Ultimates End

The Ultimates ended (again) today with issue 100 and I just wanted to say something quick about it. On and off since 2002, The Ultimates has been a title that meant subverting expectations and playing with what superhero comics can do. Originally conceived as a hip, new retelling of the Avengers, they grew into their own weird thing. The first two series were drawn by Brian Hitch and written by Mark Millar. And if you know Millar, you know what to expect. It’s Avengers by way of Kick-Ass. They’re all violent sociopaths.
The rebooted Avengers featured a Captain America who acts like a soldier and has old fashioned values. Like an actual 40’s guy values, a real “men should be men” guy. Bruce Banner is a spindly little neurotic. Thor is a hippie who might just have delusions about being a god. They’re all damaged and ugly. Alcoholic, tumor-ridden Tony Stark is the most decent person on the team. Think about that.
I wouldn’t recommend movie fans to read it as it will be almost unrecognizable as the characters you love. However, If you like the Avengers movies, you have to thank the Ultimates. It influenced the look and tone of the movies. The Chitauri? They’re from the Ultimates. Samuel L. Jackson as Fury? Ultimates. Hawkeye being lame? Ultimates.
It’s a series heavily rooted in the war on terror. Super Soldiers taken literally. The second series a response to that with an international team of supervillains fighting American Imperialism. It’s purposely jingoistic and terrifying, but also causes a surge in patriotism when they win. It’s a series that makes you question America as much as you do it’s “heroes”. It’s a lot to chew on and it’s not all good, but the original 26 issues of Ultimates defined the superhero comics of the early ‘aughts of the century in really interesting ways. Not necessarily in good ways, as they quickly became gritty and real in ways not entirely unfamiliar to the early 90’s.
Since then, the series has been relaunched 5 times, some good (Ultimate Comics, the current run) and some have been the worst comics I’ve ever read (Ultimates 3).
Today, Al Ewing and the various artists who have worked with him over his 22 issues on the new series have made something special. They took just the name and gave it a new cast, a new universe, and an entirely new mission. Made up of Marvel’s most powerful heroes, they’re the Ultimate Team for the Ultimate Problems.
The new cast is almost the exact opposite of the old one. They’re people who care, people who want to fix things instead of stomping them into the ground. They have their problems, but they don’t let it consume them. They’re a diverse team with one one white person and it’s not a dude. They fix the universe.
In the final issue, the evil Reed Richards of the original Ultimates’ universe brings them back from non-existence as his pawns, but the new team manages to break through to them and they have something of a redeeming moment. They become the heroes we always wanted them to be. The original Ultimates sail off into the sunset to hunt evil multiversal Reeds (it’s a really weird, really great book.) And finally, we meet the Ultimate Ultimates made up of previous incarnations of the universe.
It couldn’t get any more Ultimate, any more extreme. And that’s what the Ultimates are ultimately about; “Make this comic as big as we can”. From blockbuster action to cosmic insanity the Ultimates has always been the biggest book on the self. When it came out. The Ultimates has ended seven times before. This is only the end of series 8 and anyone who’s read this series knows that 8 is the one that made it possible.
It’s the end of a series I loved and that defined how I read comics, for better or worse. The Ultimates was maybe the first book that showed me not just flawed heroes, but fundamentally messed up ones, and the new series showed me how to fix a problem; think bigger. Ultimates is far from perfect and at times is almost insulting. It knows it is. That’s why it works. It’s the Ultimate extension of Marvel’s “the hero that could be you.” It’s the hero you could be at your worst and at your best.
See ya Ultimates, I can’t wait to see what the next Ultimate thing is.
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So You Want to Read… Guardians of the Galaxy: Part Three: Team-ups and Solo Acts!

Welcome to So You Want to Read, a series about starting franchise comics, either from the beginning or by my own recommendations. Whenever possible I’m going off of the Trade Paperback/Collected Editions.

In this installment, I’m breaking down the various solo titles and spin-Offs the Guardians have had and helping navigate through those rocky waters, which may just be more confusing than the main series. I have not included Rocket Racoon or Groot’s series, as they’ve had enough to get their own article, and for you long-time fans, I am not forgetting the original Guardians, I’m gonna get to them last. But for now, let’s dive in!

