Saturday, April 21, 2018

Comics Lust 4/21/2018

Welcome back, Donist World Denizens! For those of you new to our site, I’m Donist, and I am joined by Donist World CFO the Reverse Obie* (my friends’ Boston terrier whose fur recently swapped colors) and by our marketing director/administrative assistant/party planner/fellow mourner Tulip (my dog, Reverse Obie’s sister). No goofy intro this week. My uncle, Gordon, died last night from cancer complications. By the time it had been detected in late 2017, it was too far advanced, but he chose to fight it anyways. Sadly, the cancer won. He was a good, kind, and well-loved man, and I am happy we were able to reconnect over the past few years. Rest in peace, Gordon. So, be kind to each other, mind your health, keep your pets safe, cherish the ones you love, hydrate, and read some great comics. Thank you for reading!


*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.

Comics Lust

Thanos 101: Intro to The Mad Titan (Part 1)


Hello, class, and welcome to “Thanos 101,” a 300-week course exploring everything that is the Mad Titan Thanos. We will discover everything from his humble beginnings as a Death-obsessed toddler, to his awkward teens, to his first time behind the wheel of a helicopter (don’t ask, #NotMyThanos), to his rebellious “hippy” phase in college, to his coming full circle to become the notorious Death-obsessed adult he is today. We will learn his likes (walks on the beach with his honey, Mistress Death), dislikes (pushy superheroes who don’t want to be killed by him), and pet peeves (again, pushy superheroes who don’t want to be killed by him). Please pull your syllabus from your Trapper Keeper and let’s take a look at the required reading list from writer/artist extraordinaire Jim Starlin. This list—in order of original release—will more than prepare you for the Avengers: Infinity War film that releases April 23, 2018. Best get studyin’, Denizens.

Avengers Versus Thanos

(Primarily written and illustrated by Jim Starlin, published by Marvel Comics in 2013)
If you really want to go deep on the villainous Thanos and can only pick up one book, then this is the one to buy. At 472 pages, you get his first appearance (from back in 1973), Drax the Destroyer’s first appearance, a crucial revamp of the character Adam Warlock that made him one of my all-time favorite Marvel characters, plenty of Captain Marvel, the Cosmic Cube, Infinity Stones, and of course the Avengers and Spider-Man. This is it. This is the big kahuna. With the stories written by Starlin and/or featuring his gorgeous, trippy art, you’ll definitely want to start here.
 

The Death of Captain Marvel

(Written and illustrated by Jim Starlin, originally published by Marvel Comics in 1982)
The title says it all and picks up roughly five years after the harrowing events of Marvel Two-in-One Annual #2 (included in Avengers Versus Thanos). Captain Marvel is dying and as his friends and colleagues come to say their farewells, he receives a visit from his greatest foe. This is the first Marvel Graphic Novel and also one of the best. Beautifully told, beautifully illustrated, heavy yet uplifting,  the original Marvel Graphic Novel edition is going to be difficult to come by, but at least you can easily catch up with this story and some extra issues in the recently collected Captain Marvel: The Death of Captain Marvel.

Silver Surfer: Rebirth of Thanos

(Written by Jim Starlin, illustrated by Ron Lim, published by Marvel Comics 2013)
The event that comes next is major, but the lead up to that six-issue miniseries began in the pages of The Silver Surfer, where Thanos returns to the land of the living with a new plot to win the love of Mistress Death. These issues then lead into the amazing prelude, The Thanos Quest, which was originally published as two double-sized issues and follows Thanos as he seeks out the powerful Soul Gems. This book has it all.

The Infinity Gauntlet

(Written by Jim Starlin, illustrated by George Perez and Ron Lim, originally published by Marvel Comics in 1991)
The Infinity Gauntlet is my favorite event comic of all time. You have Starlin writing and Thanos and Warlock back among the living following the events that had been building in the pages of The Silver Surfer and The Thanos Quest. Thanos is now in possession of the Soul Gems—he calls them Infinity Gems—and affixes them to his gauntlet becoming an unstoppable God bent on destroying everything to garner the love and attention of Mistress Death. It’s up to Earth’s mightiest heroes to do the impossible and stop him, but they will need the help of a certain golden-skinned hero long thought dead. You’ll want the trade collection for sure.



