Marvel Two-in-One Masterworks volume 1


By Steve Gerber, Len Wein, Mike Friedrich, Chris Claremont, Jim Starlin, Gil Kane, Sal Buscema, George Tuska, Herb Trimpe, Bob Brown & various (Marvel)
ISBN: 978-0-7851-6633-7 (HB)

Imagination isn’t everything. As Marvel slowly grew to a position of dominance in the wake of losing their two most innovative and inspirational creators, they did so less by risky experimentation and more by expanding and exploiting proven concepts and properties.

The only real exception to this was their en masse creation of horror titles in response to the industry down-turn in super-hero sales – a move expedited by a rapid revision in the wordings of the increasingly ineffectual Comics Code Authority rules.

The concept of team-up books – an established star pairing, or battling – and usually both – with less well-selling company characters, was not new when Marvel decided to award their most popular hero the lion’s share of this new title, but they wisely left their options open by allocating an occasional substitute lead in the Human Torch. In those long-lost days, editors were acutely conscious of potential over-exposure – and since super-heroes were actually in a decline, they may well have been right.

After the runaway success of Spider-Man’s collaborations in Marvel Team-Up, the House of Ideas reinforced the trend with a series starring bashful, blue-eyed Ben Grimm – the Fantastic Four’s most iconic member – beginning with two test runs in Marvel Feature before graduating to its own somewhat over-elaborate title.

This compelling compendium – available in hardback and digital formats – gathers the contents of Marvel Feature #11-12 and Marvel Two-In-One #1-10, covering September 1973 – July 1975, and opens with a Roy Thomas Introduction explaining how it was Stan’s idea…

Then the much told tales take centre stage with a perennial favourite pairing and the Thing once more clashing with The Incredible Hulk in ‘Cry: Monster! by Len Wein, Jim Starlin & Joe Sinnott (from MF #11).

Here, Kurrgo, Master of Planet X and the lethal Leader manipulate both blockbusting brutes into duking it out – ostensibly to settle a wager – but with the mighty minded, misshapen masterminds each concealing hidden agendas…

That ever-inconclusive yet cataclysmic clash leaves Ben stranded in the Nevada desert where Mike Friedrich, Starlin & Sinnott promptly drop him in the middle of the ongoing war against mad Titan Thanos with Iron Man helping Ben crush monstrous alien invaders in ’The Bite of the Blood Brothers!’ (Marvel Feature #12, November 1973): another spectacular and painfully pretty all-action punch-up.

Still stuck in the desert when the dust settles, Ben laboriously treks to a minor outpost of civilisation just in time to be diverted to Florida for the grand opening of his own title. Cover-dated January 1974, Marvel Two-In-One #1 sees Steve Gerber, Gil Kane & Sinnott magnificently detail the ‘Vengeance of the Molecule Man!’, with Ben learning some horrifying home truths about what constitutes being a monster after battling with and beside ghastly, grotesque anti-hero Man-Thing.

With the second issue Gerber cannily trades a superfluous supporting character from his Man-Thing series to add some much-needed depth to the team-up title. ‘Manhunters from the Stars!’ pits Ben, old enemy Namor, the Sub-Mariner (another series Gerber was currently writing) and the Aquatic Avenger’s feisty and single-minded cousin Namoritaagainst each other as well as aliens hunting the emotionally and intellectually retarded superboy Wundarr. Another dynamically, intoxicating tale illustrated by Kane & Sinnott, this case also leaves the Thing as de facto guardian of the titanic teenaged tot…

Sal Buscema signed on as penciller with #3 as the Rocky Ranger joins the Man Without Fear ‘Inside Black Spectre!’: a crossover instalment of the extended epic then playing out in Daredevil #108-112 (in case you’re wondering, this action-packed fight-fest occurs between the second and third chapters) after which ‘Doomsday 3014!’ (Gerber, Buscema & Frank Giacoia) finds Ben and Captain America visiting the 31st century to save Earth from enslavement by the reptilian Brotherhood of Badoon, leaving Wundarr with Namorita for the foreseeable future…

The furious future-shocker concludes in MTIO #5 as the original Guardians of the Galaxy (not the movie group) climb aboard the Freedom Rocket to help our time-lost heroes liberate New York before returning home. The overthrow of the aliens was completed by another set of ancient heroes in Defenders #26-29 (which is also the subject of a different review)…

Marvel Two-In-One #6 began a complex crossover tale with the aforementioned Defenders as Dr. Strange and the Thing witness a cosmic event which begins with a subway busker’s harmonica and leads inexorably to a ‘Death-Song of Destiny!’ (Gerber, George Tuska & Mike Esposito) before Asgardian outcasts Enchantress and the Executioner attempt to seize control of unfolding events in #7’s ‘Name That Doom!’ (pencilled by Sal Buscema).

As they are thwarted by Grimm and the valiant Valkyrie, there’s enough of an ending here for casual readers, but fans and completists will want to hunt down Defenders #20 or Defenders Masterworks link please volume 3 for the full story…

Back here, however, MTIO #8 teams Grimm and supernatural sensation Ghost Rider in a quirkily compelling Yuletide yarn. ‘Silent Night… Deadly Night!’ – by Gerber, Buscema & Esposito – finds the audacious Miracle Man trying to take control of a very special birth in a stable…

Gerber moved on after plotting Thor team-up ‘When a God goes Mad!’ for Chris Claremont to script and Herb Trimpe & Joe Giella to finish: a rushed and meagre effort with the Puppet Master and Radion the Atomic Man making a foredoomed power play, before issue #10 concludes this initial compendium.

Crafted by Claremont, the still much-missed Bob Brown & Klaus Janson, it is a slice of inspired espionage action-intrigue with Ben and the Black Widow battling suicidal terrorist Agamemnon who plans to detonate the planet’s biggest nuke in blistering thriller ‘Is This the Way the World Ends?’.

These stories from Marvel’s Middle Period are of variable quality but nonetheless represent an honest attempt to entertain and exhibit a dedicated drive to please. Whilst artistically the work varies from adequate to utterly superb, most fans of the frantic Fights ‘n’ Tights genre would find little to complain about.

Although not really a book for casual or more maturely-oriented readers there’s still buckets of fun on hand and young readers will have a blast, so why not to add this colossal comics chronicle to your straining superhero bookshelves?
© 2020 MARVEL

Avengers Marvel Masterworks volume 18


By David Michelinie, Roger Slifer, Steve Gerber, Tom DeFalco, Mark Gruenwald, Steven Grant, Bill Mantlo, Jim Shooter, Scott Edelman, Mark Evanier, John Byrne, George Pérez, Carmine Infantino, Jim Mooney, Don Newton, Michael Netzer, Sal Buscema & various (Marvel)
ISBN: 978-1-3029-0960-4 (HB)

The Avengers have always proved that putting all one’s star eggs in a single basket pays off big-time: even when all Marvel’s classic all-stars such as Thor, Captain America and Iron Man are absent, it merely allows the team’s lesser lights to shine more brightly.

Of course, all the founding stars were regularly featured due to the rotating, open door policy, which means that every issue includes somebody’s fave-rave – and the boldly grand-scale impressive stories and artwork are no hindrance either. With the team now global icons, let’s look again at the stories which form the foundation of that pre-eminence.

Re-presenting Avengers #178-188, Avengers Annual #8-9, plus Marvel Premier #49 and material from Marvel Tales #100 (cumulatively spanning December 1978 to October 1979), these stories again see the team in transition.

Jim Shooter, having galvanised and steadied the company’s notional flagship, moved on, leaving David Michelinie to impress his own ideas and personality upon the team, but such transitions are always tricky and a few water-treading fill-ins were necessary before progress resumed. For behind the scenes details you can read Michelinie’s fascinating Introduction before diving in to the fabulous action and drama…

After the death and resurrection of the heroes in the previous volume, Korvac’s defeat leads seamlessly into Avengers Annual #8, getting back to business with a monolithic Fights ‘n’ Tights melee in ‘Spectrums of Deceit!’, courtesy of Roger Slifer, George Pérez, Pablo Marcos & Ricardo Villamonte. It sees the sentient power-prism of archvillain Doctor Spectrum systematically possessing Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. The upshot is another blockbusting battle against the Squadron Sinister and ethically ambivalent Femizon Thundra and another guest shot for mighty Ms. Marvel

A subtle change of pace and tone came in Avengers #178. ‘The Martyr Perplex!’ – by Steve Gerber, Carmine Infantino & Rudy Nebres – sees mutant Hank McCoy/The Beast targeted by master brainwasher The Manipulator in a tense psycho-thriller teeming with shady crooks and government spooks, after which Tom DeFalco, Jim Mooney, Al Gordon & Mike Esposito deliver a 2-part yarn introducing tragic mutant Bloodhawk and an ambitious human hitman in ‘Slowly Slays the Stinger!’

Whilst Stinger cautiously executes his commission, another cohort of champions accompany Bloodhawk to his desolate island home of Maura for a ‘Berserkers’ Holiday’, just in time to battle an animated and agitated stone idol. When they return victorious, Stinger is waiting and the assemblage loses its newest ally forever…

Finally getting back on track, Avengers #181 introduces new regular creative team David Michelinie & John Byrne – augmented by inker Gene Day – as ‘On the Matter of Heroes!’ sees intrusive and obsessive Government Agent Henry Peter Gyrich lay down the law and winnow the army of heroes down to a federally acceptable seven.

