Essential Black Panther Vol. 1

First Published: May 2012

Contents: Jungle Action #6 (September 1973) to #22 (July 1976), and #24 (November 1976); and Black Panther #1 (January 1977) to #10 (July 1978)

Key Creator Credits: Don McGregor, Rich Buckler, Gil Kane, Billy Graham, Keith Pollard, Jack Kirby, and others

Key First Appearances: Erik Killmonger, Venomm, Mister Little, Princess Zanda, N’Gassi,

Overview: Coming in on a 12:30 flight, we are taking a journey to the land of Wakanda on the African continent. A country built on Vibranium, a rare and powerful element that makes this small country one of the most important ones in all of the world, which in turn brings a lot of threats and dangers to the land. This is Essential Black Panther!

For years, we’ve known of the Black Panther as a supporting character. First introduced in the pages of Fantastic Four, he was a member of the Avengers for many years. Now, we see Black Panther return home, to handle the responsibilities of leading his country.

This collection is broken up nicely into two distinct runs. In the first run, writer Don McGregor, with art from the likes of Rich Buckler and Billy Graham, gives us two great storylines that show the range of the Black Panther character. The Panther’s Rage storyline has Black Panther fighting off a challenge to his throne by Erik Killmonger. The story runs across Africa, from deserts to jungles to waterfalls and caves, Black Panther stands up to the challenges of Killmonger and Venomm to protect his land.

The second storyline from McGregor has T’Challa returning to the United States with his girlfriend Monica Lynne, only to encounter the racist threats of the Ku Klux Klan. This is a powerful story arc on a subject that doesn’t get enough coverage in comics.

The second run in this collection comes to us from the mind of Jack Kirby, so sit back and enjoy the run. During his return to Marvel in the mid-1970s, Kirby was given complete control over his projects and went balls-to-the-wall with everything he did, with titles like Captain America, The Eternals, 2001, and Devil Dinosaur. But my favorite run in this period is his work on Black Panther. He takes Black Panther on a wild journey, chasing after King Solomon’s Frog that can travel through time or bringing in his cousins to protect Wakanda from the radioactive Jakarra. These may not be the greatest Black Panther stories, but they have to be the most fun Black Panther stories.

What makes this Essential?: These are some must-read stories for the Black Panther character, but I don’t know that this is the best collection to read these stories. I would have liked to have seen the Black Panther’s first appearance reprinted in this collection, or even his origin story. You can track those down in other Essentials, but it would have been nice to have them in this book, too. The final five issues of the 1977 run (including Jack Kirby’s final three issues!) are not included here. You cannot even find them in an Essential. I truly believe that Black Panther should have been done in two Essential volumes, to include all of these missing issues.

My other issue is the printing process for this collection. With a character that where’s a black costume, reprinting the story in black and white makes these stories hard to read at times. This is one of those rare times when I wished I had read all of these stories in a color edition.

With all of that said, I do really like these stories. This was the first time that Black Panther got to stand on his own as the lead character in a title or in his own self-titled book. The current success of the character would not be possible without these stories laying the groundwork to establish T’Challa as an A-list hero.

Footnotes: Jungle Action started as a reprint comic. Jungle Action #5 starts the Black Panther run in the title, reprinting Avengers #62, which told the Black Panther’s origin (see Essential Avengers Vol. 3). Jungle Action #23 was a reprint of Daredevil #69 (see Essential Daredevil Vol. 3). The covers to issues #5 and #23 are included in this collection.

The 1977 Black Panther series ran for 15 issues. Kirby stayed on the book through issue #13. The series was cancelled, but the storyline was finished up in Marvel Premiere #51-#53. Those issues of Black Panther and Marvel Premiere can be found in the Black Panther Marvel Masterworks Vol. 2.

If you like this volume, try: any of the following choices. There are so many great options when it comes to tales involving the Black Panther.