The Infinity War

(Written by Jim Starlin, illustrated by Ron Lim, originally published by Marvel Comics in 1992)
Quickly following on the massive success of The Infinity Gauntlet, a new threat arises that will force Adam Warlock to look to some unconventional means for help. This series is where Marvel started going a little nuts with the tie-in issues that touched practically every Marvel title at the time and which you do not need to read to enjoy this six-issue miniseries. There was also Warlock and the Infinity Watch for those completionists out there, but that series served more to enhance the saga than to be a critical part of it. Although surpassing the grandeur of The Infinity Gauntlet is something I don’t think will ever happen, The Infinity War is still a heck of a lot of fun and is a must-read book that is easily found in collected form.

The Infinity Crusade

(Written by Jim Starlin, illustrated by Ron Lim, originally published by Marvel Comics in 1993)
Hey, might as well try to let lightning strike thrice with the conclusion of the Infinity “trilogy.” Marvel released this six-issue miniseries as well as The Warlock Chronicles along with a deluge of tie-in comics spread across the entire Marvel Universe to such a ridiculous degree that I almost bounced from the event out of irritation; I held in and I’m glad I did. Although not as strong an entry as the first two chapters, you should still read the two-volume The Infinity Crusade set, as it has some great cosmic action and thrills.

The Infinity Abyss

(Written and illustrated by Jim Starlin, originally published by Marvel Comics in 2002)
Warlock gathers a group of heroes to combat a menace so terrible that he must seek the aid of the dreaded Thanos of Titan himself. This series was released as a biweekly, six-issue series and it succeeded in bringing Warlock and Thanos back to glory and away from company money-grab marketing schemes. If The Infinity Crusade didn’t wow you as much as the previous books, then The Infinity Abyss will get you back to where you need to be.

Marvel Universe: The End

(Written and illustrated by Jim Starlin, originally published by Marvel Comics in 2003)
Warlock, Thanos, and a host of heroes face the newest mad god on the block, one that threatens to erase everyone and everything from reality. Another strong showing from Starlin both in the story and in the visually stunning art. Like everything else that follows, you’re going to want to pick this up. Excelsior!


Well, that’s the bell, class, and it looks like we’ve just barely made it halfway through the coming week’s reading homework. We’ll just have to pick up where we left off next time, as there are plenty more Starlin Thanos books you need to check out. Until then, best get to reading.

This Week’s Reading List

I’m drained, so let’s wrap this up with a quick rundown of this week’s books:

  • Mister Miracle #8
    (Written by Tom King, illustrated by Mitch Gerads, lettered by Clayton Cowles, published by DC Comics)
    Dang, Tom King and Mitch Gerads are killing it on this freaking book. This month Scott Free and Big Barda alternate waging war and raising their child and every moment is sheer magic.
    VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
  • Descender #29
    (Written by Jeff Lemire, illustrated by Dustin Nguyen, lettered and designed by Steve Wands, edited by Will Dennis, published by Image Comics)
    Deep beneath the oceans of planet Mata, Tim-21 meets an ancient robot as The Hardwire and the UGC continue their war. This series just gets better and better. Here’s hoping it never ends.
    VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
  • Mage: The Hero Denied #8
    (Written and illustrated by Matt Wagner, colored by Brennan Wagner, lettered by Dave Lanphear, consulting editor is Diana Schutz, design and production by Steven Birch, published by Image Comics)
    The tension ratchets up as Kevin tries to find his abducted wife and son, and nothing will stand in his way. Speaking of getting better and better…
    VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!


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Sunday, April 15, 2018

Comics Lust 4/14/2018

Welcome back, Donist World Denizens! For those of you new to our site, I’m Donist, and I am joined by Donist World CFO the Reverse Obie* (my friends’ Boston terrier whose fur recently swapped colors) and by our marketing director/administrative assistant/party planner/lead taco taster Tulip (my dog, Reverse Obie’s sister). Neither my puppy executive team or I can stop thinking about the beauty that is the tacos are Corazón Cozina. If we were sentenced to eat there, and only there, for the remainder of our days, we would be okay with that. Mmmmmmm, chorizo y papas tacos paired with a Santa Maria Brewing Company red IPA at The Garden next door…ahhhh. <ahem> Anyhow, oh, yeah, comic books. We’re here to look at comic books. So, be kind to each other, mind your health, keep your pets safe, cherish the ones you love, hydrate, and read some great comics. Thank you for reading!


