Friday, May 30, 2014


Writer: Chris Claremont | Artist: Marshall Rogers
Letterers: Irving Watanabe w/Karen Mantlo | Editor: John Warner

In early 1977, Chris Claremont was at possibly the most diverse phase of his career. He had not yet become the man known exclusively for writing mutant titles. Instead, he was the regular writer on UNCANNY X-MEN and IRON FIST; he had just added MS. MARVEL to that same résumé, and within a few months, MARVEL TEAM-UP would include Spider-Man's adventures among his monthly credits as well.

Marvel was pretty diverse at the time too, publishing, among other things, a line of black-and-white magazines alongside their color comics. The magazines were not restricted by the guidelines of the Comics Code Authority, allowing creators greater freedom with the content of their stories. One of these periodicals was DEADLY HANDS OF KUNG-FU, which had, over the years, been a showcase for characters like Shang-Chi, Iron Fist, and the Sons of the Tiger. Finally, for the series' last two issues, Claremont teamed up with artist Marshall Rogers for a series about Colleen Wing and Misty Knight, supporting characters from his IRON FIST series now striking out on their own.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014


Writer: Roger Stern | Penciler: Marie Severin | Inker: Steve Mitchell
Letterer: Michael Higgins | Colorist: Glynis Wein | Editor: Dennis O'Neil
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: Spider-Man manages to escape from his coffin after it has left the sight of the Vulture and his men. While Vulture leads a toast to celebrate the web-slinger's demise, Black Alfred shows up. Knowing that Alfred has been conspiring against him, the Vulture smacks him around a bit, until Spider-Man crashes back into the room, still chained up. Vulture grabs Malachai and retreats, and Black Alfred makes a run for it as well -- but Spider-Man and the remaining mobsters are trapped in the building, now set ablaze by the furnace following the wall-crawler's escape.

Spider-Man snaps his chains and leads the criminals to safety, webbing them to a lamppost outside. Black Alfred, meanwhile, sneaks up on the Vulture and Malachai in an alleyway and guns down the Vulture's nephew. Vulture flies into a vengeful rage, but Spider-Man rescues Black Alfred from a fatal beating. Spidey and the Vulture take their battle airborne while the police arrive to arrest Black Alfred.

Vulture carries Spider-Man across the city and the fight eventually ends in Grand Central Station, where the Vulture knocks himself out by flying into a window while attempting escape. The authorities take the Vulture into custody while Spider-Man heads to the Daily Globe for the street clothes he had stashed there earlier, and changes back to Peter Parker.

Monday, May 26, 2014


Writer/Co-Plotter: Marv Wolfman | Layouts/Co-Plotter: Steve Leialoha
Finished Art: Al Gordon | Letterer: Michael Higgins | Colorist: Ben Sean
Editor: Dennis O'Neil | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: As he swings through the city on a cold winter's night, Spider-Man spots a funeral procession. He snaps some pictures and moves on, as the procession arrives at a church. The attendees are all gangsters looking to take over New York's underworld, and have gathered to pay their respects to one of their own, Big Louie. The funeral is presided over by Malachai Toomes, who announces that his uncle has the firmest grasp on the underworld, but he will allow the assembled gangsters to serve him if they will each procure for him a valuable item of his choosing.

The next day, a mobster named Harry Dolenz attempts to steal a jade statue at a Chinese New Year's parade in Chinatown, but is gunned down by men working for his rival, Black Alfred. Peter Parker, covering the parade for the Daily Globe, inadvertently winds up with the killing captured on film. When he realizes this the next day, Peter vows to solve the murder. Later, Black Alfred murders another of his rivals, Mancini, at an elevated train track, while at the same time, Spider-Man shakes down some hoods elsewhere in the city and learns that Dolenz's body was taken to the Taylor Building. The wall-crawler pulls records on the building, learning that it is owned by Malachai Toomes, and that Toomes is the nephew of one of his oldest enemies.

