RetroRead: Marvel Two-in-One

A few years back, I decided I wanted to read those old team-up books I enjoyed in my youth, like Marvel Team-Up and DC Comics Presents.I recalled enjoying those done-in-one stories starring a favorite character and someone else from the Marvel or DC universe. I figured I couldn’t get every issue, so I decided to try to get only those issues guest-starred characters I liked or were interested in. One of those books that I didn’t have a whole lot of experience with was Marvel Two-in-One, starring the Thing and a guest each month. So, over time I bought the following issues:

  • 3: Daredevil
  • 5: Guardians of the Galaxy
  • 17: Spider-Man
  • 30: Spider-Woman
  • 32: Invisible Girl
  • 37: Matt Murdock
  • 38: Daredevil
  • 39: Vision
  • 40: Black Panther
  • 45: Captain Marvel
  • 50: Thing
  • 51: Some Avengers and Nick Fury
  • 61: Starhawk
  • 63: Warlock?
  • 69: Guardians of the Galaxy
  • 84: Alpha Flight
  • 85: Spider-Woman
  • 86: Sandman
  • 90: Spider-Man

Reading through these, the first thing (heh) I realized was that this comic book was a stealth Thing ongoing series! These were not done-in-one stories like I thought (I mean some were, but still) with some stories spanning three issues. And now my dilemma is this, some of these multi-part stories I quite enjoyed but I am missing a piece of the puzzle, and that hurts my comic book obsessive brain. I guess I should have tried to get all of the issues after all.

The second thing was that some of these team-ups were not. Spider-Woman was more of an adversary in #30 and Vision in #39 was an imposter (except for maybe a panel or three). If these were done-in-one stories, I’d be more irritated by that but because they were one part of a larger story, I guess I can forgive the false advertisement. :)

The third thing is that the Thing is not a very likable character. He has this reputation for being a gruff, but lovable guy, but I mostly found him to be a petulant man-child. But what I did find endearing in Ben is his love for Alicia Masters, which is an ongoing part of this series.

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While some of these issues are just not that great, I wanted to highlight a few that I enjoyed. #37-39 is one of those three-part stories that was interesting, especially because of the legal component (and remember when comics would/do compress something that would take months into mere panels?) and the focus on Matt over Daredevil, at least for part of the story.

Marvel 2in1 50

Issue 50 was one of the few done-in-one stories where Thing travels back in time to give himself a Reed Richards developed formula that would have cured past Ben. Of course, in the mighty Marvel tradition, past Thing fights present Thing for several pages before present Thing wins and administers the elixir to the unconscious Thing, curing him. Thing returns to the present to find himself unchanged, and Reed explains that all Thing did was create an alternate timeline. Thing comforts himself by complimenting his current rocky appearance over the “dinosaur hide” he used to have. I’ll keep this issue for sure.

Marvel 2in1 69

Another one I’ll keep is #69, which is an issue of the series that I bought when it was first published but let go at some point. This was probably my third exposure to the Guardians of the Galaxy (after Avengers #177 and Marvel Team-Up #86) and I found the time travel aspect involving Vance Astro interesting, especially the “fog” that’s created because of the proximity of the two Vances and their mental powers. Also, Vance Astro is one of those characters I’ve wanted to read more about especially because of this issue and eventually when Marvel made the younger Vance (as Justice) a member of the Avengers.

Marvel 2in1 86

Finally, #86. Here Sandman has had enough. When Thing happens upon him in a bar and starts to trash the place in anticipation of the fight to come, Sandman tells Thing to arrest him. This surprises Thing enough that they get to talking. We learn about Sandman’s history as a poor kid growing up on the mean streets, his love that he ends up losing, and his various run-ins with New York’s superheroes. After hearing Sandman’s story, Thing buys the next round and leaves, telling Sandman he has an opportunity for a fresh start. This comic, or rather its cover, inspired me to write a similar scene in a short story. I’m glad I was finally able to read the issue that contributed to that story.

What about your experience with Marvel Two-in-One? What were your favorite issues and why? Comment below!

Retro Review: Adventure Comics #459

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Adventure Comics #459

Pulled from the longbox, I talk about Adventure Comics (v1) #459 (cover date September/October 1978). This dollar comic format featured six “all-new super-star features,” including the Flash, Deadman, Green Lantern, the New Gods, Elongated Man, and Wonder Woman. Let’s find out if it’s really a “fabulous first issue–launching the most exciting new comic of the decade!”

Adventure Comics #459 back cover
Back Cover

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Podcast 134: Retro Review: The Brave and the Bold #182

Direct Download (49:07)

Pulled from the longbox, I talk about one of my favorite issues in my collection: The Brave and the Bold #182 (cover date January 1982).

