Essential Warlock Vol. 1

First Published: August 2012

Contents: Marvel Premiere #1 (April 1972) and #2 (May 1972); Warlock #1 (August 1972) to #8 (October 1973); Incredible Hulk #176 (June 1974) to #178 (August 1974); Strange Tales #178 (February 1975) to #181 (August 1975); Warlock #9 (October 1975) to #15 (November 1976); Marvel Team-Up #55 (March 1977); Avengers Annual #7 (1977); and Marvel Two-in-One Annual #2 (1977)

Key Creator Credits: Roy Thomas, Gil Kane, Mike Friedrich, Bob Brown, Gerry Conway, Herb Trimpe, Jim Starlin, Steve Leialoha, and others

Key First Appearances: David Carter, Jason Grey, Ellie Roberts, Eddie Roberts, Brute, Magus, Matriarch, Autolycus, Pip the Troll, Gamora, In-Betweener, Gardener

Overview: Do you remember Him? That’s Him with an uppercase H, as in a proper name. He first appeared many moons ago in Fantastic Four #67, then was brought back for four issues in Thor. He’s an interesting guy but he needs a better name. How does Warlock sound? Even better, let’s make it Adam Warlock. This is Essential Warlock Vol. 1!

Warlock has been found by the High Evolutionary, who takes in Warlock as a new project. Embedding the Soul Gem in his forehead, Warlock is sent to Alternate-Earth (which is located on the far side of the sun from Earth in the same orbit) to become a hero for a heroless world. Warlock befriends a group of teenagers trying to find their way in the world, and that way eventually leads the group to the White House. There we find that the President is actually the Man-Beast in disguise, who is looking to take over the world.

Warlock tries to stop the Man-Beast but it can’t be done before the cancellation bug brings his book to an end. So the final battle takes place over in the pages of the Incredible Hulk. The green giant finds himself on the Alternate-Earth and encounters Warlock being held prisoner by the Man-Beast. Warlock makes the ultimate sacrifice – his own life – to stop the Man-Beast but is resurrected a few days later in a new, more powerful form.

When Warlock returns to his own title, after a quick run in Strange Tales, he starts to find a new set of friends, as well as new enemies. Now traveling the galaxy, he meets Gamora and Pip the Troll, who end up tagging along on his adventures. He also meets Magus, a would-be god in the future who just happens to be Warlock. Our hero must destroy his future self in order to save the universe of today.

Now, this collection would not be complete without mentioning Thanos, the big bad heavy of the Marvel Universe. Warlock and Thanos have been linked together for a long time, and it starts with the issues in this collection. Thanos finds that he must work with Warlock to defeat Magus’ army, but once that battle is done, they go their separate ways. Thanos hatches a new plan to rule the universe, and it takes the combined efforts of Warlock and his crew, along with Spider-Man, the Thing, Captain Mar-Vel, and the Avengers to stop Thanos for good — for now at least.

What makes this Essential?: This collection makes for an interesting look at religion. With the initial arc from Roy Thomas and Gil Kane, the writer was inspired by the then-current Jesus Christ Superstar musical. Sharing a name with the first man in the Bible, Adam Warlock is sent to Earth (albeit Alternate-Earth) to help save the people from a false prophet. During the Jim Starlin arc, Warlock must battle a future version of himself who has been set up as a god across the universe. Given the teases for Warlock in both Guardians of the Galaxy movies, I anticipate the demand for this book to increase as he joins the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Footnotes: Incredible Hulk #176 to #178 were also reprinted in Essential Hulk Vol. 5.

Marvel Team-Up #55 was also reprinted in Essential Marvel Team-Up Vol. 3.

Avengers Annual #7 was also reprinted in Essential Avengers Vol. 8.

Marvel Two-in-One Annual #2 was also reprinted in Essential Marvel Two-in-One Vol. 2 and Essential Avengers Vol. 8.

If you like this volume, try: The Infinity Gauntlet mini-series from 1991. Written by Jim Starlin with art by George Perez and Ron Lim, Thanos has acquired all six infinity gems and mounted them onto his glove. Seeking to win the affection of Death, Thanos kills half of the galaxy, including the Fantastic Four and the X-Men. The remaining heroes are given a chance to stop Thanos, but they are unable to prevail. Transcending into a god-like being, Thanos leaves his body unprotected, and his reported granddaughter Nebula steals the glove and restores the universe to how it was before. When things have settled, the recently returned Warlock takes possession of the glove, which led into a new ongoing series titled Warlock and the Infinity Watch.

