Marvel Comics Hercules: Fall of an Avenger #1-2, written by Greg Pak, Fred Van Lente and Paul Tobin, drawn by Ariel Olivetti and Reilly Brown, 2010
I loved and faithfully collected each and every issue of Pak and Van Lente’s Incredible Hercules series but decided not to pick this two issue mini up when it came out. It was probably the $3.99 price tag. Had I known there was an Agents of Atlas back-up story, however, I would have forked over the dough.
The set-up here is Hercules’s funeral. He’d just perished in the closing arc of Incredible Hercules, so friends and Avengers alike gather to remember him. Not the most interesting of plots, but Pak and Van Lente bring their magic. Characters reminisce about adventures past, Amadeus Cho learns his fate and a few heroes punch each other. In the hands of the wrong writers this could have been a downer, but here it’s pure fun. The Pak/Van Lente signature humour is on full display and laced with some nice dramatic hits. Great story, even if we all know Herc’s death was short lived (can I say that?).
Olivetti’s art was another reason I passed up this book the first time around. I wasn’t a big fan of his, but after reading these two issues my mind has changed. The overly-digital, paint-y style seemed like a drastic departure from Incredible Hercules’s traditional comic-books style, but it works. Olivetti’s work here is perfectly suited to remind us of Herc’s mythology, as well as his Avengers past.
The icing on the cake (and the thing that really validates the $3.99 cover price) is the Agents of Atlas backup feature. Jeff Parker’s Agents of Atlas and continuing series were some of the best comics of their time so it was a real treat to revisit some of my favourite characters again. The story here is written by Paul Tobin and he nails it every step of the way. We get to follow Namorita and Venus as they explore Herc’s various business endeavours and it’s as charming and moving as ever. Reilly Brown (a usual Incredible Hercules artist) puts us back in traditional comic art territory and does a bang-up job.
If you liked Incredible Hercules, pick this up. If you missed out on that series, collect it first, then buy this. If you have fond memories of Agents of Atlas, this is worth it for the backup feature alone.
DC Comics R.E.B.E.L.S. #9, written by Tony Bedard, drawn by Claude St. Aubin, 2009
I picked up a nice big pile of the 2009 R.E.B.E.L.S. recently, but this is the random issue I got around to this week. I’m a sucker for L.E.G.I.O.N. and anything Vril Dox, but I couldn’t afford to follow R.E.B.E.L.S. when it came out. I’m glad I found this series for cheap, it doesn’t disappoint.
Issue 9 picks up right in the middle of the Starro conflict, which from what I’ve read seems to dominate this series almost entirely. I was super happy to see characters I know and love pop up (like the Omega Men, Adam Strange, Captain Comet and Garv) and even a few villains made me smile (Kanjar Ro!). Essentially, Vril Dox is gathering up team mates to fight off Starro the Conqueror. He has to deal with his bratty, overly intelligent son, many disgruntled team mates and a bevy of bad guys who find out they may need Dox’s help.
Bedard is a reliable writer (I loved his work on Exiles) and his work here is solid. The characterizations are down to a tee and the dialogue is pitch-perfect. My only complaint is, based on all the issues of R.E.B.E.L.S. I’ve read so far, this plot goes on for way, way too long. As a single issue, this won’t be a problem, but if you start collecting the rest of the series, Starro loses his lustre fast.
I only knew the name Claude St. Aubin from the credits of old Captain Canuck issues, but here he surprises and tackles the art marvellously. His work is very Andy Clarke-y, due I’m sure in part to inker Scott Hanna and an attempt to congeal with Clarke’s early work on the series. The clean lines, fine detail and careful craftsmanship really bring the book together. A few characters may seem stiff at times, but overall St. Aubin is a great fit for the book and I’d love to see him get more work these days.
A neat series if you’re into DC’s cosmic cast.
DC Comics Firestorm #88, written by John Ostrander, drawn by Tom Mandrake, 1989
Ahhh, John Ostrander’s Firestorm. As you can see I’ve finished #88, but still have a handful of issues to go. I come back to this series whenever I need something I know will be good; when I’m not taking chances. When I want to fall back into a world I know and love.