As the Guardians of the Galaxy headed back to their future, Iron Man, the Vision, Captain America, Scarlet Witch, Beast and Wasp must placate Hawkeye after he is rejected in favour of new member The Falcon – reluctantly parachuted in to conform to government affirmative action quotas…

Almost immediately, Gyrich’s methodically calculated plans are in tatters as an elderly Romani sorcerer attacks. He claims mutants Wanda and Pietro Frank as his long-lost children and traps their souls inside little wooden dolls, and the resultant clash in #182’s ‘Honor Thy Father’ (inked by Klaus Janson) creates even more questions, as overwhelming evidence seems to confirm Django Maximoff’s story. The upshot sees the Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver leave with him on a quest for answers…

Michelinie, Byrne, Janson & D(iverse). Hands provide a breathtaking all-action extravaganza in #183-184 as ‘The Redoubtable Return of Crusher Creel!’ finds Carol Danvers/Ms. Marvel cleared by Gyrich to replace the Witch…

Elsewhere in the Big Apple, the formidable Absorbing Man has decided to leave the country and quit being thrashed by heroes. Unfortunately, his departure plans include kidnapping a young woman “for company”, leading to a cataclysmic showdown with the heroes and Hawkeye (still determined to win back his place on the team) and resulting in carnage, chaos and a ‘Death on the Hudson!’

Historical continuity addicts Mark Gruenwald & Steven Grant plot #185’s ‘The Yesterday Quest!’ for Michelinie, Byrne & Dan Green to execute as, in America, new robotic ally Jocasta strives to entice the Vision even as his wife and brother-in-law arrive in Balkan Transia. In the shadow of mystic Mount Wundagore Wanda is beguiled by Modred the Mystic, leaving Quicksilver to perish if not for the ministrations of talking humanoid cow Bova.

The wetnurse once employed by the High Evolutionary doesn’t mind, after all she was his mother’s midwife years ago…

‘Nights of Wundagore!’ then unpicks years of mystery with secrets of the mutants’ origins; how she passed them off as the stillborn children of American superhero Bob Frank and offers big hints as to their true father. Wanda meanwhile has lost a magic duel with Modred and is possessed by ancient demon Chthon. Pietro barely survives his clash with her/it, and calls for help, but thanks to more pointless bureaucracy from Gyrich, its hours before the Avengers – missing Iron Man but including Wonder Man – arrive to face the world rending

‘Call of the Mountain Thing!’ Although they ultimately triumph, not every participant makes it out alive…

The way home is just as momentous as #188’s ‘Elementary, Dear Avengers’ (by Bill Mantlo, Byrne, Green & Frank Springer) begins with a side trip to Inhuman City Attilan and news that Quicksilver is about to become a dad, and ends with the team causing an international incident by diverting over Russian airspace. Thankfully, the incident overlaps with a secret Soviet science experiment going badly wrong, compelling the heroes to tackle sentient elements with a taste for death and destruction

Avengers Annual #9 then introduces a lethal secret from the past as Mantlo, Don Newton, Jack Abel & Joe Rubinstein reveal a deadly robotic sleeper locked beneath Avengers Mansion. ‘…Today the Avengers Die!’ reprises Iron Man’s battle against deadly vintage mechanoid Arsenal and reveals that the Howard Stark-built weapon was cached in his old townhouse. Now ‘Something Deadly Lurks Below!’ proves that they should have let sleeping bots lie…

Rounding out the chronologically completist action is a snippet from Marvel Tales #100 (February 1979) and a solo yarn from Marvel Premier #49 (August 1979). The first finds time-displaced Two-Gun Kid and Hawkeye battle Killgrave the Controller in ‘Killers of a Purple Rage!’ by Scott Edelman, Michael Netzer & Terry Austin, after which Mark Evanier, Sal Buscema & Dave Simons craft a try-out mission for The Falcon who faces the sinister ‘Sound of the Silencer’: finding profit not patriotism motivates his string of assassination attempts

Available in hardback and digital iterations, and supplemented by original art from Pérez, Dave Cockrum, Byrne, Gene Day & Green; previous collection covers by Steve Epting & Tom Palmer and letters columns debating the new origins for Pietro and Wanda, this archival tome and this type of heroic adventure might not be to every reader’s taste but these – and the epic yarns that followed – set the tone for decades to come and informed all those movies everybody loves.
© 2018 Marvel Characters, Inc. All rights reserved.

Avengers Marvel Masterworks volume 17


By Jim Shooter, Jim Starlin, Roger Stern, Marv Wolfman, George Pérez, David Michelinie, Bill Mantlo, Mark Gruenwald, Sal Buscema, Dave Wenzel, Tom Morgan & various (Marvel)
ISBN: 978-1302903411 (HB)

The Avengers have always proved that putting all one’s star eggs in a single basket pays off big-time: even when all Marvel’s classic all-stars such as Thor, Captain America and Iron Man are absent, it merely allows the team’s lesser lights to shine more brightly.

Of course, all the founding stars were regularly featured due to the rotating, open door policy, which means that every issue includes somebody’s fave-rave – and the boldly grand-scale impressive stories and artwork are no hindrance either. With the team now global icons, let’s look again at the stories which form the foundation of that pre-eminence.

Re-presenting Avengers #164-177, Avengers Annual #7 plus the concluding half of the legendary crossover epic from Marvel Two-in-One Annual #2 (cumulatively spanning October 1977 to November 1978), these stories again see the team in transition and against the biggest threats ever imagined.

During this period Jim Shooter, having galvanised and steadied the company’s notional flagship, moved on, leaving David Michelinie to impress his own ideas and personality upon the team, even as Cosmic Doomsmith Jim Starlin recruited the team to inscribe an epic ending to his seminal interpretation of tragic antihero Adam Warlock

Opening this titanic tome is an informative Foreword from scripter Roger Stern, followed by a stunning 3-part saga by Shooter, John Byrne & Pablo Marcos which reinvented one of the team’s oldest adversaries.

It begins in #164 as, after months of speculation and experimentation, the resurrected Wonder Man is finally revealed to have evolved into a creature of pure ionic energy. Elsewhere, aging Maggia Don Count Nefaria recruits Whirlwind, Power Man (the original mercenary who had undergone the same transformative experiment as Wonder Man) and Living Laser to amass plunder for him. This tactic is mere subterfuge…

After the thieves trash a squad of Avengers, Nefaria uses his flunkies’ bodies as templates and power source to turn himself into a literal Superman before attacking the already-battered heroes in ‘To Fall by Treachery!’

The tension builds in #165 as ‘Hammer of Vengeance’ sees the out-powered team fall, only to be saved by elderly speedster The Whizzer who points out that, for all his incredible strength, Nefaria too is an old man with death inevitably dogging his heels…

Panicked and galvanised, the Overman goes berserk, carving a swathe of destruction through the city whilst seeking a confrontation with Thunder God Thor and the secret of his immortality. Before too long he had reason to regret his demands. The surprise arrival of the Thunderer in ‘Day of the Godslayer!’ ends the madman’s dreams but also highlights growing tensions within the victorious team…

This superb thriller is followed by ‘The Final Threat’ (Jim Starlin & Joe Rubinstein) from Avengers Annual #7, wherein Kree warrior Captain Marvel and Titanian mind-goddess Moondragon return to Earth with vague anticipations of an impending cosmic catastrophe.

Their premonitions are confirmed when galactic wanderer Adam Warlock arrives with news that death-obsessed Thanos has amassed an alien armada and built a Soul-gem powered weapon to snuff out the stars like candles…

Broaching interstellar space to stop the scheme, the united heroes forestall the stellar invasion and prevent the Dark Titan from destroying the Sun, but only at the cost of Warlock’s life…

Then ‘Death Watch!’ (Starlin & Rubinstein from Marvel Two-in-One Annual #2) finds Peter Parker plagued by prophetic nightmares, disclosing how Thanos had snatched victory from defeat and now holds the Avengers captive whilst again preparing to extinguish Sol.

With nowhere else to turn, the anguished, disbelieving Spider-Man heads for the Baxter Building, hoping to borrow a spacecraft, unaware that The Thing also has history with the terrifying Titan.

Although utterly overmatched, the mismatched champions of Life subsequently upset Thanos’ plans enough so that the Avengers and the Universe’s true agent of retribution can end the Titan’s threat forever… or at least until next time…

Back in the monthly, an epic of equal import was about to unfold. Shooter’s connection to the series, although episodic, was long-lived and produced some of that period’s greatest tales, none more so than the stellar – if deadline-doomed – saga which occurred over succeeding months: a sprawling tale of time-travel and universal conquest which began in Avengers #167-168 and, after a brief pause, resumed for #170 through #177.

In previous issues a difference of opinion between Captain America and Iron Man over leadership styles had begun to polarise the team. Cracks appeared and tensions started to show in #167 with ‘Tomorrow Dies Today!’ (Shooter, George Pérez & Marcos).

