Category Archives: Books

iReview | The Official Handbook of the MARVEL UNIVERSE

For the first time collected in one volume, the one that started it all, every hero, every villain, every landmark location of the Marvel Universe as it was chronicled in the early 80s.

Imagine if you will, what it was like for me in 1982 — I was then a still emerging comic book fanatic — to gaze upon a singular volume of published books from Marvel Comics that would give me details about every single one of the major heroes and villains in the Mighty Marvel pantheon. I suddenly had an insider’s view of my favorite character’s alter egos, the major locations they operated out, and how many of them got their superpowers. Not to mention, every alphabetized entry featured my favorite Marvel hero in a super “superhero” pose!

Marvel was only beginning to celebrate a landmark publishing milestone in 1982 when The Official Handbook of the MARVEL UNIVERSE was first released, but many of imprint’s titles were rapidly marking their pace as best-selling books leaving significant marks on popular culture. Suddenly to hold in my hands, a book that immediately validated the role models I had accepted into my most impressionable adolescence, to learn that Captain America was 6’ 2” and weighed 240 and that by comparison Spider-Man was 5’ 10” and his eyes were Hazel — my heroes were real!

I was also infamously obsessed with written mythologies and historically intricate narratives, and Mark Gruenwald and many of the creative staff in the Mighty Marvel Bullpen had gone to incredible depths of detail to realize the world for me. The OHOTMU (as it had become popularly known among devotees) put it all together for me, and among my most favorite entries were the ones that listed everyone on the roster of the most popular superhero teams like the Avengers and the Defenders, and especially who were the founding members and where they were based.

The OHOTMU changed the way I looked at comics. It made them tangible and relevant to my world; especially as a native New Yorker, I felt I could just walk on over to the famed headquarters of the Fantastic Four, the Baxter Building and head on uptown to the Fifth Avenue location of the Avengers Mansion. Over the course of the original volume’s publication, the initial 12-issue release was followed by two additional tomes chronicling the “Book of the Dead and Inactive” as well as a technical volume detailing “Weapons and Paraphernalia” there would be many changes…

The new omnibus repurposes John Byrne’s classic art from the final issue of the series featuring many of the Marvel Universe’s major players.

From A to Z

Once Marvel got its groove, it wasn’t long before a “Deluxe Edition” of the Handbook replaced the original, elaborating on some of the entires popularized by the first. An entires “Origin” would be replaced by “History and in many cases would guarantee that most of the major character entries would have greater relevancy, as a hero like Black Panther would have their legacy chronicled over the course of multiple pages — and not limited to a single page. This would also provide an opportunity to detail a hero and villain’s look during the span of their career!

And speaking of legacy, as in the case of one’s like Hank Pym, the “Original” Ant-Man for example that passed on their identity to a new individual, a roman numeral would differentiate between the two. Scott Lang would be known as “Ant-Man II”, while Hank Pym would be referred to as “Ant-Man I”, etc. Future volumes would also more readily define a character’s “Strength Level” for easy comparison and individuals that had been gone inactive or deceased would be incorporated into the natural mix of things, more accurately defining the entirety of the Marvel Universe.

But it all started with the first series of books, and now those iconic 15-issues have been faithfully reprinted and collected in the latest Marvel Omnibus and featuring many of the original artwork and interlocking covers from the 80s issues that have become iconic. This is not just a nostalgic trip down memory lane, this is the classic Marvel Universe in its purest form, even as it prepares to mark its 80th Anniversary redefining popular culture as one of the narrators of the leading modern mythologies dictating legends of heroics and inspiring the impossible in our imaginations.

Marvel Omnibus | The Official Handbook of the MARVEL UNIVERSE | $75.00 available from Marvel collecting The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe (1983) #1 — #15. Check it out here.

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iEditorial | JUSTICE LEAGUE Vol. 2: The Villain’s Journey

Unsung tales and missed opportunities deeply diving into the JUSTICE LEAGUE archives reveals insight into narratives that might have been — or may yet — be brought to light from the case files!

For many, DC Comics “The New 52” relaunch was the publishing imprint’s most elaborate failed experiment. In 2011 the entire line of comics were relaunched and rebooted after the near-cataclysmic events captured in the FlashPoint story arc. Geoff Johns the author behind  the revelatory “crisis” event which centered arrived The Flash’s irrational decision to prevent his nemesis the Reverse-Flash from murdering his mother, the result of which has a drastic effect all-across the DC Universe.

