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 Rampaging Hulk Vol. 2

rampaginghulk2First Published: March 2010

Contents: Hulk! #16 (August 1979) to #27 (June 1981)

Key Creator Credits: Doug Moench, Ron Wilson, Gene Colan, J.M. DeMatteis, and others

Story Continues From: Essential Rampaging Hulk Vol. 1

Overview: This may be a short review this week, so my apologies in advance. But I’m finding it a challenge to create an overview for this collection. As we saw in the second half of the previous volume, the Hulk! magazine featured longer length stories that were not necessarily tied into continuity with the monthly comic.

Perhaps borrowing an approach from the 1970s TV series, a lot of the stories feature Banner coming into a random town, getting caught up in some evil plot, and then letting the Hulk take over and smash everything to pieces. We get a few stories that are inspired by real events. For example, in Hulk! #20, the Hulk is needed to stop a nuclear meltdown a la Three Mile Island. A lot of the stories deal with issues of that time (drug use, land rights, which still remain relevant 35 years later.

For me, the highlight of this book was the final story in the collection, and not because it was the last. Written by J.M. DeMatteis with art by Gene Colan, we have the Hulk wandering into Las Vegas. The down-on-his-luck Banner is befriended by a chorus dancer and a past-his-prime lounge singer, but they all end up getting on the bad side of the casino bosses. That very well could have been a story made for the television show, but it was better produced in comic book form.

What makes this Essential?: I hate it when I come to this conclusion, but I can’t say that this book is essential. The stories are average – nothing that stands out or gets revisited later. There is some great art from Gene Colan and Ron Wilson, but I don’t know that it’s enough to warrant buying the book. Outside of one or two mentions to Betty Ross or General Thunderbolt, you really don’t know that this is part of the Marvel Universe. These stories could be told with any character that transforms into a monster of some kind. For the Hulk completist, I could justify picking this up versus undergoing the hunt to track down the original magazines. For the average fan, I don’t know that the return would justify the investment (time and money).

If you like this volume, try: the Peter David run on The Incredible Hulk. David has been linked with the Hulk since 1987, when he started a 11-year run on the title. Over that time, he told stories featuring the various versions of the Hulk – mindless brute or Banner-controlled, as well as green or gray. David was one of the first writers to turn Rick Jones into a Hulk, hinting at the role he would one day play as A-Bomb. For me, my favorite Hulk run came in the late 1980s with Mr. Fixit. At this time, Hulk was in his gray form with moderate intelligence. He could only come out at night, harkening back to the original story elements of the Hulk from Lee & Kirby. Mr. Fixit set himself up as a heavyweight enforcer in Las Vegas, a city known for living large in every way possible. David’s run has been collected in a series of Hulk Visionaries volumes. If you want to read the Mr. Fixit story, you are going to need to pick up Volumes 2-4 of that line.

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 Rampaging Hulk Vol. 1

Essential Rampaging Hulk Vol. 1

First Published: May 2008

Contents: The Rampaging Hulk #1 (January 1977) to #9 (June 1978); Hulk! #10 (August 1978) to #15 (June 1979); and part of a story from Incredible Hulk #269 (March 1982)

Key Creator Credits: Doug Moench, Walt Simonson, Keith Pollard, Ron Wilson, and others

Key First Appearances: Bereet, Krylorians

Story Continues In: Essential Rampaging Hulk Vol. 2

Overview: Throughout the 1970s, Marvel Comics had been releasing black & white magazines through their parent company, Curtis Magazines. Most magazines featured more adult topics than what could be printed in a comic (and approved by the Comics Code Authority). The magazines tended to feature characters that were not currently featured in the Marvel Comics, although there were some exceptions along the way. In 1976, Marvel changed that up with the launch of the Rampaging Hulk magazine.

The magazine can be broken up into two eras, as clearly defined by the title change of the magazine. When the magazine launched, the stories were set in the 1960s, picking up on the Hulk’s adventures following the cancellation of his title in Incredible Hulk #6. The Hulk and Rick Jones are on the run from the Army, and travel to Europe to escape their pursuers. There they encounter the alien Bereet, who is also being pursued by her race, the Krylorians. While they claim that Bereet is an escaped fugitive, the Krylorians actually intend to take over the Earth.