In the Gods-&-Monsters filled Marvel Universe there are entrenched and jealous Hierarchies of Power, so when a new player mysteriously materialises in the 20th century the very Fabric of Reality is threatened…

It kicks off when star-spanning 31st century superheroes the Guardians of the Galaxy materialise in Earth orbit, hotly pursuing cyborg despot Korvac. Inadvertently setting off planetary incursion alarms, their minor-moon sized ship is swiftly penetrated by an Avengers squad, and – after the customary introductory squabble – the future men (Charlie-27, Yondu, Martinex, Nikki, Vance Astro and enigmatic space God Starhawk) explain the purpose of their mission…

Captain America had fought beside them to liberate their home era from Badoon rule and Thor battled the fugitive Korvac before, so peace soon breaks out, but even with the resources of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, the time travellers are unable to find their quarry…

Meanwhile on Earth, a mysterious being named Michael lurks in the background. At a fashion show staged by the Wasp, he achieves a psychic communion with model Carina Walters before they both vanish…

‘First Blood’ (Avengers #168) stirs up more trouble as Federal liaison and hidebound martinet Henry Peter Gyrich begins making life bureaucratically hot for the maverick team. In Colorado, meanwhile, Hawkeye gets a shock as his travelling partner Two-Gun Kid vanishes before his eyes whilst in suburban Forest Hills, Starhawk – in his female iteration of Aleta – approaches a quiet residence…

Michael/Korvac’s plan consists of subtly altering events as he gathers strength in secret preparation for a sneak attack on those aforementioned Cosmic Hierarchies. His entire plan revolves around not being noticed. When Starhawk confronts him, the villain kills the stellar intruder and instantly resurrects him minus the ability to perceive Michael or any of his works…

The drama screeches to a halt in #169, which declares ‘If We Should Fail… The World Dies Tonight!’ The out of context potboiler – by Marv Wolfman, Sal Buscema & Dave Hunt – sees Cap, Iron Man and the Black Panther scour the planet in search of doomsday bombs wired to the failing heart of a dying man, after which the major mayhem resumes in #170 with ‘…Though Hell Should Bar the Way!’ by Shooter, Pérez & Marcos.

As Sentinel of Liberty and Golden Avenger finally settle their differences, in Inhuman city Attilan, ex-Avenger Quicksilver suddenly disappears even as dormant mechanoid Jocasta (designed by maniac AI Ultron to be his bride) goes on a rampage before vanishing into the wilds of New York City.

In stealthy pursuit and hoping her trail will lead to Ultron himself, the team stride into a trap ‘…Where Angels Fear to Tread’ but nevertheless triumph thanks to the hex powers of the Scarlet Witch, the assistance of pushy, no-nonsense new hero Ms. Marvel and Jocasta’s own rebellion against the metal monster who made her. However, at their moment of triumph the Avengers are stunned to see Cap and Jocasta wink out of existence…

The problems pile up in #172 as Watchdog-come-Gadfly Gyrich is roughly manhandled and captured by out-of-the-loop returnee Hawkeye and responds by rescinding the team’s Federal clearances.

Badly handicapped, the heroes are unable to warn other inactive members of the increasing disappearances even as a squad of heavy hitters rush off to tackle marauding Atlantean maverick Tyrak the Treacherous who is bloodily enacting a ‘Holocaust in New York Harbor!’ (by Shooter, Sal Buscema & Klaus Janson)…

Answers to the growing mystery are finally forthcoming in ‘Threshold of Oblivion!’, plotted by Shooter, with David Michelinie scripting for Sal Buscema & D(iverse) Hands to illustrate.

As the vanishings escalate, the remaining Avengers (Thor, Wasp, Hawkeye and Iron Man – with the assistance of Vance Astro) finally track down their hidden foe and beam into a cloaked starship to liberate the ‘Captives of the Collector!’(Shooter, Bill Mantlo, Dave Wenzel & Marcos)…

After a staggering struggle, the heroes triumph and their old foe reveals the shocking truth: he is in fact an Elder of the Universe who foresaw cosmic doom millennia previously and sought to preserve special artefacts and creatures – such as the Avengers – from the slowly approaching apocalypse.

As he reveals that predicted end-time is here and that he has sent his own daughter Carina to infiltrate the Enemy’s stronghold, the cosmic curator is obliterated in a devastating blast of energy. The damage however is done and the entrenched hierarchies of creation may well be alerted…

Issue #175 began the final countdown as ‘The End… and Beginning!’ (Shooter, Michelinie, Wenzel & Marcos) sees the amassed and liberated ranks of Avengers and Guardians follow the clues to Michael, just as the new god shares the incredible secret of his apotheosis with Carina, before ‘The Destiny Hunt!’ and ‘The Hope… and the Slaughter!’ (Shooter, Wenzel, Marcos & Ricardo Villamonte) depicts the entire army of champions destroyed and resurrected as Michael easily overpowers all opposition but falters for lack of one fundamental failing…

Spread through a series of lesser adventures, the overarching epic ponderously and ominously unfolds before finally exploding into a devastating and tragic Battle Royale that is the epitome of superhero comics. This is pure escapist fantasy at its finest.

Despite being somewhat diminished by the artwork when the magnificent Pérez gave way to less inspired hands and cursed by the inability to keep a regular inker (Pablo Marcos, Klaus Janson Ricardo Villamonte and Tom Morgan all pitched in), the sheer scope of the epic plot nevertheless carries this story through to its cataclysmic and fulfilling conclusion.

Even Shooter’s reluctant replacement by scripters Dave Michelinie and Bill Mantlo (as his editorial career advanced) couldn’t derail this juggernaut of adventure.

If you want to see what makes Superhero fiction work, and can keep track of nearly two dozen flamboyant characters, this is a fine example of how to make such an unwieldy proposition easily accessible to the new and returning reader.

Available in hardback and digital iterations, and supplemented by original cover art by Pérez and Dave Cockrum, contemporary House Ads, editorial material and covers from previous compilations plus an epilogue strip by Mark Gruenwald & Tom Morgan, this archival tome and this type of heroic adventure might not be to every reader’s taste but these – and the truly epic yarns that followed – set the tone for fantastic Fights ‘n’ Tights dramas for decades to come and informed all those movies everybody loves. This tale can still boggle the mind and take the breath away, even here in the quietly isolated and no less dangerous 21st century…

No lovers of Costumed Dramas can afford to ignore this superbly bombastic book, and fans who think themselves above superhero stories might also be pleasantly surprised…
© 2017 Marvel Characters, Inc. All rights reserved.

Shuri volume 1: The Search for Black Panther


By Nnedi Okorafor, Leonardo Romero, Jordie Bellaire, VC’s Joe Sabino & various (Marvel)
ISBN: 978-1-3029-1523-0 (TPB)

Lauded as the first black superhero in American comics and one of the first to carry his own series, the Black Panther’s popularity and fortunes have waxed and waned since the 1960s when he first attacked the FF (Fantastic Four #52; cover-dated July 1966) as part of an extended plan to gain vengeance on the murderer of his father.

T’Challa, son of T’Chaka was revealed as an African monarch whose hidden kingdom was the only source of a vibration-absorbing alien metal upon which the country’s immense wealth was founded. Those mineral riches – derived from a fallen meteor which struck the continent in lost antiquity – had turned his country into a technological wonderland.

The tribal wealth had long been guarded by a hereditary feline champion deriving physical advantages from secret ceremonies and a mysterious heart-shaped herb that ensured the generational dominance of the nation’s warrior Panther Cult.

In recent years, Vibranium made the country a target for increasing subversion and incursion. After one all-out attack by Doctor Doom – culminating in the Iron Dictator seizing control of Wakanda – T’Challa was forced to render all Vibranium on Earth inert, defeating the invader but leaving his own homeland broken and economically shattered.

During that cataclysmic clash T’Challa’s flighty, spoiled brat half-sister Shuri took on the mantle of Black Panther, becoming the clan and country’s new champion whilst her predecessor struggled with the disaster he had deliberately caused and recuperated from near-fatal injuries.

Despite initially being rejected by the divine Panther Spirit, Shuri proved a dedicated and ingenious protector, serving with honour until she perished defending the nation from alien invader Thanos. When T’Challa resumed his position as warrior-king, one of his earliest tasks was resurrecting his sister. She had passed into the Djalia (Wakanda’s spiritual Plane of Memories) where she absorbed the entire history of the nation from ascended Elders. On her return to physicality, she gained mighty new powers as the Ascended Future…

Now – thanks to the equally formidable magic of a bravura role in a blockbuster movie – a slightly reimagined Shuri stars in her own series, blending established comics mythology with the fresh characterisation of a spunky, savvy youthful super-scientist.

Written by multi award-winning fantasy author Nnedimma Nkemdili “Nnedi” Okorafor (Binti, Who Fears Death, Lagoon, Broken Places & Outer Spaces, Black Panther: Long Live the King, Venomverse War Stories) and illustrated by Leonardo Romero (Hawkeye, Captain America, Doctor Strange), this first collection – gathering #1-5 of Shuri (spanning December 2018-April 2019 and available as a trade paperback or digitally) – finds Wakanda in turmoil.