Sunday, May 25, 2014


This month's box is small in content but large in quality, thanks to the long, long, long awaited UNCANNY X-MEN OMNIBUS volume 2. Volume 1 was one of Marvel's very first Omnibus collections and was released eight years ago, in 2006. Let's put that in perspective. The time between the releases of volumes 1 and 2 is longer than the amount of time the X-Men were in reprints in the seventies. It's longer than the amount of years' worth of issues contained in both books together, even taking into account that UNCANNY X-MEN was bi-monthly for much of the first volume! It's a long time!

But it's here at last, and mostly worth the wait. Since I probably won't be writing about this run of issues individually for quite some time, if ever, due to the huge number of sites and blogs that have already done so, I've decided that for now I'll compose a single, stand-alone post about the book itself for next weekend. For now, though, I'm just pleased to have this titanic tome nestled snugly beside volume 1 in my overcrowded bookcase.

The only other arrival this month is TRANSFORMERS: REGENERATION ONE volume 4, which concludes IDW's commitment to finishing out the original Marvel TRANSFORMERS series. As I noted when volume 3 arrived, I will read both 3 and 4 together and then blog about them in a series of posts as I did with the first two volumes last year. Currently, my plan is to get these posts started exactly one year after I began the previous round, which would start us off in September -- so watch for that a few months from now.

And that's it! I'm back from the honeymoon, rested, refreshed, and ready to continue blabbing about comic books.

Friday, May 23, 2014


Writer: Christos Gage | Penciler: Mike Perkins | Inker: Andrew Hennessy
Colorist: Laura Villari | Letterer: Cory Petit | Production: Brad Johnson
Assistant Editor: Daniel Ketchum | Editor: Andy Schmidt
Editor-in-Chief: Joe Quesada | Publisher: Dan Buckley

After the UNION JACK mini-series by Ben Raab and John Cassaday, Jack fell dormant once again for a few years. He was picked up for the brief NEW INVADERS series, which continued the Baroness storyline from Raab's series, and which I may someday review here. But his next occasion headlining a mini-series came in 2006, when Christos Gage and Mike Perkins joined forces on UNION JACK: LONDON FALLING.

LONDON FALLING does not pack the emotional punch of the previous story, nor does it contain the moody, atmospheric artwork of John Cassaday. But that's okay, because it's just as entertaining in its own way. Where Raab's UNION JACK was a small, personal story focusing on character over all else, Gage brings us Union Jack as an action movie.

In a nice touch of continuity, the story begins with Joey Chapman more or less where we left him after the Raab/Cassaday series. The opening scene sees him battling a trio of vampires, his narration noting that taking on such creatures is a Union Jack tradition. Joey also spends some time reminiscing about his late father, a character element which was introduced in Raab's story.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014


Writer: Roger Stern | Penciler: Mike Zeck | Inker: Steve Mitchell
Letterer: John Costanza | Colorist: Bob Sharen | Editor: Dennis O'Neil
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: The Empire State University science lab is robbed of some common chemicals by a group of masked men. Graduate student Peter Parker tags one of them with a Spider-Tracer, then, after giving his statement to the police, changes into Spider-Man canvasses the city in search of his tracking device. He eventually zeroes in on the men -- along with their leader, a woman named Belladonna -- invading the office of fashion magnate Roderick Kingsley. Spider-Man saves Kingsley from the villains, but thanks to Belladonna's sense-dulling gases, the group escapes.

Peter does some research on Kingsley, learns that he has a fashion show coming up a day later, and covers the show under the guise of his night job as a news photographer in order to watch for a return engagement from Belladonna. Sure enough, she arrives in dramatic fashion, defiling Kingsley's new clothing line, then demanding all valuables from the assembled patrons. Spider-Man once more comes to Kingsley's aid and saves the day, but Belladonna and her men escape again.

Monday, May 19, 2014


"I just tried to write about the guy I'd started reading about fourteen years earlier. He was maybe a few years older -- and he'd been through a lot -- but he was still Spider-Man. I don't know how many times I'd read and reread the stories that preceded mine -- especially the ones that Stan had written -- but I probably knew Peter better than I knew anyone I'd ever gone to school with (after all, I was never privy to my friends' innermost thoughts)."