  • The first choice has to be the Christopher Priest run of Black Panther from 1998 to 2003. This originally started out as part of the Marvel Knights imprint, but moved over into the main Marvel publishing group with issued #13. You cannot mention Black Panther without mentioning Priest’s name. So much of what we think of with T’Challa, Wakanda and all things Black Panther were introduced in this series. The entire series was recently collected in four Black Panther by Christopher Priest: The Complete Collection trade paperbacks.
  • The Black Panther series that followed the Priest run is great too. There is a period around 2007 when Reginald Hudlin was writing Black Panther and Dwayne McDuffie was writing Fantastic Four. During the Initiative storyline, Black Panther and his then-wife Storm were serving as members of the Fantastic Four, replacing Reed and Sue. There are a lot of fun stories in each title, and the time-traveling Brass Frogs make a re-appearance.
  • Finally, it would be hard to imagine anyone not having viewed it yet, but the 2018 Black Panther movie is a must watch. If you have not seen this movie, stop reading this blog and go watch it. If you have seen the movie, finish reading the blog and then go watch it again. This may be one of the most visually-stunning Marvel movies to date, and it is both a critical and box-office success.

Showcase Presents Jonah Hex Vol. 2

First Published: March 2014

Contents: Jonah Hex stories from Weird Western Tales #34 (May-June 1976) to #38 (January-February 1977); and Jonah Hex #1 (March-April 1977) to #22 (March 1979)

Key Creator Credits: Michael Fleisher, Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, Ernie Chan, Rich Buckler, Vicente Alcazar, and others

Key First Appearances: El Papagayo, Woodson Hex,

Story Continues From: Showcase Presents Jonah Hex Vol. 1

Overview: He was a hero to some, a villain to others… and wherever he rode, people spoke his name in whispers. He had no friends, this Jonah Hex, but he did have two companions: one was Death itself… the other, the acrid smell of gunsmoke…. This is Showcase Presents Jonah Hex Vol. 2.

Once again, we are treated to mostly one-and-done stories in this collection, but there is some continuation from time to time with the stories. We do get to delve into more of the origins of Jonah Hex. We find out that Jonah was sold to an Apache tribe by his own father. He was raised like one of their own and became a man at age 16 according to tribe custom. Unfortunately, the tribe leader’s son Noh-Tante grew jealous of the attention that Jonah was receiving from the young women, specifically White Fawn, of the tribe. Noh-Tante eventually betrayed Jonah, leaving him captured with a tribe of Kiowa Indians.

Years later, Jonah returned to his Apache tribe to find that Noh-Tante and White Fawn were man and wife. Jonah told the chief of Noh-Tante’s actions and had the chance to face him in combat. Noh-Tante sabotaged Jonah’s tomahawk, and he was forced to use a knife to defend himself by killing Noh-Tante. The tribe chief had Jonah’s face branded with the mark of the demon and banished him from the tribe with the threat of death if he was ever to return.

Of course, Jonah would return at some point, but it would be White Fawn who is ultimately punished by the chief for helping Jonah escape. Jonah kills the chief and most of the tribe as he leaves for the last time.

Why should these stories be Showcased?: I definitely appreciated this volume more than Volume 1. My complaint with the last collection is that most of those stories could be told with any of DC’s western characters. They were western stories that happened to feature Jonah Hex. With this collection, we get Jonah Hex stories, and the world needs more Jonah Hex!

If you like this volume, try: watching some of Jonah’s appearances in the DC Animated Universe. Jonah Hex has been featured in Batman: The Animated Series (Showdown), Justice League Unlimited (The Once and Future Thing Part 1), and Batman: The Brave and the Bold (Return of the Fearsome Fangs, Duel of the Double Crossers, The Siege of Starro! Part 1). Earlier this year, Jonah Hex was even featured on an episode of Justice League Action (All Aboard the Space Train). In that feature, Jonah must team up with Space Cabbie to stop Kanjar Ro from robbing a space train. Typing this out makes no sense, I know, but that’s part of the charm of Jonah Hex. I would watch animated Jonah Hex over and over for the rest of my life before ever watching the live-action film from 2010 again.

