Books I Read: August/September, Part 1
Marvel Super Hero Team-Up TPB: Marvel made a mistake with this book, in my opinion. It was originally titled “Marvel Bromance”, as a play on the recent “Marvel Romance” trade and the general pop culture trend. They changed the title because they were afraid it would seem dated. They may have been right, but the problem is that the book still has the same content under a generic title. There are much better “team-up” stories available then the ones chosen here – much better Spidey/Torch issues of “Marvel Team-Up” and much better Captain America & The Falcon stories, for instance. If you came into this without knowing the history, I think you’d be pretty disappointed. That said, the stories fit the “male friendship” theme pretty well and show some nice moments in the Spidey/Torch, Cap/Falcon, Stark/Rhodes and Wolverine/Colossus relationships. I also have a soft spot for any book that reprints Priest’s “Black Panther”: the issue chosen (#25) – not technically a “Super Hero Team Up” because Panther is the only super hero in the story -- is a key moment in the T’Challa/Agent Ross relationship, although it’s also the culmination of storylines going back to issue #1 as well as a tie-in to the “Maximum Security” event so it’s pretty dense. Extras: None. (Not even covers.)
Justice Society of America: Black Adam and Isis HC: This slim volume ties up stories from a lot of different places, so it should have a wide appeal. As the title suggests, the Black Adam and Isis stories from “52” and the “Black Adam: The Dark Age” miniseries come to a satisfying conclusion along with the Mary Marvel story from “Countdown”. There’s a new status quo set up for the Marvel Family characters, including beats that go all the way back to Jerry Ordway’s original “Power of Shazam” graphic novel. I’ll come back to the middle story in the book in a minute, but the last story is a Jerry Ordway written and drawn tale with ties back to WWII and “All-Star Squadron”, and the ending starts to set up the new creative teams’ storyline. (Which, interestingly, contradicts the message of team unity at the end of the Black Adam story.) The real gem here, though, is Geoff Johns and Dale Eaglesham’s final JSA issue – a wonderful, whimsical, beautifully drawn tale of Stargirl's 16th birthday with ties back to Johns’ “Stars & STRIPE” series. Extras: covers, alternate covers, “Origins and Omens” backup.
Superman: New Krypton Volume 2 HC: The second volume of the most exciting Superman storyline in years starts with Sterling Gates settling once and for all the conflicting versions of Supergirl’s origin dating back to when she was reintroduced by Jeph Loeb and Michael Turner. I don’t know if there will be a separate Supergirl trade with this story in it, so Supergirl fans take note. I won’t go too much into the story for those of you not following it monthly, but it includes the new Luthor/Brainiac “team-up”, the resolution of the Kryptonians on Earth and a tragedy for Supergirl not dissimilar to the one that befell her cousin in Volume 1. Extras: covers, alternate covers, unsed page from “New Krypton Special #1”.
DC Comics Classics Library: Justice League of America by George Perez Volume One HC: This is the first of two volumes reprinting George Perez’ brief 1980s run on JLA. Even though his art improved over the years, which Perez admits in his introduction, there’s a lot to like here: notably his knack for making characters distinct – I love how his Earth-2 Wonder Woman looks different than the modern version – and his attention to detail, as in the Apokolips scenes that were the model (along with Kirby of course) for many who drew it later and little stuff like Flash solving a Rubik’s Cube in a couple of panels. Gerry Conway’s stories – the poor guy gets only a tiny credit on the cover – are largely plot driven, as was the standard for JLA at the time, but he does inject a lot of nice character moments like Superman, Wonder Woman and Big Barda playing with children on Apokolips, Green Arrow and Black Canary’s relationship after GA quit the League, and an origin for Red Tornado that established that he's alive and not just a machine. Extras: Introduction by George Perez, Afterword by Len Wein, JLA postcard art by Perez. (I think I still have those actual postcards around here somewhere, believe it or not.)
Spider-Man and the Human Torch HC: Reprints in oversized format Dan Slott and Ty Templeton’s Spidey/Human Torch miniseries from a couple of years back. Slott, well known Marvel historian, tells 5 tales of the duo from various points in their history including the then-current JMS era. The stories are mostly lighthearted and fun, but they each have genuine emotional moments that would have fit well in the “Marvel Bromance” book – see how I just tied the whole column together? – including the story of how the Torch learned that Peter Parker is Spider-Man, which is followed up on in Slott’s FF guest-starring story in the recent “Spider-Man: 24/7” collection. I’ve always been a fan of these team-ups, and anyone who is should own this. (There was also a cheaper digest-sized trade, but I think it’s out of print.) Extras: oversized, plot excerpts, layouts, cover sketches.