Please send your comments to longboxreview@gmail.com, chat with me @longboxreview on Twitter, and visit longboxreview.com. Please subscribe, rate, and review the show via Apple podcasts.

Thanks for listening!

Want to know more about the 1982 planetary convergence and the The Jupiter Effecthttp://mentalfloss.com/article/76906/why-some-people-thought-world-might-end-march-10-1982

Reading Pile: JLA vs JLA

I have a long list of trades sitting on my bookshelves that I’m slowly working my way through. One of these was a collection of JLA (1997-2006). Because I wasn’t reading that many comics in the late 90s, I missed my chance at jumping on board the Grant Morrison, Howard Porter, and John Dell issues, but at some point I bought the A New World Order collection of the first four issues. I enjoyed it, and decided that I would get the trades if I could do so cheaply. But when I got the Tower of Babel collection (which was probably the third trade that I got), I was hooked. I finally started buying the monthly issues, starting with #103, which was part of the “Pain of the Gods” storyline. Of course, the series then ended with #125. In the meantime, I was still getting trades. It took a while, but I finally got everything up to when I was getting the monthly issues.

I’ve spent the last year or so catching up, reading a few trades back to back. The Grant Morrison/Howard Porter stories are fantastic, and redefined what these heroes could be in the DCU. Mark Waid and Bryan Hitch’s work was interesting. But then came Joe Kelly and Doug Mahnke.

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I thought no one could top Morrison as far as idea/story, but I was wrong. Kelly/Mahnke take what was built before to another level. The stories are bombastic and personal at the same time. On top of that, we got some meanderings into moral and subjective territory (“Golden Perfect”), and the beginnings of the Wonder Woman/Batman relationship, to name just a few things. Also, Mahnke threw in some wonderful visuals and gags.

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Notice the bat in the background?

There are many things to love about the run by Kelly and the artists involved. Here are some items from each story that I loved.

“Two-Minute Warning”

  • The scene where Bats and Diana are sparring while Batman makes call after call (he’s multitasking).
  • Also, this:

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“Bouncing Baby Boy”: Besides generally believing in Plastic Man, Batman even told PM that out of everybody in the group, he thought that PM would be the best father. This relationship would play out some more in a future story.

The Obsidian Age

  • After the JLA have been sent back in time, Batman initiates a replacement protocol to bring in others as JLAers, but the best part (as a Nightwing fan) was this:

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  • I love it when Nightwing gets a chance to shine with the League. He even puts loudmouth Green Arrow in his place:

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  • When I first got to the introduction of the ancient, Atlantean League, I thought how cool it would be to read more stories of their exploits in the DCU, but of course they’re the adversaries of the story.
  • I mentioned the WW/Bats relationship, and here is where we find out that Batman has a crush:

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  • The ending to issue #73 where Flash is captured by the “bad” League and his legs are torn off! (I actually missed that the first time I read that page and was still shocked at the image when I looked at it again.)
  • In fact, the time-displaced JLAers all end up dead. Not sort of dead. Not pretending to be dead. They are killed in the past. Oh sure, they get better through magic, but it takes 3000 years! That was ballsey storytelling.
  • Finally, after the resurrection and the day is saved, we get this beautiful father-son moment:

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Rules of Engagement

This story gets a little heavy-handed regarding politics, but it’s still an interesting examination of what happens when superheroes interfere with a sovereign entity, even if it is an alien one, and the debate the League has among its members was interesting to read. Meanwhile, Diana keeps pressing Bruce to talk about them. Speaking of relationships, Martian Manhunter has formed a partnership with Scorch to help him overcome his issue with fire, and they end up kissing at the end of the collection.

Trial by Fire

  • The whole Scorch thing turns out to be really bad for J’onn, but starts out having a positive effect on the world, and even Batman. On a visit to Arkham, all of his rogues are in despair over what they’ve done. In fact, Joker is crying, begging to die. Batman’s response?

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  • Later, when it’s revealed that a genetic block that was removed turned JJ into Fernus, Superman tells the League what we’ve all known, but few want to admit:

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  • The JLAers do what they can to stop Fernus, but he’s just too powerful. So much so, in fact, that even Batman doesn’t know what to do next.

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  • Fortunately, Plastic Man is back to help save the day, proving that the faith that Batman had in him was justified, but it was really Scorch who was the hero and the only one who truly sacrificed to keep the world safe. While the whole “Fernus was a genetically separate entity than J’onn” bit allowing J’onn to be absolved of sin was a bit of a cop out, it was interesting to see how bad ass a Martian can be.

The Tenth Circle

Speaking of bad, let’s talk briefly of the Chris Claremont and John Byrne arc, The Tenth Circle.

