aunt Petunia’s favorite nephew, Ben Grimm, known better to the world as the Thing.

As with any team-up book, this is a very mixed collection of stories. Some stories are one-and-done, while others run across multiple issues. Sometimes editorial would step in and insert a filler issue into the run, as it had already been paid for yet not published. As a member of the Fantastic Four, Ben Grimm seems to be a nexus of events that happen in the Marvel Universe, which works to our benefit as readers!

There are some stand-out stories in this collection worth noting:

  • From issues #29 to #33, Ben Grimm and Alicia Masters travels to England, where they get caught up in the early adventures of the Jessica Drew Spider-Woman.
  • Marvel Two-in-One Annual #2 is a continuation of a story started in Avengers Annual #7, with the Avengers battling Thanos. Regrettably, Marvel did not reprint the Avengers Annual in this collection, but it can be found in Essential Avengers Vol. 8 and in Essential Warlock Vol. 1.
  • Issue #47 has the Thing “teaming up” with the Yancy Street Gang, the gang which Ben was once a member of many years ago. Over the years, the gang has gone out of their way to play pranks and other tricks on Ben. But when the Thing is attacked, the Yancy Street Gang comes out of the shadows to protect one of their own.
  • Issue #50 was a fun meeting between the Thing and the Thing. Ben Grimm uses Dr. Doom’s time machine to travel back to the early days of the Fantastic Four. There he encounters himself during his lumpy clay phase. Of course, clobberin’ time ensues. This issue is written and penciled by John Byrne, marking one of his earliest encounters with a member of Marvel’s First Family of heroes. (Byrne also did the pencils on issue #43.)

What makes this Essential?: I’ve said it before, and I will say it again: Team-Up Books are MUST OWN! This volume is unique with Marv Wolfman’s long run on the title. He had the chance to develop stories running across multiple issues, helping to invest the reader to return each month regardless of the guest star. There are some memorable moments that impacted the Marvel Universe – Spider-Woman’s beginnings, battle with Thanos – not normally seen in the typical team-up book. Please give this a read to understand while Ben Grimm is the idol of millions!

Footnotes: As noted in the review for Volume 1, the Fantastic Four and Alicia Masters make numerous appearances in these issues, and could be read side by side with the Fantastic Four title during this era – keep Essential Fantastic Four Vol. 8 and Essential Fantastic Four Vol. 9 handy while reading this book.

Who’s Who / Reprinted Elsewhere:
Marvel Two-In-One #26 – The Thing & Nick Fury
Marvel Two-In-One #27 – The Thing & Deathlok
Marvel Two-In-One #28 – The Thing & the Sub-Mariner
Marvel Two-In-One #29 – The Thing & Shang-Chi, Master of Kung Fu / Essential Spider-Woman Vol. 1
Marvel Two-In-One #30 – The Thing & Spider-Woman / Essential Spider-Woman Vol. 1
Marvel Two-In-One #31 – The Thing & Mystery Menace (Alicia Masters) / Essential Spider-Woman Vol. 1
Marvel Two-In-One #32 – The Thing & Invisible Girl / Essential Spider-Woman Vol. 1
Marvel Two-In-One #33 – The Thing & Modred the Mystic / Essential Spider-Woman Vol. 1Essential Marvel Horror Vol. 2
Marvel Two-In-One #34 – The Thing & Nighthawk
Marvel Two-In-One #35 – The Thing & Skull the Slayer
Marvel Two-In-One #36 – The Thing & Mr. Fantastic
Marvel Two-In-One Annual #2 – The Thing & Spider-Man (with the Avengers) / Essential Avengers Vol. 8 / Essential Warlock Vol. 1
Marvel Two-In-One #37 – The Thing & Matt Murdock
Marvel Two-In-One #38 – The Thing & Daredevil
Marvel Two-In-One #39 – The Thing & the Vision
Marvel Two-In-One #40 – The Thing & Black Panther
Marvel Two-In-One #41 – The Thing & Brother Voodoo
Marvel Two-In-One #42 – The Thing & Captain America
Marvel Two-In-One #43 – The Thing & Man-Thing / Essential Man-Thing Vol. 2
Marvel Two-In-One Annual #3 – The Thing & Nova / Essential Nova Vol. 1
Marvel Two-In-One #44 – The Thing & Hercules
Marvel Two-In-One #45 – The Thing & Captain Marvel
Marvel Two-In-One #46 – The Thing & the Incredible Hulk
Marvel Two-In-One #47 – The Thing & the Yancy Street Gang
Marvel Two-In-One #48 – The Thing & Jack of Hearts
Marvel Two-In-One #49 – The Thing & Dr. Strange
Marvel Two-In-One #50 – The Thing & the Thing
Marvel Two-In-One #51 – The Thing & the Beast, Ms. Marvel, Nick Fury, and Wonder Man
Marvel Two-In-One #52 – The Thing & Moon Knight / Essential Moon Knight Vol. 1

