Sunday, January 18, 2015


A new year brings with it a new series of "Unboxing" posts, and we're kicking things off nicely with offerings from both Marvel and DC this month.

First we have WARLOCK MASTERWORKS volume 1 (paperback edition). I am a huge fan of Jim Starlin's Adam Warlock, and I own the hardcover version of the second WARLOCK MASTERWORKS volume, containing all of Starlin's work with the character (more recently reprinted in a non-Masterworks trade paperback edition). But I've never read the earlier Warlock material by Roy Thomas and friends, so this trade seemed like the best way to do that. Also, it has the dubious honor of being the final paperback Marvel Masterworks volume, as that secondary line has been officially discontinued.

Next from Marvel is X-MEN: THE ROAD TO ONSLAUGHT volume 3, the final installment in the series covering the full year of X-Material between "Age of Apocalypse" and "Onslaught". I will reiterate for the umpteenth time that, despite its many detractors, this was possibly my favorite period for the X-Men growing up, and I love that I now have that full year in my possession via three thick paperbacks. Next stop: ONSLAUGHT OMNIBUS!

DC comes in with two contributions this month as well. First up is a trade paperback of Superman material from the late eighties, SUPERMAN: THE POWER WITHIN. Written by Roger Stern and illustrated in part by Curt Swan, these stories first appeared in ACTION COMICS WEEKLY and are structured to read like a series of Sunday comic strips. Stern had a long run on Superman but I've read barely any of it, so it will be nice to see his take on the Man of Steel, as reinvented only a few years earlier by his friend, John Byrne.

And lastly we have TALES OF THE BATMAN: LEN WEIN, a hardcover collecting every story Wein has written to date starring the Darknight Detective. There are several books in the TALES OF THE BATMAN/LEGENDS OF THE DARK KNIGHT series, but most are dedicated to artists. So far only two -- this one and the previously released ARCHIE GOODWIN volume -- spotlight writers, making Wein's selection, I would think, something of an honor.


  1. I didn't know the softcover Marvel Masterworks line had been discontinued. What does it say about me that I'm saddened by that, even though I don't think I've bought a single one myself? I guess I just like the idea of ongoing reprint series and getting this material out in as many forms as possible...

    (Incidentally, do you have a specific source for news regarding which reprints lines are getting cancelled, new volumes, etc. or is that info you just glean from the solicitations and whatnot?)

    I'm excited to pick up that Len Wein Batman book. Do you know if the covers to the issues collected are included in it? DC has this nasty habit of skipping the covers in some of their collections (seemingly at random) and it drives me nuts. Makes an otherwise excellent collection (like these various Batman HCs) feel incomplete.

  2. I get pretty much all my collected editions info from the message boards, where some of Marvel's collections staff posts. In the case of the paperback Masterworks, I think it was Marvel's VP of Sales, David Gabriel, who confirmed the cancellation.

    I actually hadn't removed the shrink wrap from the Wein book yet, since I still haven't bought new bookcases after moving, but for you, Teebore, I opened it up. I can happily confirm that every cover to every issue is included, with the exception to a BATMAN: BLACK AND WHITE story at the very end. It seems that DC includes all covers for the writer-centric volumes, while omitting them from the artist-centric books if they aren't drawn by the arist in question. It's extemely frustrating and another reason why I wish they'd start publishing these things by story arc or series or something, rather than by creator.

    That said, I love the Wein book because it includes a long stretch of uninterrupted BATMAN issues, all written by Wein (along with all his other Batman stuff from over the years).

  3. I still haven't bought new bookcases after moving, but for you, Teebore, I opened it up.

    Aw, thanks! Good to know the covers are there. I was probably going to get it either way, just cuz I really want to check out those stories, but I'll get it sooner knowing that.

    It seems that DC includes all covers for the writer-centric volumes, while omitting them from the artist-centric books if they aren't drawn by the arist in question.

    Well, needless to say, that's dumb beyond belief, but at least that suggests there's some logic to it. I never noticed that before, and couldn't figure out the pattern, so at least that part of my frustration is resolved.


  4. Young Blam was a history/continuity nut and thus a total sucker for stuff like The Untold Legend of the Batman, from whose last issue that cover was taken. Also, Jim Aparo is no slouch himself — easily in my top five Batman artists — but it’s fun to see him ink John Byrne in the first issue.

    I didn’t think that Action Comics Weekly strip had enough material to fill a TPB, let alone strong enough material to warrant one, so I checked and sure enough it’s rounded out with a meh three-parter from the monthly Superman titles that ran a few years later not written by Stern and which I don’t recall having any ties to the ACW story.