In the aftermath of the nation’s first (official) manned space mission, King T’Challa is ‘Gone’, leaving Shuri to initially revel in the sheer joy and freedom of technological creation. However, the pressures of her family position always bedevil her. If it’s not frequent overtures from a mystery hacker she’s befriended and dubbed Muti or the constant chidings of the Ancestral Spirits who connect her to the Djalia, it’s her unwelcome invitation to join a secret society of women who have covertly steered and safeguarded Wakanda for generations…

The Sisters of the Elephant’s Trunk have a cherished goal: despite the nation recently becoming a constitutional monarchy, they want Shuri to step up in T’Challa’s absence and be the country’s spiritual leader … a new Black Panther…

Her answer in ‘The Baobab Tree’ pleases no one, but she has no time for second thoughts as sister-in-law Storm comes to her with news that T’Challa is now lost in space. The crisis is further compounded after Queen Mother Ramonda also vanishes. When Shuri resorts to spiritual means of locating her missing family, the ritual accidentally catapults her astral personality across the universe and into the vegetable body of a Guardian of the Galaxy…

Trapped but never helpless, Shuri’s brains save the alien heroes from dire peril and a deadly energy-eating bug in ,Groot Boom’, but her return to Earth brings more trouble as the energy-insectoid follows to cause chaos in ‘Timbuktu’ – thanks in large part to the machinations of opportunist supervillain Moses Magnum

With catastrophe all around and the planet in deadly peril, Shuri calls in a favour and Iron Man responds to assist in preventing ‘The End of the Earth’ but ultimately Shuri knows that the call of the Panther cult must be answered no matter what she wants…

To Be Continued…

Featuring a superb variant covers gallery by Skottie Young, Carlos Pacheco, Rafael Fonteriz & Rachel Martin, Jamal Campbell, Travis Charest, John Tyler Christopher, Afua Richardson plus a Movie photo cover and character designs by Romero, this is a fast-moving, funny and supremely inventive romp: a splendidly fresh take on female superheroics that is compulsive reading for any fan of tight continuity, breathtaking action and smart characterisation as well as everyone who fell in love with the super-smart young woman who stole every scene in the Black Panther movie. What are you waiting for?
© 2019 MARVEL. All rights reserved.

Marvel’s Avengers – Infinity War Prelude


By Will Corona Pilgrim, Tigh Walker, Jorge Fornés, Chris O’Halloran, with Jonathan Hickman, Jim Starlin, Jim Cheung, Ron Lim & various (Marvel)
ISBN: 978-1-3029-0943-7

With another eagerly anticipated Marvel Cinematic Universe film premiering around the world, here’s a timely trade paperback and eBook edition to augment the celluloid exposure and cater to movie fans wanting to follow up with a comics experience.

Comprising selected reprints and new digital material designed to supplement the movie release, these Prelude editions have become a traditional part of the dissemination and build-up and this compilation contains Marvel’s Avengers Infinity War Prelude #1-2 plus material starring the ultimate arch-villain Thanos taken from Infinity #1 and Thanos Annual #1.

This original 2-part miniseries sets the scene for the film blockbuster: written by Will Corona Pilgrim and based on the Captain America: Civil War screenplay by Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely. It was realised by illustrator Tigh Walker, colourist Chris O’Halloran and letterer Travis Lanham and reveals how the knowledge that Captain America’s old ally Bucky (AKA Winter Soldier) assassinated Tony Stark’s parents splits the Avengers into two warring teams…

After a ferocious battle, Cap’s allies – Falcon, Scarlet Witch, Ant-Man and Hawkeye – are broken out of prison by the renegade Sentinel of Liberty and take refuge in Wakanda where the advanced technologies of the Black Panther deprogram Bucky even as in America an isolated Stark reconfigures his armour in advance of an overwhelming threat heading to Earth from the depths of space…

The second chapter – with Jorge Fornés as artist – features new movie maven Dr. Strange, coming to terms with his role in a terrifying universe of appalling unknown forces and deadly dangers.

As advisor Wong regales the wizard with tales and histories of the Infinity Stones and how they have shaped events (as seen in many previous MCU films), Thor and Loki return to Earth to consult the mage in the matter of the sudden disappearance of Asgardian All-Father Odin

In space, the Guardians of the Galaxy are also gauging a growing threat as cosmic overlord Thanos turns his avaricious eyes upon Earth…

Of course, all these plot threads get knotted together in the movie…

The supplemental classic appearances then open with the first chapter of mega publishing event Infinity #1 (August 2013), scripted by Jonathan Hickman.

In the aftermath of the blockbuster Avengers versus X-Men war, the company-wide reboot MarvelNOW! reformed the entire overarching continuity: a drastic reshuffle and rethink of characters, concepts and brands with an eye to winning new readers and feeding the company’s burgeoning movie blockbuster machine…

Moreover, numerous story strands were slowly building and combining to kick off the Next Big Thing with the cosmically revamped Avengers titles forming the spine of an encroaching mega-epic.

The intergalactic Hammer of Doom finally fell as a two-pronged, all-out attack which saw an impossibly ancient threat materialise to wipe out life in the cosmos, whilst Earth itself was targeted by an old enemy with a long memory and monstrous agenda…

What Came Before: In recent Avengers episodes an impossibly ancient trio of galactic “Gardeners” – robotic Aleph, seductive Abyss and passionate Ex Nihilo – attempted to remake Earth into something special. To that end they bombarded the world with “Origin bombs”, seeding locations with bizarre, exotic and uncompromising new life-forms.

When the Avengers went after them, the invaders claimed to have been tasked by The Builders – first species in creation – and their Mother of the Universe to test and, whenever necessary, eradicate, recreate and replace life on all worlds.

Although the World’s Mightiest Heroes defeated the intruders and set about mitigating the effects of the O-bombs on Earth, it seemed increasingly futile as global threats seemingly multiplied without surcease. Evidence also indicated that the very structure and celestial mechanics of the multiverse were catastrophically unravelling.

And then rumours began of an incredible alien armada heading directly for Earth…

It all starts here with the miniseries’ first issue as ‘Infinity’ (illustrated by Jim Cheung, Mark Morales, John Livesay & David Meikis) focuses on Saturnian moon Titan where death-driven despot Thanos dispatches his diabolical Outrider to demand ‘The Tribute’ from another newly enslaved world in his growing interstellar empire. Some of the Dark Lord’s most effective agents are already on Earth, stalking the planet’s greatest champions and ‘Constructing Apocalypse’

Sixty thousand light-years away, an even bigger threat is mopping up the puissant Space Knights of Galador. Various varieties of Builders – of the same ancient order that spawned Aleph, Abyss and Ex Nihilo – have razed the planet whilst unearthly new Avenger Captain Universe (whom the Gardeners call “Mother”) can only look on with despair as her wayward children destroy another world tainted by contact with Earth…

‘Orbital’ finds Captain America and Hawkeye cleaning out a nest of Skrulls in Palermo, but these invaders are far from the arrogant, treacherous warriors they’re accustomed to. The shapeshifters are scared, cowering refugees, fleeing and hiding from something incomprehensibly bad…

‘What was Hidden, Now Uncovered’ then focuses on the Inhumans’ floating city Attilan, currently parked above Manhattan, where Outrider prepares to extract secrets from the brain of slumbering monarch Black Bolt.

Even as the supremely powerful Inhuman foils the ghastly intrusion, the Avengers have regrouped following Captain Universe’s return with warnings of an oncoming impossibly vast Builder Armada. It merely confirms what Earth’s deep space monitoring array already shows: The fleet is bearing directly on Earth and any race or empire in the way is summarily destroyed as the invaders move ever closer.

The once unbeatable Kree are only the latest to fall…

When a distress call arrives from the rulers of the Galactic Council representing Kree, Skrulls, Badoon, Spartax, Brood and Shi’ar, the Avengers are soon ‘Outbound’, resolved to stop the fleet long before it reaches Earth.

Severely wounded, Outrider returns to Titan to inform Thanos that the thing he seeks most in the universe has been hidden on Earth by Black Bolt, prompting an invasion by the Titan’s own fleet long before the Builders can arrive. Moreover, almost all the planet’s infernal metahuman champions have left for Kree space…

If that whetted your appetite, you’ll need to see the two volume Infinity collection…

Here, however, we move on to Thanos Annual #1 (July 2014) as a defeated, comatose Mad Titan recalls an early turning point in his life. Written by Jim Starlin, pencilled by Ron Lim and inked by Andy Smith, ‘Damnation and Redemption’ begins after his first defeat by Captain Marvel and the Avengers, when he used a Cosmic Cube to become God before being stripped of everything through his own arrogance.

At this low ebb he is tempted by arch demon Mephisto but saved by his own future self, using the Infinity Gauntlet’s Time Gem to correct an almost irrevocable error…

Shown his potential future, the Titanian plotter thinks he is on the rise but has not counted on the interference of true cosmic gods such as the Living Tribunal…

This selection also includes a cover and variants gallery by Adam Kubert, Dale Keown & Ive Svorcina, Skottie Young, Marko Djurdjević, Lim & Smith and Starlin & Al Milgrom.

From such disparate seeds movie gold can grow, but never forget that the originating material is pretty damned good too and will deliver a tempting tray of treats that should have most curious fans scurrying for back-issue boxes, bookshop shelves or online emporia…
© 2013, 2014, 2018 Marvel Characters, Inc. All rights reserved.