*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.

Comics Lust

Trippin’ on the Visuals (Part 1)


Having dabbled in comic book writing myself—hundreds of scripted pages and rewrites—and after being a fan of the medium for 90% of my life, I am well aware that it is the art that makes or breaks a comic. Yes, writers are currently the ones who garner most of the attention, interviews, and such, but it’s that striking cover by this artist, it is the lush interiors by that artist, it is the emotional impact of a certain colorist that captures the eye before we even notice the credited creators involved in the work. A comic can have the best story ever written, something that will win the hearts of everyone who takes the time to read it, but if the art is...less than adequate...then that book can go wholly unnoticed. The reverse, however, is not necessarily true. A comic with an incomprehensible plot, no characterization, and awkward pacing can succeed in grabbing someone’s attention if the right artist/colorist is attached to the book and ultimately result in the issue being bought. Today, we look at some comics that not only win on both writing and art fronts but provide some truly glorious, and at times dang-near-psychedelic moments that have to be seen to be believed.

Avengers Versus Thanos

(Mostly written and illustrated by Jim Starlin, published by Marvel Comics in 2013)
It’s no secret that I am a huge Adam Warlock and Thanos fan. It can also be said that I am only too happy to preach on the marvels of Jim Starlin as both a writer and an artist. But when you have Starlin involved with two of my all-time favorite characters, I simply can’t say no. It was his reimagining and revitalization of Warlock in Strange Tales #178 that turned a cool looking character into one that mattered. It’s this run that reintroduced Thanos, brought in the credible threat of the Magus—whose secrets I won’t reveal...you’ll have to read it—introduced a militaristic and expansionist religious cult, basked in madness, and set the scene for one of the best space operas in comicdom. The story is deep, complex, riveting, but when you see the beauty of Warlock soaring across the cosmos, where stars burn brightly and strange worlds glitter in the distance you can’t help but be torn between looking at the perfectly sculpted characters or the strange, intricate backgrounds. Some of the best moments are when Warlock teeters on the edge of the aforementioned madness over conflicting thoughts of destiny and free will, where imagery goes off the rails and color palettes are flipped to become truly psychedelic, yet always beautiful; it was the ‘70s after all. What always grabs me the most is Starlin’s use of stars, whether in a character’s costume or in the lovely backdrop of space and in this collection you see plenty of stars. This book not only delivers great stories of Warlock and Thanos, but also has some great Avengers, Captain Marvel, Cosmic Cube, and Infinity Gems moments; it’s also a great primer before the new Avengers movie comes. If you want trippy, mind-bending art, then Starlin’s work is a great place to start.





Elric the Dreaming City

(Written by Roy Thomas, illustrated by P. Craig Russell, letters and logo by Tom Orzechowski, published by Marvel Comics in 1982)
First off, I just want to throw it out there, if you find something illustrated by P. Craig Russell then you may as well just buy it. Whether it’s his early Killraven material, his ‘80s work on the likes of Dr. Strange, or later work focusing on The Sandman or his visual interpretations of his favorite operas, Russell’s work is certain to charm and captivate all who behold it. Personally, however, it’s his work on Michael Moorcock’s doomed antihero Elric that continues to prove that magic is real. Yes, you might have to hunt down this beautifully haunting jewel, but it is well worth the effort. Elric is the 428th emperor of Melniboné and a sickly albino who wants nothing more than to rule his kingdom alongside his beloved cousin, Cymoril. Cymoril’s brother, Prince Yyrkoon, wishes Elric dead so that he may rule in his stead. If not for the strength-giving herbs, Elric would be too weak to rule, but he has another source of strength and power: the vampiric sword Stormbringer. Every panel of every page in this Marvel Graphic Novel is lovely. The cover alone is a wonder of design, storytelling, and has a fantastical background, but when you see the very first chapter page, you’re greeted by an art nouveau inspired illustration that promises swords and sorcery at the forefront of a great tragedy and that is exactly what you get throughout. The character acting and backgrounds are beautiful in their own right, but it is the additional graphical elements such as lightning and stars and radiant bursts of magical effects that make this book a thing of wonder; the painted colors are a massive trip in and of their own. When it comes to Russell, all it should take is a quick flip through one of his books to get you smiling and puzzling over how he thought up what you are actually seeing.