Solo Guardians

Star-Lord:

Star-Lord has had appeared in several series over the 30 years before he joined the Guardians. The Peter Quill who appears in these stories is vastly different than the ones who’ve shown up in the movies or newer comics. After his mother is killed by aliens, Peter Quill dedicates his life to getting to space and hunting them down. He gets into NASA and is then fired after being too unstable. Some cosmic schmo named the Master of the Sun offers one human the ability to become the Star-Lord, the representation of a perfect being. So naturally, Peter breaks into NASA and guns down everyone in his way so he can be that person. Taking pity on him, the MoS grants him the power of the Star-Lord and the revelation that revenge won’t fill the void. With that, he decides to be the cosmic protector; Star-Lord.

So yeah, a little different. There’s a lot of weird Sci-Fi stuff like making out with his ship, apparently being the reincarnation of Jesus, and having planet fall in love with him and commit suicide when he leaves. There are a lot of talented people on these books though, Steve Englehart and Carmine Infantino for starters.  X-Men Superstars Chris Claremont and John Byrne work together for the first time on Star-Lord. The comics are all interesting, even if they’re not all particularly good.
Every Star-Lord story before 2003 is available in one paperback Star-Lord: Guardian of the Galaxy.

During Bendis’ run on Guardians two solo series were launched at the time of the first movie to capitalize on the success, however, they both turned out to be really solid. Rocket Racoon and the Legendary Star-Lord were two of the most purely enjoyable books at Marvel at the time. I’ll get to Rocket Racoon next time, but under writer Sam Humphries’ pen, Legendary Star-Lord and its two successor series were smart, charming, and sweet. Like actually really sweet. Focusing more on Peter Quill as a character and focusing on his growth and personal relationship with his father, his girlfriend Kitty Pryde, and his distance from Earth, LSL did what a solo series should do. It told stories that could only be told with this character. It explored him in ways, that despite him basically being the main character in Guardians, that book couldn’t.

Also, it was basically a relationship book between Kitty and Peter and was really cute.
Legendary Star-Lord is collected in two volumes Face It, I Rule and Rise of the Black Vortex. And once again the Black Vortex crossover messes up your trade reading. Rise contains the three issues before Black Vortex and the one immediately following it. But once again doesn’t contain the rest of the crossover, which is mostly a Star-Lord story and the first and last chapters, as well as a Guardians Team-Up issue, are written by Humphries making basically part of the series. Once again, those are in the Guardians of the Galaxy & X-Men: Black Vortex Collection. There’s really no good way to get everything without double dipping.
During the Secret Wars event, Legendary was replaced with Star-Lord and Kitty Pryde. While Legendary veered into rom-com, this one crashes full force into it. On Battleworld, the planet made of fragments of alternate universes, Peter Quill has survived the destruction of the multiverse and taken a job as a lounge singer in an attempt to evade the eyes of Emperor Doom. One night, he sees Kitty Pryde, but not his Kitty. This Kitty is an agent for Doom, tracking down artifacts that might disprove Doom’s godhood. Peter reacts in the worst way possible and interrupts her meeting with Gambit the Collector, outing himself as one such anomaly. They end up handcuffed together and using her powers and Peter’s thieving skills, they decide to take down the Collector together and retrieve the artifact she was after, all the while Peter tries to convince her to give him a chance. It was one of my favorite series from Secret Wars and considering how much I loved the entire event that’s saying something.

After Secret Wars, the series was relaunched without the “Legendary” in the title, but the trades had them, so that’s good if you’re a trade reader. Volume 3, First Flight, is an origin story and takes a lot more than you might expect from the original. An 18-year-old, Peter Quill, the janitor at NASA, spends his nights testing flight simulators in attempts to join the space program and find the aliens who killed his mother. After stealing a Kree ship that NASA was attempting to reverse engineer, he launches into space only to be taken in by Yondu Udonta and the Ravagers. After being their janitor for a time, he learns to be a proper space pirate until the NASA crew gets out of our solar system and is captured by the Ravagers. He has to decide to help them or turn them over to the Ravagers, who have the location of his mother’s killers.

The fourth and final (or fifth and final) volume, Out of Orbit, reveals the reason behind Peter and Kitty’s break up as they’re captured by the Collector, who now collects emotions,  forces them to relive it. It’s a fun short story, but the rest of the graphic novel is padded by old Collector appearances, which is a little disappointing. Still a solid read.