Guardians of the Galaxy: Tomorrow’s Avengers Volume 2


By Roger Stern, Jim Shooter, Chris Claremont, David Michelinie, Mark Gruenwald, Ralph Macchio, Bill Mantlo, Sal Buscema, George Pérez, David Wenzel, John Byrne, Jerry Bingham, Mike Vosburg, Bob McLeod, John Byrne, Ron Wilson & various (Marvel)
ISBN: 978-0-7851-6755-6

With more Marvel Cinematic movies doing bonanza summer business around the world, here’s a timely trade paperback collection designed to supplement cinematic exposure and cater to any film fans wanting to follow up with a comics experience. If you want you can look at this on screen, too, through its digital edition…

There are two distinct and separate iterations of the Guardians of the Galaxy. The films concentrate on the second, but there are inescapable connections between them and the stellar stalwarts here so pay close attention here…

The original comicbook team were freedom fighters united to defeat an invasion by reptilian Badoon aggressors. They comprised Charlie-27 – a heavy-gravity miner and militia-man from Jupiter – and crystalline scientist Martinex from Pluto. Both are examples of radical human genetic engineering: subspecies carefully designed to populate and colonise Sol system’s outer planets but now possibly the last of their kinds. They were joined in the struggle by 1000-year-old Earthman Major Vance Astro and Alpha Centauri aborigine Yondu. Astro had been humanity’s first intersolar astronaut; solo flying in cold sleep to Centauri at a plodding fraction of the speed of light. When he got there ten centuries later, humanity was waiting for him, having cracked trans-luminal speeds a mere two centuries after he took off…

A legion of 20th century heroes eventually helped banish the Badoon and save 31st century humanity, but peace was unsettling for the Guardians so they flew off in search of fresh adventure. Along the way they had picked up last Mercurian Nikki and an enigmatic space-god calling him/herself Starhawk

This treasury of torrid tales gathers landmark moments from Thor Annual #6, Avengers #167-168; 170-177 & 180, Miss Marvel #23, Marvel Team-Up #86 and Marvel Two-In-One #61-63 and 69, cumulatively spanning December 1977 to November 1980 and featuring a radically different set-up than that of the silver screen stars, but grand comicbook sci fi fare all the same…

The time-busting mayhem commences with ‘Thunder in the 31st Century!’ (from Thor Annual #6, December 1977 by Roger Stern, Sal Buscema & Klaus Janson) in which the mighty Thunderer is accidentally summoned to the Guardians’ time period by a cyborg maniac named Korvac. The legendary hero joins them in bombastically battling a team of super-powered aliens to thwart the cyborg’s scheme to become master of the universe before returning to his own place and time…

An extended tour of duty with the Avengers then began courtesy of Jim Shooter, George Pérez & Pablo Marcos: an episodic, sprawling tale of time-travel and universal conquest which began in Avengers #167-168 (April and May 1978) and, after a brief pause, resumed for #170 through 177…

In previous issues a difference of opinion between Captain America and Iron Man over leadership styles had begun to polarise the team and tensions started to show in ‘Tomorrow Dies Today!’

In the Gods-&-Monsters filled Marvel Universe there are entrenched and jealous Hierarchies of Power, so when a new player mysteriously materialises in the 20th century the very Fabric of Reality is threatened…

It all kicks off when the Guardians of the Galaxy materialise in Earth orbit, hotly pursuing cyborg despot Korvac through time…

Inadvertently setting off planetary incursion alarms, their moon-sized ship Drydock is swiftly penetrated by an Avengers squad, where, after the customary introductory squabble, the future men force wearily explain the purpose of their mission…

Since Captain America had fought beside them to liberate their home era from Badoon rule and Thor had faced fugitive Korvac before, so peace soon breaks out, but even with the full resources of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes the time travellers are unable to locate their quarry…

Meanwhile on Earth a mysterious being named Michael is lurking in the background. At a fashion show staged by the Wasp he compels a psychic communion with model Carina Walters and they both vanish…

Avengers #168 reveals how ‘First Blood’ is drawn, stirring up more trouble as Federal liaison and hidebound martinet Henry Peter Gyrich begins making life bureaucratically hot for the maverick team. In Colorado, meanwhile, Hawkeye gets a shock as his travelling partner Two-Gun Kid vanishes before his eyes whilst in suburban Forest Hills, Starhawk – in his female iteration of Aleta – approaches a quiet residence…

Michael/Korvac’s scheme consists of subtly altering events as he gathers strength in secret preparation for a sneak attack on the era’s Cosmic Hierarchies. His entire plan revolves around not being noticed until he is too powerful to stop. When Starhawk confronts the future fugitive Michael kills the intruder and instantly resurrects him, but without the ability to perceive his assailant or any of his works…

After a two-issue break due to deadline problems Shooter, Pérez & Marcos pick up the drama in #170 with ‘…Though Hell Should Bar the Way!’

As Sentinel of Liberty and Golden Avenger finally settle their differences, in Inhuman city Attilan former Avenger Quicksilver suddenly disappears even as dormant mechanoid Jocasta (created by maniac AI Ultron to be his bride) goes on a rampage and escapes into New York City.

In stealthy pursuit and hoping her trail will lead to Ultron, the team stride into a fiendish trap ‘…Where Angels Fear to Tread’ but nevertheless triumph thanks to the hex powers of the Scarlet Witch, the assistance of pushy, no-nonsense new hero Ms. Marvel and Jocasta’s own rebellion against the metal monster who made her.

However, at their moment of triumph the Avengers are stunned to witness Cap and Jocasta winking out of existence…

The problems pile on in #172 as watchdog-come-gadfly Gyrich is roughly manhandled and captured by out-of-the-loop returnee Hawkeye and responds by rescinding the team’s Federal clearances.

Thus handicapped, the heroes are unable to warn other inactive members of the rapidly increasing disappearances as a squad of heavy-hitters rush off to tackle marauding Atlantean maverick Tyrak the Treacherous who is bloodily instigating a ‘Holocaust in New York Harbor!’ (Shooter, Sal Buscema & Klaus Janson)…

Answers to the growing mystery are finally forthcoming in ‘Threshold of Oblivion!’ – plotted by Shooter, with David Michelinie scripting for Sal Buscema & D(iverse) Hands to illustrate.

As the vanishings escalate, the remaining Avengers (Thor, Wasp, Hawkeye and Iron Man), with the assistance of Vance Astro, track down their hidden foe and beam into a cloaked starship to liberate the ‘Captives of the Collector!’ (by Shooter, Bill Mantlo, Dave Wenzel & Marcos)…

After a staggering struggle, the heroes triumph and their old arch-nemesis reveals a shocking truth: he is in fact an Elder of the Universe who foresaw cosmic doom millennia previously and sought to preserve special artefacts and creatures – such as the Avengers – from the slowly approaching apocalypse…

As he reveals that long-anticipated Armageddon is imminent and that he has sent his own daughter Carina to infiltrate The Enemy’s stronghold, the cosmic Noah is instantly obliterated in a devastating blast of energy. The damage however is done, and the entrenched Hierarchies of Creation may well be alerted…

Issue #175 starts the final countdown as ‘The End… and Beginning!’ (Shooter, Michelinie, Wenzel & Marcos) has the amassed ranks of Avengers and Guardians following the clues to Michael even as the new god shares the incredible secret of his apotheosis with Carina. ‘The Destiny Hunt!’ and ‘The Hope… and the Slaughter!’ (Shooter, Wenzel, Marcos & Ricardo Villamonte) then depict the entire army of champions destroyed and resurrected as Michael easily overpowers all opposition but falters at the crucial moment for lack of one fundamental failing…

Despite being somewhat let down by the artwork when the magnificent George Perez gave way to less enthusiastic hands such as Sal Buscema, David Wenzel and Tom Morgan, and cursed by the inability to keep a regular inker (Pablo Marcos, Klaus Janson Ricardo Villamonte and Tom Morgan all pitched in), the sheer scope of the epic plot nevertheless carries this story through to its cataclysmic and fulfilling conclusion. Even Shooter’s reluctant replacement by scripters Dave Michelinie and Bill Mantlo (as his editorial career advanced) couldn’t derail this juggernaut of adventure.

If you want to see what makes Superhero fiction work, and can keep track of nearly two dozen flamboyant characters, this is a fine example of how to make such an unwieldy proposition easily accessible to the new and returning reader.

A few months later Avengers#181 introduced new regular creative team Michelinie & John Byrne – augmented by inker Gene Day – as ‘On the Matter of Heroes!’ sees Agent Gyrich lay down the law and winnow the army of heroes down to a manageable and federally-acceptable seven.

With the Guardians of the Galaxy heading back to the future, Iron Man, Vision, Captain America, Scarlet Witch, Beast and Wasp have to placate Hawkeye after he is rejected in favour of new member The Falcon – parachuted in to conform to government quotas on affirmative action…

However, before the Guardians finally depart they interact with a few more 20th century centurions beginning with Ms. Marvel in ‘The Woman Who Fell to Earth’ (#23, April 1979 by Chris Claremont, Mike Vosburg & Bruce D. Patterson). When alien conqueror The Faceless One takes over Drydock, crusader-in-crisis Carol Danvers teams up with Vance Astro to expel the invader even though her career as Ms. Marvel is on its last legs…

In Marvel Team-Up #86 (October 1989), undercover Guardians Starhawk, Nikki and Martinex meet Spider-Man to prevent an unscrupulous reporter exposing the mission of the future heroes and publishing the ‘Story of the Year’ (Claremont & Bob McLeod)

Slightly out of chronology – but that’s time travel all over, right? – the remainder of this collection is given over to team-ups with old Guardians ally Ben Grimm, the Fantastic Four’s titanic Thing.

An extended interstellar epic opens in Marvel Two-In-One #61 with ‘The Coming of Her!’ (by Mark Gruenwald, Jerry Bingham & Gene Day) as time-travelling space god Starhawk becomes involved in the birth of a female counterpart to man-made man-god Adam Warlock.