Showcase Presents DC Comics Presents: The Superman Team-Ups Vol. 2

supermanteamup2First Published: July 2013

Contents: DC Comics Presents #27 (November 1980) to #50 (October 1982); and DC Comics Presents Annual #1 (1982)

Key Creator Credits: Martin Pasko, Len Wein, Jim Starlin, Gerry Conway, Paul Levitz, Rich Buckler, Roy Thomas, Curt Swan, Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, Irv Novick, Paul Kupperberg, and others

Key First Appearances: Mongul, Waldo Flynn, Alexander Luthor, Lois Lane-Luthor

Story Continues From: Showcase Presents DC Comics Presents: The Superman Team-Ups Vol. 1

Overview: Superman can be a tricky character to write. As silly as that may sound, give it some thought. In the Bronze Age, Superman was an all-powerful character. Outside of magic or kryptonite, what threats are there to stop or slow down a guy like Superman? Quite honestly, given his powers and abilities, why would Superman ever need to team up with any other hero? That’s a good question, one which was answered each and every month in the pages of DC Comics Presents.

The stories in this volume are a mix of different stories, with one-and-done issues with offbeat co-stars (the Joker, the Masters of the Universe, Dial H for Hero) to multi-part stories (Shazam Family).

The highlight in this volume is the multi-issue arc that starts this collection. Superman is introduced to a new villain in the universe, Mongul, and it takes the combined help of the Martian Manhunter, Supergirl, and the Spectre to stop him. Mongul would become a mainstay in the DC Universe in the years to come and plays a key role in one of the greatest Superman stories ever, “For the Man Who Has Everything…” (Superman Annual #11).

 

One of the final issues in this collection is the first DC Comics Presents Annual, which involved the Superman of Earth-1 teaming up with the Superman of Earth-2. The two heroes must travel to Earth-3, where roles are reversed and the heroes are actually villains. So the two Supermen find themselves teaming up with the one hero of Earth-3, Alexander Luthor. This Luthor would play a key role many years later during Crisis on Infinite Earths.

Why should these stories be Showcased?: Rather than have me write up some kind of reason why you should own this book, I want to throw the challenge your way, dear reader. Tell me why these stories should not be showcased? Send me a note at essentialshowcase@gmail.com. I will be the first to admit when I’m wrong, and maybe I am overlooking something here. Maybe I am blinded by my love for the team-up concept. I could read this title, along with The Brave and the Bold, Marvel Two-in-One, and Marvel Team-Up, all day long. As a cheap black & white reprint collection, this seems like a no-brainer to have on your shelf. Loan it to your friends or your kids or your friends’ kids. These books are awesome, and I stand by my opinion!

Footnotes: DC Comics Presents #46 features Superman teaming up with the Global Guardians, which were made up of heroes from other countries around the world. These heroes all made their appearance in the Super Friends comic book, which was released to support the Saturday morning cartoon. There was some debate as to whether or not that comic was part of the DC Universe proper. While it made reference to ongoing storylines in other DC books, it really wasn’t until this issue of DCCP that it was firmly considered to be part of the DC Universe. The members would go on to varying degrees of success – Green Fury would be renamed Fire and Ice Maiden would become Ice before joining Justice League International.

Who’s Who:
#27 – Superman & Martian Manhunter
#28 – Superman & Supergirl
#29 – Superman & Spectre / Showcase Presents The Spectre Vol. 1
#30 – Superman & Black Canary
#31 – Superman & Robin
#32 – Superman & Wonder Woman
#33 – Superman & Shazam
#34 – Superman & the Shazam Family
#35 – Superman & Man-Bat
#36 – Superman & Starman
#37 – Superman & Hawkgirl
#38 – Superman & the Flash
#39 – Superman & Plastic Man
#40 – Superman & Metamorpho
#41 – Superman & the Joker
#42 – Superman & the Unknown Soldier
#43 – Superman & the Legion of Super-Heroes
#44 – Superman & Dial H for Hero
#45 – Superman & Firestorm
#46 – Superman & the Global Guardians
#47 – Superman & the Masters of the Universe
#48 – Superman & Aquaman
#49 – Superman & Shazam
Annual #1 – Superman & Superman
#50 – Superman & Clark Kent

If you like this volume, try: the Superman animated series from the late 1990s. Running for 54 episodes over three seasons, Superman tied in perfectly with Batman: The Animated Series, as the two shows were set in the same universe. Many characters crossed over between the two series, and the success of both would lead to the Justice League animated series. In Superman, we were given a Man of Steel that closely resembled the John Byrne Superman post-Crisis. But the designs of the backgrounds were firmly set in the world of the Max Fleisher cartoons. There is not a better representation of Superman anywhere. DVDs of this series are readily available, so even if you missed it the first time, you can still track it down.