At this point, Humphries left Marvel and began writing Green Lanterns for DC, which is good and you should read, but there is one Star-Lord book left. Writer Chip Zdarsky (Jughead, Sex Criminals, Howard the Duck) and artist Kris Anka (Captain Marvel, Uncanny X-Men) launched a new series. After the Guardians split up, Peter is stuck on Earth and as the only two people on Earth he knows are Howard the Duck and Kitty, he gets a job as a bartender and has to fulfill court-ordered community service. After bonding with the old man he has for service hours, turns out the old dude is an ex-supervillain and the two of them get involved in a heist. Guest-starring Daredevil and Old Man Logan! It’s a gorgeous book, Anka designs a new uniform for Star-Lord and NAILS it. It’s smart, it’s funny, it’s emotional, Zdarksy is on point. Only real problem is it was too short as the series was canceled after six issues and an annual. The whole series is coming out in June as a paperback titled Star-Lord: Grounded.

Drax:

Written by wrestler CM Punk and comics author Cullen Bunn, Drax’s ongoing series, launched in 2015, has Drax to detective his way and find some missing children, and then use his parenting skills to corral them back home. Meanwhile, he has to deal with assassins, the dragon Fin Fang Foom, and his ex-sidekick Cammi. It’s actually a really fun series. Completely available in two volumes; Galaxy’s Best Detective and Children’s Crusade.
There is also a Drax miniseries collected in Annihilation Volume One. It’s the series that relaunched Marvel Cosmic in addition to making Drax the alien dude we know him as today.

Gamora:

Gamora has only had one series, Gamora: Memento Mori, but it’s written by the co-writer of the first film, Nicole Perlman and that’s pretty cool. Delving into Gamora’s past as the daughter of Thanos, it was announced shortly after the movie but was delayed until last year. It sadly only ran for five issues. The trade is out in July.

There are also two different trades that contain Drax and Gamora’s earliest appearances by Jim Starlin, but I’m saving the Starlin stuff for Infinity War. If you’re interested, those are called Drax: Guardian of the Galaxy and Gamora: Guardian of the Galaxy respectively.

Also available is the Guardians of the Galaxy Solo Omnibus, which contains all of the [Character]:Guardian of the Galaxy trades as well as early Rocket and Groot appearances.

Other Team Stuff:

The last two Team based Guardians series (excluding the original Guardians) is a short, but fun team-up series and mini that only tangentially ties in, but is fun and completists might want to read.

During the Bendis run, a spin-off, Guardians Team-Up was launched. It’s a fun series of mostly one-shots, with the exception of the first two issues, written by Bendis with art by James Lestein and comics legend Art Adams. The two-parter has the Guardians teaming up with the Avengers to take on a Chitari invasion, led by Nebula. It’s a good jump-in point if you’ve only seen the movies. There is also a really good issue by Javier Pulido in which Spider-Man and Star-Lord team up to recover Quill’s Element Gun after it’s stolen by Black Cat. Other highlights include a Pet Avengers team-up (co-written by Andy Lanning), the hilarious pairing of Drax and Ant-Man, and a Groot/Silver Surfer team-up. Collected in Two volumes; Guardians Assemble and Unlikely Story.

During Secret Wars there was a series called The Infinity Gauntlet (not to be confused with the 1991 series of the same name) that featured alternate versions of the Guardians and Thanos but mostly focused on a family trying to stay together in a bug-infested wasteland. The long-lost mother, member of the Nova Corps., returns to the family and grants them powers, but also enlists them in tracking down and protecting the Infinity Stones. The family’s new traveling companion a Titan named Thanos might have over plans for the Stones. The writer of Infinity Gauntlet is now writing the Guardians ongoing series and has hinted elements from it may appear. So maybe check that one out if you’re inclined. It’s completely self-contained and well worth a read.

There’s also a collection called Best Story Ever, but I’m not sure what’s in it. I’ve said, I’ve read almost everything after all.

If you’ve enjoyed this, give me holler, comment with what you liked and how I can improve.

 

Next time: Rocket and Groot

So You Want to Read… Guardians of the Galaxy Part One: ANNIHILATION! The Abnett and Lanning Era

With Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 rapidly approaching I figured it was high time to write another reading guide, this time focused on the cosmic misfits. Then as I remembered that I’ve read almost everything they’ve been in, I decided that I’d write a complete guide. This is the first in a series of Guardians related SYWTR; each covering a different era of the space-faring super-team.

After writer/artist Jim Starlin left Marvel, their space comics (referred to as “cosmic” comics by fans) kind of sputtered out. In the fall of 2005, Marvel relaunched the “universal” part of the Marvel universe with several miniseries under the banner Annihilation. Writers Dan Abnet and Andy Lanning (known collectively as DnA), along with Keith Giffen, were the core architects of the series. The storyline was massively successful and led to a sequel. The sequel, in turn, led to the formation of the modern day Guardians of the Galaxy. This is the era that most directly influenced the movie, and if you don’t feel like reading everything, there’s several good jumping on points. This article provides a reading order for their series. It might seem a bit daunting, what with the amount of series involved, but that’s what this whole thing is here for.