The distaff genetic paragon awakes fully empowered and instantly starts searching for her predecessor, dragging Ben’s girlfriend Alicia Masters and mind goddess Moondragon (a future member of the 21st century Guardians of the Galaxy) across the solar system, arriving where issue #62 observes ‘The Taking of Counter-Earth!’

Hot on their heels Thing and Starhawk catch Her just as the runaway women encounter a severely wounded High Evolutionary and discover the facsimile Earth built by that self-made god has been stolen…

United in mystery, the strange grouping trail the planet out of the galaxy and expose the incredible perpetrators, but Her’s desperate quest to secure her predestined, purpose-grown mate ultimately ends in tragedy as she learns ‘Suffer Not a Warlock to Live!’

Then, from Marvel Two-In-One #69 (November 1980, by Gruenwald, Ralph Macchio, Ron Wilson & Day), ‘Homecoming!’ finds Ben clashing with the still time-displaced Guardians of the Galaxy whilst striving to prevent the end of everything after millennial man Vance Astro endangers all of reality by trying to stop his younger self ever going into space…

This spectacular selection of spectacular star-roving is a non-stop feast of tense suspense, surreal fun, swingeing satire and blockbuster action: another well-tailored, on-target tool to turn curious movie-goers into fans of the comic incarnation and another solid sampling to entice newcomers and charm even the most jaded interstellar Fights ‘n’ Tights fanatic…
© 1977, 1978, 1979, 1980, 2013 Marvel Characters, Inc. All rights reserved.

Guardians of the Galaxy: Tomorrow’s Avengers volume 1


By Arnold Drake, Steve Gerber, Gene Colan, Sal Buscema, Don Heck, Al Milgrom, John Buscema & various (Marvel)
ISBN: 978-0-7851-6687-0

With more Marvel Cinematic movies doing bonanza summer business around the world, here’s a timely trade paperback collection designed to perfectly augment cinematic exposure and cater to film fans wanting to follow up with a comics experience. If you want you can look at this on screen, too, through its digital edition…

This treasury of torrid tales gathers landmarks and key moments from Marvel Super Heroes #18, Marvel Two-In-One #4-5, Giant-Size Defenders #5, Defenders #26-29 and the time-busting team’s first solo series as it originally appeared in Marvel Presents #3-12, all monumentally spanning January 1969 to August 1977: a radically different set-up than that of the silver screen stars, but grand comicbook sci fi fare all the same…

One thing to recall at all times though is that there are two distinct and separate iterations of the team. The films concentrate on the second, but there are inescapable connections between them so pay close attention here…

Although heralded since its genesis in the early 1960s with making superheroes more realistic, The House of Ideas also always maintained a close connection with outlandish and outrageous cosmic calamity (as best exemplified in their pre-superhero “monsters-in-furry-underpants” days), and this pantheon of much-travelled space stalwarts maintain that delightful “Anything Goes” attitude in all of their many and varied iterations.

This titanic tome’s blistering battle-fest begins with ‘Guardians of the Galaxy: Earth Shall Overcome!’: first seen in combination new-concept try-out/Golden Age reprint vehicle Marvel Super Heroes #18 (cover-dated January 1969).

The terse, grittily engaging episode introduces a disparate band of freedom fighters united to save Earth from occupation and humanity from extinction at the scaly hands of the sinister, reptilian Brotherhood of Badoon.

It all starts when Jovian militia-man Charlie-27 returns home from a six-month tour of scout duty to find his entire colony subjugated by invading aliens. Fighting free, he jumps into a randomly programmed teleporter and emerges on Pluto, just in time to scotch the escape of crystalline scientist Martinex.

Both are examples of radical human genetic engineering: subspecies carefully designed to populate and colonise Sol system’s outer planets but now possibly the last of their kinds. After helping the mineral man complete his mission of sabotage – blowing up potentially useful material before the Badoon can get their hands on it – the odd couple set the teleporter for Earth and jump…

Unfortunately, the invaders have already taken the homeworld…

The Supreme Badoon Elite are there, busily mocking the oldest Earthman alive. Major Vance Astro had been humanity’s first intersolar astronaut; solo flying in cold sleep to Alpha Centauri at a plodding fraction of the speed of light.

When he got there 1000 years later, humanity was waiting for him, having cracked trans-luminal speeds a mere two centuries after he took off. Now he and Centauri aborigine Yondu are a comedy exhibit for the cruel reptilian conquerors actively eradicating both of their races…

The smug invaders are utterly overwhelmed when Astro breaks free, utilising psionic powers he developed in hibernation, before Yondu butchers them with the sound-controlled energy arrows he carries.

In their pell-mell flight, the pair stumble across incoming Martinex and Charlie-27 and a new legend of valiant resistance was born…

The eccentric team, as originally envisioned by Arnold Drake, Gene Colan & Mike Esposito in 1968, were presented to an audience undergoing immense social change, with dissent in the air, riot in the streets and with the Vietnam War on their TV screens every night.

Perhaps the jingoistic militaristic overtones were off-putting or maybe the tenor of the times were against the Guardians, since costumed hero titles were entering a temporary downturn, but whatever the reason the feature was a rare “Miss” for Early Marvel and the futuristic freedom fighters were not seen again for years.

They floated in limbo until 1974 when Steve Gerber incorporated them into some of his assigned titles (Marvel Two-In-One and The Defenders), wherein assorted 20th century champions travelled a millennium into the future to ensure humanity’s survival…

From MTIO #4, ‘Doomsday 3014!’ (Gerber, Sal Buscema & Frank Giacoia) finds Ben Grimm and Captain America catapulted into the 31st century to save Earth from enslavement by the reptilian Badoon, concluding an issue later as the Guardians of the Galaxy climb aboard the Freedom Rocket to help the time-lost heroes liberate occupied New York before returning home.

The fabulous Future Force repaid that visit in Giant Sized Defenders #5: a diverse-hands production with the story ‘Eelar Moves in Mysterious Ways’ credited to Gerber, Gerry Conway, Roger Slifer, Len Wein, Chris Claremont & Scott Edelman.

Dependable Don Heck & Mike Esposito drew the surprisingly satisfying cohesive results: how the Defenders met with future heroes Guardians of the Galaxy in a time-twisting disaster yarn where their very presence seemed to cause nature to run wild, which only set up the next continued epic arc for the monthly comicbook…

‘Savage Time’ (Defenders #26 August, by Gerber, Buscema & Colletta) saw Hulk, Doctor Strange, Nighthawk and Valkyrie accompany the Guardians back to 3015AD in a bold bid to liberate the last survivors of mankind from the all-conquering and genocidal Badoon: a mission which continued with ‘Three Worlds to Conquer!’, then became infinitely more complicated when ‘My Mother, The Badoon!’ revealed the sex-based divisions that so compellingly motivated the marauding lizard-men, before triumphantly climaxing in the rousingly impassioned ‘Let My Planet Go!’ Along the way they had picked up – or been unwillingly allied with – an enigmatic stellar powerhouse dubbed Starhawk: a glib and unfriendly type who called himself “one who knows” and infuriatingly usually did, even if he never shared any useful intel…

Rejuvenated by exposure the squad rededicated themselves to liberating star-scattered Mankind and having adventures, eventually winning a short-lived series in Marvel Presents (#3-12, February 1976-August 1977) before cancellation left them roaming the Marvel Universe as perennial guest-stars in such cosmically-tinged titles as Thor and the Avengers.

That run began with ‘Just Another Planet Story!’ by Gerber, Al Milgrom & Pablo Marcos with the Badoon removed from a triumphantly exultant Earth and the now purposeless Guardians realising that peace and freedom were not for them…

Unable to adapt to civilian life the team reassembled, stole their old starship The Captain America and rocketed off into the void…

Those episodes were augmented by text features ‘Readers Space’ episodically delineating the future history of Marvel Universe Mankind – using various company sci fi series as mile markers, way stations and signposts – and firmly establishing a timeline which would endure for decades.

Gerber & Milgrom descended ‘Into the Maw of Madness!’ in Marvel Presents #4 as the noble nomads picked up Nikki, a feisty teenage Mercurian survivor of the Badoon invasion, and detected the first inklings that something vast, alien and inimical was coming from “out there” to consume our galaxy…

They also met cosmic enigma Starhawk’s better half Aleta, a glamorous woman and mother of his three children, who just happened to be sharing his body…

When the intrepid star-farers and their ship are swallowed by the systems-wide monster Karanada they find a universe inside the undead beast and end up stranded on the ‘Planet of the Absurd’ (Gerber, Milgrom & Howard Chaykin) allowing the author to indulge his taste for political and social satire as our heroes seek to escape a society of vast species variety somehow mimicking 20th century Earth…

Escape achieved the fantastic fantasy escalates into high gear when the crash into the heart of the invading force and on a galaxy-sized planet in humanoid form. ‘The Topographical Man’ (Gerber, Milgrom & Terry Austin) holds all the answers they seek in a bizarre sidereal nunnery where Nikki is asked to make a supreme sacrifice that changes Vance’s life forever in ways he never imagined as they spiritually unite to ‘Embrace the Void!’ in a metaphysical rollercoaster (inked by Bob Wiacek) which finally ends the menace of the soul-sucking galactic devourer.

