Archive for the ‘Marvel Comics’ Category

Posted Saturday, March 23rd, 2019 by Barry

Punisher MAX X-Mas Special 1

Frank Castle can’t stop the Massacre of Innocents, but does save the life of one in “And on Earth Peace, Good Will Toward Men.” Don Maranzano is the King Herod in this Christmas passion play.

The Castellano family is about to sire another heir to the criminal empire. Maranzano wishes to halt the birth and orders the slaughter of all children in the birth ward. The intended one not yet born, Baby Castellano escapes the carnage.

The story takes an even more Biblical turn when the Punisher hides the parents-to-be at a race track stable. Would be attackers are thwarted once more and the baby is given a chance at a normal life.

The X-MAX title hit comic book shops for the 2008 season.

The Punisher was first introduced in Amazing Spider-Man 129. He was created by Gerry Conway, John Romita, Sr and Ross Andru. The MAX imprint was launched by Marvel in 2001 and aimed at adult readers. That said, Punisher MAX X-Mas Special 1 is not for the faint of heart.

Posted Thursday, February 7th, 2019 by Barry

Marvel Treasury Special (1974)

DC beat Marvel to the holiday punch with the first of the Christmas specials beginning in 1974.

The Marvel Treasury Special was released Nov. 26 of that year on the heels of DC’s Limited Collector’s Edition (C-34) that hit newsstands Nov. 7.

Whereas DC had decades of material to draw from, Marvel had a little over 10-years worth of stories to plumb.

Naturally “Have Yourself a Sandman Little Christmas!” led the list.

It was a reprint from Marvel Team-Up issue one starring Spider-Man and the Human Torch battling Sandman. A sappy story that brought out the season in both heroes who allowed Sandman to visit his mother on Christmas Eve.  The good deed does not go unpunished leading both heroes to a continuation of the story in issue two.

The remainder of the book is what the title promised:  a grab-bag.

Marvel Treasury Special (1974)

Marvel Treasury Special (1974)

In “Mortal Combat with…Sub-Mariner” is reprinted from Daredevil issue seven. Namor makes land fall to seek out Matt Murdock to serve as his lawyer. The sea prince wishes to sue the surface world for its exploitation of the other three quarters of the Earth.  Murdock’s alter ego is called upon when he refuses to take the case.

Black Widow stars in the next story taken from Amazing Adventures (1970) issue five. An unremarkable story. Maybe the most noteworthy of the book is Neal Adam’s assumption of penciling chores on the Inhuman’s story.

Fantastic Four issues 25 and 26, a two-part tale, finish out the book. The Thing and Hulk go toe-to-toe in issue 25 with the Avengers guest starring in the second part.

Far from the holiday specials to come in the 1990s, but at least setting a precedence for the company.

Posted Monday, January 28th, 2019 by Barry

Season’s Beatings (2019) 1

Here’s one that slipped past me last Christmas.

At first glance, not much to write home about. “Pete & Miles in Off Duty,” is no Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. Only the best incarnation of all the silver screen Spider-Mans by the way. No, “Pete & Miles in Off Duty” is, well, not sure how to describe it.

Confusing?

In a way.

Lifeless?

Yeah, you could say that.

In short it’s just not good.

Now, “Nuts and Bots” is a different story. Literally. Squirrel Girl and Doc Doom. C’mon. That’s a match up. Not a heavy weight title bout, but still way more entertaining than midget wrestling.

Finally, Squirrel Girl is getting a little respect. She deserves it. Her own title and some guest appearances. Good stuff.

What I haven’t mentioned about the holiday special is the Deadpool framing sequence. Deadpool is our emcee for the show. In a Saturday Night Live or old Muppet Show twist, Deadpool is brought forward from behind-the-scenes allowing Squirrel Girl to interact with him.

The two go toe-to-toe, not with fisticuffs or weapons, but in a far more deadly verbal one-on-one.

Finally, “Holi-La-La-Days” continues to make amends for a slow start. Deadpool steps out of the framing sequence to help move the story to a satisfying conclusion with Hawkeye playing detective.

A worthy addition to anyone’s holiday collection.

Posted Saturday, January 26th, 2019 by Barry

Wolverine: Flies to a Spider

Wolverine: Flies to a Spider reads more like a grindhouse movie than a New Year’s Eve celebration.

Logan takes on small town corruption to avenge the death of an innocent.

The more I think about it, the more I appreciate the book. The more it reminds me of those 1970s drive-in classics. The more it feels right.

Right for the character.

Gregg Hurwitz does a good job unsheathing the claws. Jerome Opena does an equally good job in rendering those claws.

Chris Claremont gave Logan his catch phrase in the 1982 Wolverine mini-series, “I’m the best at what I do. And, what I do isn’t very nice.”

None of Flies to a Spider is nice. Just satisfying.

Wolverine: Flies to a Spider

Posted Thursday, January 17th, 2019 by Barry

Daredevil (1964) 253

Daredevil (1964) 253

Daredevil (1964) 253

The only person to cause Daredevil more grief than the Kingpin is Frank Miller.

For 23 issues Miller penned and penciled a path through love and loss. Those were arguably two of the most riveting years of Daredevil’s life. Miller took a second-tier, blind hero and catapulted him to the levels of A-list, flagship characters like Spider-Man and Hulk.

In addition, Miller added to the pantheon of Marvel mythos by creating Electra Natchios. A former lover of Matt Murdock, Elektra returned to steal and break Murdock’s heart. Miller eventually brought the relationship to a tragic end having Bullseye murder her.