Annihilation:

Annihilus, the warlord king of the alternate dimension, the Negative Zone launches an attack into the positive matter universe. His forces destroy the galactic peacekeepers, the Nova Corps, save for human member Richard Rider. The Annihilation Wave ravages the galaxy, conquering all for Annhilus. The only hope is a ragtag resistance group including Rider, Ronan the Accuser, Peter Quill, Gamora, Drax, and the former Heralds of the world-devouring Galactus, who is enslaved as the Wave’s power source. But first, they have to survive long enough to meet each other.

The story takes place in several miniseries arranging the players and is resolved in the main series, but the three paperback collections now available collect them in chronological order, as well as the preceding Drax the Destroyer miniseries. Annihilation is a really great story with massive scope, great character work, and sets up the new cosmic order. It has most of the characters you’d expect from a pre-Guardians series. You really only need background on who the Silver Surfer is, otherwise completely accessible.

(Also of note Thanos issues 7-12, are not part of Annihilation or included in the collection, but introduces Star-Lord to the Marvel Universe proper. Not necessary reading.)

Available in three paperbacks or a hardcover omnibus (out of print).
Also available as three volumes digitally and on Marvel Unlimited.

Annihilation Conquest:

The sequel to Annihilation, the galaxy is recovering from the Annihilation Wave, but after Quill and Ronan broker a peace treaty, the technological race, the Phalanx attack and start assimilating the Kree empire and then the Galaxy. Bending beings to their will, the Galaxy’s heroes have to free the universe from being mindless drones and drive back the Phalanx’s leader-Ultron.

This series introduces a proto-Guardians team in Star-Lord’s suicide squad. Assigned a regiment as part of the Kree Military resistance, the team consists of Quill, Mantis, Captain Universe, Deathbird, Rocket Raccoon, King Groot of Planet X. All of the members except two will join the Guardians during their ongoing series.
Conquest reads pretty well without having read the prior series. You will miss some character stuff, but the core story works well if you just want to jump on here and see the beginning of the Guardians.

Available as two (out of print) paperbacks and an omnibus that might still be in print.
Also available as two digital volumes and on Marvel Unlimited.

Guardians of the Galaxy (2008-2010):

Abnett and Lanning, now without Giffen, take the name of super-hero team that readers had long since forgotten and created something new with it. Star-Lord. Rocket. Groot. Drax. Gamora. Phyla-Vell. Adam Warlock. Aided by telepathic Cosmo the Russian space dog, they close dimensional rifts in the universe, heretical space religions, as well as any other threats to existence itself. After saving future hero Vance Astro from one of the rifts, they take the name of his team, The Guardians of the Galaxy. They’re caught in between a shifting future timeline, a War of Kings and the eternal battle between the concepts life and death. It’s great stuff that’s really accessible to new readers despite the sci-fi rigamarole and makes great use of Marvel history without being impenetrable. Also worth noting is that several parts of the series take place during the War of Kings crossover. You don’t need to read it, context clues will guide you through, but it will provide background. Also, it’s pretty good.

Available in two paperbacks and an omnibus.
Also available as four digital volumes and on Marvel Unlimited.

The Thanos Imperative:

In the final issues of Guardians of the Galaxy, Adam Magus, a corrupted Guardian attempts to defeat Death itself. Death has other plans and after its avatar, Phyla-Vell dies, it resurrects Thanos as its new avatar. Thanos defeats the Magus, but events in War of Kings and Nova open a breach to the Cancerverse. There, Life had won and the was no more Death. For anything. A nightmarish realm full of corrupted Avengers, The Guardians, Nova, and Thanos enter the undying universe to destroy it before it spreads to ours.

This marks the end of the Abnett/Lanning Guardians run as well as their run on Nova. It’s a fantastic climax to the characters’ stories (at least by the authors). Characters from these books would continue on in Annihilators, a series about the cosmic protectorate filling the void left by the disbanded Guardians.

Available in paperback as well as digitally and on Marvel Unlimited.

Further Suggested Reading:
Nova:

Although technically never a member of the Guardians, Nova is their closest ally during this era and a personal friend to Quill, as well as lover to Gamora. It was the flagship book of the Abnett/Lanning era and has some of their best cosmic stories. Well worth the read if you’re starting from Annihilation or Conquest. If not, you can skip it, but you’d be missing out.