At this time deadlines were a critical problem and Marvel Presents #8 adapted a story from Silver Surfer #2 (1968) as the team picked up an old Badoon data-log and learned ‘Once Upon a Time… the Silver Surfer!’ saved Earth from alien predators in two-layered yarn correctly attributed to Gerber, Milgrom, Wiacek, Stan Lee, John Buscema & Joe Sinnott…

Back on track for MP #9, Gerber & Milgrom revealed that ‘Breaking Up is Death to Do!’ as the Guardians’ ship is ambushed by the predatory Reivers of Arcturus, leading into the long-awaited and shocking origins of Starhawk and Aleta and setting the assembled heroes on a doomed quest to save the bonded couple’s children from brainwashing, mutation and murder by their own grandfather in ‘Death-Bird Rising!’ and the concluding ‘At War with Arcturus!’ (both inked by Wiacek).

The series abruptly concluded just as new scripter Roger Stern signed on with ‘The Shipyard of Deep Space!’ as the bruised and battered team escape Arcturus and stumble onto a lost Earth vessel missing ever since the beginning of the Badoon invasion. Drydock is a mobile space station the size of a small moon, designed to maintain and repair Terran starships. However, what initially seems to be a moving reunion with lost comrades and actual survivors of the many genegineered human sub-species eradicated by the reptilian ravagers is quickly found to be just one more deadly snare for the Guardians of the Galaxy to overcome or escape…

This spectacular slice of riotous star-roving is a non-stop feast of tense suspense, surreal fun, swingeing satire and blockbuster action: another well-tailored, on-target tool to turn curious movie-goers into fans of the comic incarnation and another solid sampling to entice newcomers and charm even the most jaded interstellar Fights ‘n’ Tights fanatic.
© 1968, 1974, 1976, 1977, 2014 Marvel Characters Inc. All rights reserved.

Guardians of the Galaxy Prelude


By Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning, Mike Friedrich, Bill Mantlo, Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, Steve Englehart, Wellinton Alves, Daniel Govar, Andrea Di Vito, Jim Starlin, Sal Buscema, Steve Gan, Bob McLeod & various (Marvel)
ISBN: 978-0-7851-5410-5

With another Marvel Filmic Fantasy premiering around the world, here’s a timely trade paperback collection to augment the cinematic exposure and cater to movie fans wanting to follow up with a comics experience.

Comprising a big bunch of reprints and digital material designed to supplement the first movie release, this compilation contains Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy Prelude #1-2, Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy Infinite Comic #1 and Guardians of the Galaxy #0.1, plus debut or early appearances of Drax, Gamora, Rocket Raccoon, Groot and Star-Lord as first seen in Iron Man #55, Strange Tales #181, Incredible Hulk #271, Tales to Astonish #13 and Marvel Preview #4.

Thanks to all that fabulous, futuristic technology, you can even look at this treasure chest of thrills on screen too through its digital iteration if you prefer…

The sky-high high jinks kick off with a glimpse at the frankly horrific childhoods of Gamora and Nebula with big daddy Thanos, by Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning, Wellinton Alves & Manny Clark: set just before the first film begins (the clue’s in the name as it comes from Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy Prelude #1), after which # 2 provides a similarly candid review of Rocket and Groot as their quest for cash draws them into a questionably legal repo job for a criminal big shot…

Next up is Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy Infinite Comic #1 by Abnett & Lanning, storyboarder Daniel Govar and artist Andrea Di Vito: a screen-based adventure, rather uncomfortably reformatted for the printed page. Here Taneleer Tivan, The Collector commissions Gamora with the retrieval of a certain Orb…

Of course, all these plot strands get knotted together in the movie…

The classic appearances kick off with Iron Man#55 (February 1973), scripted by Mike Friedrich and illustrated by Jim Starlin & Mike Esposito. ‘Beware The … Blood Brothers!’ introduces Drax the Destroyer, an incredibly powerful alien… or so he seems at first glance.

Trapped by another extraterrestrial newcomer – Thanos – under the desert, Drax is rescued by the Armoured Avenger, but it’s merely a prelude to the main story which appeared in Captain Marvel #25-33, a saga to be savoured elsewhere…

Gamora was first seen in Strange Tales #181 (August 1975), as Avatar of Life Adam Warlock made his way across the cosmos, battling the depredations of the Universal Church of Truth and his own evil future self The Magus. Technically it was her second, but in this yarn she got a name and speaking part…

‘1000 Clowns!’ – by Starlin and Al Milgrom – saw the accursed hero trapped in an insidious psychic prison even as in the notionally real world, a green-skinned gamin was slowly eradicating his tormentors. She was about to free the golden saviour, when Warlock escaped under his own steam. If he’d known that Gamora was actually working for his cosmic nemesis Thanos, he might not have bothered…

Rocket Raccoon was a minor character who first appeared in backup serial ‘The Sword in the Star’. His actual debut was in Marvel Preview #7 in 1976 but in 1982, writer Bill Mantlo brought him into the mainstream of the Marvel Universe with a choice starring role in Incredible Hulk #271 (May 1982).

Like Wolverine and the Punisher years before, the foul-mouthed, fuzzy faced iconoclast then simply refused to go away quietly…

Illustrated by Sal Buscema, ‘Now Somewhere in the Black Holes of Sirius Major There Lived a Young Boy Name of… Rocket Raccoon!’ find Earth’s jade juggernaut stranded on an alien world where sentient animals used super-scientific gadgetry to battle robot clowns. They do this to preserve the security of humans who seem incapable of caring for themselves. When Green-skin arrives, a simmering civil war is just breaking out…

With the Hulk safely removed from the combat zone, Rocket faded from view for a few years before returning in a new-fangled format for comicbooks: a miniseries…

More sidereal shenanigans surface in an absolute classic of the gloriously whacky “Kirby Kritter” genre, predating the birth of the Marvel Age. Crafted by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, Jack Kirby & Dick Ayers, ‘I Challenged Groot! The Monster from Planet X’ (Tales to Astonish #13, November/December 1960) reveals how a studious biologist saves humanity from a rapacious walking tree intent on stealing Earth cities and shipping them back to his distant world. The tree titan might have started life as a disposable notion, but he too grew into a larger role over the unfolding decades…

Notional leading man Star-Lord premiered in monochrome mature-reader magazine Marvel Preview # 4 (January 1976), appearing thrice more – in #11, 14 and 15 – during the height of the Star Wars-inspired Science Fiction explosion of the late 1970s and 1980s.

Years previously a warrior prince of an interstellar empire was shot down over Colorado and had a brief fling with solitary Earther Meredith Quill. Despite his desire to remain in idyllic isolation, duty called the starman back to the battle and he left, leaving behind an unborn son and a unique weapon…

A decade later, the troubled boy saw his mother assassinated by alien lizard men. Peter Jason Quill vengefully slew the creatures with Meredith’s shotgun, before his home was explosively destroyed by a flying saucer.

The orphan awoke in hospital, his only possession a “toy” ray-gun his mother had hidden from him his entire life. He became obsessed with the stars – astronomy and astrology – and overcame all odds to become a part of America’s budding space program… but he made no friends and plenty of enemies on the way…

Years later his destiny found him, as the half-breed scion was elevated by the divinity dubbed the “Master of the Sun”, becoming Star-Lord. Rejecting both Earth and his missing father, Peter chose freedom, the pursuit of justice and the expanse of the cosmos…

From such disparate strands movie gold can be made, but never forget that the originating material is pretty damned good too and will deliver a tempting tray of treats that should have most curious fans scurrying for back-issue boxes, bookshop shelves or online emporia…
© 1960, 1973, 1975, 1976, 1982, 2014 Marvel Characters, Inc. All rights reserved.

Rocket Raccoon: Tales from Half-World


By Bill Mantlo, Mike Mignola, Al Gordon, Milgrom & various (Marvel)
No ISBN:

You can’t have failed to notice that the second Guardians of the Galaxy movie has thundered into theatres this season, so in a spirit of mirror-image opportunism I’ll be shuffling in short reviews of some of the many tie-in books the House of Ideas has kindly dashed out to celebrate the filmic franchise in the hope of making a few more readers out of viewers…

Tales from Half-World came out in 2013 (and is still readily available in both printed and digital formats) and provides a cheap and cheerful way to see the militant mystery mammal’s first scene-stealing starring role.

Rocket Raccoon was a throwaway character who first appeared in backup serial ‘The Sword in the Star’ in Marvel Preview#7 in 1976. In 1982, his originator Bill Mantlo brought him into the mainstream Marvel Universe with a guest-star role in Incredible Hulk #271 (May). Like the Punisher and Wolverine in previous years, the hairy iconoclast then simply refused to go away quietly…

A few years the furry force of nature popped up again in a new-fangled format for comicbooks: a miniseries…

The 4-issue Rocket Raccoon Limited Series was cover-dated May to August 1985 and crafted by Mantlo, then neophyte penciller Mike Mignola, and inkers Al Gordon & Al Milgrom and presented a bizarre and baroque sci-fi fantasy blending the charm of Pogo with the biting social satire of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (and vice versa): all whilst ostensibly describing a battle between Good and Evil in a sector of space crazy even by funnybook standards.

Rocket was one of many sentient and dedicated talking animals in the impenetrable, inescapable Keystone Quadrant: a Ranger in charge of keeping the peace in a troubled atmosphere where robots and anamorphic beasties went about their ordained task. That was caring for the distinctly odd and carefree humans known as The Loonies on their idyllic, sybaritic planet Halfworld.