If you like this volume, try: tracking down a copy of Fantastic Four (vol. 3) #61 (November 2002). In this story by Mark Waid and Mike Wieringo, Ben Grimm is once again the victim of the Yancy Street Gang – or so he thinks! Turns out that most of the pranks he has fallen for over the years were masterminded by Ben’s teammate, Johnny Storm. Finding a receipt for the shop that sent him the latest prank (a pie in the face), Ben stomps off in a mad rage, ready to clobberin’ time the guilty party. Johnny flies after Ben, trying to slow him down and get him to cool off. Ben finally reaches the address on the receipt to find a completely empty lot. He lumbers off, puzzled by how there could be a completely empty lot in the middle of New York City. Only after the fact does he realize it must have been the Invisible Girl hiding the business, saving the Fantastic Four a costly damage bill from another of Ben’s rampages. Waid proves once again why he is a master storyteller, and the energetic art from Wieringo – gone too soon – just leaps off the page. This is a fun story and worth the hunt in the back-issue bin.

Essential Spider-Man Vol. 8

Essential Spider-Man Vol. 8

Essential Spider-Man Vol. 8

First Published: April 2007

Contents: Amazing Spider-Man #161 (October 1976) to #185 (October 1978); Amazing Spider-Man Annual #11 (1977); Giant Size Spider-Man #6 (1975); and Nova #12 (August 1977)

Key Creator Credits: Len Wein, Ross Andru, Marv Wolfman, and others

Key First Appearances:  Jigsaw, Dr. Marla Madison, Dr. Bart Hamilton/Green Goblin (III), Will-O’-The-Wisp, Rocket Racer, Big Wheel, Phillip Chang

Story Continues From: Essential Spider-Man Vol. 7

Story Continues In: Essential Spider-Man Vol. 9

Overview: Stop me if you heard this before. Bitten by a radioactive spider, Peter Parker gains the abilities and powers to mimic said spider. Learning the hard way that with great powers comes great responsibilities, Peter dons a red-and-blue costume to fight crime, stop villains, and raise J. Jonah Jameson’s blood pressure as the amazing Spider-Man. So, let’s find out what’s going on in Essential Spider-Man Vol. 8.

As one of Marvel’s most popular comics, it was a natural place for characters to make a cameo appearance. Maybe you are a new character gaining popularity, but not quite popular enough yet to support your own book – Punisher, we’re watching you! Sometimes you need a crossover to help boost the sales of another book, as we see with a crossover with Nova. Sometimes you just want to introduce a new character, thinking that they will be the next big Marvel star, but they fall far short of glory. Let’s just say I will never be reviewing Essential Rocket Racer Vol. 1 for multiple reasons.

The core story from this volume is the return of Green Goblin. But this Goblin is not an Osborn! We find out that Harry Osborn had been undergoing counseling with Dr. Bart Hamilton. As secrets come to light during the sessions, Hamilton learns of the dark Osborn legacy, and uses his new-found knowledge to become the next Green Goblin, albeit without the strength-enhancing drug. The new Green Goblin starts a war against Silvermane, which leads Harry Osborn to put back on his Goblin costume. As for our hero, Spider-Man is caught in the middle of all of this!

The volume concludes with Peter finally graduating college, or so we think. Does a villain show up to disrupt the ceremony? Is Aunt May confined to a hospital bed fighting off death? What could possibly keep Peter from graduating? Read this volume and find out!

What makes this Essential?: This is a solid collection of Spider-Man stories, but I don’t know that I would say this is truly essential to read to understand Spider-Man. Len Wein finishes up his long run on the title with the introduction of a new Green Goblin, before handing over the reigns to Marv Wolfman. Ross Andru completes a five-year stretch on the title (see below). While this may have been Marvel’s flagship title of this era, I don’t think that this was the best that Marvel was putting out on the newsstand at that time. If you are a Spider-Man fan, then pick this up. For the casual Marvel fan, this may be one to pass on.