War of Kings:

The Inhumans are now the rulers of the Kree Empire and they’re attacked by Vulcan, mad emperor of the Shiar Empire. A galactic war breaks out as the Starjammers, led by Vulcan’s brother Havoc (of the X-Men), attempt to reinstate Lillandra as the head of the empire. The Guardians show up briefly, but their part is mostly covered in their own series. It’s solid space politics and I do so love my space politics. Highly recommended if it’s your thing or you’re confused by the Guardians tie-in.

Annihilators:

I have not actually read this, except for the Rocket and Groot backups, but essentially it’s a team of cosmic heavy hitters formed to take down powerful cosmic threats. Ronan, Silver Surfer, Beta Ray Bill, Gladiator. I keep meaning to read it, but every time I do, I just reread Thanos Imperative.

I’m really hoping that sometime in between Guardians 2 and Avengers 4 Marvel will rerelease all of this stuff in affordable paperbacks. Next time is the just concluded Brian Michael Bendis era, and boy, is there a lot of it.

Wolverine Month: Wolverine+Nick Fury: The Scorpio Connection

The last book I’m going to talk about in this great month of Wolverine is part of the Marvel Graphic Novel line. Rather than the comic-sized paperback format of the other books I’ve talked about, It was a series of high prestige books printed with much better paper and with better color technology. It’s a format I really like, and have quite a few of these even though some of them have been reprinted in modern times.

Drawn by Howard Chaykin (American Flagg, he also drew the first ever Star Wars comics) and written by Archie Goodwin (also did Star Wars for a time, but is mostly known for being the best editor in the history of American comics.), Wolverine+Nick Fury; The Scorpio Connection is more of a Nick Fury story than a Wolverine one. Also, if you’re coming in mostly with a knowledge of the movies, this Nick Fury does not resemble Samuel L. Jackson at all. He’s white, has graying hair and looks a bit like David Hasselhoff.

The story opens with S.H.I.E.L.D. agent David Nanjiwarra, investigating a gun-running ring in Machu Picchu. He, along with the rest of his team, are killed by an unseen figure. The killer leaves a small token with the Zodiac symbol Scorpio.

In Manhattan at a S.H.I.E.L.D. gym, Nick Fury’s old flame Valentina Allegra de Fontaine is being asked out by a young agent, while Fury and his right-hand man, Dum Dum Dugan, reminisce about simpler times. Fury remembers that he used to hope for love and a family, but that all seems behind him now. As they leave Dugan’s wife and kids come along and Fury looks at the scene longingly. He remembers the one family member he did have, his brother Jake, who he killed.

Meanwhile, The supervillain hitman Arcade has his latest deathtrap foiled by the X-Men (In what appears to be their Austrailia-era costumes.) As he escapes, just to mess with Wolverine, he mentions, speaking via a decoy robot, that he intercepted one of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s communications, which said to keep certain information out of Wolverine’s hands at any cost, in fear of how he would react. The info? Agent David Nanjiwarra has died. Turns out he was one of Wolverine’s close friends. Wolvie goes berserk and slices the robot to pieces

S.H.I.E.L.D. has discovered the Scorpio emblem and the dead agents. Fury thinks it has to be a hoax as killed Scorpio himself (and left his true identity out of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s database). Fury goes to a bar and orders a drink. As he’s about to take a sip, his olive is stabbed by Wolverine, who’s not happy about Fury keeping the death a secret. Fury says he’ll help Logan find the killer.

We cut to an island where a handsome young man named Mikel has two attractive young women flirt with him. He’s distracted until an older woman in a bikini tells him to hurry along and get on their boat. (A sentence I loved writing.) The women are actually really mean about it and joke about him being into cougars and it’s something that seems like it could happen, but man, can’t we be nice?

Anyway, the woman is actually his mother and she’s rather catty about Mikel chatting with them. He then puts on the Scorpio costume and shows off his impressive martial arts skills. He, having been trained and conditioned by his mother for one purpose. To kill the man who killed his father. To kill Nick Fury.

Wolverine, now in Machu Picchu, flashes back to when he met David. Wolverine was hunting terrorists in the desert and he collapses and David helped him up. They go to get a drink, but the bartender refuses to serve David because he’s of Aboriginal descent. Wolvie strongarms the guy into doing it. David complains about the conditions working for the Australian government and how the whole country is systematically racist. He plans to join S.H.I.E.L.D. where that sort of thing isn’t tolerated.

So Fury chases Scorpio to Vienna they fight. Fury is really pissed that someone is posing as his dead brother, but Scorpio dramatically rips off his mask, revealing that he’s the son of Jacob Fury. I mean, we all saw it coming.