-- "Roger Stern, the Spectacular Spider-Writer",
MARVEL SPOTLIGHT: SPIDER-MAN, Marvel Comics, March 2007
While regarded by many as the most definitive Spider-Man short of Stan Lee, Roger Stern's issues, aside from certain "evergreen" classics like "Nothing Can Stop the Juggernaut" and the Hobgoblin saga, have rarely been reprinted over the years. But somebody in the Marvel collected editions department must be a fan, because this past March saw the release of the much-deserved and long overdue SPIDER-MAN BY ROGER STERN OMNIBUS.

Sunday, May 18, 2014


Some may recall that a few months ago, I concocted a post about my goal of having every issue of UNCANNY X-MEN and X-MEN, from the beginning of Chris Claremont's run to the end of Scott Lobdell's, in hardcover and/or paperback on my bookshelves. That post has since become one of my most frequently viewed, so I decided to turn it into a permanent page here, with the intention of updating it on a regular basis, whenever new books are announced.

As it happens, one such book has popped onto the radar recently. Courtesy of the quarterly Hachette Book Group catalog, by way of the Marvel Masterworks Message Board, a listing has been discovered for an INFERNO PROLOGUE hardcover volume to be released late this year, which will fill in one of the remaining gaps in the Claremont canon, issues 228 - 238. This is the early "Outback" material immediately following "Fall of the Mutants".

So, with the above book added to the listing, I have updated my table and given it a permanent home under the title of X-MEN COLLECTIONS, which can be accessed from the "Blog Content" menu at right. I have also added two additional tables below the main ones, showing what remains to be collected from the post-Lobdell/pre-Grant Morrison X-era, for those who are interested (and I myself would be happy with most all of it, despite some abysmal quality near the end of the stretch). Happy collecting!

Friday, May 16, 2014


Writers: Ben Raab & John Cassaday | Artist: John Cassaday
Colors: Dave Stewart | Letters: Richard Starkings & Comicraft/OS
Editor: Tom Brevoort | Editor-in-Chief: Bob Harras
With Acknowledgment to the Work of Roy Thomas & Frank Robbins

In the final few years of the twentieth century, Marvel put out several mini-series which read like "pilot episodes" for revivals of various series. There was a WARLOCK series by Tom Lyle. Two MOON KNIGHT series by his creator, Doug Moench. But the brightest gem among these, so to speak, was UNION JACK by Ben Raab and John Cassaday.

Raab seems to have a rep as a typical hack writer from the nineties. While I was not enamored with his one ongoing series, EXCALIBUR, I found his numerous limited series and one-shots to range from good to great. His dialogue is fine -- I would go so far as to say a cut above some of his contemporaries from this era. And the trait I value most in any comic book writer -- his knowledge of past continuity and/or developments in concurrent series, coupled with a great ability to use that knowledge for springboards to new stories -- is outstanding.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014


Created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby
Writer: Roger Stern | Artist: John Byrne
Letterer: Joe Rosen | Colorist: Bob Sharen
Editor: Jim Salicrup | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter
Special Thanks to Joe Rubinstein, Inker of Today!

Cover by Frank Miller
The Plot: In 1941, inside the White House, President Franklin Roosevelt reads a dossier on Steve Rogers, and peruses the files on Operation: Rebirth and Project: Super Soldier, the military directives which transformed Rogers into Captain America. Following his review, Roosevelt meets Captain America in person, and presents him with a new, disc-shaped shield to replace the triangular one he had been carrying previously.

A month later, Cap has reported to Camp Lehigh as Private Steve Rogers, a cover which will allow him to move about in secret. He has befriended young Bucky Barnes, and the two soon go on to become partners in the war. Following a montage which recaps the remainder of Cap's World War II career alongside the Invaders, the story jumps back to the present day, where Cap returns home after a long night of superheroing.