During the course of these adventures, the Hulk, Rick Jones, and Bereet encounter numerous familiar faces from the Silver Age of Marvel Comics. The original X-Men and the Sub-Mariner cross paths with the rampaging Hulk. To stop the final phase of the Krylorians invasion, our heroes return to the New York City, where the Hulk encounters Iron Man, Thor, Ant Man, and the Wasp well before they team up to form the Avengers. The Krylorians realize that their plans are useless, and flee the Earth.

Beginning with issue #10, the magazine goes in a new direction. The title changes to the Hulk!, and the stories are now told in “Marvelcolor”. The stories now take place in current Marvel time, and take an approach similar to the popular Incredible Hulk TV show of this same time. Bruce Banner is on the road in search of a cure for his condition. Each issue, Banner stumbles into some odd job (miner, circus carny, etc.) and some incident occurs that leads to his change into the Hulk.

A Bobby Ewing Shower situation!: In Incredible Hulk #269 (March 1982), it was revealed that the stories in Rampaging Hulk #1-9 were not “in continuity” but rather a fictionalized film created by the artist Bereet to entertain her fellow Krylorians. Bereet then traveled to Earth, where she became a companion of sorts for the Hulk during the time that he maintained his intelligence while he was the Hulk. She appeared in stories throughout 1982 and 1983, before disappearing into the character limbo.

What makes this Essential?: While I wouldn’t say that any of these stories are truly essential, I found myself pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this volume. Sure, most of these stories fall outside of any continuity, but sometimes those make for better stories. The writing, done almost all by Doug Moench, is good for the era and the intended audience. The art is great, but there are times when the pages look awkward due to the smaller size of the Essential page compared to that of the original magazine. If you are a fan of the Hulk or interested in the Marvel magazines, then give this a look.

Footnotes: The Hulk & Moon Knight stories from Hulk! #15 are also reprinted in Essential Moon Knight Vol. 1.

If you like this volume, try: watching (or re-watching for my older readers) the Bill Bixby/Lou Ferrigno Incredible Hulk series from the 1970s. The series is available on DVD, and can be found on both Netflix and Hulu Plus. As familiar as we (the comic book readers) are with the Hulk and his origins, for many people this television series was their introduction to the green-skinned giant. Dr. David Bruce Banner is exposed to a deadly dose of gamma radiation, which leads to a startling transformation when he becomes emotional. Hounded by a news reporter chasing a story, David Banner goes on the run around the country in search of a cure to his green issues. The success of this show helped inspire the change of direction with the Hulk! magazine. Any Hulk fan should watch this. If I find out that you haven’t watched this, I will be so angry. To quote an often used line from the show, “Don’t make me angry. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.”

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 Marvel Team-Up Vol. 2

Essential Marvel Team-Up Vol. 2

First Published: August 2006

Contents: Marvel Team-Up #25 (September 1974) to #51 (November 1976); and Marvel Two-in-One #17 (July 1976)

Key Creator Credits: Gerry Conway, Len Wein, Bill Mantlo, Jim Mooney, Sal Buscema, Ron Wilson, and others

Key First Appearances: Jean DeWolff, Wraith

Story Continues From: Essential Marvel Team-Up Vol. 1

Story Continues In: Essential Marvel Team-Up Vol. 3

Overview: As a New York City-based character, Spider-Man continues to be the center of attention in the Marvel Universe, and in the pages of Marvel Team-Up, as seen in this second Essential volume.

As with the first volume, Marvel Team-Up partners the various Marvel characters with their most recognizable hero in Peter Parker, a.k.a. Spider-Man. While most of these stories are one-and-done, we do see some multiple-issue story arcs. Spider-Man moves from one team-up to the next, all as part of the same story. For example, see the Defenders story in issues #33-#35; a multi-part story focusing on the Vision and the Scarlet Witch in issues #41-#44; and the Iron Man arc from issues #48-#51. This last story arc introduced NYPD Captain Jean DeWolff, one of the few officers that recognize Spider-Man as a hero working with the police, and Jean’s brother-turned-villain, the Wraith.