In Istanbul, Wolverine has tracked an arms dealer from Machu Picchu to a dingy little joint. There he meets the leader of the gun runners, Amber D’Alexis, the mother of Scorpio. And yes, her name sounds like $10 perfume.

Scorpio attacks Logan, and with a combination of his martial arts and his the Zodiac Key, actually manages to hurt him pretty badly. For you continuity buffs, the Zodiac Key is an immensely powerful weapon that looks like a key and apparently can be used to unlock a door to the future or something. This is not that key. It’s a replica and basically just a blaster.

Suddenly the lights go out and Nick Fury scoops up Wolverine. He used a “BlackLight Bomb’ which knocks out anything not in the infrared spectrum. They escape and Fury argues about how it’s too personal to Logan before cracking and revealing it’s personal to him too.

Nick tells Logan that he used to know Amber back when he was CIA agent. He had posed as a gambler at a seedy club she owned to gain underworld connections to bring down criminals. She had clawed her way up from the bottom and created an empire through both illegal and legitimate means. Through one of her legitimate companies, she had hired and then fallen in love with researcher Jacob Fury. Not wanting to blow his cover, he gave Jake and Amber his blessing. He takes her out dancing to thank her for not telling his brother about his activities at the club and predictably, seduces her. She stopped caring about Jake and fell for Nick, but he used their closeness to turn her in. After that, Jake hated him and became Scorpio.

As the flashback ends, it turns out that they were discussing this over dinner and Wolverine eats a shish kabob with his claws and all is perfect for a moment.

There’s a bit where they invade Amber’s private island to take the duo out. They get caught with knockout gas, but that’s literally all to say about it. Not super important. More pressingly, Scorpio attacks the S.H.I.E.L.D.

Base with the gym. Fury and Wolverine show up and chase Scorpio to the top of the building and the foursome fight. Amber reveals that Mikel is actually Nick’s son, which, yeah, you also saw coming. Nick shoots him to stop him from killing Logan, causing him to drop the Zodiac Key. Nick runs to his son’s side. Amber picks it up and blasts Logan something fierce. She points it at Fury and Mikel, saying killing Fury would have been nice, but killing Fury and the son he’ll never know will be better. Then boom! Logan comes from behind and stabs her.

Mikel attempts to escape with a plane on top of the building, but as it’s taking off, Fury and Wolvie bring it down. They all survive and S.H.I.E.L.D. is working to get Mikel deprogrammed from what his mom conditioned him to believe. As they leave the building Logan tosses Fury a cigar and congratulates him on being a parent and what the what? Dude, a little inapropprite all things considered.

Oh, and spoilers, Mikel is deprogrammed and plays a part (and then dies) in Jonathan Hickman’s Secret Warriors series, which is great and you should all read.

The story was continued in graphic novels/annuals called Scorpio Rising and one called Bloody Choices. I have not read either, but there is a collection that contains all three stories, so it’s out there if you want to.

So to wrap up this dumb Wolverine month celebrating this dumb character I love, I chose a story he’s barely in. He could have been removed and it would have been just as strong. David doesn’t get mentioned again, not even in an “and now he’s been avenged can rest” speech. Like, Wolverine’s “Scorpio Connection” seems kinda tenuous at best. It’s kinda unsatisfying if you’re looking for a Wolverine revenge story, but it’s a solid Nick Fury story and I’d still suggest it.

That’s it for “Wolverine Month”. I had fun reading these and fun writing all of these except this last one. You can find me @NicoliRaymond on Twitter and on my podcast Hopelessly Obsessed.

So You Want to Read…Doctor Strange 

 

I’m kind of doing this one on a whim, so there’s not the usual amount of research going into this as some of the others I’ve written. It’s not a chronological list or reading order, just what I recommend.

Comixology is having a sale on Doctor Strange Graphic novels, and all of the graphic novels on the first section of this list are available for only $3.99 right now.

 

Doctor Strange Season One

Written by Greg Pak with astounding art by Emma Rios, this was part of Marvel’s Season One initative. These were original graphic novels retelling the origins of Marvel’s popular characters or new stories set in their early days. Most of them received lackluster reception, but his one, along with X-Men Season One and Wolverine Season One (I highly suggest both) were considered the standouts of the line. It’s a beautiful book and well worth reading. It’s available in the sale as originally released and in a volume called Strange Origin which also contains the first issue of the current Doctor Strange comic. They’re the same price, so if you want to sample the current stuff go with that. Speaking of that series…

 

Doctor Strange by Jason Aaron and Chris Bachallo.