Essential Thor Vol. 6

Essential Thor 6

First Published: October 2012

Contents: Thor #221 (March 1974) to #247 (May 1976)

Key Creator Credits: Gerry Conway, John Buscema, Rich Buckler, Roy Thomas, Len Wein, Joe Sinnott, and others

Key First Appearances: Firelord, Dweller-in-Darkness, Horus, Isis, Osiris, Seth, Mimir, Servitor

Story Continues From: Essential Thor Vol. 5

Story Continues In: Essential Thor Vol. 7

Overview: Given his success in the cinematic Marvel Universe, you can fully expect Marvel to keep cranking out Essentials of the Bronze Age adventures of our favorite Norse deity, Thor.

This volume could be divided up into two sections, with the first section of 18 issues featuring stories from Gerry Conway and John Buscema. With the first issue of this volume, #221, Thor is joined on a series of adventures with his old friend, Hercules, the Demi-God from the Greek pantheon. The title becomes a “buddy cop” team-up of sorts, as the two hang-out around New York City, stumbling from one misadventure to the next.

There are several key stories during this run of Thor & Hercules: Galactus returns to Earth once again, this time with his new herald, Firelord. But Galactus is not here for dinner; rather, he needs Thor’s help in dealing with Ego, the Living Planet. Upon resolving that conflict, Thor arranges a swap with Galactus, giving Firelord his freedom on Earth, and in exchange, he gives Galactus the old guardian of Asgard, the Destroyer, to animate and use as his herald.

During another adventure, the long-lost love of Thor, Jane Foster, returns but she is on the brink of death. Thor does anything he can to help prolong her life, but nothing is helping. Finally, Lady Sif sacrifices her life, and merges her soul with that of Jane Foster, reviving the former nurse. From that point forward, Thor and Jane Foster are inseparable. However, Odin feels that Thor has once again disobeyed his orders, and banishes Thor from Asgard (again!). Foster still has some of the memories of Sif, and often picks up a sword and jumps into battle with Thor.

The second section would cover the final nine issues, where Roy Thomas and then Len Wein take over the scripting duties from Conway. In this section, we meet the Egyptian pantheon of gods, such as Horus, Isis, and Osiris, as a pyramid springs up in Southern California. Thor is forced to team-up with the Egyptians to save his amnesiac father, Odin. In other issues, Thor, Jane Foster, and the Warriors Three travel to the end of time to stop the Time-Twisters from destroying the universe. And we get one final match-up with Firelord, who has been mesmerized into helping rebels trying to overthrow a democratically elected government in South America.

What makes this Essential?: I honestly had no idea of the Thor & Hercules team-up adventures that dominate the majority of this book. For those issues alone, you should track down this Essential. These are solid stories from the mid-1970s that do not get revisited often enough. The art from Buscema and friends remains stellar. Buscema’s artwork is solid enough that it works just as well, if not better, in black & white as it does in color. With the developments between Thor, Jane Foster, and Lady Sif, this is a worthy read for the advancement of the characters. 

Footnotes: When Thor #231 was published, page 14 was printed out of order. For this Essential, the pages were placed in the correct reading order.

Also in issue #231, a reference is made to an adventure that Hercules had with Spider-Man in Marvel Team-Up #28. That issue can be found in Essential Marvel Team-Up Vol. 2.

If Gerry Conway is writing a book in the 1970s, you can expect the title character to make a visit to see Tom Fagan, as Thor did once again in issue #232. For more information on Tom Fagan in Rutland, Vermont, see the review for Essential Avengers Vol. 4.

If you like this volume, try:  the Hercules: Prince of Power Premiere Edition from 2009. This collects the two Hercules miniseries from 1982 and 1984, both done by Bob Layton. The two series each took place roughly 500 years into the future, as Hercules is traveling the galaxy. Accompanied by a Recorder, he crosses paths with the Skrulls, Starfox, and even Galactus. This is Hercules at his bombastic peak, bold and brash and looking for fun. Set so far into the future, you do not need to be deeply versed in Hercules’ history in the Marvel Universe. Track this book down – you will thank me later!