Sadly, the critters were too much like their human charges.

When a brutal shooting war between voracious apex toymakers Judson Jakes and Lord Dyvyne leads to Rocket’s girlfriend Lylla Otter being kidnapped, the entire planet goes crazy wild, or perhaps more appropriately… ‘Animal Crackers’

In rescuing her, Rocket and faithful deputy Wal Rus have to contend with a murderous army of mechanised Killer Clowns, face an horrific, all-consuming bio-weapon at ‘The Masque of the Red Breath’, and even team up with arch-foe and disreputable mercenary bunny Blackjack O’Hare in ‘The Book of Revelations!’ before finally uncovering the horrendous truth behind the mad society they so unquestioningly defend…

The final chapter shakes everything up as ‘The Age of Enlightenment’ sees the shocking end of The Loonies, allowing the Raccoon and his surviving companions to escape the confines of the eternally segregated Keystone Quadrant into the greater universe beyond…

This razor-sharp, spectacular slice of riotous star-roving action is a non-stop feast of tense suspense, surreal fun and blockbuster action: well-tailored, on-target and certain to turn curious movie-goers into fans of the comics incarnation.
© 2013 Marvel Characters Inc. All rights reserved.

Rocket Raccoon and Groot Complete Collection


By Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Bill Mantlo, Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning, Keith Giffen, Mike Mignola, Timothy Green II & various (Marvel)
ISBN: 978-0-7851-6713-6

Although heralded since its genesis in the early 1960s with making superheroes more realistic, The House of Ideas has also always maintained its close connection with outlandish and outrageous cosmic calamity (as seen in their pre-superhero “monster-mag” days), and their pantheon of much-travelled space stalwarts maintain that delightful “Anything Goes” attitude in all of their many and varied iterations.

The pair of interstellar oddments featured here are creative oddments who took a very long time to achieve their stellar potential and have done particularly well out of recent reboots and re-imaginings: both in comicbooks and through large and small screen reinterpretations…

Collecting Groot’s debut from Tales to Astonish #13; Incredible Hulk # 271, Rocket Raccoon volume 1 #1-4, and pertinent material from Marvel Preview #7, Annihilators #1-4 and Annihilators: Earthfall #1-4, collectively ranging from November 1960 to February 2012, this fun-filled paperback compendium offers a wealth of thrills and expansive action and a fair slice of witty satire to boot…

The sidereal shenanigans begin with an absolute classic of the gloriously whacky “Kirby Kritter” genre, predating the birth of the Marvel Age. Crafted by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, Kirby & Dick Ayers, ‘I Challenged Groot! The Monster from Planet X’ (Tales to Astonish #13, November/December 1960) reveals how a studious biologist saves humanity from a rapacious walking tree intent on stealing Earth cities and shipping them back to his distant world.

Rocket Raccoon was a minor character who first appeared in backup serial ‘The Sword in the Star’. His debut was in Marvel Preview #7 in 1976 but that particular tale comes later.

In 1982, writer Bill Mantlo brought him into the mainstream of the Marvel Universe with a star role in Incredible Hulk #271 (May). Like Wolverine years before, the hairy iconoclast then simply refused to go away quietly…

Illustrated by Sal Buscema, ‘Now Somewhere In the Black Holes of Sirius Major There Lived a Young Boy Name of… Rocket Raccoon!’ found the jade juggernaut stranded on an alien world where sentient animals used super-scientific gadgetry to battle robot clowns to preserve the security of humans who seemed incapable of caring for themselves. When Green-skin arrived, a simmering civil war broke out…

With the Hulk safely removed from the combat zone, Rocket faded from view for a few years before returning in a newfangled format for comicbooks: a mini series…

The 4-issue Rocket Raccoon miniseries (cover-dated May to August 1985 and crafted by Mantlo, Mike Mignola, Al Gordon & Al Milgrom) presented a bizarre and baroque sci-fi fantasy blending the charm of Pogo with the biting social satire of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest all whilst ostensibly describing a battle between Good and Evil in a sector of space crazy even by funnybook standards.

Rocket was one of many talking animals in the impenetrable, inescapable Keystone Quadrant; a Ranger in charge of keeping the peace in a troubled atmosphere where robots and anamorphic beasties went about their ordained task of caring for the distinctly odd and carefree humans known as The Loonies on their idyllic, sybaritic planet Halfworld.

When a brutal shooting war between voracious apex toymakers Judson Jakes and Lord Dyvyne leads to Rocket’s girlfriend Lylla Otter being kidnapped, the planet goes crazy wild, or perhaps… ‘Animal Crackers’.

In rescuing her, Rocket and faithful deputy Wal Rus have to contend with a murderous army of mechanised Killer Clowns, face an horrific, all-consuming bio-weapon at ‘The Masque of the Red Breath’, and even team up with arch-foe and disreputable mercenary bunny Blackjack O’Hare in ‘The Book of Revelations!’ before finally uncovering the horrendous truth behind the mad society they so unquestioningly defend…

The final chapter shakes everything up as ‘The Age of Enlightenment’ sees the end of The Loonies, allowing the Raccoon and his surviving companions to escape the confines of the eternally segregated Keystone Quadrant into the greater universe beyond…

Next – eschewing continuity but at least presented here in the original monochrome – is that first Rocket romp from Marvel Preview #7.

‘The Sword in the Star’ was an epic combination of Druillet’s Loan Sloane stories with Homer’s Odyssey and Virgil’s Aeneid, detailing the interstellar search by Prince Wayfinder of Ithacon to find a new home for his dying people. That exodus took them from 1500 years in Earth’s future to prehistory where, on their second stop, the Once and Future King landed on a ‘Witch World!’ where trees tried to kill the imperial exile and a sarcastic, heavily-armed rodent helped him confront a sinister sorceress dubbed Kirke

Impressively rendered by Keith Giffen in full Euro-mode, the story ended on a cliffhanger you won’t see resolved here…

In 2006 a massive crossover involved most of Marvel’s 21st century space specialists in a spectacular Annihilation Event, leading writing team Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning to confiscate and reconfigure the Guardians of the Galaxy concept for modern times and tastes.

Among the stalwarts in the big event were Silver Surfer, Galactus, Firelord (and other previous heralds of the world-eater), Moondragon, Quasar, Star-Lord, Thanos, SuperSkrull, Rigellian Colonizer Tana Nile, Gamora (“Deadliest Woman in the Galaxy”), Ronan the Accuser, Nova, Drax the Destroyer, a Watcher and many previously established alien civilisations such as the Kree, Skrulls, Xandarians, Shi’ar et al., all falling before an invasion of rapacious Negative Zone bugs and beasties unleashed by insectoid horror Annihilus..

After that shooting match subsided the decimated sectors and empires were left helpless as all-subsuming technological parasite The Phalanx struck, absorbing and thriving inside the machines and electronic engines the shaken civilisations were using to rebuild in a follow-up apocalypse designated Annihilation: Conquest.

To counter the threat Star-Lord Peter Quill was tasked with turning a bunch of Kree convicts into a Penal Strike Force (a highly engaging intergalactic Dirty Half-Dozen): Galactic Warrior Bug (originally from 1970’s phenomenon Micronauts), then-current Captain Universe, Shi’ar berserker Deathcry, failed Celestial Madonna Mantis, Groot and a so-very-far-from-home Rocket Raccoon…

From those sidereal sagas came a new Guardians of the Galaxy plus a pack of Cosmic Crusaders known as Annihilators. Their first 4-issue miniseries spanned May to August 2011 and carried a back-up strip starring Rocket and Groot by Abnett, Lanning and Timothy Green II.

After the wars, not all the heroes were feted – or even remembered – and Rocket is forced to take a job in the mail room of intergalactic corporation ‘Timely Inc’. He loathes the entire experience but when somebody sends a Killer Clown after him soon slips into old habits and goes looking for guns, grenades and answers…

He doesn’t find them on Planet X when seeking out Groot, but does save his old pal from certain death in ‘There is Unrest in the Forest, There is Trouble with the Trees’

When Groot speaks of events Rocket can’t remember, the little warrior realises his mind has been tampered with and the trail leads right back to Halfworld…

The place has completely changed. ‘It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World’ now, containing the most dangerous mind in creation, and once Rocket discovers who excised his memories and why, it’s only a little leap of imagination to realise he’s been drawn into a subtle snare with potentially catastrophic consequences…

Armed with knowledge – and heavy ordnance – he and Groot then shut down the manipulator and save the universe through a carefully applied ‘Brain Storm’

In November 2011 Annihilators: Earthfall offered another 4-issue miniseries with Abnett, Lanning & Green reprising Rocket and Groot’s danger-magnet escapades at the back of each. In ‘Batteries Not Included’ our unlikely heroes find themselves in one perilous situation after another with no idea of how they got there.

Only gradually do they realise they’ve been kidnapped by insidious impresario Mojo: turned into unwilling showmen and merchandising franchise with the prospect of painful death arising at every moment.

Understandably unhappy, they renegotiate terms in the most destructive manner possible…

This razor-sharp, spectacular slice of riotous star-roving action is a non-stop feast of tense suspense, surreal fun and blockbuster action: well-tailored, on-target and certain to turn curious movie-goers into fans of the comics incarnation.
© 2013 Marvel Characters Inc. All rights reserved.