I’ve been following this based on the creators involved and Bachallo’s art is simply stunning. His work is on point as it ever was in Spider-Man or Uncanny X-Men. Aaron, who has written pretty much every hero Marvel has along with creator-owned Southern Bastards (good series), is clearly having fun and adds some very interesting layers to Strange, his supporting cast and the very nature of magic. I’d recommend it, at least for the art. If you like the first book, read the rest. It just gets better.

 

Doctor Strange: The Oath

Just go buy this. Like, right now. It’s Marcos Martin, one of the best pencillers currently working and Brian K. Vaughn. Y’know, the guy from Saga. Fables. Runaways.Paper Girls. Pretty much any of the “Comics Aren’t Just for Kids” articles.

 

Why are you still reading this and not ‘The Oath’? You need me to sell it more? Fine. Wong, Strange’s Assistant is battling against cancer and Strange attempts to find a cure, but it gets stolen. It blends his two professions together in a really skilled way only possible by masters of the craft. Seriously. Go read it.

 

Doctor Doom and Doctor Strange: Triumph and Torment

Rogern Stern, legendary comic writer (Spider-Man, Hulk, The Death and Return of Superman Novel  [New York Times Bestseller]) and Mike Mignola, legendary comic artist (Creator of Hellboy) tell THE single best Doctor Doom story of all time. Every year, Doom travels to Hell to fight for his mother’s soul. Every year, he fails. This year, he has brought Strange. I’m not spoiling anything else, but it’s a hell of a ride.

Other books from the sale:

Peter B. Gillis Doctor Strange:

Peter B. Gillis’ 1970’s run is collected in three volumes; Into the Dark Dimension, Don’t Pay the Ferryman, and Strange Tales. I haven’t read it at all, but the volumes have art by Sal Buscema, Brett Blevins, and Paul Smith, which makes them worth at least a glance.

Marvel Masterworks: Doctor Strange by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko Volume One:

This is a collection of the original Doctor Strange comics. I have read the first issue, so I can’t speak on the general content, but this was Ditko at his weirdest and from the art I’ve seen here and there around the ‘net, it’s also some of his best. It’s worth a read. I mean, I’ll get around to it. Maybe. Go read it to say that you’ve read something I haven’t.

Doctor Strange Vs. Dracula:

It’s a couple of different stories by Marvel legends about what it said on the tin. I haven’t read it yet, but I had to buy it simply based on the title.

Doctor Strange and the Defenders:-Not in the Sale:

As opposed to the team on Netflix consisting of Street-Level heroes, the Defenders of the comics is a mismatched group who deal with magical threats. I haven’t read too much Defenders so I can’t necessarily recommend much, but I’ve heard Steve Gerber’s work on it was fantastic. Of The Defenders books I have read I suggest,

Avengers/Defenders War By Steve Englehart, Bob Brown and Sal Buscema

One of the best 70’s Avenger Stories, and there were a lot of great Avengers stories of the era, so that says something. It’s a titanic clash between two groups of heroes as they’re manipulated by Dormammu (Strange’s Big Bad) and Loki. The Defenders fight for the life of their teammate, the Avengers the fate of the world.

Defenders by Matt Fraction

This is a really fun series written by the other guy they talk about in those articles (Hawkeye, Sex Criminals, The Invincible Iron Man), Matt Fraction, with art by Terry Dodson, Jaimie McKelvie and others. It’s just solid superhero high concept stuff with a dash of metacomentary. Really good blending of art and writing.

 

Leave feedback! Tell me what you want to read! Next month will be Star Wars-The current Marvel stuff. Till then.

Nicoli Raymond is a writer based out of Illinois. He writes scripts, short stories, and articles on pop culture. He tweets at @NicoliRaymond Contact him at n.raymond616@hotmail.com . Dan Harmon and Michael Giacchino both worked on Doctor Strange, so you should probably go see it.

Comic Reviews for the week of 4/27

Spider-Woman #6- Dennis Hopeless (w) Joelle Jones (A) Rochelle Rosenberg (C)

How weird would it be to find out in another universe you’re a different gender. Although it would help with distancing yourself from the alt world, I suppose. Certainly seems that way for Jessica and Jesse Drew. I like that a recurring theme in Hopeless’ Spider-Woman run seems to be pitting Jess against alternate versions of herself. Usually literally. Seeing her dealing with it without meeting him was also interesting. As she’s a single mother, she fights Ellen without her husband. PARALELLS! AND NOT JUST EARTHS!