Issue 88 comes from the post-cold war era of Firestorm. Our titular hero is something of a fire-elemental who shares a body with Ronnie Raymond (half of the original Firestorm) and Mikhail Arkadin (a Russian hero who fused with Ronnie). The three of them make up Firestorm, but the inhuman fire elemental seems to be in charge here. It’s not quite as interesting as Ostrander’s Russia/America themes from past story arcs, but it moves nice and steady. Regular cast member Firehawk gets a few neat moments and we’re re-introduced to hero Air Wave (now going by the focus-group approved moniker Maser), who’s become a naïve pawn in an evil corporation’s games. Firestorm and Maser duke it out and it’s all the traditional comic awesomeness you’d expect from Ostrander. Evil businesses, dangerous politics, lost identity, the human condition—the complete package really.
Mandrake’s art looks like Mandrake’s art. If you know it and like it, there’s a lot to like here. If you’ve never seen his work, you’re not likely to be disappointed, but he does have some strange quirks. Characters sometimes seem smudged and blobby, actions are exaggerated and things may always seem a tad… askew. You know what, though? I like it. He’s got a unique style that builds on tradition and “house styles”, but is always unmistakeably his own.
If you haven’t read Ostrander’s Firestorm, do so now.
DC Comics Hawkworld #1, 3, 8, written by John Ostrander and Tim Truman, drawn by Graham Nolan, 1990-1991
I’ve read a few issues of Hawkworld before, but not many in order. I read them as I buy them, but the story is pretty easy to follow. This may have caused quite a ruckus back in its day with the blatant continuity scrubbing, but it’s a decent series that shouldn’t be forgotten.
In case you hadn’t guessed, I’m a big John
Ostrander fan. Here he co-writes with Tim Truman and the pairing is grand. These issues, though far apart, deal with the same basic conflict. Katar and Shayera are two cops from the planet Thanagar, diplomatically visiting Earth and hunting down their former nemesis Blyth. It continues straight from Truman’s landmark Hawkworld mini (which I’ll get to another week) and maintains the quality as well. It’s well written, nicely paced and loaded with Ostrander’s signature flair for politics and moral-based themes.
Graham Nolan’s art is hit and miss. Some panels impress me, others fall flat. I love his layouts, choice of angles and consistent character work, but sometimes it just doesn’t work for me. His covers are always nice though!
This is a book where two alien (though human looking) winged cops fly around with guns, enforcing the law the only way they know how while trying to deal with Earth’s laws, customs and villains. If that sounds interesting, try this series. If you are a diehard Hawkman fan that can’t stand a blip in continuity, you may get frustrated. Either way, it’s well worth collecting on the cheap!
DC Comics Hawkman #13, written by William Messner-Loebs, drawn by Steve Lieber, 1994
I’m not sure what’s going on here. I like Hawkman and I like the creative team, but this is the only issue I’ve picked up from the 1993 relaunch of the series. This is a bad place to start.
Apparently Hawkman is an avatar of the Hawkgod, or something. To make matters more confusing, this is a Zero Hour crossover. Souls merge, Waverider shows up, Katar has Native American mentors (or parents?), he fights a Hawk…monster? I don’t know. There’s a lot here and none of it makes any sense to me so I’ll keep this short. Steve Lieber’s art is pretty good!
DC Comics Hawkman #8, 11, written by Geoff Johns, drawn by Rags Morales, 2002-2003
Ok, back to normal. Geoff Johns makes Hawkman make sense again! We get the classic Hawkman/Hawkgirl pairing with both Egyptian and Thanagarian connections, museum antics, The Atom and a new Louisiana setting. Ok, maybe it doesn’t make sense right away, but we’re told that the Hawks are ancient lovers who get reincarnated throughout time to be with each other. It’s a fix, I suppose.
There’s quality work here. Issue 8 has Hawkman sitting down to dinner with his buddy Ray Palmer (the Atom, of course). We get info on what’s going on with Hawkman and how things are supposed to make sense and it all wraps up with a nice random villain encounter. Issue 11 deals with some ancient villians and the current Hawkgirl’s grandfather, Speed Saunders. It’s a nice, classic Johns throwback that also takes a gruesome, classic Johns turn. I like the writing but there are a few storytelling choices I wasn’t crazy about.
Rags Morales draws the book like it’s a grade A title. The production is just as good as any issue of JLA or Avengers. His impressive work here lays the groundwork for his superstar turn in 2004’s Identity Crisis. It’s obvious from these pages that Morales would eventually become a big name.
Grab this series if you like the mid-2000s JLA, Geoff Johns, Hawkman or Rags Morales. If none of those things interest you, these issues probably won’t do much for you.