Batwoman: Elegy

(Written by Greg Rucka, illustrated by J.H. Williams III, colored by Dave Stewart, published by DC Comics in 2010)
This story originally appeared in Detective Comics #854–860, and it was at some point late in this run that I first took notice of Batwoman. Her costume was inventive with the attention-grabbing, fiery reds that mirrored her long, flowing hair. She had alabaster skin and crimson lips, looking beautiful and most assuredly dangerous as hell; I had to know more. So, I flipped through the comic and found that the interior was every bit, if not more, gorgeous than the cover. I eagerly began awaiting the inevitable collection as past issues were nearly impossible to find at the time. Williams III uses panels of various sizes and shapes and often incorporates themes into the page design that are fascinating even before a single character or building is penciled in. But the arrival of those characters and background elements quickly take prominence and demand that you stay on the page to marvel at everything you are seeing as there is far too much to miss if you whip through Rucka’s fantastic story. Not only that, Williams III’s art style changes to from scene to scene: Batwoman scenes are highly detailed with shadows and lighting and added definition; Kate Kane scenes depend mostly upon line work with little to no shading; the past offers an even more stripped down interpretation than the present through the use of rougher lines. Then, Stewart’s colors come into play, also telling a story: Batwoman moments are fully rendered; Kate Kane scenes are portrayed flatter, more ‘80s in tone; and the past goes completely flat, yet beautiful all the same. The character is amazing, the story is intense, and the art…well, it is otherworldly. I think I just psyched myself up to reread it in the very near future.




Atomahawk #0

(Written by Donny Cates, illustrated by Ian Bederman, lettered by Taylor Esposito, design and logo by John J. Hill, edited by Seamus Martin, published by Image Comics in 2017)
I have no idea if we are going to be getting more Atomahawk or not, but I really, really, really hope we will see more soon as this book is a headbanger’s dream come true. I can tell you the reading experience is only enhanced when you throw on some AC/DC or Iron Maiden and let the music carry you along with the Cyberzerker as he and his dreaded Atomahawk rip through skull-faced nightmares and video-game-inspired giant mecha warriors. There is carnage and smashing and a story that is as bizarre as the visuals, the likes of which I have not seen in comics before. In fact, Bederman’s art usually resides upon people’s bodies in the form of tattoos, which explains the heavy use of reds blues, and blacks in this dang-fine, beautiful, oversized comic. I can’t wait for more. Metal!!!




Ether: Death of the Last Golden Blaze

(Written by Matt Kindt, illustrated by David Rubín, published by Dark Horse in 2017)
I am now a David Rubín fan and I simply must get everything he’s touched. I first became aware of his work with Black Hammer #9 and 12, when my first thought was oh no, a fill-in artist. Then I saw the first page, and the next, and the next, and I was 100% in love. His vibrant color palette drew me in and kept me glued to the book as did his lively character designs. Then I discovered Ether. I’m already a Kindt fan, but the Rubín cover on Ether alone had me thrilled to dive in and this book did not disappoint. The story follows a world-traveling, supernaturally-skeptic scientist who gave up everything in his world to travel the Ether and disprove the existence of magic through science. This is in spite of the existence of living bullets, a purple gorilla gatekeeper that talks, and a mystical warrior woman known as the Blaze that protects the city. Every…single…page of this first book is a visual treat and Kindt’s mystery at the core of the series had me fighting between basking in the beauty of each page and madly whipping through the book to see what happens next. Thank goodness there’s a second arc on the horizon. Now, I need to get the soon-to-be-released Sherlock Frankenstein and the Legion of Evil trade—a Black Hammer tie-in series—and then all of Rubín’s other work. Only then will I be complete. You really need to check out this delightful series.




Space Riders

(Written by Fabian Rangel Jr., Illustrated by Alexis Ziritt, lettered by Ryan Ferrier, published by Black Mask in 2017)
Oh, my Denizens! I was absolutely blown away by this series when I read it while vacationing up at Lake Arrowhead while lounging around the pool. Put on some Pink Floyd, turn on your lava lamp, and give the velvety texture of your bitchin’ naked lady with a sword black light poster a pat before settling in for the glory that is Space Riders. This is a story of the revenge of Capitan (not Captain!) Peligro. This is a story with a bipedal mandrill warrior socking the stuffing out of space Vikings. This is a story of sexy ‘80s robot ladies and so much madness and mayhem that I can’t even begin to tell you what the heck is going on. Just know this, you don’t—and shouldn’t—have to be on a controlled substance when you read this comic, but you will most likely feel like you are once you finish it. I try not to curse too much on these entries, but fuck yeah, FUCK YEAH! Space Riders is the real deal and a trip and a half for your ass. I can’t wait for the Space Riders: Galaxy of Brutality trade that comes out next month. You deserve to read this.