Continuity Notes: The entire story is basically one big continuity note, reconciling various versions of Captain America's origin into a cohesive whole. More on that below.

Monday, May 12, 2014


Writer/Co-Plotters/Penciler: Roger Stern & John Byrne
Inker: Josef Rubinstein | Letterer: Joe Rosen | Colorist: Bob Sharen
Editor: Jim Salicrup | Peer: Jim Shooter
Special Thanks to Colin Campbell for his kind assistance!
Dedicated to Frank Robbins, creative artist and storytelling wizard... and the man who first drew Union Jack...

The Plot: Captain America escapes Baron Blood thanks to the chain mail lining his costume, but the Baron eludes capture and gets away. Cap, along with Ken Chrichton, Joey Chapman, and the local authorities, spends the next day scouring the countryside for Blood. Ken and Joey deduce Blood's identity when Jenny, a barmaid Ken has been dating, falls ill while serving them drinks, and they find puncture marks in her neck.

That night, Lord Falsworth attempts to don the Union Jack uniform once more to lure Blood out of hiding, but takes ill in doing so. Informed by Ken and Joey that Baron Blood is actually the town doctor, Cromwell, Cap sets a trap for Blood using Joey, in the Union Jack costume, as bait. Cap and Union Jack work together to defeat Baron Blood, and Cap is forced to decapitate his foe in order to end his threat.

As our heroes burn Baron Blood's body on the moors outside the Falsworth estate, Lord Falsworth passes peacefully away.

Sunday, May 11, 2014


(No, sadly this is not the title of an upcoming Marvel team-up style series. But could you imagine...?)

Remember the other day when we covered CAPTAIN AMERICA #254, in which young Joey Chapman took on the guise of Union Jack? Well, that was in 1981. Not much came of Union Jack for several years afterward. He made some appearances in the Marvel U.K. comics, where he joined the super-group called the Knights of Pendragon, and he popped up in John Byrne's NAMOR series in the U.S. for a two-parter involving Spitfire and a reunion of the Invaders. But overall he was dormant for quite some time.

Then in 1998, Ben Raab and future superstar artist John Cassaday produced a limited series titled UNION JACK, which served as a sequel to the original Roger Stern/John Byrne origin. Jack remained relatively low profile in the years that followed, with only occasional appearances in CAPTAIN AMERICA and a brief stint as one of Chuck Austen's NEW INVADERS, until he again popped up to headline a mini-series in 2006.

Friday, May 9, 2014


Story/Art: Alan Davis
Inks: Mark Farmer | Colors: Gregory Wright | Letters: Pat Prentice
Assistant Editors: Marc Sumerak & Andy Schmidt | Editor: Tom Brevoort
Editor-in-Chief: Joe Quesada | President: Bill Jemas

I had become a fan of Alan Davis by the time his KILLRAVEN limited series was first published in 2002, but I did not know who or what a "Killraven" was, so I passed on it at the time. But thanks to Marvel Digital Unlimited, I finally took some time to read the six-issue limited series earlier this year. As noted, I was totally unfamiliar with the Killraven character when the series came out, but I had since learned that he debuted in Marvel's adaptaion of THE WAR OF THE WORLDS. I've still never read another comic with him, though, so I have no idea if Davis's story is a sequel, a reboot, or a reimagining -- but I can confirm that it's a very fun read.

I like post apocalyptic stories about small groups traveling the land in search of something, and that's precisely what this is. When the tale begins, it is the "not-so-distant future" and Earth is enslaved by Martians. Our main characters are Raven (a.k.a. Killraven), M'Shulla, Carmilla, Hawk, and Skull. The former four are gladiators from the Martian slave pens, while Skull, older than the rest, was one of their attendants, who essentially raised and trained them. The group quickly takes on a boy named John, and this group forms the core of the story's cast.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014


Writer/Co-Plotters/Penciler: Roger Stern & John Byrne
Inker: Joe Rubinstein | Letterer: Jim Novak | Colorist: Bob Sharen
Editor: Jim Salicrup | Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: Captain America is summoned to England by Lord Falsworth, the retired Word War II hero called Union Jack, to investigate a string of murders around Falsworth Manor. Falsworth is convinced that his brother, the Nazi vampire Baron Blood, is behind the killings, and Cap does some sleuthing to determine that Blood is indeed on the loose. That night, Blood sneaks into Falsworth Manor to kill Captain America.