The result was “The New 52” reboot which was an effort by the publisher’s to rewrite company-wide mythology and “clean slate” much of the major storylines especially among DC Comics greatest icons which included the membership among the World’s Greatest Heroes the Justice League, in fact when the Justice League #1 launched it inaugurated the arrival of “The New 52”. Johns and one of DC’s Finest Jim Lee teamed up for their revisionist view of many of the imprint’s long-standing characters including Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman.

This week DC celebrated Lee by offering many of the artist’s most prolific works, among them the collected volumes of several series runs including Justice League Vol. 2: The Villain’s Journey which reprinted for the first time “The New 52” run of the title’s issues #7-12. It featured the Justice League’s confrontation with a new adversary who has been following their rise to fame, in a new world that heralds them as heroes, but are they really worthy of that title? The complex story arc actually features two additional prologues that reveal some interesting motives.

Unexplored, Not Pursued

Leading up to the league’s battle with Graves, there is an engaging story by Johns and drawn by Carlos D’anda, not Jim Lee, a Justice League team-up featuring Green Arrow. It’s the “first time” in the new continuity that the Emerald Archer crosses paths with the team, as he petitions for a position among their ranks. The League don’t appear all too impressed by the archer, who insists he helped them take down Amazo the Android, helped prevent an attack from the Court of Owls’ Talons, but is rejected by most of the current roster, especially Aquaman and Green Lantern.

The Aquaman snub is interesting because it reveals a dangling plot line that appears to have not been explored: one that placed Arthur Curry and Oliver Queen in directly opposing paths before they assumed their superhero identities. That Green Lantern isn’t impressed by Green Arrow is also of note considering that the pair have often shared adventures together, especially during the Bronze Age of Comics and into the Modern Era. Green Arrow isn’t brought into the inner circle but is approached by the League’s liaison agent Steve Trevor for another mission all-together.

At the conclusion of their adventure and after the Green Arrow pleads his final case, their part ways, but consider the possibility of opening their ranks. It’s then the Batman protests that it wouldn’t be a good idea, and insists how badly it went the last time that the League let someone in…leading to a dramatic double splash page with the Justice League locked in combat with the Martian Manhunter! Readers of the current volume of the Justice League will note that not only is J’onn J’onzz a member of the team, he’s the group’s current chairperson.

Cut To…

Without further integrating that bit of backstory, the Justice League would soon find themselves in a series of big scale brawls beginning with “The Trinity War” and leading into “Forever Evil”. These events brought them in direct conflict with a government sanctioned “Justice League of America” that included amidst its roster the Green Arrow and Martian Manhunter, and inducting several “rookie” members. Firestorm and an Element Woman were invited to train with the team, while the duplicitous Atomica was uncovered as a psychopath from an alternate-Earth.

The Justice League’s core members have pretty much stayed intact and only recently, after entering into the cross-publishing “Rebirth” and facing the dangers of the Dark Multiverse in “Metal” took a major step to reexamine their roster. The latest team includes many of the recent founding members including Batman, Wonder Woman, Superman, The Flash, Aquaman and Cyborg, but have now recruited John Stewart, the Green Lantern, Kendra Saunders, the Hawkgirl and brought Martian Manhunter back.

Still there is the dangling participle of what exactly transpired — in full detail — between J’onn J’onzz and the original seven members, and though perhaps the beef between Aquaman and Green Arrow may have played into some one-shot story in either one of their respective titles, they’ve never crossed paths since the apparent proclamation of disdain between the two heroes. In fact, the long-term history of the current era Justice League is in much flux, as recent events in the Batman/The Flash team-up arc “The Button” revealed a great deal of missing history.

As the current mythology attempts to restructure itself and open up the possibility that an eventual explanation will be laid out for diehard fans of the Justice League’s illustrious history, in the meantime devoted readers can dive into Justice League: The 100 Greatest Moments by Robert Greenberger and published Book Sales Chartwell. The hardback is available now from various retailers including Barnes and Noble.

DC Comics | WONDER WOMAN by John Byrne Book Two

Before the Amazing Amazon’s return to 1984 take a nostalgic look at her adventures from 1996 in the DC Comics legendary collected works of Wonder Woman by John Byrne Book Two!

When the legendary comic book writer/artist John Byrne took over the helm of creatively driving the adventures of the Amazing Amazon, the man that had redefined the DC Comics modern era of the Man of Steel, after Superman’s world was rocked following the events of the Crisis on Infinite Earths the imprint decided to turn Byrne loose on one of the other premiere properties leading to a comparatively new direction for Wonder Woman. It was more than just a cosmetic reimagining, Byrne dove deep into the heroes mythology.

