The All-New Batman – the Brave and the Bold volume 3: Small Miracles


By Sholly Fisch, Rick Burchett, Dan Davis, Robert Pope, Scott McRae, Stewart McKenny & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-3852-0 (TPB/Digital edition)

The Brave and the Bold premiered in 1955 as an anthology adventure comic featuring short complete tales about a variety of period heroes: a format reflecting the era’s filmic fascination with flamboyantly fanciful historical dramas. Devised and written by Bob Kanigher, #1 led with Roman epic Golden Gladiator, feudal mystery-man The Silent Knight and Joe Kubert’s Viking Prince. Soon the Gladiator was alternated with Robin Hood, but the adventure theme carried the title until the end of the decade when the burgeoning costumed character revival saw B&B transform into a try-out vehicle like Showcase.

Used to premiere concepts and characters such as Task Force X: The Suicide Squad, Cave Carson, Hawkman and Strange Sports Stories as well as the epochal Justice League of America, the comic soldiered on until issue #50 when it found another innovative new direction which once again caught the public’s imagination.

That issue paired two super heroes – Green Arrow and Martian Manhunter – in a one-off team-up and was followed by more of the same: Aquaman with Hawkman in #51, WWII “Battle Stars” Sgt. Rock, Mme. Marie, Captain Cloud & The Haunted Tank in #52 and The Atom & Flash in #53.

The next instant union – Robin, Aqualad and Kid Flash – evolved into The Teen Titans and after Metal Men/The Atom and Flash/Martian Manhunter appeared, a new hero debuted in #57-58: Metamorpho, the Element Man.

From then it was back to the proven popular power pairings with #59. Although no one realised it at the time, that particular conjunction – Batman with Green Lantern – would be particularly significant….

A return engagement for the Teen Titans, issues spotlighting Earth-Two stalwarts Starman and Black Canary and Earth-One’s Wonder Woman and Supergirl soon gave way to an indication of things to come when Batman returned to duel hero/villain Eclipso in #64: an early acknowledgement of the brewing TV-induced mania mere months away.

Within two issues (following Flash/Doom Patrol and Metamorpho/Metal Men), B&B #67 saw the Caped Crusader take de facto control of the title and a lion’s share of team-ups. With the late exception of #72-73 (Spectre/Flash and Aquaman/Atom), it was thereafter where the Gotham Gangbuster invited the rest of DC’s heroic pantheon to come and play…

Even after the title finally folded, its mighty heritage inspired returns as assorted miniseries and as a second dramatic on-going run in the 2000s.

Meanwhile elsewhere over a few decades, Batman: The Animated Series – masterminded by Bruce Timm & Paul Dini in the 1990s – revolutionised the Dark Knight and subsequently led to some of the absolute best comic book adventures in his 80-year publishing history. It also led to a spin-off print title…

With constant comics tie-ins to a succession of TV animation series, Batman has remained immensely popular and a sublime introducer of kids to the magic of sequential narrative and the printed page. One fun-filled incarnation was Batman: The Brave and the Bold, which gloriously celebrated the team-up in both its all-ages small-screen and comicbook spin-off.

Shamelessly and superbly plundering decades of continuity arcana and the comic book inspirations and legacy of power-pairings in a profusion of alliances between the Dark Knight and DC’s lesser creations, the show was supplemented by a cool kids’ periodical full of fun, verve and swashbuckling dash, cunningly crafted to appeal as much to the parents and grandparents as those fresh-faced little TV-fed tykes…

This stellar collection re-presents issues #15 and 17 of original spinoff series Batman: The Brave and the Bold and #13-16 The All-New Batman: The Brave and the Bold in an immensely entertaining all-ages ensemble suitable for newcomers, fans and aficionados of various vintages. Although absolutely unnecessary to the reader’s enjoyment, a passing familiarity with the TV episodes will enhance the overall experience, but not as much as will knowledge of the bizarre minutiae and lore of DC down the years…

Scripted throughout by Sholly Fisch, and following the TV show format, each tale opens with a brief prequel adventure before telling a longer tale.

We start with a run from the second series. TA-NB:TB&TB #13 was cover-dated January 2012 with Rick Burchett & Dan Davis illustrating ‘…Batman Dies at Dawn!’, as Nightwing leaves his Teen Titan ally Speedy to answer a call from the eerie Phantom Stranger. The enigmatic envoy of the unknown has assembled an army of Robins from the past, present and alternate histories (such as Frank Miller’s Carrie Kelley from The Dark Night Returns) to save a fatally wounded Batman, and their fractious trail leads ultimately to the grandfather of Damien (Robin) Wayne: Ra’s Al Ghul…

Issue #14 (February 2012) sees the Gotham Gangbuster and Blue Beetle wipe out colour coordinated crooks Crazy Quilt, Doctor Spectro and Rainbow Raider before Batman shares a moving and appropriately wonder-packed seasonal fable with Ragman in ‘Small Miracles’. Jewish Rory Regan is very much a minor-league hero working in the poorest part of Gotham, and sees nothing to celebrate until he eventually finds his own miracle after exposing a land-grabbing corporation trying to shut down the local synagogue…

Mister Miracle steals the spotlight in #15’s ‘No Exit’ (illustrated by Stewart McKenny & Davis) as he and Batman are caught in the most inescapable trap of all, but still find their way back to freedom, after which things get really silly and soppy as #16 (April 2012, Burchett & Davis) sees Batman’s battle against the Mad Mod interrupted by 5th dimensional imp and premier stalker/fan Bat-Mite.

Sadly, Batgirl also shows up and for the pesky pixie it’s ‘Love at First Mite’. Cue a whacky wander down the daftest miles of DC’s memory lane and a truly hilarious brief and so-very-doomed romantic encounter…

Wrapping up the comic craziness is a brace of tales from the first series. Batman: The Brave and the Bold #15 (May 2010) saw Fisch, Robert Pope & Scott McRae piling on the weird as Batman joined seminal swinging sixties stalwarts Super-Hip and Brother Power, The Geek in their own eccentric era to stop Mad Mod taking over the Mother of Parliaments (that’s Britain, OK? London, Eng-er-land?) before teaching third Flash Wally West a thing or two about patience and diligence in main feature ‘Minute Mystery’. It all began when someone stole something from the Flash Museum and the superheroes made a contest of finding out what, who, how, and why…

We draw to a close with #17 (July 2010) of that series, with Fisch, Pope & McRae proving ‘A Batman’s Work is Never Done’: tracing one week of standard crimebusting capers with cameo appearances from Metamorpho, Mr. Element, Mongul, the Green Lantern Corps,  Toyman, Merry, Girl of Thousand Gimmicks, Jonah Hex, Bat Lash, Hawkman, the Gentleman Ghost, Etrigan the Demon, the Inferior Five, The Creeper, The Scarecrow and Doomsday.

Despite being ostensibly aimed at TV-addicted kids, these mini-sagas are also wonderful, traditional comics romps no self-respecting fun-fan should miss: accessible, well-rendered yarns for the broadest range of excitement-seeking readers. This is a fabulously full-on thrill-fest confirming the seamless link between animated features and comic books. After all, it’s just adventure entertainment in the end; really unmissable entertainment…
© 2010, 2012, 2013 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Crisis on Infinite Earths


By Marv Wolfman & George Pérez, with Jerry Ordway, Dick Giordano, Mike DeCarlo & various (DC Comics) 
ISBN: 978-1-4012-5841-2 (HB/Digital edition) 978-1-56389-750-4 (TPB) 

Once more I’m compelled to dash out another swiftly modified reprinted review to mark the passing of one of our industry and art form’s most prolific and irreplaceable master creators. George Pérez died on May 6th from the complications of pancreatic cancer. He was 67 years old.  

His triumphs as penciller, writer and an always in-demand inker made him a force to be reckoned with and earned a vast number of awards in a career spanning almost fifty years. Pérez worked for dozens of publishers large and small; self-published his own creations, redeemed and restored many moribund characters and features (like the (New) Teen Titans), Nightwing and Wonder Woman) and co-created many breakthrough characters such as The White Tiger (first Puerto Rican superhero), The Maestro, Deathstroke the Terminator, Terra, The Monitor and Anti-Monitor.  

He will be most warmly remembered for his incredible facility in portraying big teams and cataclysmic events. Pérez probably drew every DC and Marvel superhero of his era, with major runs on The Avengers, The Fantastic Four, The Justice League of America, Legion of Super-Heroes and numerous iterations of Teen Titans as well as stints on The Inhumans, X-Men, JSA, All-Star Squadron, Thunderbolts and T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents. He will be immortalised for the comic book series covered below. A fuller appreciation will follow as soon as I can sort it… 

In 1985 the Editorial Powers-That-Be at DC Comics were about to celebrate fifty years of publishing, and enjoying a creative upswing that had been a long time coming. A crucial part of the festivities, and purported attempt to simplify five decades of often conflicting stories, was a truly epic year-long saga that would impact every single DC title and reconstruct the entire landscape and history of the DC Universe, with an appearance – however brief – by every character the company had ever published. Easy-peasy, Huh? 

Additionally, this new start would seek to end an apparent confusion of multiple Earths with similarly named and themed heroes. This – it had been decided – was deterring (sic) new readers. Happily, since then (primarily thanks to movie rom-coms like Sliding Doors) we’ve all become well aware of string theory and parallel universes and can revel in the most basic TV show or kids cartoon proffering the concept of multiples incidences of me and you… 

Way back then, the result of those good intentions was a groundbreaking 12-part miniseries that spearheaded a vast crossover event: eventually culminating in a hefty graphic novel collection (plus latterly three companion volumes reprinting all the crossovers). 

The experiment was a huge success, both critically and commercially, and enabled the company to reinvigorate many of their most cherished properties: many of which had been in dire need or some regeneration and renewal. Many fans would argue that DC have been trying to change it back ever since… 

Plotted long in advance of launch, threads and portents appeared for months in DC’s regular titles, mostly regarding a mysterious arms-and-information broker known as The Monitor. With his beautiful assistant Lyla Michaels/Harbinger he had been gauging each and every being on Earths beyond counting with a view to saving all of Reality. At this juncture, that consisted of uncountable variations of universes existing “side-by-side”, each exhibiting differences varying from minor to monumental.  

Building on long-established continuity collaborators Marv Wolfman and George Pérez – aided and abetted by Dick Giordano, Mike DeCarlo and Jerry Ordway – began by tweaking things fans knew before taking them on a journey nobody anticipated… It transpired that at the very beginning of time an influence from the future caused Reality to fracture. Rogue Guardian of the Universe Krona obsessively sought to unravel the secret of creation and his probing cause a perfect singular universe to shatter into innumerable self-perpetuating cracked reflections of itself… 

Now, a wave of antimatter scythes through the Cosmic All, eradicating these separate universes. Before each Armageddon, a tormented immortal named Pariah materialises on an inhabited but doomed world of each Existence. As the story opens, he arrives on an Earth, as its closest dimensional neighbours are experiencing monumental geo-physical disruptions. It’s the end of the World, but The Monitor has a plan. It involves death on a mammoth scale, sacrifice beyond measure, a gathering of the best and worst beings of the surviving Earths and the remaking of time itself to deflect cosmic catastrophe and defeat the being that caused it… 

Action is tinged with tragedy as many major heroic figures – from the nondescript and forgotten to high, mighty and grand – perish valiantly, falling in apparently futile struggle to preserve some measure of life from the doomed multiverse. 

Full of plot twists and intrigue, this cosmic comicbook spectacle set the benchmark for all future crossover events, not just DC’s, and is still a qualitative high point seldom reached and never yet surpassed. As well as being a superb blockbuster in its own right and accessible to even the greenest neophyte reader, it is the foundation of all DC’s in-continuity stories since 1985, the basis of a TV phenomenon and absolutely vital reading.  