Showcase Presents All-Star Squadron Vol. 1

Showcase Presents All-Star Squadron Vol. 1

First Published: April 2012

Contents: All-Star Squadron preview from Justice League of America #193 (August 1981); All-Star Squadron #1 (September 1981) to #18 (February 1983); and All-Star Squadron Annual #1 (1982)

Key Creator Credits: Roy Thomas, Rich Buckler, Jerry Ordway, Adrian Gonzales, Rick Hoberg, Don Heck, and others

Key First Appearances: Danette Reilly/Firebrand, Dragon King

Overview: Early December 1941. While America has not entered the World War in Europe, the signs are pointing to the United States getting involved soon. President Roosevelt reaches out to members of the Justice Society to form a protection force for the American people. Call them an All-Star Squadron if you will! And so, a new team of heroes representing the greatest generation of heroes is formed.

While the Justice Society disbanded for the duration of the war to serve in the military, the members of the All-Star Squadron took over. Liberty Belle, who drew her power from reverberations from the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia; Johnny Quick, who uses the mathematical formula 3X2(9YZ)4A to run at super speeds; Firebrand, who takes her codename from her brother injured at Pearl Harbor and her powers from the Pacific volcanos; Robotman, who proved once again that anyone can be human with either skin or metal; and Commander Steel, a Captain-America wannabe with Wolverine’s skeletal structure.  Other heroes, such as Plastic Man, the Shining Knight, the Atom, and Hawkgirl would drop in and drop out as needed to protect FDR, Winston Churchill, and freedom everywhere.

Why should these stories be Showcased?: Yes, yes, a thousand times yes. This should be a must-read for historical comics, wherein the story takes place in a definitive time (in this case, December 1941 and January 1942). Writer Roy Thomas has done his research, resurrecting characters who appeared in comics in the early days of the Golden Age.There wasn’t a need to create an entire line-up of new characters, as plenty of characters were already available to use. Thomas was able to create a core team for these stories of Liberty Belle, Johnny Quick, Firebrand, Robotman, and Commander Steel, and then bring in various members of the Justice Society as needed. This was one of the first comics I read on a regular basis, providing me monthly history lessons on both DC characters as well as the events of the early days of World War II. Please give this a look.

Footnotes: Sit back, people, I am not happy with DC with this collection. Specifically, the 1982 team-up between the Justice League, the Justice Society, and the All-Star Squadron. This story ran across five issues: All-Star Squadron #14 & #15, and Justice League of America #207, #208, & #209. Reviewing the Contents list above (if you haven’t read this collection), you’ll notice that the JLA issues are not included in this volume. What?!?!? Please, DC, tell me why you would not include them! Adding the three more issues to this collection would have pushed the book close to 600 pages. No big deal, DC has had (and will have) larger Showcase Presents. Or omit the final three All-Star Squadron issues in this collection, and keep the page count roughly the same.

What is worse is that DC nearly repeated this same lack of common sense! DC has a line of books, Crisis on Multiple Earths, collecting the numerous JLA-JSA team-ups. When Volume 6 of this line was first solicited in the summer of 2012 (just months after this Showcase Presents release), it included the three JLA issues from the JLA-JSA-All-Star Squadron team-up, but it did not include the All-Star Squadron issues. The fanbase exploded online, and eventually DC re-solicited the Crisis on Multiple Earths book with the All-Star Squadron issues included. So, if you would like to read the complete story, please track down Crisis on Multiple Earths Vol. 6. Because you can’t read the complete story in this volume.

If you like this volume, try: reading Roy Thomas’ take on World War II superheroes at Marvel Comics, with The Invaders. Thomas did his take on the Golden Age heroes from Marvel leading the charge against the Axis powers. Roy Thomas first introduced the Invaders in Avengers #71 (December 1969), but it would not be until 1975 before the team got their own title. Captain America, Bucky, Human Torch, Toro, and Namor the Sub-Mariner formed the core of the team, but other heroes would soon join the team, such as Miss America and Union Jack. The series ran for nearly four years, before coming to an end with issue #41. Marvel released two volumes of a Complete Collection in 2014, collecting the entire series plus some other appearances outside the title. 