    1. I owned UNTOLD LEGEND in this weird little paperback book. It was black-and-white and the size of a novel, with the panels rearranged to fit at normal (or close to normal) size, rather than the pages shrunk down to "digest" size. I still have it around somewhere, but I'm happy to have it at full-size and in color. I agree that Aparo was a fantastic Batman artist, especially in the seventies. I wish he'd had a run on BATMAN or DETECTIVE, though, since I've gathered that his long stretch on THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD is probably not to my tastes thanks to the writing of Bob Haney.

      For the Superman book, I assume they needed to fill out some space and found that Messner-Loebs story was roughly the right length to do it or something; otherwise I'm not sure why it was included.


    2. I have a copy of that funny little TPB. For a while in the '70s and '80s they were a thing, albeit not a big thing, but the Untold Legend and Superman World of Krypton ones have apparently been kept in print; I saw them in 2006 at a Books-a-Million in Florida.

      Given that you like Alan Davis, including Alan Davis on Batman with Mike W. Barr (unless I misremember) you should check out Batman and The Outsiders. Barr & Jim Aparo launched it after The Brave and the Bold ended in 1983. While it isn’t 100% prime Aparo, like his Batman and Aquaman and Spectre from the '70s, it’s still a fair sight better than his latter-day Batman as inked by Mike DeCarlo in the late '80s and '90s.

      Also, I pretty much can’t recommend the upcoming Tales of the Batman: Alan Brennert highly enough. The fact that Brennert wrote so few comics and that so many of them are just crème de la crème is almost unreal. He did a trio of Brave and Bold issues exploring facets of the Earth-Two Batman in the early '80s, two drawn by Aparo and one penciled by Joe Staton with inks from George Freeman, that have remained favorites of mine since they were published. I won't vouch for their impact on readers who don’t have some sense of Earth-Two continuity in terms of full appreciation of the ones featuring the Earth-One Batman interacting with the Earth-Two characters, but the general consensus among old DC readers like me is that this collection is long overdue. You get the 1991 Batman: Holy Terror Elseworlds and some other stories that somehow wallow in DC mythology in the gentlest fashion to boot.

    3. Thanks for the recommendations! I have wanted to read B&TO forever, but being the collected editions snob I am, I've been waiting for DC to put out a trade or an Omnibus or something. I think the stretch of issues with Batman's name in the title would be just the right length for one.

      I did read one issue when I covered the Wolfman/Perez TEEN TITANS last year, as they crossed over with the series at one point. I also owned one issue when I was a little kid, I think with Katana on the cover fighting a wild animal in some gladiator pit or something. I'll look up a cover gallery and find it.

      I've read one Brennert Batman story in my life; it was in my battered, dog-eared copy of THE GREATEST BATMAN STORIES EVER TOLD, from 1989. It's the issue where Earth-2 Batman and Catwoman tie the knot, and I believe it features the Scarecrow. I think it's the Joe Staton issue you mentioned.

      I intend to check out the Brennert book, though the majority of my budget for this month's solicits was eaten up pretty quickly by the second MASTER OF KUNG FU OMNIBUS -- I'm jumping on those immediately as they come out, since I've gathered Marvel has a limited license from the Sax Rohmer estate to reprint the full run in quick order, and there will not likely be any reprintings or second editions in the future -- and since the Moench/Gulacy stuff is so well regarded, I really want to check it all out.

      The Brennert book is now on my shopping list for a future month, though!


    4. You may have read two Brennert Batman stories in your life, since his “To Kill a Legend” from Detective Comics #500 was also in The Greatest Batman Stories Ever Told. That’s how good he is: He’d written, I think, five Batman stories — “Legend” and four Brave and Bold tales — when the book was published and two were selected. Since then we’ve also had Holy Terror and a black-&-white backup in Gotham Knights. This collection is apparently rounded out with non-Batman stories from a Christmas with the Super-Heroes special and Secret Origins #50, which is why in my frequent wishes for it to exist I always imagined playing off the Alan Moore collection Across the Universe and calling it Across the Multiverse even though I freely admit that it’ll probably have a higher profile as a Tales of the Batman entry.

      I understand the budget crunch but I’m so thrilled this book is finally happening — and, full disclosure I guess, Alan has been a faint acquaintance of mine by mail / online for 15+ years — that I ordered it from my LCS, despite guaranteed deeper discounts online, because I want to vote with my dollar before it goes to press. Also, I really like said LCS and it’s nice to support them in the face of online competition with occasional bigger-ticket orders.


    5. And speaking of finally happening, I’d absolutely wait for B&TO collections in color rather than picking up the Showcase volume. Not sure why, if DC could do it for the fairly obscure (but personal fave) ’70s runs of All-Star Comics and Secret Society of Super-Villains, that hasn’t been done yet.

    6. You're right! I loved "To Kill a Legend" when I was a kid. It was my first exposure to the Phantom Stranger, and I just thought it was an awesome story. I haven't read it in years, but I still remember a great deal about it.

      You're really selling me on finding a way to get this book sooner rather than later...