So popular was the character, the powers to be at Marvel refused to allow her a restful repose.

Issue 253 is a continuation of the Kingpin’s crusade to crush Murdock and his alter ego in “Merry Christmas, Kingpin.” It began in Miller’s original treatment of the character and escalated in the epic Born Again story arc that marked Miller’s return as scribe to DD. This time it’s Ann Nocenti and John Romita, Jr., in the driver’s seat.

Posted Thursday, December 27th, 2018 by Barry

Marvel Team-Up (1972) 79

Finally, some down time devoted to catching up on hauls from the year past.

Pulling from a box of unread issues, I decided to finish what Marvel Team-Up books I’d picked up. As most any collector of any length of time can tell the uninitiated, you tend to give, buy and trade/sell books on a regular basis. Spider-Man titles are no exception.

Marvel Team-Up (1972) 79

Marvel Team-Up (1972) 79

I know I’ve owned issue 79 before. I know I’ve read it before. But, when I cracked the cover and started, I was pleasantly surprised to find this is a Christmas comic book.

Of sorts.

The story takes place Dec. 22, 1978. Chris Claremont is very specific on that. The date is front and center in the opening dialog box. The snow is falling across New York, evening a backdrop as the moon shies behind thick stratus clouds. No colored lights lift the night’s burden. The first few pages are exercises in a Glynis Wein blue period.

Having set the mood, in prose and color, a young John Byrne pencils Spider-Man swinging to the Daily Bugle for the annual Christmas party. A quick change to Peter Parker and the titular character is greeted by Mary Jane and mistletoe.

What romance she wished to rekindle is squashed as Peter is ushered out the door on assignment to cover strange doings up town.

As promised on the cover, Red Sonja guest stars with Spidey making for an odd pairing. Still, the story works. And, as any red blooded American boy from the 1970s can vouch, when you found an appearance of Red Sonja on the spin racks, it was a good week.

Claremont and Byrne, already a team on The Uncanny X-Men, wrap the story up in the industry standard 17 pages leaving the reader fulfilled and satisfied their 40 cents didn’t go to waste.

Posted Wednesday, December 26th, 2018 by Barry

Deadpool (2018) 7

Still out on this one. Of course I’m still out on Skottie Young’s take on Deadpool. Daniel Way is, by far, my favorite of the Merc With the Mouth scribes, though Nick Giovanetti and Paul Scheer made for a talented team on Spider-Man/Deadpool.

“Christmas Missed Us,” takes a page out of Keith Giffen’s Lobo’s Paramilitary Christmas Special. Actually, it takes a huge chunk of pages complete with a contract on Santa and showdown at the North Pole.

This time ‘round, Deadpool is contracted by a very disgruntled contingent of children when the Jolly Fat One fails to make his rounds. Pooling allowances and a healthy response to a hastily gathered “gopayme” account, DP’s fee is rendered.

Young deviates further by saving Santa the ignominy of having sat the season out via his own volition. Instead an evil elf has organized the other elves and rallied them around corrupt corporate-at-large (at least in the Marvel universe) Roxxon.

Deadpool fulfills his obligations and saves Christmas making for a happy ending all the way ‘round.

The 2018 Christmas season was celebrated with a plethora of seasonal covers and stories. Much thanks to both Marvel and DC for their efforts to keep us readers happy.

 

Posted Monday, December 24th, 2018 by Jeff

Peace on Earth…

Settling into Christmas Eve with Marvel Team-Up (1972) #1. Pencils by Ross Andru and inks by Mike Esposito.

Peace on Earth

Posted Sunday, December 23rd, 2018 by Jeff

Sweet Christmas

Power Man’s favorite holiday catch-phrase. By Sanford Greene.

Sweet Christmas

Posted Saturday, December 22nd, 2018 by Barry

Marvel Treasury Edition 13

As America packed away its bicentennial banners and fervor, Marvel began packaging its third, and final, Holiday Grab-Bag. And, that’s what it was, a holiday-less hodge podge of reprints pulled from Avengers (1963) issue 58, Daredevil (1964) number 86, Marvel Team-Up 6 and Tales to Astonish (1959) 93.

Roger Stern was a lowly assistant editor in charge of choosing reprint material for Marvel’s stable of twice-told-tale books. He was tasked to fill the last of the holiday specials with suitable material. Having already used what little was available the previous two years, Stern was faced with a daunting task.

Marvel Treasury Edition 13

Marvel Treasury Edition 13

As Stern told Back Issue magazine, issue 85, Christmas in the Bronze Age, from 2015; he pulled the most tear jerking stories he could find to fill the book. Choices made, he found the book was still 10 pages short. Stern approached Editor Archie Goodwin who freed money for what Stern termed a “framing sequence” for the stories.

Fanboys were given the Giant Superhero Holiday Grab-Bag Nov. 16, 1976, complete with a Gil Kane/Joe Sinnott cover featuring the Marvel mainstays. Stern penned the opening story, “Tis the Season,” showcasing the super heroes playing in the snow. Reprints included “…As Those Who Will Not See!” with Spider-Man and the Thing, “Even an Android Can Cry” featuring the Avengers, Hulk and Silver Surfer shared “He Who Strikes the Silver Surfer” and “Once Upon a Time – The Ox!” showcasing Daredevil and Black Widow.

This was the final Marvel holiday special until the 1990s. By then the House of Ideas would have a better catalog to choose from, even tossing in original material.

For me, nothing will ever beat the original specials from the 1970s. They were the perfect size to lie stomach down on the floor and marvel – pun intended – at the craftsmanship of those earlier Marvel Age stories.