Though George Pérez had initially given Diana her most dramatic reimagining and reintroduction into the Modern Era after the heroine had been theoretically erased during the aforementioned Crisis, Byrne assumed the lead on the title after the landmark centennial issue, and navigated Diana into all-new territory. After a stint where the heroine had abandoned her familiar star-spangled attire and tiara, Byrne brought the Amazon princess back in her traditional warrior garb, though highlighted particular innovations in her design.

Celebrating the iconic creators run in the collected volume Wonder Woman by John Byrne Book Two several elements of DC Comics third most iconic pillar harken to her cinematic interpretation and even hint at the storyline that is speculated will be unraveling when Diana returns to the big screen in next year’s highly anticipated blockbuster sequel Wonder Woman 1984. Byrne simplified the lines across her suit, but also gave Wonder Woman the now established standard length and look of her ceremonial bracelets.

During his tenure on Wonder Woman Byrne elaborated on much of the mythology that Pérez had worked into Diana’s origins, cementing her legend in Greek myths and lore. John Byrne was also extremely diligent about her placement in DC Comics pantheon; even though she had served a term as a member of the Justice League International, Wonder Woman had been much of an outsider among her contemporaries, and it wouldn’t be until much later that aspects of her story would be retconned in order to more significantly place her at the cornerstone of the universe.

Wonder Woman by John Byrne Book Two examines her place in myth as Diana is a vessel of faith, hope and love — and her theology, much based in myth is peeled back like an onion. At the center of it all is Byrne’s interpretation of the Amazon’s most relentless and dangerous adversary. The artist introduces the most feral and ferocious Cheetah, perhaps the version that may be the inspiration behind the villain’s upcoming cinematic appearance in the next film. With all the excitement building this is the perfect opportunity to get caught up before 1984 hits theaters.

Wonder Woman by John Byrne Book Two collected volume is on sale now from DC Comics.

Diving Into DC Comics NEW AGE Of HEROES!

After METAL, DC Comics introduces a new line of rookie heroes (and some reimagined favorites) for a new generation of readers with no-assembly required from out of the Dark Multiverse!

Springing forth from the fountain of DC Comic’s most recent “earth shattering” event Dark Nights: Metal the publishing giant decided it was time to take the focus off its big guns and perhaps turn the spotlight onto some fresh new faces. At the conclusion of Scott Snyder’s overly hyped 6-issue saga (stay tuned for additional editorial on Dark Night: Metal coming soon) our trinity of heroes find themselves rejuvenated in their mission having prevented the planet from falling into the depths of the Dark Multiverse, but in so doing unleashed all new threats!

The Justice League will find themselves in uncharted territory and will revitalize their roster in Justice League: No Justice the upcoming follow-up to Metal. It culminates with the league taking in new members including Martian Manhunter, Green Lantern (John Stewart) and the return of Hawkgirl who has been reintegrated into the mainstream DC comics mythology, after being relegated to much of the Earth 2 storyline following “The New 52” rebrand of 2011. While many of the books get a polishing, an entire new line has appeared in the wake of Metal.

Enlisting much of the A-list talent on its payroll DC has given rise to what it’s calling The New Age of Heroes and with all the fanfare that such a prestige announcement should merit has introduced several new titles, sporting all new heroes, as well as some familiar faces for a fresh start. What all the heroes have in common is their connectivity or emergence after the events that took place during the arrival of the Dark Knights and the Dark Multiverse’s incursion. The new line-up of characters are also being positioned alongside some very familiar DC mainstays!

Meet THE TERRIFICS lead by Mr. Terrific, this group of misfits promise to take readers deeper into the most unsolved mysteries of the DC Comics Universe.

The Dawn of a New Age

For long-time DC readers, the interjecting of some fresh blood may have been a long time coming. The publishing giant has benefitted greatly from the milestone moments of its long list of icons including the long anticipated live-action Justice League feature film, the success of The CW primetime series including Arrow and The Flash, and the recently published #1000 issue of Action Comics marking Superman’s 80 years as the world’s greatest heroes. It was perhaps the perfect moment to give some legends in the making their own turn.

