*Obie, through his dabbling in arcane magiks mixed with ancient corrupt business practices, has had not just the colors of his fur switched, but a complete overhaul of his work ethic as well…I think I’m kinda okay with the mishap.
Not sure what “Comics Lust” is about? Take a look at the Introduction to “Comics Lust” post or take a look at the static “Comics Lust Table of Contents” page to jump to a topic.
Team Me Up, Donnie!
Non-Big-Two Superhero Team Comics!
You’d be hard-pressed to find someone unfamiliar with at least one of the many Big Two superhero teams floating around out there. Especially given the huge success of such properties as The Avengers, The Justice League, The X-Men, The Defenders, and many others on both the home and silver screens. But ask even diehard comic book fans to name their favorite non-Big-Two superhero teams and you might just get a blank stare in return. Why limit yourself to just the Big Two when you might be missing out on your next favorite series? Let’s have a look.
Black Hammer (Written by Jeff Lemire, illustrated by Dean Ormston with some issues by David Rubin, colored by Dave Stewart, published by Dark Horse)
Black Hammer is the story of seven heroes who defeat a universe-crushing threat only to find themselves hurled to an unknown, rural location where they have been trapped for ten long years. Now down to six members after one dies, the survivors have tried to find a way to escape the confines of their small town, but to no avail. Some find comfort in a life devoid of superheroics, others find their altered powers a curse, others seek love, while others seek isolation in this tale that is a mystery, a family drama, a horror piece, and a sci-fi epic all rolled into a superhero book. Lemire is one of my favorite writers (Descender, Royal City, Sweet Tooth, Essex County, Old Man Logan, and many more) and Black Hammer is definitely one of my top five favorite comic series on the stand. Ormston’s character designs are captivating and unique even when the characters are amalgams of the creators’ favorite Big Two superheroes; his storytelling is equally beautiful. Having just reread the first amazing volume and hammering through the second over the course of two days, I’m already eager to reread both to see if I happened to miss anything, or if there are potential clues I might have missed. Trust me when I say you will fall in love with these complicated, traumatized characters as you get drawn into the mystery of what is preventing them from escaping this dark town. Now, I have to count the days until the Black Hammer miniseries spin-off, Sherlock Frankenstein and the Legion of Evil, arrives this May.
Stormwatch (Written by Warren Ellis, illustrated by Tom Raney and Bryan Hitch, published by Wildstorm)
I know some of you are thinking that Wildstorm is an imprint of DC Comics, and you are right, sort of. Wildstorm was created by Jim Lee in 1992 but was then bought by DC Comics in 1999, shuttered in 2010, and restarted in 2016. Stormwatch began in 1993, so it was not a Big Two book at the time of its creation or by the time it ended. I was drawn to this series because of Warren Ellis and even though the first trade picked up at issue 37, I took a chance and was glad I did. You don’t need to read the first 36 issues (unless you want to bargain bin dive for the individual issues) as Ellis takes the massive backstory with its impressive roster of characters, and strips Stormwatch into three smaller teams to focus on a completely new story and summarily fires all of the other characters; all within the very first issue. He also introduces three new characters: Jack Hawksmoor, Jenny Sparks, and Rose Tattoo. There’s murder, intrigue, strange science, superhero battles, politics, betrayal, camaraderie, and kickass superhero antics. Best of all, the series later introduces Apollo and The Midnighter for one of my favorite superhero team books of all time. If you want a thrilling comic with great characters, then look no further than this series I reread every couple of years. Once you finish Stormwatch, however, you will want to follow up with…
The Authority (Written by Warren Ellis, illustrated by Bryan Hitch, published by Wildstorm)
The Authority leaps straight from the end of Stormwatch V.2 #11 and manages to surpass what was already a brilliant series. Here, Ellis teams with “widescreen” artist extraordinaire Hitch to create a new team with some old and some new characters: Jenny Sparks (The Spirit of the 20th Century), is the leader of the team with electrical powers; The Midnighter (Nights Bringer of War) is partly a Batman analogue; Apollo (The Sun God) is partly a Superman analog; Swift (The Winged Huntress) whose title says it all; Jack Hawksmoor (The God of the Cities) has weird city-size related powers and alien implants; The Doctor (The Shaman) is an Earth mage; The Engineer (The Maker) has nano machinery in her blood that she uses to do magnificent things. This team exists to protect the planet from worldwide threats from superhuman global terrorists, to invaders from a parallel world, to an invading “God.” I love every page of this gorgeously illustrated, spectacularly told superhero story that puts you squarely on the side of these beautifully fleshed-out characters. Dang. I think it’s time for a reread.
Elementals (Everythinged by Bill Willingham with many later artists and later writers, published by Comico)
Okay. I know. I hate to do this to you, but many people don’t know of this fantastic series that started back in 1984, and that is mostly because there are no readily available trades or reprints because of the series’s complicated rights issues; basically, Willingham does not own the rights and the owner refuses to do anything with them. Fans of Willingham’s writing on the hit series Fables may not be aware that Willingham is also an accomplished illustrator and it was his art on Elementals that initially brought me to the series, but it was the story and characters that sucked me in. Elementals is comprised of four humans who died horribly in tragic fire, water, air, or earth related accidents only to find themselves resurrected with the abilities of the very element that caused their demise. They join together to fight the centuries-old Lord Saker, a sorcerer of immense power, who has created a devastating weapon that harnesses the elements and which prompted the creation of the Elementals (Morningstar, Vortex, Fathom, and Monolith). The series ran from Volume 1 (#1–29), Special (#1–2), Volume 2 (#1–26), Elementals: Ghost of a Chance #1, Volume 3 (#1–3, which I have not read), Elementals: How the War was Won #1–2. In addition to this impressive run, there are a bunch of solo miniseries adventures, Justice Machine Featuring the Elementals #1–4, Sex Specials (don’t ask…or check these V.1 #1–4, V.2 #1, V.3 #1–2), a Lingerie Special, a Sexy Lingerie Special, and a Swimsuit Spectacular. Whew! What’s most important is the main story, and although Willingham was only writer up until issue #22 of volume 2, it is still worth reading through to the end. Again, this ain’t gonna be an easy series to get ahold of, but it is one that is well worth some bargain bin diving…or taking the easy route and ordering online.
There are plenty of other non-Big Two superhero team comics out there that are worthy of your time, but those are for another day.
This Week’s Reading List
Mage: The Hero Denied #5 (Written and illustrated by Matt Wagner, colored by Brennan Wagner, lettered by Dave Lanphear, published by Image Comics)
First off, I have to admit being a little lost after the flashback at the beginning of this issue, but I guess our hero made it back safe and sound. What follows is some wonderful family dynamic moments, a check-in with the baddies of the series, a visit from an old friend bearing news I did not want to hear, and an appearance by an even older friend that gave me chills of delight. Despite the slight confusion at the beginning, I’m still loving Mage: The Hero Denied and eagerly await seeing what is to come next. As always, though, don’t start here. Go back and read Mage: The Hero Discovered and then Mage: The Hero Defined before jumping in on the concluding chapter in this monumental trilogy. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
I read some other awesome stuff, but I will wait until I finish those collections before diving in. I will say that one is old Bronze Age Marvel goodness and the other is my second leap into the Valiant universe and I will say it has been glorious!