More than any other work in a truly stellar career, Crisis on Infinite Earths is the magnum opus George Pérez will be remembered for: It might not be fair, but it’s inescapably true… 
© 1985, 1986, 2001, 2008, 2015 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved. 

The All-New Batman: The Brave and the Bold volume 2: Help Wanted


By Sholly Fisch, Rick Burchett, Dan Davis, Dario Brizuela, Ethen Beavers & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-3524-6 (TPB/Digital edition)

The Brave and the Bold premiered in 1955 as an anthology adventure comic featuring short complete tales about a variety of period heroes: a format reflecting the era’s filmic fascination with flamboyantly fanciful historical dramas. Devised and written by Bob Kanigher, #1 led with Roman epic Golden Gladiator, feudal mystery-man The Silent Knight and Joe Kubert’s Viking Prince. Soon the Gladiator was alternated with Robin Hood, but the adventure theme carried the title until the end of the decade when the burgeoning costumed character revival saw B&B transform into a try-out vehicle like Showcase.

Used to premiere concepts and characters such as Task Force X: The Suicide Squad, Cave Carson, Hawkman and Strange Sports Stories as well as the epochal Justice League of America, the comic soldiered on until issue #50 when it found another innovative new direction which once again caught the public’s imagination. That issue paired two super heroes – Green Arrow and Martian Manhunter – in a one-off team-up. It was followed by more of the same: Aquaman with Hawkman in #51, WWII “Battle Stars” Sgt. Rock, Mme. Marie, Captain Cloud & The Haunted Tank in #52 and The Atom & Flash in #53.

The next instant union – Robin, Aqualad and Kid Flash – evolved into The Teen Titans and after Metal Men/The Atom and FlashbMartian Manhunter appeared, a new hero debuted in #57-58: Metamorpho, the Element Man.

From then it was back to the increasingly popular power pairings with #59. Although no one realised it at the time, that particular conjunction – Batman with Green Lantern – would be particularly significant….

A return engagement for the Teen Titans, issues spotlighting Earth-Two stalwarts Starman and Black Canary and Earth-One’s Wonder Woman and Supergirl soon gave way to an indication of things to come when Batman returned to duel hero/villain Eclipso in #64: an early acknowledgement of the brewing TV-induced mania mere months away.

Within two issues (following Flash/Doom Patrol and Metamorpho/Metal Men), B&B #67 saw the Caped Crusader take de facto control of the title and a lion’s share of team-ups. With the late exception of #72 and 73 (Spectre/Flash and Aquaman/Atom), it was thereafter where the Gotham Gangbuster invited the rest of DC’s heroic pantheon to come and play…

Decades later, Batman: The Animated Series – masterminded by Bruce Timm and Paul Dini in the 1990s – revolutionised the Dark Knight and subsequently led to some of the absolute best comic book adventures in his 80-year publishing history. It also led to a spin-off print title…
With constant comics iterations and tie-ins to a succession of TV animation series, Batman has remained immensely popular and a sublime introducer of kids to the magical world of the printed page. One fun-filled incarnation was Batman: The Brave and the Bold, which gloriously celebrated the team-up in both its all-ages small-screen and comicbook spin-off.

Shamelessly and superbly plundering decades of continuity arcana in a profusion of alliances between the Dark Knight and DC’s lesser creations, the show was supplemented by a cool kid’s periodical full of fun, verve and swashbuckling dash, cunningly crafted to appeal as much to the parents and grandparents as those fresh-faced neophyte kids…

This stellar trade paperback and digital collection re-presents issues #7-12 of the second series – The All-New Batman: The Brave and the Bold – in an immensely entertaining all-ages ensemble suitable for newcomers, fans and aficionados of all ages originally seen between July and December 2011. Although absolutely unnecessary to the reader’s enjoyment, a passing familiarity with the TV episodes will enhance the overall experience as will knowledge of the bizarre minutiae of 1960s and 1970s DC lore…

Scripted throughout by Sholly Fisch, and following the TV format, each tale opens with a brief prequel adventure before telling a longer tale. TA-NB:TB&TB #7 opens with the Caped Crimebuster and aforementioned 1960s Teen Titans triumphing over the Time Trapper as prelude to main feature ‘’Shadows & Light’. Illustrated by Rich Burchett & Dan Davis, it reveals Batman’s earliest days and a momentous meeting with Gotham’s original guardian. Golden Age Green Lantern Alan Scott wanted to see what the new kid could do offered a teaching experience beside his JSA colleagues…

Aquaman leads off in ‘Under the Sea!’ but soon he and the Dark Knight are on a quest to liberate accursed ghost Captain Fear: battling mythological sea perils and sinister super bandit Black Manta.

‘3:10 to Thanagar’ co-stars Hawkman and begins with them and The Atom defeating shapeshifter Byth, with the majority of the yarn detailing how transporting him back to interplanetary jail is derailed by an armada of evil allies trying – and failing – to break him free.

‘Help Wanted’ offers a delightful and truly heartwarming deviation from standard form as a professional henchman details the tribulations of the gig economy as tenures with Toyman, Clock King and Ocean Master end early, thanks to Superman, Green Arrow, Aquaman and others. What the reformed family man will never know is how his own wife, son and Batman colluded to redeem him…

With art from Dario Brizuela, ‘Out of Time’ finds the Caped Crusader, Geo-Force and Cave Carson unearth an ancient earthquake machine under Gotham, compelling Batman to head back to 1879 to destroy it before it starts eating bedrock. The case brings him into partnership with bounty hunter Jonah Hex and into contention with immortal maniac Ra’s Al Ghul before the day and all those tomorrows are saved…

Wrapping up this jaunty journal of joint ventures, ‘Trick or Treat’ – with art by Ethen Beavers – offers a Halloween appetiser as Batman and Zatanna investigate a break-in at the House of Mystery. After freeing Cain & Abel, the heroes track clues and deal with Doctor Destiny and Mr. Mxyzptlk before deducing the only possible culprit and getting dragged into a colossal clash of mystic heroes and villains…

Despite being ostensibly aimed at TV-addicted kids, these mini-sagas are also wonderful, traditional comics thrillers no self-respecting fun-fan should miss: accessible, well-rendered yarns for the broadest range of excitement-seeking readers. This is a fabulously full-on thrill-fest confirming the seamless link between animated features and comic books. After all, it’s just adventure entertainment in the end; really unmissable entertainment…

What more do you need to know?
© 2011, 2012 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

The All-New Batman: The Brave and the Bold volume 1


By Sholly Fisch, Rick Burchett, Dan Davis & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-3272-6 (TPB)

The Brave and the Bold premiered in 1955 as an anthology adventure comic featuring short complete tales about a variety of period heroes: a format reflecting the era’s filmic fascination with flamboyantly fanciful historical dramas. Devised and written by Bob Kanigher, issue #1 led with Roman epic Golden Gladiator, medieval mystery-man The Silent Knight and Joe Kubert’s Viking Prince. Soon the Gladiator was alternated with Robin Hood, but the adventure theme carried the title until the end of the decade when the burgeoning costumed character revival saw B&B transform into a try-out vehicle like Showcase.

Used to premiere concepts and characters such as Task Force X: The Suicide Squad, Cave Carson, Hawkman and Strange Sports Stories as well as the epochal Justice League of America, the comic soldiered on until issue #50 when it found another innovative new direction which once again caught the public’s imagination.

That issue paired two superheroes – Green Arrow and Martian Manhunter – in a one-off team-up, and was followed by more of the same: Aquaman and Hawkman in #51, WWII “Battle Stars” Sgt. Rock, Captain Cloud, Mme. Marie & the Haunted Tank in #52 and The Atom & Flash in #53.

The next instant union – Robin, Aqualad and Kid Flash – evolved into Teen Titans and after Metal Men/the Atom and Flash/Martian Manhunter appeared, a new hero debuted in #57-58: Metamorpho, the Element Man.

From then it was back to the increasingly popular superhero pairings with #59. Although no one realised it at the time, that particular conjunction – Batman with Green Lantern – would be particularly significant….

A return engagement for the Teen Titans, issues spotlighting Earth-Two stalwarts Starman and Black Canary and Earth-One’s Wonder Woman and Supergirl soon gave way to an indication of things to come when Batman returned to duel hero/villain Eclipso in #64: an early acknowledgement of the brewing TV-induced mania mere months away.

Within two issues (following Flash/Doom Patrol and Metamorpho/Metal Men), B&B #67 saw the Caped Crusader take de facto control of the title and a lion’s share of team-ups. With the late exception of #72 and 73 (Spectre/Flash and Aquaman/Atom), the title was henceforth a place where the Gotham Gangbuster invited the rest of DC’s heroic pantheon to come and play…

Decades later, Batman: The Animated Series – masterminded by Bruce Timm and Paul Dini in the 1990s – revolutionised the Dark Knight and subsequently led to some of the absolute best comic book adventures in his 80-year publishing history. It also led to a spin-off print title…

With constant funnybook iterations and tie-ins to a succession of TV animation series, Batman has remained immensely popular and a sublime introducer of kids to the magical world of the printed page. One fun-filled incarnation was Batman: The Brave and the Bold, which gloriously celebrated the team up in both its all-ages small-screen and comicbook spin-off.

Shamelessly and superbly plundering decades of continuity arcana in a profusion of alliances between the Dark Knight and DC’s lesser creations, the show was supplemented by a cool kid’s periodical full of fun, verve and swashbuckling dash, cunningly crafted to appeal as much to the parents and grandparents as those fresh-faced neophyte kids…

This stellar trade paperback and digital collection re-presents issues #1-6 of the second series – The All-New Batman: The Brave and the Bold – in an immensely entertaining all-ages ensemble suitable for newcomers, fans and aficionados of all ages. It was originally released between January and June 2011. Although absolutely unnecessary to the reader’s enjoyment, a passing familiarity with the TV episodes will enhance the overall experience as will knowledge of the bizarre minutiae of 1960s and 1970s DC lore…

Crafted by Sholly Fisch, Rich Burchett & Dan Davis and following the format of the TV show, each tale opens with a brief vignette/prequel adventure before telling a longer tale. TA-NB:TB&TB (last time I’m typing that!) #1 sees the Caped Crimebuster battle Joker robots  beside Black Canary before main feature ‘Bottle of the Planets’ reunites him the “World’s Finest” partner in a devious mystery set in the last outpost of Krypton: the Bottled City of Kandor…

Having successfully solved the case of vanishing super-weapons, Batman teams with talking tiger Mr. Tawky-Tawny, magical (Captain) Marvel Shazam and his gods-powered family to save Christmas in ‘That Holiday Feeling’. That involves finding, fighting and foiling the emotion-bending Psycho-Pirate whilst #3 sees Flash (two, actually) and the Dark Knight hunting Mirror Master and the Mad Hatter through a mirror dimension inhabited by all the characters from Lewis Carroll’s books. Curiouser and curiouser …

Wonder Woman headlines in #4 as irate godling Eros seeks to teach her a lesson by using his arrows to instigate a wedding in ‘The Bride and the Bold’. The ceremony between Bat and Amazon sparks a lot of interest and – thanks to jealous Talia Al Ghul – a wave of super-villain attacks and the biggest wedding party brawl of all time before order and sense are restored…

‘Man-Hunted’ find Batman and Emerald jerk Guy Gardner fractiously allied to defeat a legion of the killer robots, but diverted to other realms to save a glorious enclave of nigh-forgotten 1960s alien beasts and sidekicks like Cryll and Zook(look them up, I double-dog dare ya…) from manic main man Lobo…

Ending this excellent excursion through DC’s daftest corridors is a beguiling contest between the Dark Knight Detective and Martian Manhunter J’onn J’onzz who tests his abilities against classic observation and deduction in ‘Now You see Me…’; sadly the salutary learning experience goes slightly awry when the calamitous Clayface is accidentally exposed…

Despite being ostensibly aimed at TV-addicted kids, these mini-sagas are wonderful, traditional comics thrillers no self-respecting fun-fan should miss: accessible, splendidly rendered yarns for the broadest range of excitement-seeking readers. This is a fabulous rollercoaster ride confirming the now-seamless link between animated features and comic books. After all, it’s just adventure entertainment in the end; really unmissable entertainment…

What more do you need to know?
© 2010, 2011 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Green Lantern/Green Arrow: Space Traveling Heroes


By Denny O’Neil, Frank McGinty, Elliot S! Maggin, Mike Grell, Alex Saviuk, Vince Colletta & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1401295530 (HB)

After their hugely successful revival and reworking of The Flash, DC were keen to build on a resurgent superhero trend. Showcase #22 hit newsstands at the same time as the fourth issue of the new Flash comic book (#108) and once again the guiding lights were Editor Julie Schwartz and writer John Broome. Assigned as illustrator was action ace Gil Kane – usually inked by Joe Giella – and the issue revealed a Space Age reconfiguration of the Golden Age superhero with magic replaced by super-science.