Footnotes: Amazing Spider-Man #161, #162, #174, and #175 were also reprinted in Essential Punisher Vol. 1.

Nova #12 and Amazing Spider-Man #171 were also reprinted in Essential Nova Vol. 1.

Giant Size Spider-Man #6 is a reprint of Amazing Spider-Man Annual #4, which was reprinted in Essential Spider-Man Vol. 3 or Essential Spider-Man Vol. 4 (depending on which edition you read). The cover to Giant Size Spider-Man #6 is included in this volume.

If you like this volume, try: looking at some of Ross Andru’s other books. Andru worked for nearly 50 years in comics, primarily for DC and Marvel. In the 1950s, he was one of DC’s go-to artists for the many war comics on the racks. In the 1960s, he had lengthy runs on Wonder Woman, Metal Men, The Flash, and others. The 1970s saw Andru move over to Marvel, where he helped bring about the Defenders and the early issues of Marvel Team-Up. That led to a five-year run on the Amazing Spider-Man, which that run concludes in this Essential. My personal opinion is that Andru does not get the recognition that he deserves, It’s is Andru’s version of Spider-Man that comes to mind when someone mentions the character to me.

Essential Ghost Rider Vol. 1

First Published: October 2005

Contents: Marvel Spotlight #5 (August 1972) to #12 (October 1973); Ghost Rider #1 (September 1973) to #20 (October 1976); and Daredevil #138 (October 1976)

Key Creator Credits: Roy Thomas, Gary Friedrich, Mike Ploog, Tom Sutton, Tony Isabella, Jim Mooney, George Tuska, Frank Robbins, Marv Wolfman, John Byrne, and others

Key First Appearances: Johnny Blaze/Ghost Rider, Roxanne Simpson/Katy Milner, Crash Simpson, Daimon Hellstrom/Son of Satan 

Story Continues In: Essential Ghost Rider Vol. 2

Overview:  Johnny Blaze is a motorcycle daredevil with a traveling road show. When the owner of the show, Crash Simpson, announces he is dying from cancer, Blaze seeks out and strikes a deal with Devil for his soul in an attempt to save Crash. The Devil accepts, but like any deal with Satan, the deal works against Blaze. Crash is saved from cancer but still dies in a stunt accident. As part of his deal, Johnny Blaze is transformed into a mystical servant of Hell, known as the Ghost Rider.

The early stories deal with Blaze trying to free his soul from the control of Satan. This leads to the introduction of the devil’s estranged offspring, Daimon Hellstrom, who would become an anti-hero in his own right as the Son of Satan.

Eventually, Blaze gets his soul released, but he still retains the Ghost Rider abilities. Early on, his transformations occurred at dusk, but now Blaze finds that he can now control the transition for anytime day or night. He can also extend his powers to create a flaming motorcycle out of the hellfire at his control.

In the later issues, Blaze starts working in Hollywood as a stuntman on a television show, where he meets the actress Karen Page. For longtime Marvel readers, you will recall Page as the one-time secretary of lawyer Matt Murdock. So it’s only natural that Ghost Rider would cross paths with Daredevil, the man without fear, which is exactly what happens as this volume concludes.

What makes this Essential?: I will be the first to admit that I have never been a Ghost Rider fan. I held off getting this book for as long as I possibly could, just out my general dislike for the character. What I found reading the early stories of Johnny Blaze is a far different Ghost Rider than the one that gained such popularity in the 1990s. This Ghost Rider seems more human, whose initial changes were brought on by the setting and rising of the sun. He’s a true anti-hero, never viewing himself as a super-hero; just much more interested in riding his bike at the next show. Based on his history in the Marvel Universe, the Ghost Rider is an important hero to read. But the Ghost Rider in these stories is much different than the Ghost Rider you picture in your head. 

Footnotes: Marvel Spotlight #12, and Ghost Rider #1 & #2 are also reprinted in Essential Marvel Horror Vol. 1.

Ghost Rider #10 is a reprint of Marvel Spotlight #5. The cover to Ghost Rider #10 is included in this volume. In the letter column in Ghost Rider #11, it was revealed that the cover for issue #10 went to press before Marvel realized that the issue would not be ready in time.