The Human Torch makes the last of his appearances as the lead feature in Marvel Team-Up #36 in this Essential. However, the Human Torch would still cross paths three more times with Spider-Man in this title over the run of the book.

What makes this Essential?: Is this really an Essential title? Absolutely not, when looking at the significant moments of the characters’ life stories. However, this title, as well as the other team-up books from Marvel and DC, is the perfect way to introduce a new reader to a world of characters. From this volume, a reader could go explore the adventures of Iron Man, Thor, The Fantastic Four, The Defenders, The Avengers, Doctor Strange, Killraven, and many others. So give this a read and see what interests you next!

Who’s Who / Reprinted Elsewhere:
Marvel Team-Up #25 – Spider-Man & Human Torch
Marvel Team-Up #26 – Human Torch & Thor
Marvel Team-Up #27 – Spider-Man & the Hulk
Marvel Team-Up #28 – Spider-Man & Hercules
Marvel Team-Up #29 – Human Torch & Iron Man
Marvel Team-Up #30 – Spider-Man & Falcon
Marvel Team-Up #31 – Spider-Man & Iron Fist
Marvel Team-Up #32 – Human Torch & the Son of Satan / Essential Marvel Horror Vol. 1
Marvel Team-Up #33 – Spider-Man & Nighthawk / Essential Defenders Vol. 2
Marvel Team-Up #34 – Spider-Man & Valkyrie / Essential Defenders Vol. 2
Marvel Team-Up #35 – Human Torch & Doctor Strange / Essential Defenders Vol. 2
Marvel Team-Up #36 – Spider-Man & the Frankenstein Monster
Marvel Team-Up #37 – Spider-Man & Man-Wolf
Marvel Team-Up #38 – Spider-Man & the Beast
Marvel Team-Up #39 – Spider-Man & Human Torch
Marvel Team-Up #40 – Spider-Man & the Sons of the Tiger
Marvel Team-Up #41 – Spider-Man & Scarlet Witch
Marvel Team-Up #42 – Spider-Man & the Vision
Marvel Team-Up #43 – Spider-Man & Doctor Doom
Marvel Team-Up #44 – Spider-Man & Moondragon
Marvel Team-Up #45 – Spider-Man & Killraven / Essential Killraven Vol. 1
Marvel Team-Up #46 – Spider-Man & Deathlok
Marvel Two-In-One #17 – The Thing & Spider-Man / Essential Marvel Two-in-One Vol. 1
Marvel Team-Up #47 – Spider-Man & the Thing / Essential Marvel Two-in-One Vol. 1
Marvel Team-Up #48 – Spider-Man & Iron Man
Marvel Team-Up #49 – Spider-Man & Iron Man 
Marvel Team-Up #50 – Spider-Man & Doctor Strange
Marvel Team-Up #51 – Spider-Man & Iron Man

If you like this volume, try: the Ultimate Marvel Team-Up series from 2001 & 2002. The Ultimate universe was created by Marvel in the early 2000s as a way to tell stories featuring their most popular characters without the 40+ years of continuity weighing them down. The stories mirrored many of the original character stories but told to match the modern society. For example, teenage Peter Parker did get a job at the Daily Bugle, but he was helping out on the paper’s website.  For Ultimate Marvel Team-Up, the entire series (16 issues and one special) is written by Brian Michael Bendis, with art from a variety of artists. These issues serve as a way to introduce many Marvel characters into the Ultimate Universe, so the first appearances of Ultimate Hulk, Ultimate Iron Man, Ultimate Daredevil, etc. My personal favorite was issue #14, where Spider-Man crossed paths with the Ultimate version of Black Widow. The art is done by Terry Moore (Strangers in Paradise) who was the perfect choice to show teenage awkwardness of Peter against the sleek beauty of Natasha. The entire series has been reprinted multiple times in multiple formats, so it should not be a challenge to track these issues down.