Hal Jordan was a young test pilot in California when an alien policeman crashed his spaceship on Earth. Mortally wounded, Abin Sur commanded his power ring – a device for materialising thoughts – to seek out a replacement officer, honest and without fear.

Scanning the planet, it selected Jordan and brought him to the crash site. The dying alien bequeaths his ring, lantern-shaped Battery of Power and professional vocation to the astonished Earthman.

Having established characters, scenario and narrative thrust of a series that would become the spine of all DC continuity, the editors were confident of their ground. Unlike the years-long, practically glacial debut of The Flash, the next two Showcase issues carried the new costumed champion to even greater exploits, and six months later Green Lantern #1 was released.

In this iteration the Emerald Gladiators are a universal police force (Jordan’s “beat” is Space Sector 2814), and over many traumatic years, he grew into one of the greatest members of the serried band of law-enforcers. The Green Lantern Corps has safeguarded the cosmos from all evil and disaster for billions of years, policing countless sentient beings under the severe but benevolent auspices of immortal super-beings who consider themselves the Guardians of the Universe.

These undying patrons of Order were one of the first races to evolve and dwelt in sublime, emotionless security and tranquillity on the world of Oa at the very centre of creation.

Green Lanterns are chosen for their capacity to overcome fear and are equipped with a ring that creates solid constructs out of emerald light. The miracle weapon is fuelled by the strength of the user’s willpower, making it – in the right hands – one of the mightiest tools imaginable…

For eons, a single individual from each of the 3600 sectors of known space was selected to patrol his, her or its own beat, but being cautious and meticulous masters, the Guardians laid contingency plans as appointing designated reserve officers.

The series a ran for a decade before changing tastes pushed it into radical territory as a soap box for social injustice and environmental issues. The “relevancy period” generated landmark groundbreaking tales from Denny O’Neil & Neal Adams that revolutionised the industry, whilst registering such poor sales that the book was cancelled and the twinned heroes (a cost-cutting concept had seen GL paired with liberal firebrand Green Arrow as a walking, rip-roaring conscious for the conservative ring-wielder) unceremoniously shipped into the back of another comic book – the marginally more successful Flash.

The Flash #217-246 saw the transition from Adams to new art sensation Mike Grell: a run that precipitated the viridian vigilantes back into their own title. With the emphasis shifting back to crime, adventure and space opera, Green Lantern was again popular enough for his own book and he naturally brought the boisterous bowman along for the ride….

Collecting Green Lantern #90-106 (August/September 1976-July 1978) this hardback and digital compendium sees them (mostly) return to the starry firmament for cosmic duties beginning with #90 (August/September 1976) as ‘Those who Worship Evil’s Might’ – by Denny O’Neil & Mike Grell – finds the Green Gladiators investigating a starship buried in the Las Vegas desert for countless years. When it disgorges an ancient evil the heroes also meet the freshly awakened officers of a force used by the Guardians of the Universe before green rings were invented…

Issue #91 depicts the return of arch-nemesis Sinestro who inflicts ‘The Revenge of the Renegade’ upon his foes after taking over a poverty-stricken third world monarchy. When the tables are turned, he flees into space and across dimensions, arriving with the green team on a primitive world in dire need of champions legendarily saved via ‘The Legend of the Green Arrow’ (inked by Robert “Bob” Smith).

Inked by Terry Austin, #93’s ‘War Against The World-Builders’ finds aliens abducting homeless people to build a colony world. As GL interrupts his Thanksgiving dinner to play saviour, however, his lover Carol Ferris, Black Canary and Green Arrow are ambushed by government spooks and the archer is abducted. Rogue agents need him to kill someone and believe they have the perfect inducement in #94’s ‘Lure for an Assassin’ (Austin & Dick Giordano inks) but didn’t count on his ingenuity and the return of substitute GL John Stewart, culminating in a political scandal barely averted in concluding chapter ‘Terminal for a Tragedy’ with Vince Colletta signing on as regular inker.

Bouncing back to the big black yonder, #96’s ‘How Can an Immortal Die?’ sees the reappearance of alien Lantern Katma Tui, crashing to Earth and bringing warning of a terrible threat that has infiltrated the Guardians. Rushing rashly to the rescue, Jordan battles his comrades and patrons to solve and defuse ‘The Mystery of the Mocker’ in a spectacular romp that marks the series’ restoration to monthly status.

The plan doesn’t end well and #98 finds the mind monster loose on Earth and tormenting Black Canary with visions of the dead in ‘Listen to the Mocking Bird’. Tracing the abominable mocker Ffa’rzz to an antediluvian and impossibly distant space station, Jordan Katma Tui, the Arrow and enigmatic space critter Itty infiltrate the monolith and face constant nightmare as they realise ‘We Are on the Edge of the Ultimate Ending!’ Thankfully, devious plotter Ollie Queen has a plan to save everything…

Double-sized Green Lantern/Green Arrow #100 carried a January 1978 cover-date and two tales, beginning with O’Neil, Alex Saviuk & Colletta’s ‘Rider of the Air Waves’ which expanded the Jordan family by introducing a distant cousin. Also called Hal Jordan, this kid had inherited his father Larry’s title as Air Wave (a Golden Age Great using the power of radio to crush crooks) but got trapped in energy form by debuting dastard Master-Tek. It didn’t take long to sort things out and find little Hal a tutor after which Elliot S! Maggin, Grell & Colletta took Ollie, the Canary and former sidekick Roy “Speedy” Harper back to Star City in ‘Beware the Blazing Inferno!’ the task of stopping a ring of bombers opened old wounds however, and the archer again opted to try fixing things from within by running for Mayor…

Frank McGinty, Saviuk & Colletta deconstructed ‘The Big Braintrust Boom’ in #101 as freewheeling trucker Hal – the elder – Jordan uncovers a mind-bending, potentially world-dominating cult run by old enemies Hector Hammond and Bill Baggett, before O’Neil, Saviuk & Colletta reveal a cunning alien plot to shanghai humans as batteries in ‘Sign Up… and See the Universe’ which intensifies into a full blown invasion in #103’s ‘Earth – Asylum for an Alien’ with David Hunt stepping in to ink. Happily our heroes are up to the challenge, but when a valued comrade suddenly dies the consequences are not just tragic but simply catastrophic in #104’s ‘Proof of the Peril’ by O’Neil, Saviuk, Colletta. Even this is not the end, however, as the bizarre events herald the vengeful assault of old enemy Sonar in follow-up yarn ‘Thunder Doom’leading to a close call with an all-consuming atrocity and revelatory conclusion  ‘Panic… in High Places and Low’ by O’Neil, Grell & Bruce Patterson in last inclusion #106.

Although still laced with satire and political barbs, this tome sees challenging tales of rebellion give way to plot-driven sagas of wit and courage, packed with a less shining, less optimistic sense of wonder albeit still bristling with high-octane action. Here are evergreen adventures that confirmed the end of the Silver Age of Comics and the birth of something new. Illustrated by some of the most revered names in the business, the exploits in this volume closed one chapter in the life of Green Lantern and opened the doors to today’s sleek and stellar sentinels of the stars.
© 1976, 1977, 1978, 2020 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Aquaman: The Death of a Prince Deluxe Edition


By Paul Levitz, David Michelinie, Paul Kupperberg, Steve Skeates, Martin Pasko, Gerry Conway, Mike Grell, Jim Aparo, Don Newton, Carl Potts, Juan Ortiz & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-7795-0095-3 (HB)

Aquaman is one of that hallowed handful of costumed champions to survive the superhero collapse at the end of the Golden Age. For most of that time he was a rather nondescript and genial guy who – when not rescuing fish and people from sub-sea disasters – solved maritime crimes and mysteries.

The Sea King was created by Mort Weisinger & Paul Norris, debuting in More Fun Comics #73 (November 1941) in the wake of and in response to Timely Comics’ antihero Namor the Sub-Mariner. Strictly a second stringer for most of his career, Aquaman nevertheless swam on beyond many stronger features; illustrated by Norris, Louis Cazaneuve, Charles Paris, and latterly Ramona Fradon who drew almost every adventure from 1951 to 1961.

When Showcase #4 rekindled the public’s taste for costumed crimefighters with the advent of a new Flash in 1956, National/DC updated its band of superhero survivors, especially Green Arrow and the Subsea Sentinel.

As the sixties opened, Aquaman was a back-up feature in Detective Comics and World’s Finest Comics, but made his big leap following a team up with Hawkman in Brave and the Bold # 51 and his own try-out run in Showcase #30-33. After two decades of continuous nautical service, the marine marvel was at last awarded his own comic book (cover-dated January/February 1962).

With his own title and soon featuring in groundbreaking must-see cartoon show The Superman/Aquaman Hour of Adventure, our Finned Fury seemed destined for super-stardom, but despite increasingly bold and innovative tales presented with stunning art, his title was cancelled as the decade closed. Towards the end, outrageously outlandish crime and sci fi yarns gave way to grittily hard-edged epics steered by revolutionary editor Dick Giordano and hot new talents Steve Skeates & Jim Aparo that might arguably be the first sallies of comic books’ landmark socially conscious “relevancy” period…

This compelling follow-up compilation features material released after a 3 year hiatus following cancellation in 1971. Offering potent dramas heralding a new era of costumed capers primarily from a fresh generation of creators, it gathers material from Adventure Comics #435-437, 441-455 and Aquaman volume 1 #57-63 (spanning September/October 1974 to August- September 1978) and is available in hardback and digital formats,.