Leaping immediately (and literally) onto the scene were the premiere issues of Damage and Silencer. Damage created by Tony S. Daniel and Robert Venditti introduced Ethan Avery who becomes the living weapon code-named “Damage” a hulking monstrosity that is part of a secret, government black-ops group that is quickly getting the attention of Amanda Waller and her Suicide Squad. Comics legend John Romita, Jr. and Dan Abnett are trigger-happy on Silencer a masked assassin with a death wish and she’s a mom to boot!

Pulling together some fantastic established favorites are Ivan Reis and Jeff Lemire on The Terrifics which brings together the unlikely quartet of Mr. Terrific, Plastic Man (both who were an instrumental part of Metal) and Metamorpho who are joined by the alien Phantom Girl. This foursome find their fates irrevocably intertwined as they investigate the mysteries released from the Dark Multiverse and the dark matter energy unleashed on the prime multiverse. There is also the interestingly enthusiast addition of Sideways from Kenneth Rocafort and Dan DiDio.

All-New, All-Different (Really?)

There will be more new titles joining the “New Age of Heroes” including The Immortal Men by Jim Lee, The Curse of Brimstone and the much anticipated return of The Challengers of the Unknown, who played a significant part in Metal as well. Though many of these titles are setting up some interesting new characters, elaborating and bringing some classic faves back into the spotlight like The Challengers, DC is banking that these new story arcs will reel in more readership, though one thing is hard to mistake and that is the familiarity of this “New Age”.

Most notably Sideways teenage hero feels ad sounds like Marvel Comics web-slinging, wall-crawler Spider-Man, while The Terrifics seem to pay homage to that label first family the Fantastic Four down to mimicking the power set of that famed quartet. Whether these are subtle similarities, or some other clandestine evocation of those heroes remains to be seen, as DC continues to roll-out the “New Age of Heroes” through spring. Perhaps it’s a play by DC to snag some of Marvels audience, rather than accept the possibility that there really is nothing new under the sun.

iReview | DC Comics THE FLASH #39 Celebrates 700 Issues

The Scarlet Speedster moves toward a publishing milestone with its Issue #39 celebrating 700 issues ever! And the very dramatic return of one of greatest villains in THE FLASH mythology!

Welcome to the new Modern Age of Comics! Where comics embrace and actually celebrate their publishing legacies by reverting back to or embracing their original numeric issues. With everyone eagerly counting down to the return of the “classic” Superman in the historic Action Comics #1000 most recently DC Comics released another milestone with The Flash #39 the 700th published issue of The Flash.

The arrival of the Scarlet Speedster signified the arrival of the “Silver Age” of comics, a modern publishing renaissance that invigorated DC’s line and reinvented many of its classic heroes introducing their contemporary counterparts. Among the heroes that always stood apart from the rest was Barry Allen, The Flash — who after getting struck by lightning, is inspired by the “Golden Age” comics character of Jay Garrick to don a red suit and fight crime in Central City.

In the latest issue of the “Rebirth” line written by Joshua Williamson and illustrated by Carmine Di Giandomenico Barry is taking a very harsh look at the decisions he’s made and how they’ve impacted the lives around him, and most significantly compromised his relationship with Iris West. After being kidnapped by the evil Reverse-Flash and hurled into the future, Iris has finally learned the man behind the mask is actually Barry Allen.

Barry still has great affection for Iris, but whether or not their love affair will survive the latest turbulence in their calamitous relationship is yet to be seen, but he’s opened up his world as a superhero to Iris, and even brought her aboard the Justice League’s Watchtower headquarters. Just as it appeared that the ice between them had begun to crack, Iris became trapped in “Flash Time” as Central City came to a standstill around The Flash revealing an attack from Multiplex?!

Negative-Flash has brought about a Speed Force revolution and sides with the million-man mob squad and the recently introduced Master of Lightning, Raijin, but this evil threesome is only the first wave and the true mastermind behind the Scarlet Speedster’s recent woes is revealed — Gorilla Grodd is back and he’s hungry for some Speed Force! The latest arc of The Flash “Perfect Storm” Part 1 is available digitally and at your favorite comic specialty shop now.

The issue successfully capitalizes on the nostalgic popularity of the character of The Flash especially the Barry Allen iteration of the hero, which has soared in popularity (surely) with a little bit of support from his live-action CW counterpart played by actor Grant Gustin which (also) continues the spirit of celebrating the hero’s legacy featuring John Wesley Shipp (the actor who originated the role in the CBS series in 1990) who now embodies the “Golden Age” Flash.