Continuity Notes: Cap foils a robbery in the early pages of the issue before going on a date with Bernie Rosenthal as Steve Rogers. The couple sees "Oklahoma!" at Steve's insistence, despite Bernie's preferred choice of the risqué "Oh! Calcutta!", which Steve believes he is not yet ready for. Bernie then comments on Steve's generally old-fashioned tastes.

Bernie and Steve's first kiss is prevented when Avengers butler Jarvis calls from Avengers Mansion to inform Steve of the telegram which summons him to England. When Steve tells Bernie has to leave, she makes up a story about an old boyfriend to make him jealous. The resultant panels are two of the finest examples of Marvel angst you'll ever see.

Monday, May 5, 2014


Writer: Roger Stern | Penciler: John Byrne | Inker: Josef Rubinstein
Letterer: John Costanza | Colorist: Bob Sharen | Editor: Jim Salicrup
Harbormaster: Jim Shooter

The Plot: Captain America is chained to the bow of Roxxon's super tanker as it moves toward New York Harbor. Batroc surreptitiously gives Cap some slack on his chains, then enters the ship's bridge with Mr. Hyde. Hyde makes clear his intention of ramming the ship into the city, even though he already has his ransom money, simply to kill the Cobra for deserting Hyde when he broke out of Ryker's Island a week before. Batroc declares Hyde insane, and attacks his ally.

Meanwhile, Cap has freed himself and made his way back aboard ship. Cap joins the fray, teaming with Batroc against Hyde. Hyde ultimately defeats himself by striking a container of liquified natural gas, which flash freezes him and knocks him into the water. Cap dives overboard to search for Hyde, but finds no trace of him. Meanwhile, Batroc escapes with the ransom. He is caught, however, when Captain America and the coast guard surround his barge before it can reach the open sea.

Friday, May 2, 2014


Writer & Finished Art: Bob Layton | Pencil Art: Ron Lim
Colors: Mike Cavallaro & Deep 6 | Letters: Dave Sharpe
Editors: Mark Paniccia & Charlie Beckerman | Zeus-in-Chief: Joe Quesada
Publisher: Dan Buckley | Executive Producer: Alan Fine

Bob Layton's final outing with Hercules, published over twenty years after the MARVEL COMICS PRESENTS serial, begins with a quick teaser sequence in which Hercules suffers brain damage saving planet Wilamean from a terrorist attack. The action then jumps a year forward, to the 75th anniversary celebration of Hercules' triumph over Galactus on Ciegrim-7, as seen in the original limited series.

The festivities are short-lived, however, as, not far away, Galactus accidentally absorbs the energy of a black hole and becomes an enormous singularity which threatens to consume first Wilamean and then the entire Andromeda galaxy. Hercules eventually sacrifices himself to save the day, but not before an epic battle with Galactus's latest herald. Galactus is restored to normal and soon after, Hercules is reborn as well -- as Cosmos, the Bringer of Worlds.

Along the way we get numerous nods to Layton's past stories, as well as the fates of the rest of the supporting cast. Skyppi finally succumbs to old age and passes away. The Recorder is upgraded to become a cyborg by his Rigellian creators. We see young Emperor Arimathes as an elder statesman, still the Emperor of Wilamean. Arimathes has three children now, as well -- Juno, Anotinitus, and Ursus (though one of the three does not survive the series) -- meaning Hercules has fulfilled the mission set before him by Zeus at the end of his second limited series, and has sired a new race of gods. Layana Sweetwater shows up as well, the founder of the terrorist cell which has plagued Wilamean for decades.