Way back in Aquaman #18, (December 1964 and not included here) the marine marvel – also called Arthur Curry – met extradimensional princess Mera, who became ‘The Wife of Aquaman’ in one of the first superhero weddings of the Silver Age. Talk about instant responsibilities…

In quick-smart time along came a little Aquababy – eventually and occasionally called Arthur Jr. – and the undersea nuclear family became a given constant for years…

We open with revelatory Introduction ‘Confessions’ from scripter, editor and publisher Paul Levitz, and a fact-filled pin-up of ‘The Aquafamily’ by Gerry Conway & Jim Aparo, first seen in Adventure Comics #444. Then it’s drama all the way with #435’s ‘As the Undersea city Sleeps’ by Steve Skeates & Mike Grell, offering a quick reintroduction with the Atlantean monarch battling a mysterious subsea sleeping plague caused by old enemy Black Manta. After that, ‘The King is Dead; Long Live the King’ (#436) sees the monarch uncover a rash of robot duplicates infiltrating the city and summoning massive monsters before #437 finds Levitz & Grell setting the scene for larger events to come with Aquaman undertaking many mini-missions on ‘A Quiet Day in Atlantis’…

Cover-dated September/October 1975, Adventure Comics #441 opens extended epic “The Sea King in Exile” with ‘The Pirate who Plundered Atlantis’ by Levitz, David Michelinie and triumphantly returning Jim Aparo detailing how an invasion by modern-day undersea buccaneers is repelled by the Sea King and Mera, tragically unaware of a longer game in play…

More pieces fall into place when NATO General Horgan warns that a hijacked nuclear materials transporter is going to be sunk – over Atlantean farms – to prevent terrorists using the cargo for dirty bombs. That’s when Aquaman takes charge in ‘H is for Holocaust’ – by Levitz & Aparo – after which the Sea Lord stays topside to crush ‘The Dolphin Connection’(Levitz, Michelinie & Aparo) when old enemy The Fisherman trains cetaceans to deliver drugs to the French underworld. All the surface duty does not play well in Atlantis, however, and a grass roots (kelp roots?) political movement makes startling inroads in its demands to elect a new stay-at-home ruler…

The unthinkable happens in Adventure 444 as Levitz, Gerry Conway & Aparo show Aquaman blackmailed into stealing an Atlantean superweapon by his villainous brother Ocean Master before being smoothly ousted and replaced by new king Karshon in ‘And Death before Dishonor’…

Exiled and setting up home in the old “Aquacave”, Arthur, Mera and the toddler determine to make the best of their new life, but are soon abducted by ‘Toxxin’s Raiders’ (Michelinie & Aparo): subsea primitives who need a true champion to destroy the beast haunting their village. It’s a huge mistake all around…

The Sea Exile then learns that ‘The Manta-Ray Means Murder!’ (Levitz, Martin Pasko & Aparo) as Aqualad and Aquagirl– currently busting surface-world  smugglers – are attacked by Black Manta, simultaneously exposing a deadly plot just as their mentor arrives to lower the boom and uncover the villain is gun-running to Atlantis…

Issue 447 sees Levitz, Pasko & Aparo detail a ‘Prelude to Armageddon’’ as Aquaman tracks Manta’s shipments and falls foul of the Fisherman, unaware of a silent partner dictating the flow of events. Full disclosure and a classic conclusion come in ‘Crown, Crisis and Cataclysm’ (Levitz & Aparo) as master manipulator Karshon is revealed as a deadly former Green Lantern foe who turns assured victory into crushing defeat through sheer overconfidence…

Reuniting Skeates & Aparo, Adventure Comics #449 features ‘The Menace of the Marine Marauder’ as a surface science criminal usurps the Sea Sentinel’s telepathic power to control sea creatures. Plundering shipping – specifically a crucially needed vaccine – until Aquaman and Mera step up, he’s just an interlude before Michelinie & Aparo detail ‘The Watery War of the Weather Wizard’ in #450, with the Flash rogue becoming the latest larcenous loon to underestimate the King of the Seas.

…And in the background, Aqualad is lured away by a seeming madman claiming the junior sea crusader stole his son and sets out on a personal quest that will change his life forever…

Issue #451 reveals ‘The Secret of the Sinister Abyss’ as Arthur Jr. is inexplicably abducted by faithful octopus companion Topo and swiftly-pursuing Aquaman stumbles into another sea bed civilisation – the Idylists -  and a rapidly regenerating new iteration of extraterrestrial terror Starro the Conqueror.

On defeating the starfish clone, Aquaman talks to the pacifist sea-voyagers it imperilled and learns they are seeking a lost brother who can be their champion: his partner Aqualad…

Big things were happening for the Sea King as his Adventure tenure was giving way to a resurrected solo title. Issue #452’s ‘Dark Destiny, Deadly Dreams’ (Michelinie & Aparo) sees Aquaman and the Idylists confronting the occupiers of the pacifist city and discovering Black Manta is offering it as a homeland and refuge for lost and hopeless surface men…

His methods are far from altruistic and his only successful convert to water-breathing – Cal Durham – has serious doubts, but Manta won’t be deterred. and when he captures them and Aqualad, he forces them to fight each other to the death to save Arthur Jr.

It doesn’t work and the boy dies…

The tragedy catapults the hero back into his own revived comic book with Aquaman volume 1 #57 (August/September 1977) where Michelinie & Aparo’s ‘A Life for a Life’ follows his vengeful wake to a brutal – but not final – clash with Manta, hurtful estrangement from Aqualad and a new scheme involving the Fisherman and latest abductee General Horgan…

Anthological Adventure Comics #453 (September/October 1977) overlapped the renewed bi-monthly with a solo sidekick feature as Paul Kupperberg, Carl Potts & Joe Rubinstein asked ‘Aqualad, Who is Thy Father?’ Believing himself an orphan his entire life, the youthful warrior is strident in his demands to learn of the Idylist who sired him, but is setting himself up for even more betrayal and heartbreak before Aquaman #58 sees Michelinie & Aparo peer ‘Through a Past, Darkly’ to review Aquaman’s origins as the Fisherman strikes at the lighthouse where the Sea King was reared. The tale is backed up by Mera short ‘Return to Disaster’ (Kupperberg, Juan Ortiz & Vince Colletta) as the distraught mother learns her son is not quite dead and travels to her home dimension Xebel in search of a remedy but finding instead only chaos and tyranny…

Adventure Comics #454 (November/December 1977) finds Aqualad paying for ‘Sins of the Father’ as Kupperberg, Potts & Dick Giordano reveal not why but who killed his progenitor Thar, before Aquaman #59 (December 1977-January 1978) rings in a new year with ‘Prey Perilous’ by Michelinie & Aparo. Here Fisherman and The Scavenger clash over a sunken spy ship’s secrets and Aquaman endures unwanted NATO interference before justice is done, whilst in the back Mera battles dictator Leron over ‘The Kingdom of Doom’ (Kupperberg, Ortiz & Colletta).

The Adventure Comics run ends with #455 (January/February 1978) as Kupperberg, Potts & Giordano use ‘Legacy’ to give  Aqualad his answers and line up all the disparate plotlines for Aquaman #60.

Crafted by Michelinie and stunning new illustrator Don Newton (with inks by veteran John Celardo) ‘Scavenger, Ravager, Plunderer, Thief’ brings together the NATO elements and assorted supervillains as hidden mastermind and potential global overlord Kobra reveals his latest deadly scheme whilst Mera crosses ‘The Edge of Nowhere’ (Kupperberg, Ortiz & Colletta) when she learns all her efforts have been for nothing…

Issue #61 guest stars Batman and Green Lantern as Michelinie, Newton & Bob McLeod expose ‘The Armageddon Conspiracy’ as the true contents of that sunken spy ship threaten all life on Earth and Aquaman shows his real power and nature…

After a stellar run and powerful groundbreaking stories, the series abruptly ended, once again a victim of economics as comic books again endured a mass sales downturn. However, it all ended on an emotional high as Aquaman #62 sees Kupperberg, Newton & McLeod deliver ‘And the Walls Came Tumbling Down’ with bereaved Mera and Arthur savagely separating over their son’s murder and the Sea King taking out his feelings on handy wannabe supervillain Seaquake as he attempts to make his rep by tectonically trashing Atlantis. A painful reconciliation with Mera is then threatened in final issue #63 as Ocean Master strikes again, compelling Aqualad to also hastily forgive, forget and rejoin the fold for one last clash in ‘My Brother’s Keeper’ by Michelinie, Newton & David Hunt.

This a superb treasury of lost wonders, packed with stellar stories sublimely illustrated by comics masters worthy of far more attention than they’ve received. Surely, there’s no better time than now to balance those scales, adventure fans…
© 1974, 1975, 1976, 1977, 1978, 2020 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Green Arrow: 80 Years of the Emerald Archer – The Deluxe Edition


By Mort Weisinger, Ed Herron, Denny O’Neil, Mike Grell, Chuck Dixon, Grant Morrison, Kevin Smith, Brad Meltzer, Judd Winick, Jeff Lemire, Marc Guggenheim, Benjamin Percy, George Papp, Lee Elias, Neal Adams, Jim Aparo, Rodolfo Damaggio, Oscar Jimenez, Phil Hester, Scott McDaniel, Cliff Chiang, Denys Cowan, Joe Bennett,Otto Schmidt & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-7795-0914-7 (HB)

Win’s Christmas Gift Recommendation: Superb All-Ages Entertainment and Adventure… 9/10

Green Arrow is one of DC’s Golden All-Stars. He’s been a company fixture – in many instances for no discernible reason – more or less continually since his 1941 debut in More Fun Comics #73. Many Happy Returns, Emerald Archer!

In those distant heady days, origins weren’t as important as image or storytelling, so creators Mort Weisinger & George Papp never bothered. The first inkling of formative motivations came in More Fun Comics #89 (March 1943) wherein Joe Samachson & Cliff Young detailed ‘The Birth of the Battling Bowman’ (and a tip of the feathered hat to Scott McCullar for bringing the tale to my belated attention).

With the secret revealed, it was promptly ignored for years, leaving later workmen France “Ed” Herron, Jack Kirby and his wife Roz to fill in the blanks again with ‘The Green Arrow’s First Case’ at the start of the Silver Age superhero revival. It appeared in Adventure Comics #256, coved-dated January 1959. This time the story stuck, becoming – with numerous tweaks over successive years – the basis of the modern Amazing Archer on page and screen.

This hardback and digital celebration offers another quick survey of the Battling Bowman’s epic career, gathering material from More Fun Comics #73, Adventure Comics #246, 259, Green Lantern/Green Arrow #85-86, Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunters #1, Green Arrow volume 2 #100-101, JLA ‘8-9, Green Arrow volume 3 #1, 17, 75, Green Arrow and Black Canary #4, Secret Origins volume 3 #4, Arrow Season 2.5 #1, Green Arrow: Rebirth #1 and opens with the first of a series of brief prose ruminations ad reminiscences. Former editor Mike Gold details the heritage and legacy of ‘The Octogenarian Green Arrow’ before we meet the stars in November 1941’s More Fun Comics#73 solving the ‘Case of the Namesake Murders’ (Weisinger & Papp). Skipping unchanged to March 1958 and Adventure Comics #246, Herron & Papp detail how a counterfeiter redesigns himself as toxophilist terrorist ‘The Rainbow Archer’ whilst issue #259 (April 1959 by an anonymous author and Lee Elias) introduces ‘The Green Arrow’s Mystery Pupil’: exposing ulterior and sinister motives for his studies…

The turbulent 1960s saw Oliver Queen utterly reinvented. Deprived of his fortune he became a strident advocate of liberal issues in a bold experiment which created a fad for socially relevant, ecologically aware, mature stories which spread throughout DC’s costumed hero comics and beyond; totally revolutionising the industry and nigh-radicalising many readers.

Tapping relatively youthful superstars-in-waiting Denny O’Neil & Neal Adams to produce the revolutionary fare, editor Julie Schwartz watched in fascinated disbelief as the resultant thirteen groundbreaking, landmark issues captured the tone of the times, garnering critical praise, awards and valuable publicity from the outside world, whilst simultaneously registering such poor sales that the series was cancelled anyway: the heroes unceremoniously packed off to the back of marginally less-endangered comic book The Flash.

America at his time was a bubbling cauldron of social turmoil and experimentation. Everyone and everything were challenged on principle, and O’Neil & Adams utterly redefined super-heroism with “Issues”-driven stories transforming complacent establishment masked boy-scouts into uncertain, questioning champions and strident explorers of the enigma of America.

Probably the most notably of the run was 2-part saga ‘Snowbirds Don’t Fly’ and ‘They Say It’ll Kill Me…But They Won’t Say When!’ in Green Lantern/Green Arrow #85-86 (September – November 1972???)

Depiction of drug abuse had been strictly proscribed in comic books since the advent of the Comics Code Authority, but by 1971 the elephant in the room was too big to ignore and both Marvel and DC addressed the issue in startlingly powerful tales that opened Pandora’s dirty box forever. When the Green Gladiators are drawn into conflict with a vicious heroin-smuggling gang, Oliver Queen is horrified to discover his own sidekick had become an addict…

This sordid, nasty tale did more than merely preach or condemn, but actively sought to explain why young people turned to drugs, just what the consequences could be and even hinted at solutions older people and parents might not want to consider. It might all seem a little naïve now, but the earnest drive to do something and the sheer dark power and visual elan of the story still deliver a stunning punch…

Following Mike Grell writing about ‘My Favorite Hero’ comes the first chapter of the tale he crafted to radically reinvent the Archer for the post-Vietnam generation: setting out a new path that would quickly lead to the hero becoming a major player at long last and, ultimately, a 21st century TV sensation.

