Comic Book Review – JLA/Avengers

JLA/Avengers (2022)
Reprints JLA/Avengers #1-4
Written by Kurt Busiek
Art by George Pérez

Not a hoax! Not a dream! The Justice League finally crosses the omniverse and meets Marvel’s Avengers. This was the dream project of comics creator George Pérez for decades. He was there in the 1980s when the first project started. It fell through due to the infamous Marvel EiC Jim Shooter’s interferences, but Pérez constantly made it known that he was drawing this comic if it ever came to pass. When Pérez entered into an exclusive contract with independent publisher CrossGen, he even carved out an exception if this comic was finalized. In 2003, it finally happened, and Pérez got his wish to draw EVERYONE in a single story that crossed companies. On May 6, 2022, Pérez passed away from complications of pancreatic cancer. He had announced he was terminal in 2021, and comic fans had entered a state of mourning. I want to look at his dream project and talk about his influence on my life as a kid, reading and exploring the scope of American comic books.

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Comic Book Review – Doctor Strange Epic Collection V1: Master of the Mystic Arts

Doctor Strange Epic Collection Volume 1: Master of the Mystic Arts (2018)
Reprints Strange Tales v1 #110-111, 114-146, and Amazing Spider-Man Annual #2
Written by Stan Lee & Steve Ditko
Art by Steve Ditko

For such a massive movie star, Doctor Strange’s origins didn’t guarantee that level of fame. He began as a back-up feature in the aptly named anthology Strange Tales. Despite the name, Strange Tales was initially a showcase for science fiction stories in the 1950s. It was part of Marvel chasing the popularity of gorier stories found in EC Comics like Tales From the Crypt, but as superheroes rose back into popularity in the 1960s, the company pivoted. The feature story of Strange Tales in the early 1960s was The Human Torch. While having waned in popularity in recent years, The Fantastic Four was the premiere book published by Marvel in the 1960s. They were the company’s entry into the Silver Age cape & tights landscape, and the Torch was one of the most popular characters. A few issues in, a back-up feature was needed, and there was creator Steve Ditko with the idea for Dr. Strange.

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Comic Book Review – Daredevil by Chip Zdarsky Volume Two

Daredevil by Chip Zdarsky Volume 2 (2022)
Reprints Daredevil #11 – 20
Written by Chip Zdarsky
Art by Marco Checcehtto, Franceso Mobli, and Jorge Fornes

When we last left Matt Murdock, he had reached one of his lowest points. He’s having an affair with a woman who married into the mob, the Daredevil is being actively hunted by the police, Wilson Fisk is the mayor of New York City, and he’s been physically broken down. This is the moment that Elektra shows back up in his life. Other civilians have picked up the mantle of Daredevil but are in over their heads. Elektra sees her role at this moment to remind Matt of why he is crucial to Hell’s Kitchen. There’s also Detective North, a transfer into the NYPD who is determined to bring down masked vigilantes and stop the roiling corruption in the police force. Tensions are incredibly high, and the powder keg feels like it will blow. 

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Comic Book Review – Immortal Hulk Book Four

Immortal Hulk Book Four (2022)
Reprints Immortal Hulk #31-40
Written by Al Ewing
Art by Joe Bennett, Javier Rodriguez, Nick Pitarra, Butch Guice, and Mike Hawthorne

In this penultimate omnibus of Immortal Hulk, writer Al Ewing continues exploring and deconstructing the Green Goliath. The tone of this book has consistently been that of body horror, a subgenre that fits the Hulk to a tee. It’s such a good match that I struggle to see Hulk working in another manner. As good as Donny Cates’ current run on the character is at the moment, it had such a massive shadow looming over it from Immortal. From the beginning, it has been clear that Ewing wants to use the Hulk to explore questions about identity and death and how the two intertwine. Gamma has become a mix of science and spirituality, a force that created Bruce Banner and may have been created out of him via some metaphysical means.

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Comic Book Review – Daredevil by Chip Zdarsky Volume 1

Daredevil by Chip Zdarsky Volume 1 (2020)
Reprints Daredevil #1-10
Written by Chip Zdarsky
Art by Marco Checcetto, Lalit Kumar Sharma, and Jorge Fornes

I can’t say Daredevil has ever been a character I was drawn to reading. I’ve mostly been a DC Comics fan since I was a kid but have certainly read a healthy amount of Marvel Comics in that time too. However, Daredevil just felt like someone I never really clicked with and would instead read X-Men or Spider-Man. Nevertheless, this run by acclaimed writer Chip Zdarsky has garnered much praise, which intrigued me. So, I sat down and read through the run’s first ‘deluxe’ volume. 