Just recently the television series adapted “The Trial of The Flash” storyline and also paid homage to the 1990 series by reintroducing the villainous “Prank” played by Corrine Bohrer, who many consider the template for The Joker’s sidekick Harley Quinn. Mark Hamill, who voiced The Joker on the now classic Batman: The Animated Series also played The Trickster on both iterations of The Flash.

Mark the occasion by sharing your favorite moment in 700 Issues Celebration The Flash!

Marvel’s PHOENIX RESURRECTION: The Return of Jean Grey

As part of imprint’s “Legacy” exploration Marvel (literally) resurrects one of its most enduring and endearing characters. The time has come to welcome back the X-Men’s Jean Grey!

In issue #135 of The Uncanny X-Men originally published by Marvel Comics in 1980 all hell literally broke lose and for longtime fans of the book the fate of one its most beloved characters was about to written! Series writer Chris Claremont and his co-conspirator John Byrne had spun a tale so powerful and emotionally wrought that when “The Dark Phoenix Saga” finally ran its course, it would forever alter the way audiences read comics! The stakes had suddenly been raised and many realized that nothing lasts forever!

Certainly in a world where men walk among gods, individuals blessed with superpowers the consequences of which could be lost on most mere mortals. In the world of the X-Men it all became painfully real, as original X-Men Jean Grey evolved from the telekinetically gifted Marvel Girl and into the world-devouring Phoenix — a creature of such great potential that its power had become feared throughout the cosmos. That power, as power often does, eventually consumed Jean and turned her into the Dark Phoenix the ultimate personification of pure force!

Her teammates are forced to engage the Dark Phoenix in combat until inevitably, Jean is considered to great a threat to the universe and is served a death sentence — a trial by combat — between the X-Men and the galactic member nations of the known galaxy itself. In the end, before she once again could succumb to the fury of her dark side, Jean in a final act of mercy, sacrifices herself so that her friends to do not have to pay the ultimate price for her mistakes. The Dark Phoenix may no longer have been a threat, but the X-Men lost Jean Grey…or so it seemed.

The X-Factor of it All!

The Uncanny X-Men had become a phenomenon much to the credit of its writer Claremont, who continued to write the series and even introduced its first spin-off The New Mutants which featured the next generation of mutant heroes. The demand for mutant-based books was high! In 1986 the original X-Men would be once again reunited and among their ranks we’d find Jean Grey, much like her namesake, had risen from the ashes for the inaugural run of the new mutant team book X-Factor. Jean’s return would be considered quite controversial.

Over the course of the character’s development, it would be greatly debated as to wether Jean had been replaced by the Phoenix “entity” and placed in hibernation for an undefinable period of time, but in all eventualities she would eventually find herself inevitably connected to the powers granted to her by the Phoenix. Jean Grey would “die” several more times, and come back from the dead just as many, but in recent history Jean had finally merged with the power of the Phoenix and moved on from this plane of existence — “dying” again — though not forgotten!

She’s back!

Like a mercurial specter, the Phoenix has remained a constant in the world of the X-Men, invariably connected to Jean Grey as its primary host and the only individual worthy of wielding its cosmic might. It was only a matter of time before she would be reintegrated into the modern mythology, and as Marvel explores many of its most favored heroes and villains with the recent publishing-wide “Legacy” arc, it seemed fitting and appropriate to bring the X-Men’s most formidable presence back into the fold in Phoenix Resurrection: The Return of Jean Grey limited series.

The timing of which hasn’t escaped anyone that the next blockbuster feature film in the franchise X-Men: Dark Phoenix will bring Jean’s story to the big screen! The limited series written by Matthew Rosenberg begins with the appearance of what might be a large flaming bird, as psychics begin to disappear around the planet, and somewhere in an unassuming small town, a young woman is finding her world is unraveling before her eyes — a woman named Jean Grey! The X-Men are scattered across the planet following a trail…but to what?

Without a doubt the Marvel Universe without Jean Grey, one of the imprint’s original heroines, is just not the same — and the X-Men haven’t enjoyed the popularity that they once relished, not since their counterparts in the Avengers became Hollywood sensations (though arguably the X-Men film franchise did launch before the introduction of the extended cinematic Marvel Universe). As the tale continues to take shape, exactly what the fate of the Phoenix will be is still unknown. Who is this new Jean Grey and is she in fact the latest resurrected form of the Phoenix?

And if that’s the case, is the Phoenix back to save us from ourselves, or burn the house down? The story continues to evolve in Phoenix Resurrection: The Return of Jean Grey issues #1 through #3 are on sale now!