Green Arrow is one of the very few superheroes to be continuously published (more or less) since the Golden Age. On first look, the combination of Batman and Robin Hood seems to have very little going for him, but he has always managed to keep himself in vogue and in sight.

Probably the most telling of his many, many makeovers came in 1987, when – hot on the heels of Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns – Grell was given the green light to make the Emerald Archer the star of DC’s second Prestige Format Mini-Series.

Grell was considered a major creator at the time, having practically saved the company with his Edgar Rice Burroughs inspired fantasy series Warlord. He had illustrated many of GA’s most recent tales (in Green Lantern/Green Arrow, Action Comics and elsewhere), and was a firm fan-favourite after well-received runs on Legion of Super-Heroes, Aquaman, Phantom Stranger, Batman and others. During the early 1980s, he had also worked on the prestigious Tarzan newspaper strip and created successful genre series Starslayer and Jon Sable, Freelance for pioneering indie publisher First Comics.

By the middle of the grim ‘n’ gritty Eighties, it was certainly time for another overhaul. Exploding arrows yes, maybe even net or rope arrows, but arrows with boxing gloves on them just don’t work (trust me – I know this from experience!). Moreover, for his 1960s makeover, the hero had evolved into a tempestuous, social reformer using his gifts to battle for the little guy. Now, in a new era of corrupt government, drug cartels and serial killers, this emerald survivor adapted again and thrived once more.

The plot was brilliantly logical and controversial, concerning the superhero’s mid-life crisis. Weary and aging, Oliver Queen relocates to Seattle, struggling to come to terms with the fact that since his former sidekick Speedy is now a dad, he is technically a grandfather. With long-time ‘significant other’ Dinah Lance/Black Canary, he starts simplifying his life, but the drive to fight injustice hasn’t dimmed for either of them.

As she goes undercover to stamp out a pervasive drug ring, the Arrow hunts the hunt for a psycho-killer dubbed “The Seattle Slasher”. Tracking a prolific beast slaughtering prostitutes, he learns of a second, cross-country slayer murdering people with arrows – the “Robin-Hood Killer”…

Eschewing his gaudy costume and gimmicks, Queen is an urban hunter stalking unglamorous hidden monsters, but stumbles into a complex mystery leading back to WWII, involving the Yakuza, CIA, corporate America and even Viet Nam war secrets that eventually change the course of the Archer’s life…

Intricate and effortless, the plot weaves around the destabilized champion, Dinah and new character Shado: exploring and echoing themes of vengeance and family in a subtle blending of three stories that are in fact one, delivering a shocking punch even now. This yarn, its narrative quality and sophistication, is arguably the first truly mature superhero yarn in the DCU.

Grell produced a gripping, mystery adventure pushing all the right buttons, conveyed by artwork – in collaboration with Lurene Haynes & Julia Lacquement – that was and remains a revelation. Beautifully demure yet edgily sharp when required, these painterly visuals and watercolour tones perfectly complement a terse, sparse script, and compelling ride.

It’s shame you’ll need another book to see the body and end of this snapping dragon…

The miniseries led to a lengthy and noteworthy run but – as ever – fashions changed and Oliver’s run apparently ended forever in Green Arrow volume 2 #100-101 (September & October 1995).

‘The Trap’ and ‘Run of the Arrow’ – by Chuck Dixon, Jim Aparo, Rodolfo DaMaggio, Gerry Fernandez & Robert Campanella  saw a weary, radicalised aging hero make the ultimate sacrifice to save Metropolis from eco-terrorist Hyraxwhilst his new-found, ashram-trained son Connor Hawke reluctantly assumed his legacy. The Buddhist-trained martial artist reluctantly took up his estranged father’s role and mission and was impressive enough to be summoned to the moon for a try-out in the  reinvented Justice League.

Grant Morrison, Oscar Jimenez, Chip Wallace, Hanibal Rodriguez supervised the secret son’s invitation to join the bright and shiny, no-nonsense team in August and September 1997’s JLA #8-9, with Jimenez & Wallace rendering ‘Imaginary Stories’ as mind-bending villain The Key attempts to conquer the universe by trapping individual Leaguers in perfect dreams, before the art was augmented by Anibal Rodriguez for the tense conclusion ‘Elseworlds’ This sees the Zen Archer saving the day in his own unique style…

Recent scribe Anne Nocenti describes ‘Hitting the Ground Running’ about her tenure on the Emerald Archer before we cover the return of the irascible original Oliver Queen as seen in Green Arrow volume 3 #1 from April 2001. This revival, by unconventional Kevin Smith (yes, Silent Bob!) and the wonderful art-team of Phil Hester & Ande Parks, brings him back from Heaven in the most refreshing manner I’ve seen in nearly five decades of comic reading. . ‘Quiver: Chapter One: The Queen is Dead (Long Live the Queen)’ starts a gloriously enjoyable refining of Green Arrow embracing the fundamental daftness of superhero comics to revitalise them. Replete with guest-stars, jam-packed with action and intrigue and wallowing in fun thanks to the sly, snappy dialogue of Smith, this is a costume-drama in a thousand and I’m certainly not going to spoil your fun by giving away any details. Just revel in the smart combination of the old and the new to create the best yet…

The renewed energy and impetus caried on building as Green Arrow volume 3 #17, November 2002 – ‘The Archer’s Tale: Chapter Two: Grays of Shade’ by Brad Meltzer, Hester & Parks – highlighted a long-overdue reconciliation between the Arrow and Speedy, triggered by the mistimed activation of a contingency plan to hide all their secrets in the event of the hero’s death, after which Green Arrow volume 3 #75 (August 2007) sees ‘Jericho, Conclusion: And the Walls Came Tumbling Down’ by Judd Winick, Scott McDaniel Andy Owens. Here the now-much extended Arrow family unite to save Star City from Deathstroke the Terminator’s deranged vengeance scheme and witness a marriage proposal everybody knew was inevitable…

Writer, Producer and Director Greg Berlanti discusses ‘Arrow: Origins’ before Green Arrow and Black Canary #4 (March 2008) depicts Judd Winick & Cliff Chiang’s ‘Dead Again, Conclusion: Please Play Where Daddy Can See You.’Detailing the loss of a beloved “team-arrow” member, it as powerful downbeat tale about duty and repercussions that segues neatly into a new motivational start for Oliver, created as part of the New 52 company-wide reboot.

For Secret Origins volume 3 #4 (September 2014) Jeff Lemire, Denys Cowan & Bill Sienkiewicz detailed what makes a hero in ‘Secret Origins: Green Arrow’ whilst essay ‘I’m Not Batman, Dammit’ by Oliver Queen (as told to Mark Guggenheim)’ uses a faux interview to tell some real truths before we enjoy the fruits of the hero’s TV success.

Like any proper comics to screen venture, the show generated a comic book extending the on-screen adventures and here Arrow Season 2.5 #1 (December 2014) sees Guggenheim, Joe Bennett, Jack Jadson & Craig Yeung craft a tense, terse thriller in ‘Blood: Descent’ with the Arrow vigilante’s team save their city from airborne death and settle in for the fight against a new Brother Blood after which the on-point action ends with a return to basics and the end of the New 52 experiment in ‘Rebirth’ by Benjamin Percy & Otto Schmidt. Returning to Seattle, middle age and liberal crusading, the one-shot Green Arrow: Rebirth #1 (August 2016) details a first meeting with Black Canary and the hunt for urban predators “the Underground Men” abducting and selling the city’s poor into slavery…

Capped off with ‘Cover Highlights’ from the Golden, Silver, Bronze, Dark and Modern Ages, pencil art by Jim Lee and full ‘Biographies’ of the army of creators crafting green dreams over 8 decades, this is a striking reminder of the tenacity of the heroic principle and an uncomplicated core concept. Ideal Fights ‘n’ Tights fun for all…
© 1941, 1958, 1959, 1971, 1987, 1995, 1997, 2001, 2002, 2007, 2008, 2014, 2016, 2021 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Superman: The City of Tomorrow volume 1


By Jeph Loeb, Stuart Immonen, Mark Millar, Mark Schultz, Joe Kelly, Mike McKone, Steve Epting, Dough Mahnke, German Garcia, Joe Phillips, Yannick Paquette, Kano, Butch Guice, Ed McGuinness & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-9508-0 (TPB)

The Man of Tomorrow has proven to be all things to most people over more than 80 years of action and adventure, with Jerry Siegel & Joe Shuster’s iconic Superman now practically unrecognisable to most fans after continual radical shake-ups and revisions. Nevertheless, every refit and reboot has resulted in appalled fans and new devotees in pretty much equal proportion, so perhaps the Metropolis Marvel’s greatest ability is the power to survive change…

These days, in the aftermath of the Future State and Infinite Frontier events, myriad decades of accrued mythology have been re-assimilated into an overarching, all-inclusive media dominant, film-favoured continuity, with the grittily stripped-down, post-Crisis on Infinite Earths Man of Steel (as re-imagined by John Byrne and built upon by an army of immensely talented comics creators) regarded as a stunning high point.

As soon as the Byrne restart had demolished much of the mythology and iconography which had grown up around the “Strange Visitor from Another World” over fifty glorious years, successive writers, artists and editors expended a lot of time and ingenuity restoring it, albeit in terms more accessible to a cynical, well-informed audience far more sophisticated than their grandparents ever were.

Even so, by the mid-1990’s Byrne’s baby was beginning to look a little tired. The sales kick generated by the Death… and Return of Superman was already fading, so the decision was made to give the big guy a bit of a tweak for the fast-approaching new millennium: bringing in new creators and moving the stories into more bombastic territory.

The fresh tone was augmented by a new sequence and style of trade paperback editions and this new collection adheres to that format in gigantic themed tomes like this initial outing re-presenting material from Action Comics #760-763; Superman #151-154, Superman: Man of Steel # 95-98; The Adventures of Superman #573-576 and Superman: Y2K, covering December 1999-March 2000.

It spectacularly opens with ‘We’re Back!’ by Jeph Loeb, Mike McKone & Marlo Alquiza (from Superman #151), which sees the recently wrecked Daily Planet restored, rebuilt and returned to glory after a dark period under the ownership of Lex Luthor, allowing Lois Lane-Kent plenty of opportunities for reflection, remembrance and handy recapping before the sinister son of alien marauder Mongul explosively crashes to earth…

‘Higher Ground’ (by Stuart Immonen, Mark Millar, Steve Epting & Denis Rodier from Adventures of Superman #573) then details Luthor’s machinations and political chicanery in the creation of a proposed elite “hypersector” to cap the rebuilding of “his” City of Tomorrow. Only stubborn landowner Jerome Odett stands in his way, but with the mayor on his team and bending the law to his needs Lex is assured of victory… until Superman intervenes using sentiment, nostalgia and happy childhood memories as his weapons of choice to arouse popular opinion…

Mark Schultz, Doug Mahnke & Tom Nguyen then reveal that ‘Krypton Lives’ (Superman: Man of Steel # 95) after a Superman robot malfunctions in the Antarctic, allowing humans to enter the Kryptonian’s Fortress of Solitude and triggering the escape of a bizarre string of ancient yet impossibly alive Kryptonian artefacts and creatures.