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Comic Book Review – Amazing Spider-Man Epic Collection Volume 2: Great Responsibility

Amazing Spider-Man Epic Collection Volume 2 (2017)
Reprints Amazing Spider-Man #18-38, Annual #2
Written by Stan Lee & Steve Ditko
Art by Steve Ditko

This collection encompasses the final half of artist Steve Ditko’s work on the Spider-Man title, a run that holds a legendary status among comic book fans. And rightfully so, Ditko’s artwork reaches some grand new heights here. I found some of his work in the first seventeen issues to not be all that impressive, but here Ditko has some sequences that are among the best art I have ever seen in the medium. As for stories, this is a more mixed bag. By this point, almost every iconic Spider-Man villain had been introduced, a truly remarkable feat for just a couple years. That means these issues either feature the return of already beloved rogues or the introduction of those villains who would be forgotten almost as soon as they debuted. I doubt we will find many passionate fans of Molten Man or The Looter out there among the fandom. What we do get is the introduction of some vitally important supporting players in Peter Parker’s life.

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Comic Book Review – The Eternals: Cosmic Origins

The Eternals: Cosmic Origins (2021)
Reprints material from Eternals v1 #1-4, Avengers Spotlight #35, Avengers #361, and What If? #25-38
Written by Jack Kirby, Mark Gruenwald, Ralph Macchio, Danny Fingeroth, and Bob Harras
Art by Jack Kirby, Ron Wilson, Rich Buckler, Jim Valentino, and Steve Epting

This is probably not the best place for a newbie to start with The Eternals. The collection is an odd mishmash of pieces that often end with a directive to go to another collection where the story continues. Here you get a sampling of the ways Jack Kirby’s Eternals have been presented from their debut in the 1970s to the mid-90s when Marvel had sort of gone off the rails. The Neil Gaiman/John Romita Jr. Eternals mini-series was not included here, which would probably be the best place for one unfamiliar with this branch of the Marvel family to go to first. All that said, The Eternals is an interesting property in the Marvel Universe as it is one of the most purely Kirby things ever dreamed up and has a parallel in DC Comics during Kirby’s exile there.

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Comic Book Review – Amazing Spider-Man Epic Collection V1: Great Power

Amazing Spider-Man Epic Collection Volume 1: Great Power
Reprints Amazing Fantasy #15, Amazing Spider-Man #1-17, Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1
Written by Stan Lee
Art by Steve Ditko & Jack Kirby

In hindsight, it’s often hard to see the chronological order that something iconic in our culture came about. If you were born decades after, you usually just see it as all mashed together. Take Spider-Man, for instance. He debuted in the pages of Amazing Fantasy in 1962. This was over a year (June 1961) that the Marvel Comics brand was created out of the former Timely/Atlas Comics. Fantastic Four #1 was published in November of ‘61, which many see as the start of what we know as Marvel Superheroes. Amazing Spider-Man #1 came out in March 1963 and was bi-monthly for its first three issues. What really makes this wild for me is realizing I was born 19 years after Spider-Man’s debut, a number that feels a lot smaller at 40 than it would have when I was eight years old. That’s the equivalent of something in 2021 that debuted in 2002. So from this perspective, it doesn’t feel so long ago.

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Comic Book Review – Immortal Hulk Book Three

Immortal Hulk Book Three (2021)
Reprints Immortal Hulk #21-30
Written by Al Ewing
Art by Ryan Bodenheim, Joe Bennett, German Garcia, Tom Reilly, and Matías Bergara

Al Ewing’s Immortal Hulk run has been an excellent survey of every supporting character, villain, and central plot point of the Hulk. With Book Three, Ewing wraps up the General Fortean plotline while laying the threads for the eventual return of Hulk’s arch-nemesis, The Leader. As with everything that has come before, Ewing puts characters first to evolve the plots and conflicts naturally out of those revelations and details. We get glimpses into Fortean’s past, we get more character bits with Gamma Flight, especially the Absorbing Man & Titania. The book is just as much an ensemble piece as it spotlights Bruce Banner and his struggle with the Hulk.

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Comic Book Review – Immortal Hulk Book Two

Immortal Hulk Book Two (2018)
Reprints Immortal Hulk #11-20
Written by Al Ewing
Art by Joe Bennett and Eric Nguyen

Rereading Immortal Hulk has been sparking my interest in going back and revisit Peter David’s Hulk run. That is a daunting task because of its enormity, but Al Ewing does such an excellent job of building on David’s numerous contributions to the Hulk mythos in a way that doesn’t feel derivative. This is done by introducing new aspects to Bruce Banner & The Hulk that complicates their relationship. I also think Jackie McGee is a grounding force, always there reminding the reader and Banner about the human costs of being this green behemoth. In Book Two, Ewing literally takes us to Hell, where Banner confronts those closest to him left as collateral damage.

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