Jones, over the last two years, has become an artist I really get psyched when I find out they’re doing stuff and Rosenberg is actually my favorite colorist. I love the movement and widespreads on the fight between Ellen and Jess. (Can we take a moment to appreciate how great Ellen is? Okay? Good.) It’s a fantastic team and I want them to do an X-Men book.

This was another really good chapter of a really good crossover. Spider-Women may be my favorite of the three (THREE!) crossovers I’ve read so far this year.

Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur #6-Brandon Montclare and Amy Reeder (W) Natacha Bustos (A) Tamra Bonvillian (C)

Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur has a really important message. There are at least three thinkpieces about it, but in case you haven’t read those, the gist is that it’s about breaking the status quo and how hard it is when you’re a gifted child. And a black girl. It’s also about convincing others that your way is just as valid and about finding a place that you feel comfortable. Google to find more in-depth discussions on it.

Everything comes to a beautiful head in the last issue of the arc. And in good dramatic fashion as Lunella gets everything she needed, her biggest fear comes true. Montclare and Reeder are incurably delightful and earnest in their writing and Bustos and Bonvillian’s art is incredibly deft at portraying facial nuance even in a dinosaur.

The Ultimates #6– Al Ewing (W) Christian Ward (A)

This is by far the most conceptual issue yet and that’s saying something.

Ewing proves he’s one of the smartest writers in the business, yet it never seems like he’s trying to tell you that which is exactly what you need. A new take on Galactus, a contemplative Galactus much less, is hard to do and filled with so m juicy themes you’ll be full after finishing the book. But Christian Ward, Christian Ward brings the book to life. The layouts and colors were out of this world, ermm… universe, ermm… omniverse.

I love this book so much. It’s like the better FF runs mixed with Planetary with a splash of Starlin. 

Star-Lord #6 -Sam Humphries (W) Javier Garrón (W) Antonio Fabela (C)

This issue was all of the feels.

As stated before, huge StarKat shipper. So this issue was like candy. Delicious torturous candy. Hopeless would just write this book and play with my emotions forever if it were up to me.

Javier Garrón’s expressive art style is perfect for the expressiveness that’s needed to deal with the most important breakup in comic history. Not only facial expressions (which are super important to me) but also the body language makes everything that much more awkward.

Plus, I knew Peter was a Swiftie, but I never would have pegged Kitty as one.

Patsy Walker a.k.a. Hellcat #5– Kate Leth (W) Brittany Williams (A) Megan Wilson (C)

Hellcat continues to be hella cute. Leth and Williams knock it out of the park again. The fights are fun, but it’s the least interesting part of the book. Not that they’re not good, it’s just that the friendship and legal drama is so much fun!!!

It feels like instead of an end, this is only the beginning of a beautiful, beautiful series. That last page.

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #7– Ryan North (W) Erica Henderson (A) Rico Renzi (C)

I accidentally killed Doreen like three times. I’m an awful person.

This issue was funny, inventive, and the construction was immaculate. The layout was really inventive. You think it might be a “turn the page if you make this choice” but it flowed from each page which is great and following the arrows was a lot of fun. It’s almost like they’re trying to show up the Allreds’ and Slott’s Silver Surfer #11.

I shouldn’t be surprised as North did the hilarious “To Be Or Not To Be?”, the choose your own Shakespeare. This issue was so good I had a few of my friends who don’t read comics, and they loved it. Plus, I’m always down for Swarm to make an appearance.

Avengers: Standoff: Assault at Pleasant Hill: Omega: #1-Nick Spencer (W) Daniel Acuña (A & C) and Angel Unzeta (A) Matt Wilson (C)

Worst title ever, how was that ever approved?. Good comic though.

I really like the Nick Spencer chapters of this crossover, I’m sure I would have liked it more if I read all of them. I think the structure is weird, but that’s once again probably because of the nature of the crossover.

Acuna’s art is gorgeous as always and I love the battle in the small town. It’s a great contrast to the skyscraper battles super heroes are normally in.

Story takeaways: I like the new Quasar, interested in seeing her again. I liked Kobik, but I don’t really care about Thunderbolts, so looks like I won’t find out what happens until it comes to Marvel Unlimited.

Nicoli Raymond is a writer based out of Illinois. He writes scripts, short stories, and articles on pop culture. He tweets at @NicoliRaymond Contact him at n.raymond616@hotmail.com . He graduates in two days and you should definitely hire him.

Total Pages:27 and 3/4 pages