Essential Spider-Woman Vol. 1

Essential Spider-Woman Vol. 1

First Published: December 2005

Contents: Marvel Spotlight #32 (February 1977); Marvel Two-In-One #29 (July 1977) to #33 (November 1977); Spider-Woman #1 (April 1978) to #25 (April 1980)

Key Creator Credits: Marv Wolfman, Mark Gruenwald, Archie Goodwin, Sal Buscema, Carmine Infantino, Jim Mooney, Ron Wilson, and others

Key First Appearances: Jessica Drew/Spider-Woman, Jonathan Drew, Merriam Drew, Jerry Hunt, Magnus, Brothers Grimm, Madame Doll, Needle, Gypsy Moth, Lindsay McCabe, Scotty McDowell 

Story Continues In: Essential Spider-Woman Vol. 2

Overview:  Living with her parents near Wundagore Mountain, young Jessica Drew becomes deathly ill from uranium poisoning. Jessica’s father injects her with an experimental serum based on irradiated spiders’ blood to save her life, but it puts her into suspended animation while her body heals. When she comes out of it as a young adult, she finds that she has powers similar to that of a spider – climbing walls, gliding on wind currents, and a venom blast. Recruited by Hydra, Jessica Drew takes on the name of Spider-Woman and is assigned a task to kill Nick Fury. So begins the adventures of Marvel’s newest superhero!

Jessica eventually flips sides, and works for S.H.I.E.L.D. as a double agent, spying on Hydra. She gets involved in a convoluted adventure with the Thing in Marvel Two-In-One, which lead into Jessica getting her own title and returning back to the United States.

Early on in the series, Spider-Woman battles an assortment of macabre characters, such as Magnus, Morgana le Fay, and the Brothers Grimm. She develops a friendship with actress Lindsey McCabe, who would become a long-time companion even after this title ended. She also opens an investigation agency with Scotty McDowell, who does the office work from his wheelchair while Jessica does the leg work on the streets.

What makes this Essential?: My personal opinion is that this collection (and character) is a train wreck. “Spider-Woman” was created solely to protect Marvel from having an another comic book publisher creating a character with that name, by trying to sponge off of the Spider-Man property. (To protect other possible trademark infringement, other debuts in this era also include She-Hulk and Ms. Marvel.) Originally, Spider-Woman was to be a spider that had been evolved into a human – thankfully that origin went away. Despite the namesake, writers Marv Wolfman and Mark Gruenwald avoided using Spider-Man in a cameo appearance, although he finally did show up in issue #20 towards the end of Gruenwald’s run. Even though she wore a costume, this title felt more like a horror or monster book, along with the lines of Werewolf By Night or Tomb of Dracula. Despite all of these handicaps, the Spider-Woman character has survived and flourished over the years, most notably under the direction of Brian Michael Bendis in the pages of New Avengers.  If you are a big fan of Jessica Drew, consider getting this just to understand how far the character has come since she first debuted.

Footnotes: Marvel Two-In-One #29 to #32 are also reprinted in Essential Marvel Two-in-One Vol. 2.

Marvel Two-In-One #33 is also reprinted in Essential Marvel Two-in-One Vol. 2 and Essential Marvel Horror Vol. 2.

If you like this volume, try: reading the Alias series from Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Gaydos. Jessica Jones is a superhero turned private investigator. She went to high school with Peter Parker. As the superhero Jewel, she was once an Avenger. Now, life is just scraping by from one assignment to the next. Her circle of friends includes Luke Cage, Carol Danvers, and Jessica Drew. This series was part of the Marvel MAX line, which was designed to tell R-rated stories set within the Marvel Universe. The series ran for 28 issues and was replaced by the short-lived title The Pulse, which really was Alias without the MAX heading. Alias has been collected in multiple formats, including an Omnibus. Jessica Jones is one of the featured characters in the Marvel/Netflix deal, so catch up on Alias now.