Showcase Presents Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew! Vol. 1

Showcase Presents Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew! Vol. 1

First Hatched: September 2014

Contents: Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew story from The New Teen Titans #16 (February 1982); Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew #1 (March 1982) to #20 (November 1983); and The Oz-Wonderland Wars #1 (January 1986) to #3 (March 1986)

Key Cre-gator Credits: Roy Thomas, Gerry Conway, Scott Shaw, Mike Sekowsky, Stan Goldberg, E, Nelson Bridwell, Rick Hoberg, Joey Cavalieri, and others

Key First Ape-arances: Rodney Rabbit/Captain Carrot, Felina Furr/Alley-Kat-Abra, Timmy Joe Terrapin/Fastback, Peter Porkchops/Pig-Iron, Byrd Rentals/Rubberduck, Rova Barkitt/Yankee Poodle, Just’a Lotta Animals (Aquaduck, Batmouse, Crash, Green Lambkin, Super-Squirrel, Wonder Wabbit), Chester Cheese/Little Cheese

Birds-eye-view: At the start of the Silver Age, as a new generation of heroes was being introduced, DC developed the concept of parallel earths, as these were the worlds where other heroes lived and had their adventures. The heroes of the Justice League were assigned to Earth-One, while the Justice Society was on Earth-Two. The Shazam Family protected Earth-S, while the Quality Heroes could be found on Earth-X.

In the early 1980s, a new parallel Earth was discovered when Superman crashed into a meteor approaching his Earth. The resulting collision transported Superman and the meteor fragments to a new Earth. Let’s call it Earth-C for now. This Earth was populated not with humans, but with anamorphic animals living lives and doing tasks that normal people would do. We meet Rodney Rabbit, a cartoonist on the hit comic Just’a Lotta Animals. One of those meteors lands in Rodney’s garden box, where he grows carrots. Munching on an irradiated carrot leads to a transformation, and Rodney Rabbit becomes Captain Carrot, the first hero of Earth-C.

Captain Carrot quickly finds out that while he may be the first, he is not the only hero showing up thanks to the meteorites. Captain Carrot is joined by the likes of Rubberduck, Yankee Poodle, Alley-Kat-Abra, Fastback, and Pig-Iron. Together, the become the amazing Zoo Crew, setting up headquarters in the Z-Building in Los Antelope. The Zoo Crew face off against the likes of Frogzilla, Armordillo, Bow-Zar the Barkbarian, and even Gorilla Grodd!

Rodney soon discovers that the Just’a Lotta Animals that he has been drawing in comics are real, and living on yet another parallel Earth, which we will dub Earth-C Minus. That leads to a couple of team-ups between the two squads, and a love triangle develops between Captain Carrot, Wonder Wabbit, and Super-Squirrel.

The series concludes with a new member, Little Cheese, joining the Zoo Crew, but their adventures are not over. The team is drawn into a conflict between Lewis Carroll’s Wonderland and L. Frank Baum’s Oz. Captain Carrot and the Zoo Crew team up with Dorothy, Scarecrow, Cowardly Lion, Tin Man, and many others to rescue Oz from the Nome King.

Why should these tails be Showcased?: You can approach this one of two ways. If you view this as only a funny-animal book, it might not be for you. But you could get this for a young reader to enjoy. HOWEVER, if you look at this as a creative exercise, this has the makings of a good read. The book is filled with animal references and puns. Brush it off if you will, but try it yourself. When’s the last time you intentionally tried to write something funny? It’s much harder than it looks. Writing standard super hero stories, dramatic stories or even dark and gritty stories are a piece of cake compared to writing comedy. Credit should really be given to all of the writers on this book for pulling it off each issue.

Pawnotes: When the series started, Captain Carrot’s identity was Roger Rabbit. Over the course of the series, his name was modified from Roger Rabbit to Roger Rodney Rabbit to R. Rodney Rabbit to finally just Rodney Rabbit. While many people are familiar with the 1988 film Who Framed Roger Rabbit, most people are unaware that it is based on a 1981 novel, Who Censored Roger Rabbit? by Gary Wolf. DC opted to change the title character’s name to avoid any legal issues. 

Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew was canceled with issue #20, even though issues #21 to #26 were in various stages of production. At that time of the cancellation, DC indicated that the series would continue as a series of mini-series. The content from those unreleased six issues were collected into three double-sized issues which became The Oz-Wonderland Wars.

If ewe like this volume, try: the Marvel Comics series of adaptions of L. Frank Baum’s original Oz novels by Eric Shanower and Skottie Young. Shanower has been linked to the Oz universe for most of his career, scripting adaptions for First Comics, Dark Horse Comics, IDW, and others. Beginning in 2009, he partnered with artist Skottie Young to adapt the six novels as mini-series, ranging anywhere from five to eight issues each. These stories have been collected into multiple hardcovers and trade paperbacks. In addition, all of the series were collected into an Oz Omnibus in 2014. These are fun reads that remain true to the books. Young’s art style may take some getting used to early on, but I grew to love the look of these books.