Ghost Rider #19 & #20, and Daredevil #138 are also reprinted in Essential Daredevil Vol. 6.

There are two early Ghost Rider appearances that are not collected in this volume, but they can be found in other Essential volumes. Marvel Team-Up #15 (November 1973) can be found in Essential Marvel Team-Up Vol. 1, and Marvel Two-in-One #8 (March 1975) can be found in Essential Marvel Two-in-One Vol. 1. In my opinion, both should have been included, given the number of references to those stories in the Ghost Rider title. In particular, the Marvel Team-Up issue features the first appearance of The Orb, who returns as a foe in Ghost Rider #14 and #15.

If you like this volume, try: Marvel’s first team of heroes in California, The Champions. Created by Tony Isabella to feature Angel, Iceman, and Black Goliath, it was retooled without Black Goliath and with the additions of Black Widow, Hercules, and Ghost Rider. Given the diverse line-up of the team, there were a lot of wild adventures during the team’s all-too-short 17 issue run. The Champions #1 (October 1975) debuted during the period covered in this Essential Ghost Rider, and several issues make references to his adventures with the team. While the entire series is collected in two Classic volumes, this is a series that shows up frequently in back issue bins. Make a point to track this series down!

Essential Luke Cage, Power Man Vol. 2

Essential Luke Cage, Power Man Vol. 2

First Published: August 2006

Contents: Power Man #28 (December 1975) to #49 (February 1978); and Power Man Annual #1 (1976)

Key Creator Credits: Don McGregor, Marv Wolfman, Chris Claremont, George Tuska, Sal Buscema, Lee Elias, Frank Robbins, Marie Severin, John Byrne, and others

Key First Appearances: Cockroach Hamilton, Goldbug

Story Continues From: Essential Luke Cage, Power Man Vol. 1 

Story Continues In: Essential Power Man & Iron Fist Vol. 1

Overview: The Hero for Hire, Luke Cage, is back for more cash in the newest Essential volume. Let’s be honest here, being a super-hero is expensive work. Not all heroes get a stipend from the Stark Foundation or live off of the royalties from the patent for unstable molecules to be used to make uniforms. Paying rent, buying food, and replacing those yellow silk shirts torn up in battle adds up quick for a struggling hero. Of course, you have to charge a fee for your services.

Luke Cage remains a hero of the people, working out of his office above a Times Square movie theater. He fights a lot of run of the mill one-and-done villains created specifically for this title. Outside of a fight against Moses Magnum in Power Man Annual #1, his villains do not make many, if any, appearances in any other books.

As the book comes to an end, Cage finds a lot of familiar faces from his past coming back to confront him. Crossing paths with the kung-fu hero, Iron Fist, Luke Cage is finally able to clear his name, making him a free man for the first time in many years. The two agree that working together benefits both of them, and a new super-hero duo is formed. But like any other story, that is a tale to be continued….

What makes this Essential?: This book is a step up from the first volume, but not nearly as good as it will become with Essential Power Man & Iron Fist Vol. 1, The second half of the book, under the direction of first Marv Wolfman and then Chris Claremont, starts to finally find it’s place focusing on an urban hero and not just an urban black hero. The art is serviceable, but not memorable by any means. If you are a fan of Luke Cage, this is worth the read. But I would not consider it essential to have in your collection.

Footnotes: Power Man #36 is a reprint of a story originally featured in Hero for Hire #12. The new cover for #36 is included in this Essential

Giant-Size Power Man #1 (1975) is a reprint collection of stories originally featured in Hero for Hire #14 to #16. The cover is included in this Essential.

Power Man #48 and #49 are also reprinted in Essential Iron Fist Vol. 1.

If you like this volume, try: the New Avengers books from the last decade. When Brian Michael Bendis relaunched the Avengers in the mid-2000s, he brought in a new line-up (Luke Cage, Spider-Woman, Spider-Man, Wolverine, and others) to fill the spots around Captain America and Iron Man. At that time, Luke Cage had become a peripheral character in the Marvel Universe, brought to an event to help fill out the background of a large super-hero crowd scene. Over the run of the New Avengers title, Luke Cage became one of the core members of this line-up, to a point where he became the team leader. New Avengers ruffled the feathers of a lot of long-time Avengers readers, but the non-traditional line-up allowed for some interesting storylines. This has been collected multiple times in trade paperbacks, hardcovers, and omnibus editions, so it should be easy to find these stories.