Essential Fantastic Four Vol. 8

ff8First Published: May 2010

Contents: Fantastic Four #160 (July 1975) to #179 (February 1977) and #181 (April 1977) to #183 (June 1977); Fantastic Four Annual #11 (June 1976); Marvel Two-in-One #20 (October 1976); and Marvel Two-in-One Annual #1 (October 1976)

Key Creator Credits: Roy Thomas, John Buscema, George Pérez, Rich Buckler, Sal Buscema, Bill Mantlo, and others

Key First Appearances: Crusader, Frankie Raye, Captain Ultra, Texas Twister

Story Continues From: Essential Fantastic Four Vol. 7

Story Continues In: Essential Fantastic Four Vol. 9

Overview: Pay attention people! There are a lot of moving parts in this book, and if you skip a page, you might be totally lost. We’ve got multiple Reed Richards and Johnny Storms and Things, but only one Sue Richards. And if you look closely, you will see some familiar faces in the Marvel Bullpen, with Stan, Jack, George, Roy and more. All of this and more in Essential Fantastic Four Vol. 8.

The book starts out with a three-way war between different universes. One of those universes features a Fantastic Four where Reed Richards gained the powers (and rocky outlook) of the Thing when they were exposed to the cosmic rays. There’s another Johnny flying around too in this battle, so keep an eye out for him.

An eventful moment in the history of the team followed a unique team-up between the Thing and the Hulk. As the two were skipping around the midwest, the Hulk’s gamma-radiated body counter-acted the Thing’s cosmic-radiated body and turned him back into Ben Grimm. Faced with the requirement to maintain four powered members on the active roster, Reed recruits Luke Cage, the hero for hire, to serve as a member of the team. Luke’s stay with the team is short, thanks to the shenanigans of the Puppet Master, but it gave Reed enough time to finish an exoskeleton Thing suit for Ben to wear and regain his place in the team. However, we realize about this time that Ben is not the only one without a power loss, as Reed’s stretching ability is starting to weaken, causing him great pain when he uses his abilities.

Next, a time-travel story that teams the Fantastic Four with the Invaders and the Liberty Legion during the days of World War II. The team no sooner returns to 1976 before they find themselves caught up in a showdown between the High Evolutionary and Galactus. The world devourer is seeking to consume the High Evolutionary’s Counter-Earth, and the FF is sent out to seek out a suitable replacement world to sustain Galactus. One is found, but it comes with a cost – the return of the Impossible Man.

Upon their return to Earth and a wild romp through the Marvel Comics offices, the Fantastic Four must stop the latest recruitment drive for the Frightful Four being held at their own headquarters in the Baxter Building. Despite the aid of Tigra, Thundra, and the Impossible Man, the Frightful Four are able to best the team with their new recruit, the Brute, who is actually the Reed Richards from Counter-Earth. The Frightful Four are defeated, but the Counter-Earth Richards replaces his counterpart as leader of the Fantastic Four, banishing our Reed Richards to the Negative Zone. The team soon realizes that the Reed leading their team is not the Reed they know and love, and they go out in search of their missing friend, but not before they encounter Annihilus.

What makes this Essential?: Once again, I wrestled with how I wanted to review this book. The end of this book is the exact era when I started reading Fantastic Four issues off of the newsstands. So I am trying to not allow my childhood nostalgia of the title cloud my objective review of this collection. I like this better than the previous Essential volume, so that is a plus. I think Roy Thomas finally started to understand the possibilities of what he could do with the characters and began working on the characters and concepts that most interested him. The art is superb, whether it comes from either of the Buscemas, Perez, or the underrated Rich Buckler. But….. I still don’t think these stories live up to the moniker of “The World’s Greatest Comic Magazine.” I would rather be reading the Lee-Kirby issues or skip ahead to the John Byrne run.