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I will admit, when I had read that Byrne was doing JLA, I almost jumped on board with the monthly issues then, but a friend warned me it wasn’t that great. Boy, was he right. After reading such engaging stories before this, The Tenth Circle was boring schlock. It felt so dated, and the dialog was stiff, and there was nothing inventive at all here, not the least of which was the vampire antagonist. Sheesh. Who knows, perhaps there was some editorial meddling that brought this arc down, but somehow I doubt it. What an unfortunate way to end such a good reading run.

Reading Pile: Superman: The Secret Years; Time Masters; Green Wake

I have a long list of comics that I’ve acquired over the years that I fully intended on reading shortly after I bought them, but this and that happened, and I never got around to it. Until now. Recently, I finished reading two mini-series and the first arc of short-lived series. Here are my thoughts on Superman: The Secret Years, Time Masters: Vanishing Point, and Green Wake.


Superman: The Secret Years by Bob H. Rozakis (writer), Curt Swan (penciller), Kurt Schaffenberger (inker), Tom Ziuko (colorist), John Costanza (letterer), and covers by Frank Miller

 

Superman SY 4

I remember reading some backup stories in Superman comics (I forget which title specifically) called “The In-Between Years” chronicling Superman’s life between Smallville and living and working in Metropolis. This series is an extrapolation on this premise, focusing on Clark’s years at Metropolis University. The series is mostly these short done-in-one stories, with a few plot threads going through most of the issues. One common thread is Clark’s anxiety about being powerless to save everyone: his parents, his friends. This was back before the Crisis and the Kents (much like in the New 52 version) are dead before Clark fully became Superman. One of Clark’s roommates ends up drinking and driving and becomes paralyzed. And another Metropolis U student, Billy Cramer ends up dead as well.

There are some highlights. The love affair with Lori Lemaris is expanded on…slightly, but it’s still nice to see someone vying for Clark’s affections, and this story was always a favorite of mine from the original telling (“The Girl in Superman’s Past”). Clark decides to reveal his secret identity to Billy in issue two because he needs someone he can confide in, and why not a hometown boy? And there’s the progression of showing Clark/Superman maturing in the art. In issue one he is clearly more on the Superboy side than Superman, but by the end of the series, he is a young Superman for sure. I think that Kurt Schaffenberger had more to do with that than Curt Swan. I may anger some readers, but I think Swan only knew how to draw Superman as one particular age. Speaking of the art, what about Frank Miller on the covers?! This was before The Dark Knight Returns. Given the classic Swan art interiors, what a bizarre pairing.


Time Masters: Vanishing Point by Dan Jurgens (writer/layouts), Norm Rapmund (inker), Hi-Fi Colour Design (colors), Travis Lanham (letterer), and covers by Jurgens, Rapmund, & Hi-Fi Colour.

 

Time Masters 1

I got this series because I thought I would get some of the missing pieces between Final Crisis and The Return of Bruce Wayne. I did not. This series is mostly an exercise in filling time before Flashpoint happened. In fact, the final issue ends with us being told to read an issue of Booster Gold and Flashpoint #1 if we want to find out the answers to the mystery presented on the last page! I found that very frustrating. Also, the first issue’s cover implied that we would “find” the lost-in-the-time-stream Batman, and I guess that “promise” was fulfilled, but it one panel in the final issue and sort of told in flashback. And what good was there in having Superman, Green Lantern, and Booster Gold around, other than to help punch things on a few pages? For most of the series, they are superfluous to the story.

What I did enjoy were the glimpses into Rip Hunter’s childhood and his interactions with his father, the future Booster Gold. In fact, Daddy Hunter shows up in the guise of Supernova (whom I last saw in 52), a character that I’ve always enjoyed seeing in DC Comics.


Green Wake by Kurtis J Wiebe (writer), Riley Rossmo (artist/covers), and Kelly Tindall (letterer).

 

Green Wake 1b

What a cool series. I have vague recollections that this was a mini-series, but then it was announced as an ongoing series, and then it was cancelled after issue 10. I read the first arc, issues 1-5, and now I think I need to go get the other five issues. The story is about a murderous spirit who is being pursued by two men in a place called Green Wake, which appears to be a kind of Purgatory (though one character likens the place to Hell). In fact, this series reminded me of certain aspects in Dark City and What Dreams May Come, with a dash of Seven thrown in. The Rossmo art fits the mood and setting perfectly, and Wiebe throws the right amount of introspection and pathos our way to make for an engaging story. The ending gets a little confusing, but I also like that you can interpret it a couple ways–that makes it a better story to me. Unlike the other two series described above, I do recommend picking this one up if you can find the back issues or trades.