Forced to destroy the last vestiges of his alien heritage, Kal-El returns to Lois, thinking that a precious chapter of his life is over, but he couldn’t be more wrong…

Crafted by Joe Kelly, German Garcia & Joe Rubinstein, Action Comics #760 depicts ‘…Never-Ending Battle…’ as a legion of minor menaces and misfits lead the Man of Tomorrow to Latina sorceress La Encantadora who sells slivers of Kryptonite to thugs trying to lay our hero low. Even after the elusive enchantress is corralled, she delivers one last surprise which will make much mischief for the Last Son of Krypton…

‘Deadline U.S.A.’ (Superman #152, Loeb, McKone & Alquiza) resumes the interrupted battle with Mongul Jr., but all conflict ceases when the mammoth monster finally gets the Man of Steel to stop hitting and listen…

The brutal tyrant has come to warn of a vast, universe-ending threat and, in conjunction with Luthor, is offering to train Superman to beat it…

There are more pedestrian but just as critical distracting problems to deal with. During Superman’s sparring with Mongul, Jimmy Olsen took a photo of the hero’s hand sporting a wedding ring. When the picture is leaked, the media goes into a feeding frenzy…

‘Something Borrowed, Something Blue’ (Immonen, Millar, Joe Phillips & Rich Faber; Adventures of Superman #574) follows that strand as old foe and potential bunny-boiler Obsession resurfaces in a Superwoman outfit, claiming to be the much-sought Mrs. Superman. However, her deranged tantrum leads to nothing but tragedy and disaster…

Returning ‘Home’ (by Schultz, Mahnke & Nguyen in Superman: Man of Steel #96) Clark Kent finds his Metropolis apartment transformed into a terrifying outpost of his destroyed birthworld, courtesy of renegade miracle machine The Eradicator. In the resultant clash, Superman looks doomed to destruction, until Lois takes decisive action…

Her valiant nature and wifely tolerance is truly tested in Action Comics #761, as – courtesy of Kelly, Garcia & Rubinstein – Lois is abandoned after Wonder Woman requests the Man of Tomorrow join her in battle beside gods against devils.

For the feisty journalist it’s mere days until Clark returns, but she’s blissfully unaware that her husband and the perfect warrior woman have been comrades – and perhaps more – ‘For a Thousand Years…’

The last Christmas of the 20th century ends in Superman #153 (Loeb, McKone & Alquiza) as ‘Say Goodbye’ finds the Action Ace heading into space with Mongul to battle Imperiex, Destroyer of Galaxies who has targeted the Milky Way for destruction…

When the pair implausibly triumph, Mongul instantly betrays his erstwhile pupil and only a violent intervention by bounty hunter Lobo prevents a tragic travesty. What nobody knows is that the Imperiex so recently destroyed is just a fractional drone of the real cosmic obliterator, who is now really ticked off…

Offering a brief pause and change-of-pace ‘A Night at the Opera’ (by Immonen, Millar, Yannick Paquette, Dexter Vines & Rich Faber; Adventures of Superman #575) sees Luthor poison Clark in a churlish attempt to monopolize and impress Lois, before Schultz, Mahnke & Nguyen’s ‘Bridge the Past and Future’ (Superman: Man of Steel # 97) focusses on John Henry Irons – AKA Steel – and his niece Natasha. The high-tech armourers to the City’s police force join Superman against the possessed personification of the Eradicator, still hell-bent on making Earth an outpost of lost Krypton, but now afflicted by an all-too-human consciousness …

As year and millennium anxiously count down to potential doom (kids – this was a genuine concern at the time, you should check it out…) Christmas tensions escalate in Action Comics #762 as Kelly, Garcia, Kano & Rubinstein’s ‘All I Want for Christmas’ finds Man of Steel battling occasional ally Etrigan the Demon beside current foe La Encantadora, before all rediscover the true meaning of the season…

Finally, the long-dreaded doom days begin with the Superman: Y2K one-shot special, crafted by scripter Joe Kelly and artists Butch Guice, Kevin Conrad, Mark Propst & Richard Bonk. ‘The End’ traces the history of the Luthor dynasty in Metropolis, from the first settlers in America to the present day when Last Son Lex practically owns the entire place as a counterpoint to the ongoing action…

With the end of the Holidays fast approaching, staunch traditionalist Clark is facing an existential crisis: Lois and his own mother want to elbow the sacrosanct seasonal tradition of a quiet New Year’s on the Smallville farm for a (professionally-catered, not home-cooked) vacation in the Big City…

Bowing to the inevitable, the Hubby of Tomorrow ferries the family to a Metropolis suddenly gripped with terror: fearing that all the computers on Earth will imminently expire, precipitating the end of civilisation as the millennium closes…

When the countdown concludes, everybody’s fears are totally justified. An alien entity overwhelms the world’s digital systems, triggering a wave of destruction affecting every electronic device on Earth…

Alien digital dictator Brainac 2.5 has upgraded himself since his last attack, but his hatred for Luthor is undiminished. As every hero on Earth battles panic, riots and failing technologies, and Superman and Green Lantern are busy fielding all the nuclear missiles launched during the terrifying induced glitch, the computer dictator is trying his hardest to murder Lex and his new baby daughter Lena Luthor.

As part of his scheme Brainiac 2.5 has also enslaved Earth’s many robotic and android entities such as Red Tornado, Hourman and the Metal Men, but the AI invader is blithely unaware that he too is being used…

With the world – and especially Metropolis – crashing into ruin the secret invader makes its move: from the far distant future the merciless Brainac 13 program has been attempting to overwrite its ancient ancestor and take over Earth centuries before it was even devised…

As described by Loeb, Ed McGuinness & Cam Smith in Superman volume 2 #154 (March 2000), the crisis intensifies in ‘Whatever Happened to the City of Tomorrow?’ as the colossal chronologically-displaced construct begins reformatting the world: converting matter into materials and designs analogous to its own time. Unfortunately, that’s very bad news for the billions of human beings inside buildings, vehicles and vessels abruptly undergoing those transformations…

Even Luthor is helpless, locked out of his own corporate tower as “his” city falls apart whilst the Man of Steel is occupied battling Brainiac 13 and upgraded cyborg assassin Metallo. Assistance arrives in most unwelcome form as little Lena begins offering technical advice. The toddler has been possessed by presumed-destroyed Brainiac 2.5: simultaneously becoming hostage and bolt-hole for the outmoded, nigh-obsolete alien menace…

With the aid of the Metal Men, Superman defeats Metallo and confers with Lois and Jimmy Olsen. The games-mad lad theorises that the transforming city is starting to resemble a gigantic motherboard…

As elsewhere Jonathan and Martha Kent are trapped aboard a subway train programmed to deliver organic units to a slave-indoctrination station, the Action Ace attempts to dislodge the computerising city’s main power cable. When Brainiac 13 tries to digitise and absorb the annoying Kryptonian, it accidentally reverts the hero to a previous incarnation: the intangible electrical form dubbed Superman Blue…

The hostile planetary hacking continues in The Adventures of Superman #576 as ‘AnarchY2Knowledge’ (Millar, Immonen & José Marzan, Jr.) finds the Man of Energy hopelessly tackling Brainiac 13. He seeks to quell the rising body count of helpless humans, whilst far below Luthor and Lena 2.5 battle through marauding B13 creations in the overwritten bowels of the LexCorp Tower towards a stolen secret weapon…

The alien-occupied infant shares a direct link with all Brainiacs’ core programming and has discovered a possible backdoor that could enable them to destroy the all-pervasive program from the future. Their progress is greatly facilitated after Luthor’s lethally devoted bodyguards Hope and Mercy finally locate them. As preparations proceed, the villains opt to rescue Superman, incidentally restoring the Metropolis Marvel to a flesh and blood state. To save Metropolis for his family, the evil billionaire will even work with his most hated enemy…

Superman: Man of Steel # 98 continues the epic with ‘Thirty Minutes to Oblivion’ (Schultz, Mahnke & Nguyen) as the senior Kents escape conversion into B13 drones thanks to a last moment rescue by the Man of Steel and The Eradicator.

After a lengthy period of self-imposed banishment in deep space (for which see Superman: Exile) Kal-El returned to Earth carrying an incredibly powerful Kryptonian artefact which had survived the destruction of the planet. The Eradicator could reshape matter and was programmed to preserve or resurrect and restore the heritage and influence of the lost civilisation at any cost.

After a number of close calls Superman realised it was too dangerous, so he buried it in an Antarctic crevasse and foolishly assumed that ended the affair. Such was not the case and the miracle machine returned many times, always attempting to remake Earth into New Krypton.

When Superman died, it manufactured a new body and sought to carry on Kal-El’s legacy… Eventually it failed and fell into the hands of dying scientist David Connor who merged with the manufactured body to produce a phenomenally powerful – if morally and emotionally conflicted – new hero…

Superman’s understandable anxiety is assuaged as Eradicator points out a weakness in B13 tech assimilation. Its transmode programs have been unable to infect Kryptonian systems such as those in the Fortress of Solitude, but the base has now become the invader’s primary target. If the program masters Kryptonian systems it will be utterly unstoppable…

After finishing off Metallo and the co-opted Metal Men, Eradicator and Superman head to the Fortress, whilst in his factory John Henry Irons and Natasha find their own temporary answer to the threat of the constantly encroaching and bloodthirsty B13 drones…

Deep below LexCorp, Luthor and Lena 2.5 are working towards similar goals with the same insights whilst planning to betray each other later. Admitting that Brainiac core systems can’t even see Kryptonian tech, the baby bodysnatcher advises Lex to modify the robotic warsuit stolen from Superman and deploy it against the apparently omnipotent digital invader.

In the Antarctic, events have moved to a crisis point. The Fortress – transformed by echoes of the original Eradicator – has reconstructed itself into a colossal warrior attempting to overwrite the predatory B13 programs and satisfy its own primary mission… recreating Krypton.

To counter this threat David Connor pays an intolerable price…

The epic comes to a startling conclusion in ‘Sacrifice for Tomorrow’ (Kelly, Garcia, Kano & Alquiza in Action Comics #763) as Superman returns to Metropolis armed with the knowledge of B13’s Achilles’ heel and his repurposed Kryptonian butler Kelex…

Attacking the monstrous computer tyrant with a battalion of mechanoid heroes, the Man of Tomorrow is again repulsed and seeks Luthor’s aid. However, despite Lex’s resolve to work with his nemesis to defeat Brainiac, the billionaire cannot resist turning the warsuit on its previous owner. Typically, Superman was counting on treachery, using it as an opportunity to hijack the Kryptonian armour’s systems to power a forced crash in Brainiac 13…

The blockbuster battle ends as Earth is rapidly reconverted to its original state, but for some inexplicable reason the remission halts outside Metropolis. The city remains a valuable, incomprehensible artefact of a far future with Luthor in the driving seat, frantically patenting thousands of incredible technological advances. There is no sign of baby Lena and the new master of Metropolis refuses to hear her name mentioned…

To Be Continued…

With covers by Phil Jimenez; Dwayne Turner & Danny Miki; Ian Churchill & Norm Rapmund; Bryan Hitch & Paul Neary; Lee Bermejo; Guice; McGuiness & Smith; Immonen & Marzan; Mahnke & John Dell and Garcia & Mendoza, this blistering paperback and digital blockbuster tome introduces a whole new world – and a wealth of fresh problems – for the venerable, wide-ranging cast to cope with: building built upon the scintillating re-casting of the greatest of all superheroes. Lovers of the genre cannot help but respond to the sheer scale, spectacle and compelling melodrama of these tales which will delight all fans of pure untrammelled Fights ‘n’ Tights fiction.
© 1999, 2000, 2019 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Justice League of America: A Celebration of 60 Years


By Gardner Fox, Dennis O’Neil, Steve Englehart, Gerry Conway, Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis, Grant Morrison, Mark Waid, Brad Meltzer, Geoff Johns, Scott Snyder, Mike Sekowsky, Dick Dillin, George Pérez, Pat Broderick, Carmine Infantino, Jim Aparo, Dick Giordano, Gil Kane, Brian Bolland, Joe Kubert, Chuck Patton, Kevin Maguire, Howard Porter, Ed Benes, Jim Lee, Jim Cheung & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-9951-4 (HB)

Win’s Christmas Gift Recommendation: Comic Perfection and the ideal Stocking Stuffer… 10/10

A keystone of the DC Universe, the Justice League of America is the reason we have comics industry today. This stunning compilation – part of a series reintroducing and exploiting the comics pedigree of veteran DC icons and concepts – is available in hardback and digital formats and offers a too-brief but astoundingly enticing sequence of snapshots detailing how the World’s Greatest Superheroes came to be, and be and be again…

Collecting material from The Brave and the Bold #28; Justice League of America #29, 30, 77, 140, 144, 200; Justice League of America Annual #2, Justice League #1, 43 and Justice League of America volume 4 #1 (covering July 1960- August 2018), the landmarks selected are all preceded by a brief critical analysis of the significant stages in their development, beginning with Part I – 1960-1964: The Happy Harbor Years …

After the actual invention of the comicbook superhero – by which we mean the launch of Superman in June 1938 – the most significant event in the industry’s progress was the combination of individual sales-points into a group. Thus, what seems blindingly obvious to everyone with the benefit of four-colour hindsight was irrefutably proven – a number of popular characters could multiply readership by combining forces. Plus of course, a whole bunch of superheroes is a lot cooler than just one – or even one and a sidekick…

The Justice Society of America is rightly revered as a true landmark in the development of comic books, and – when Julius Schwartz began reviving and revitalising the nigh-defunct superhero genre in 1956 – the true key moment came a few years later with the inevitable teaming of his freshly reconfigured mystery men…

When wedded to the relatively unchanged big guns who had weathered the first fall of the Superhero at the beginning of the 1950s, the result was a new, modern, Space-Age version of the JSA and the birth of a new mythology.