Footnotes: Fantastic Four Annual #11, Marvel Two-in-One Annual #1 and Marvel Two-in-One #20 are also reprinted in Essential Marvel Two-in-One Vol. 1.

Fantastic Four #180 is a reprint issue of Fantastic Four #101, which was reprinted in Essential Fantastic Four Vol. 5. The new cover to Fantastic Four #180 is included in this Essential.

If you like this volume, try: the 2011 Impossible Man trade paperback, collecting many of the green hero’s more memorable appearances. Created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby back in Fantastic Four #11, the character was quickly forgotten about when the bad feedback came in from the readers. He sat dormant for nearly 15 years before writer Roy Thomas brought him back in Fantastic Four #176, making him a supporting character for the next few years in the FF title. In the 1980s, the Impossible Man started expanding into other parts of the Marvel Universe, crossing paths with the likes of Spider-Woman, the New Mutants, and the Silver Surfer. In many ways, you could consider the Impossible Man to be the Marvel equivalent to Bat-Mite or Mr. Mxyzptlk, as the annoying character that can do most anything to vex the star of the title. This trade paperback collects many of those fun appearances.

Essential Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man Vol. 5

Essential Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man Vol. 5

First Published: July 2011

Contents: Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man #97 (December 1984) to #114 (May 1986), and Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man Annual #5 (1985)

Key Creator Credits: Al Milgrom, Herb Trimpe, Peter David, Rich Buckler, Luke McDonnell, and Mark Beachum

Key First Appearances: The Spot, roommates Randi, Candi, and Bambi, Sin-Eater,

Story Continues From: Essential Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man Vol. 4

Overview: Once again, we swing into the crazy life of Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man. We see Peter struggling with his relationship with the Black Cat, who only has feelings for him when he is in costume. There is the question of the Black Cat’s new powers – how she came to get them, and why they are driving her away from her Spider. All of this gets wrapped up in the anniversary issue #100, with an all-out battle between Spider-Man, the Black Cat, the Kingpin, and the Spot. Yes, the Spot!

After that, we are given a lot of one-and-done stories to fill out this Essential. The title has a rotating creative team until Peter David and Rich Buckler take control of the book, creating some memorable storylines, detailed below. A benefit to these issues were some amazing covers by John Byrne for issues #101 and #102.

There is one issue towards the end, #111, which was a Secret Wars II crossover. Spider-Man’s adversary, the Puma, decides that it is his life purpose to destroy the Beyonder, and Peter finds himself with the moral dilemma of saving someone like the Beyonder.

What makes this Essential?: This book could be divided into two halves, one labeled Before Peter David, and the other Written By Peter David. The Before Peter David stories wrap up the ongoing storylines from Essential Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man Vol. 4, featuring the long-running story between Spider-Man, the Black Cat, and the Kingpin. The stories here are very similar in tone and quality to the other stories of this time (Amazing Spider-Man, Marvel Team-Up).

There is a marked shift in tone when Peter David comes on board. These stories are his earliest work at Marvel, and they quickly show what an excellent writer he is of comics. The characters feel more real, more alive under David’s guidance. He shocked readers with the killing of long-time supporting character Jean DeWolff, not just proclaiming it on the first cover of the storyline, but with her dead body on page 3 of the story, giving no one the chance to say good-bye. For the work that David showed here, it is worthy of picking up.

Footnotes: Peter David would bring back the Sin-Eater in a second storyline, which ran in The Spectacular Spider-Man #134 (January 1988) to #136 (March 1988). These three issues, along with the original four-issue storyline, were collected in a Marvel Premiere edition, Spider-Man: The Death of Jean DeWolff.

If you like this volume, try: Spider-Man 2099 This was one of the first four titles in the Marvel 2099 line launched in 1992. Originally conceived as a Marvel: The World of Tomorrow project by Stan Lee and John Byrne, the concept eventually morphed into the 2099 line. The Spider-Man title ran for 46 issues, plus two specials, with almost all of the issues written by Peter David. In this story-arc, Miguel O’Hara is trying to recreate the abilities of Spider-Man when a freak accident causes half of his DNA to be over-written by the DNA code of a spider. There have been two trade paperbacks collecting the first year of the title, but the entire series is worth tracking down in the back issue bins.