  • The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
  • The Marvelous Land of Oz
  • Ozma of Oz
  • Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz
  • The Road to Oz
  • The Emerald City of Oz

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 Captain America Vol. 6

captainamerica6First Published: April 2011

Contents: Captain America and the Falcon #206 (February 1977) to #222 (June 1978); Captain America #223 (July 1978) to #230 (February 1979); Captain America Annual #4 (1977); and Incredible Hulk #232 (February 1979)

Key Creator Credits: Jack Kirby, Roy Thomas, Don Glut, Steve Gerber, David Anthony Kraft, Roger McKenzie, Sal Buscema, and others

Key First Appearances: Arnim Zola, Primus, Wendell Vaughn/Marvel Boy (Marvel Man/Quasar), Vamp, Ameridroid

Story Continues From: Essential Captain America Vol. 5

Story Continues In: Essential Captain America Vol. 7

Overview: Welcome back to the (sometimes) solo adventures of Captain America. He’s a soldier, a patriot, an Avenger, and most importantly an American.  u recall the creation of Captain America, right? I’m not talking about the character’s origin story in the comics. Rather, I refer to the creation of the character in 1940. Writer Joe Simon doodled out a concept called Super

This collection wraps up the end of legendary Jack Kirby run of the mid-1970s. But before he goes, Kirby gives us another of his wacky character creations with Arnim Zola, the would-be conqueror who’s mind has been transferred to a robot body, which has a TV screen in its chest displaying Zola’s face. Zola was a Nazi biochemist who escaped capture at the end of World War II. If you are a long-time reader, you know that any time Captain America comes into contact with a former Nazi, that the Red Skull cannot be far behind.

The Kirby run comes to an end with Captain America Annual #4, which has Cap facing off against another one of Kirby’s great co-creations, Magneto! Considering that one of these characters has powers of magnetism, and one of these characters carries an adamantium shield, well, it’s not looking good for our hero.

Following the obligatory reprint issue or two to recount Captain America’s origins, we are treated to a visit by Nick Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D. The spy organization has been recruiting a new team of super agents, but the squad needs a leader. Naturally, Nick believes that Steve Rogers is the man for the job, but Steve has a better suggestion. He proposes that the Falcon take on that task. He’s been working with Cap for many years and is ready to be a leader in his own right. So Captain America and the Falcon go their separate ways, but the two will find ways to reunite in the years to come.

So Captain America is once again working solo, but that doesn’t mean he is alone. We are treated to numerous appearances from the Avengers, and Sharon Carter is by Steve’s side to bridge the gap between his costumed and civilian life. The volume wraps up with a two-issue crossover with the Hulk, making for a pair of characters that we don’t normally see together. It’s a great way to bring this book to a close!

What makes this Essential?: This is an interesting transition time for Captain America. Jack Kirby’s run comes to an end. The title seems to have a rotating roster of writers before Roger McKenzie begins a two-year run. Sal Buscema returns to the book, providing some familiarity for the long-time readers. But the biggest change comes with the ending of the Captain America-Falcon partnership, both within the book as well as the title of the comic.

Despite all of the changes, this is a solid collection. The Kirby issues in this book are my favorites of his mid-1970s run. Arnim Zola may be one of, if not the last great crazy Kirby concept, who has become a mainstay in the comics and now in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Letting the book go back to its singular focus on the title character helps the book, allowing stories to go in different directions without trying to find a way to work the Falcon into the plot. That’s not to imply that I don’t like the Falcon. Just that after being partnered with the Falcon for seven years, having Steve Rogers on his own just offered up fresh takes on our hero.

Footnotes: The table of contents is incorrect in this volume, which lists Captain America Annual #4 as being located between Captain America #230 and Incredible Hulk #232 in the collection. The annual is actually found between Captain America #214 and #215, at the end of the Kirby run.

Captain America #230 and Incredible Hulk #232 are also reprinted in Essential Hulk Vol. 7.

If you like this volume, try: reading up on Quasar. From his humble origins as Marvel Boy contained in this Essential, his stature has grown over the years. He was a recurring character in Marvel Two-in-One with the Project: Pegasus storyline. He was a member of the Avengers, serving a key role in the Galactic Storm mission. He headlined his own title for 60 issues. And he was one of the featured characters in the original Annihilation story, which that event kicked off a series of events that brought “Marvel Cosmic” back into the mainstream. As a result of Annihilation, readers were given a re-introduction/re-imagining of the Guardians of the Galaxy concept which we later saw incorporated into the MCU. The early issues of his solo series were reprinted in 2012 in a Quasar Classic trade paperback. He’s an interesting character that we don’t see enough of anymore, so dive into the back issue bins to find his early adventures.