That moment that changed everything for us baby-boomers came with issue #28 of The Brave and the Bold, a classical adventure title that had recently become a try-out magazine like Showcase.

Just in time for Christmas 1959, ads began running…

“Just Imagine! The mightiest heroes of our time… have banded together as the Justice League of America to stamp out the forces of evil wherever and whenever they appear!”

When the Justice League of America was launched in issue #28 of The Brave and the Bold (March 1960) it cemented the growth and validity of the genre, triggering an explosion of new characters at every company producing comics in America and even spread to the rest of the world as the 1960s progressed.

Crafted by Gardner Fox & Mike Sekowsky with inking from Bernard Sachs, Joe Giella & Murphy Anderson, ‘Starro the Conqueror!’ saw Flash, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, Aquaman and J’onn J’onzz – Manhunter from Mars unite to defeat a marauding alien starfish whilst Superman and Batman stood by (in those naive days editors feared that their top characters could be “over-exposed” and consequently lose popularity). The team also picked up an average American kid as a mascot. “Typical teenager” Snapper Carr would prove a focus of fan controversy for decades to come…

The series went from strength to strength and triumph to triumph, peaking early with a classic revival as the team met the Justice Society of America, now sensibly relegated to an alternate Earth rather callously designated Earth-2.

From issues #29-30, ‘Crisis on Earth-Three’ and ‘The Most Dangerous Earth of All!’ reprise the first groundbreaking team-up of the JLA and JSA, after the metahuman marvels of yet another alternate Earth discover the secret of multiversal travel. Unfortunately, Ultraman, Owlman, Superwoman, Johnny Quick and Power Ring are ruthless villains from a world without heroes who see the costumed crusaders of the JLA and JSA as living practice-dummies to sharpen their evil skills upon…

With this cracking 2-part thriller a tradition of annual summer team-ups was solidly entrenched in heroic lore, giving fans endless joys for years to come and making the approaching end of school holidays less gloomy than they could have been.

Although a monster hit riding a global wave of popularity for all things masked and caped, the JLA suffered like all superhero features when tastes changed as the decade closed. Like all the survivors, the team adapted and changed…

A potted history of that interregnum, emphasising the contributions of iconoclastic scripters Denny O’Neil and Steve Englehart follows in Part II – 1969-1977: The Satellite Years after which groundbreaking issue #77 exposes a new kind of America.

America was a bubbling cauldron of social turmoil and experimentation at this time, with established beliefs constantly challenged and many previously cosy comics features were using their pages to confront issues of race, equality, and ecological decline. O’Neil and his young colleagues began to utterly redefine superhero strips with their relevancy-driven stories; transforming complacent establishment masked boy-scouts into uncertain, questioning champions and strident explorers of the revolution.

Here, the team’s mascot suddenly grows up and demands to be taken seriously. The drama commences with the heroes’ collective confidence and worldview shattered as enigmatic political populist Joe Dough suborns and compromises their beloved teen sidekick in ‘Snapper Carr… Super-Traitor!’ Crafted by O’Neil, Dick Dillin & Joe Giella, the coming-of age-yarn changed the comfy, cosy superhero game forever…

By March 1977, the team was back in traditional territory but still shaking up the readership. Issue #140, by Steve Englehart, Dick Dillin & Frank McLaughlin questioned heroism itself in ‘No Man Escapes the Manhunter!’ as the venerable Guardians of the Universe and their beloved Green Lanterns are accused of planetary extinctions – until the JLA expose a hidden ancient foe determined to destroy galactic civilisation…

Sadly, all you get here is the opening chapter, but it’s worth tracking down the entire saga elsewhere…

Closely following is issue #144 ‘The Origin of the Justice League – Minus One!’ (July 1977) by the same team. Here Green Arrow does a little checking and discovers the team have been lying about how and why they first got together: a smart and hugely enjoyable conspiracy thriller guest-starring every late 1950’s star in the DC firmament…

Change is a comic book constant and events described in the essay fill in crucial context before Part III: The Detroit Years 1982-1987 precis’ the first Beginning of the End for the World’s Greatest Superheroes, starting with blockbuster anniversary giant #200.

Here scripter Gerry Conway and artists George Pérez, Pat Broderick, Carmine Infantino, Jim Aparo, Dick Giordano, Gil Kane, Brian Bolland, Joe Kubert, Brett Breeding, Terry Austin & Frank Giacoia reprise, re-evaluate and relive the alien Appellax invasion that brought the heroes together in ‘A League Divided’: a blockbuster saga involving every past member…

Big changes began in Justice League of America Annual #2 1984. ‘The End of the Justice League!’ by Conway, Chuck Patton & Dave Hunt saw the team disband following a too-close-to-call alien attack, leading Aquaman to recruit a squad of full-time agents rather than part-time champions. Relocating to street level in Detroit, his old guard veterans Elongated Man, Martian Manhunter, Zatanna and Vixen also began training a next generation of costumed crusaders…

The biggest innovation came after a couple of publishing events recreated the universe and a new kind of team was instituted. In 1986 DC’s editorial leaders felt their 50-year continuity was stopping them winning new readers. The solution was a colossal braided-mega series to streamline, redefine and even add new characters to the mix.

The worlds-shattering, reality-altering bombast of Crisis on Infinite Earths was such a spectacular commercial success, those movers-&-shakers felt more than justified in revamping a number of their hoariest icons for their next fifty years of publishing. As well as Superman, Flash, and Wonder Woman, the moribund and unhappy Justice League of Americawas earmarked for a radical revision. Editor Andy Helfer assembled plotter Keith Giffen, scripter J.M. DeMatteis and untried penciller Kevin Maguire to produce an utterly new approach to the superhero monolith: they played them for laughs…

The series launched as Justice League with a May 1987 cover-date before retitling itself as Justice League International with #7. The new team was formed from the ashes of the old on the basis of events comprising follow-up crossover-event Legends. The gathering comprised a roster of relative second-stringers as America’s newest champions – Black Canary, Blue Beetle, Captain Marvel (now Shazam!), Dr. Fate, Green Lantern Guy Gardner and Mr. Miraclewith heavyweights Batman and Martian Manhunter J’onn J’onzz as nominal straight-men.

The first story introduced charismatic filthy-rich manipulator Maxwell Lord – who used wealth and influence to recreate the neophyte and rather shambolic team who started their march to glory by fighting and defeating a bunch of rather inept terrorist bombers in initial outing ‘Born Again’ (Giffen, DeMatteis Maguire & Terry Austin).

An eventful decade passed and the team were rebooted again, as described in Part IV: The Watchtower Years 1986-2003

After the Silver Age’s greatest team-book died a slow, painful, wasting death, not once but twice, DC were taking no chances with their next revival of the Justice League of America, tapping Big Ideas wünderkind Grant Morrison to reconstruct the group and the franchise.

The result was a gleaming paradigm of comic book perfection which again started magnificently before gradually losing the attention and favour of its originally rabid fan-base. Apparently, we’re a really fickle and shallow bunch, us comics fans…

That idea that really clicked? Put everybody’s favourite Big-Name superheroes back in the team.

It worked, but only because as well as name recognition and star quantity, there was a huge input of creative quality. The stories were smart, fast-paced, compelling, challengingly large-scale and drawn with effervescent vitality. With JLA you could see all the work undertaken to make it the best it could be on every page.

The drama begins in ‘Them!’ (January 1997 by Morrison, Howard Porter & John Dell) as a family of alien super-beings called the Hyperclan dramatically land on Earth and declare that they’re going to usher in a new Golden Age – at least by their standards.

Almost simultaneously the current iteration of the Justice League is attacked in their orbital satellite and only narrowly escape utter destruction. Tragically, one of their number does not survive…

Hyperclan’s very public promises to make Earth a paradise and attendant charm offensive does not impress veteran heroes Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Martian Manhunter and Aquaman or even the latest incarnations of Flash and Green Lantern.

These legends see their methods and careers questioned and are not impressed by seeming miracles or summary executions of super-criminals in the streets. They know there’s something not right about the overbearing sanctimonious newcomers…

The hits kept coming: a strung of superb adventures that enticed the readership. One of the very best and often cited as one of the best Batman stories ever created, multi-part paean to paranoia Tower of Babel saw immortal eco-terrorist Ra’s Al Ghul’s latest plan to winnow Earth’s human population to manageable levels well underway. Again, only the first instalment is here but you know where else to look…

Issue #43 declared ‘Survival of the Fittest’ (by Mark Waid, Porter & Drew Geraci), as a series of perfectly planned pre-emptive strikes cripple Martian Manhunter, Flash, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Plastic Man and Green Lantern whilst Batman is taken out of the game by the simple expedient of stealing his parents’ remains from their graves…

Comics stars increasingly became multi-media franchises at the beginning of this century, and Part V: The Crisis Years 2006-2011 acknowledges the change as the printed form started a constant stream of ever-escalating blockbuster scenarios to compete. A perfect example is Justice League of America volume 4 #1 (October 2006) as Brad Meltzer, Ed Benes & Sandra Hope examine ‘Life’.

Thanks to the events Infinite Crisis, One Year Later and 52, Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman convene as a star-chamber to reform the Justice League of America as a force for good, only to discover that events have escaped them and a new team has already congealed (I really can’t think of a better term) to defeat the imminent menace of Professor Ivo, Felix Faust and the lethal android Amazo, plus a fearsome mystery mastermind and a few classic villains as well.

The tale is told through the heartbreaking personal tragedy of the Red Tornado, who achieves his deepest desire only to have it torn from him: an enjoyable if complex drama that hides its true purpose – that of repositioning the company’s core team in an expanded DCU which encompasses all media, tacitly accepting influences from TV shows, movies and animated cartoons underpinning everything – even the Super Friends and Justice League Unlimited-inspired HQ.

In 2011, DC took a draconian leap: restarting their entire line and continuity with a “New 52”. Justice League volume 2 #1 (November) led from the front as ‘Justice League Part One’ by biggest guns Geoff Johns, Jim Lee & Scott Williams introduced a number of newly debuted heroes acrimoniously pulled together to fight an alien invader called Darkseid…

This celebration concludes with Part VI: The Media Era 1986-2018 and Justice League volume 4 #1 (August 2018) wherein Scott Snyder, Jim Cheung & Mark Morales kick off a colossal, years-long company-wide event. ‘The Totality Part 1’ sees the universe fall apart, its creator escape eternal imprisonment and the JLA hard-pressed to prevent the final triumph of Evil as represented by Lex Luthor and his Legion of Doom…

Adding immeasurably to the wonderment is a superb gallery of covers by Sekowsky, Anderson, Rich Buckler, Dillin & McLaughlin, Pérez, Patton & Giordano, Maguire & Austin, Porter, Dell & Geraci, Ed & Mariah Benes, Lee & Williams and Jim Cheung.

The Justice League of America has a long, proud history of shaking things up and providing dynamic provocative, drama delivered with quality artwork. This compelling assortment is staggeringly entertaining and a monolithic testament to the inestimable value of a strong core concept matured over decades of innovation.
© 1960, 1964, 1969, 1977, 1982, 1984, 1987, 1997, 2000, 2006, 2005, 2011, 2018, 2020 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

The Golden Age Green Lantern Archives volume 1


By Bill Finger, Martin Nodell, E.E. Hibbard, Irwin Hasen & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-56389-507-4

Thanks to comics genius and editorial wunderkind Sheldon Mayer, the innovative fledgling company All-American Comics – who co-published in association with and would eventually be absorbed by DC – published the first comic book super-speedster in Flash Comics. They followed up a few months later with another evergreen and immortal all-star.

The Green Lantern debuted in issue #16 of the company’s flagship title just as superheroes began to truly dominate the market, supplanting newspaper strip reprints and stock genre characters in the still primarily anthologised comic books. The Emerald Gladiator would be swiftly joined in All-American Comics by The Atom, Red Tornado, Sargon the Sorcerer and Doctor Mid-Nite until eventually only gag strips such Mutt and Jeff and exceptional topical tough-guy military strips Hop Harrigan (Ace of the Airwaves) and Red, White and Blue remained to represent mere mortal heroes.

At least, until tastes shifted again after the war and costumed crusaders faded away, to be replaced by cowboys, cops and private eyes…

Devised by up-and-coming cartoonist Martin Nodell (and fleshed out by Bill Finger in the same generally unsung way he had contributed to the success of Batman), Green Lantern soon became AA’s second smash sensation.

The arcane avenger gained his own solo-starring title little more than a year after his premiere and appeared in other anthologies such as Comics Cavalcade and All Star Comics for just over a decade before, like most first-generation superheroes, he faded away in the early1950s. However, he first suffered the uniquely humiliating fate of being edged out of his own strip and comic book by his pet, Streak the Wonder Dog…

However, that’s the stuff of other reviews. This spectacular quirkily beguiling deluxe Archive edition (collecting the Sentinel of Justice’s appearances from All-American Comics #16-30 – covering July 1940 to September 1941 as well as Green Lantern #1 (Fall 1941)) opens with a rousing reminiscence from Nodell in a Foreword which discusses the origins of the character before the parade of raw, graphic enchantment starts with the incredible history of The Green Flame of Life…

Ambitious young engineer Alan Scott only survives the sabotage and destruction of a passenger-packed train due to the intervention of a battered old railway lantern. Bathed in its eerie emerald light he is regaled by a mysterious green voice with the legend of how a meteor once fell in ancient China and spoke to the people, predicting Death, Life and Power.

The star-stone’s viridian glow brought doom to the savant who reshaped it into a lamp, sanity to a madman centuries later and now promised incredible might to bring justice to the innocent…

Instructing Scott to fashion a ring from its metal and draw a charge of power from the lantern every 24 hours, the ancient artefact urges the engineer to use his formidable willpower to end all evil: a mission Scott eagerly takes up by promptly crushing corrupt industrialist Dekker – who had callously caused wholesale death just to secure a lucrative rail contract.

The ring made Scott immune to all minerals and metals, enabled him to fly and pass through walls, but as he battled Dekker’s thugs the grim avenger painfully discovers that living – perhaps organic – materials such as wood or rubber can penetrate his jade defences and cause him mortal harm…

The saboteurs duly punished, Scott resolves to carry on the fight and devises a “bizarre costume” to disguise his identity and strike fear and awe into wrongdoers…

Most of the stories at this time were untitled, and All-American Comics #17 (August 1940) found Scott in Metropolis (long before it became the fictional home of Superman) where his new employer is squeezed out of a building contract by a crooked City Commissioner in bed with racketeers. With lives at risk from shoddy construction, the Green Lantern moves to stop the gangsters. He nearly loses his life to overconfidence before finally triumphing, after which #18 finds Scott visiting the 1940 New York World’s Fair.

This yarn (which I suspect was devised for DC’s legendary comicbook premium New York World’s Fair Comics, but shelved at the last moment) introduces feisty romantic interest Irene Miller as she attempts to shoot the gangster who framed her brother. Naturally, gallant he-man Scott had to get involved, promptly discovering untouchable gang-boss Murdock owns his own Judge, by the simple expedient of holding the lawman’s daughter captive…

However, once Alan applies his keen wits and ruthless mystic might to the problem Murdock’s power – and life – are forfeit, after which, in All-American Comics #19, Scott saves a man from an attempted hit-and-run and finds himself ferreting out a deadly ring of insurance scammers collecting big pay-outs through inflicting “accidents” upon unsuspecting citizens.

Issue #20 opened with a quick recap of GL’s origin before instituting a major change in the young engineer’s life. Following the gunning down of a roving radio announcer and assassination of the reporter’s wife, our hero investigates APEX Broadcasting System in Capitol City… and again meets Irene Miller.

She works at APEX, and with Alan’s help uncovers a scheme whereby broadcasts are used to transmit coded instructions to merciless smugglers. Once the Ring-wielder mops up the cunning gang and their inside man, engineer Scott takes a job at the company and begins a hapless romantic pursuit of capable, valiant Irene.

Thanks to scripter Finger, Green Lantern was initially a grim, mysterious and spookily implacable figure of vengeance weeding out criminals and gangsters but, just as with early Batman sagas, there was always a strong undercurrent of social issues, ballsy sentimentality and human drama.

All-American #21 has the hero expose a cruel con wherein a crooked lawyer presses young criminal Cub Brenner into posing as the long-lost son of a wealthy couple to steal their fortune. Of course, the kid has a change of heart and everything ends happily, but not before stupendous skulduggery and atrocious violence ensue…

In #22, when prize-fighter Kid McKay refuses to throw a bout, mobsters abduct his wife and even temporarily overcome the fighting-mad Emerald Guardian. Moreover, when one brutal thug puts on the magic ring, he swiftly suffers a ghastly punishment which allows GL to emerge victorious…

Slick veteran Everett E. Hibbard provided the art for #23, and his famed light touch frames GL’s development into a less fearsome and more public hero. As Irene continues to rebuff Alan’s advances – in vain hopes of landing his magnificent mystery man alter ego – the engineer accompanies her to interview movie star Delia Day and stumbles into a cruel blackmail racket.

Despite their best efforts the net result is heartbreak, tragedy and many deaths. Issue #24 then sees the Man of Light going undercover to expose philanthropist tycoon R.J. Karns, who maintains his vast fortune by selling unemployed Americans into slavery on a tropical Devil’s Island, whilst #25 finds Irene uncovering sabotage at a steel mill.

With GL’s unsuspected help she then exposes purported enemy mastermind The Leader as no more than an unscrupulous American insider trader trying to force prices down for a simple Capitalist coup…

Celebrated strip cartoonist Irwin Hasen began his long association with Green Lantern in #26 when the hero aids swindled citizens whose lending agreements with a loan shark were being imperceptibly altered by a forger to keep them paying in perpetuity, after which the artist illustrated the debut appearance of overnight sensation Doiby Dickles in All-American #27 (June 1941).

The rotund, middle-aged Brooklyn-born cab driver was simply intended as light foil and occasional sidekick for the poker-faced Emerald Avenger but rapidly grew to be one of the most popular and beloved comedy stooges of the era; soon sharing covers and even by-lines with the star.

In this initial dramatic outing, he bravely defends fare Irene (sorry: irresistible – awful, but irresistible) from assailants as she carries plans for a new radio receiver device. For his noble efforts, Doiby is sought out and thanked by Green Lantern. After the verdant crusader investigates further, he discovers enemy agents at the root of the problem, but when Irene is again targeted, the Emerald Avenger was seemingly killed…

This time, to save Miss Miller, Doiby disguises himself as “de Lantrin” and confronts the killers alone before the real deal turns up to end things. As a reward, the Brooklyn bravo is offered an unofficial partnership…

In #28 the convenient death of millionaire Cyrus Brand and a suspicious bequest to a wastrel nephew lead Irene, Doiby and Alan to a sinister gangster dubbed The Spider who manufactures deaths by natural causes, after which #29 finds GL and the corpulent cabbie hunting mobster Mitch Hogan, who forces pharmacies to buy his counterfeit drugs and products. The brute utilises strong-arm tactics to ensure even the courts carry out his wishes – at least until the Lantern and his wrench-wielding buddy give him a dose of his own medicine…

The last All-American yarn here is from issue #30 (cover-dated September 1941) and again sees Irene sticking her nose into other peoples’ business. This time she exposes a brace of crooked bail bondsmen exploiting former criminals trying to go straight, before being again kidnapped…

This raw and vital high-energy compilation ends with the stirring contents of Green Lantern #1 from Fall 1941, scripted by Finger and exclusively illustrated by Nodell, who had by this time dropped his potentially face-saving pseudonym Mart “Dellon”.

The magic began with a 2-page origin recap in ‘Green Lantern – His Personal History’, after which ‘The Masquerading Mare!’ sees GL and Doiby smash the schemes of racketeer Scar Jorgis who goes to quite extraordinary lengths to obtain a racehorse inherited by Irene.

Following an article by Dr. William Moulton Marston (an eminent psychologist familiar to us today as the creator of Wonder Woman) in which he discusses the topic of ‘Will Power’, the comic thrills resume when a city official is accused of mishandling funds allocated to buy pneumonia serum in ‘Disease!!’

Although Green Lantern and Doiby spearhead a campaign to raise money to prevent an epidemic, events take a dark turn when the untouchable, unimpeachable Boss Filch experiences personal tragedy and exposes his grafting silent partners high in the city’s governing hierarchy…

Blistering spectacle is the star of ‘Arson in the Slums’, as Alan and Irene are entangled in a crusading publisher’s strident campaign to renovate a ghetto. Of course, the philanthropic Barton and his real estate pal Murker have only altruistic reasons for their drive to re-house the city’s poorest citizens. Sure, they do…

Doiby is absent from that high octane thriller but guest-stars with the Emerald Ace in prose tale ‘Hop Harrigan in “Trailers of Treachery”’ – by an unknown scripter and probably illustrated by Sheldon Mayer – a ripping yarn starring AA’s aviation ace (and star of his own radio show) after which ‘Green Lantern’ and Doiby travel South of the Border to scenic Landavo to investigate tampering with APEX’s short-wave station and end up in a civil war.

They soon discover the entire affair has been fomented by foreign agents intent on destroying democracy on the continent…

With the threat of involvement in the “European War” a constant subject of American headlines, this sort of spy story was gradually superseding general gangster yarns, and as Green Lantern displayed his full bombastic might against tanks, fighter planes and invading armies, nobody realised that within mere months America and the entire comic book industry were to be refitted and reconfigured beyond all recognition. Soon mystery men would become patriotic morale boosters parading and sermonising ad infinitum in every corner of the industry’s output as the real world brutally intruded on the hearts and minds of the nation…

Including a breathtaking selection of stunning and powerfully evocative covers by Sheldon Moldoff, Hasen & Howard Purcell, this magnificent book is a sheer delight for lovers of the early Fights ‘n’ Tights genre: gripping, imaginative and exuberantly exciting – but yet again remains unavailable in digital formats. One day, though…
© 1940, 1941, 1999 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.