That’s it for this entry, and I am well aware that I left off a certain King of Comics, who will probably monopolize the entirety of “Trippin’ on the Visuals (Part 2)” when I get around to writing it. May you krackle with excitement and energy until then. Space be with you.

This Week’s Reading List

I’m late, so let’s wrap this up with a quick rundown of this week’s books:

  • Deadly Class #33
    (Written by Rick Remender, illustrated by Wes Craig, colored by Jordan Boyd, lettered by Rus Wooton, edited by Sebastian Girner, published by Image Comics) Everyone should be reading this tense-as-heck comic about high school assassins. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
  • Domino #1(Written by Gail Simone, illustrated by David Baldeon, colored by Jesus Albertov, lettered by VC’s Clayton Cowles, published by Marvel Comics) I gave this one a shot and I’m happy I did. Fun and exciting and one of the first new Marvel comic books I’ve bought in a while. RECOMMENDED!
  • Oblivion Song #2(Written by Robert Kirkman, illustrated by Lorenzo De Felici, colored by Annalisa Leoni, lettered by Rus Wooton, edited by Arielle Basich (associate) and Sean Mackiewicz, published by Image Comics) We’re still world-building at this point, and I’m loving every page of it. A city of 300,000 people are swapped into a hellish dimension of monsters, and Nathan Cole has spent 10 years attempting to rescue as many of them as he can. But what else is he searching for? HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
  • Gideon Falls #2(Written by Jeff Lemire, illustrated by Andrea Sorrentino, colored by Dave Stewart, lettered and designed b Steve Wands, edited by Will Dennis, published by Image Comics) A slow build horror thriller that mixes the best moments of Twin Peaks with a troubled priest and a supposedly mentally ill man searching for something called the Black Barn. I have no idea of what’s going on, but this book is a spine-chilling good time. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!


Happy reading to you all.


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Saturday, April 7, 2018

Comics Lust 4/7/2018

Welcome back, Donist World Denizens! For those of you new to our site, I’m Donist, and I am joined by Donist World CFO the Reverse Obie* (my friends’ Boston terrier whose fur recently swapped colors) and by our marketing director/administrative assistant/party planner/queen of the overdid-it Tulip (my dog, Reverse Obie’s sister). Yup, we kinda overdid it last night. No particular reason other than it was Friday and it had been a weird and busy week. So, Tulip, Reverse Obie, Amy the intern (my wife), and I cut loose by making pizza, having a couple beers that were strong enough to knock a small barnyard animal into next week, and watched the phenomenal Get Out on TV. It was a great night. Today, ugh, not so much. So, if anything below doesn’t quite make sense, blame it on the Founders Brewing KBS, which is a lovely beer, indeed. That said, be kind to each other, mind your health, keep your pets safe, cherish the ones you love, hydrate, and read some great comics. Thank you for reading!


*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.

Comics Lust

Five Furious and Fast: Bill Mantlo (Part 1)


Bill Mantlo stands alongside Bernie Wrightson as the two creators who molded this Donist into the comic book fanatic I am today. The later instilled a sense of wonderment with his precise line work, shadows deep as the abyss, and character acting tangible enough to empathize with on a near physical level. The former gave me a world so rich and so vibrant I never wanted to leave, but it was also a world mired in evil and a darkness fraught with concepts that, at the time, I had never had cause to consider. Wrightson was the first artist to teach me that not all illustrators are the same, that what enchanted and terrified me in his work was something not normal, something magical. Mantlo was the first writer to fill me with fear, fear of missing the next issue that might hold the resolution to a conflict in the book I just read, or that might reveal a new plot development that sends his character(s) on to new adventures I dare not miss. A great artist makes you want to linger on a page to take it all in. A great writer makes you want to desperately fly through the pages to see what happens next. Bill Mantlo is the one who taught me to fly.

The Micronauts

(Written by Bill Mantlo; most notably illustrated by Michael Golden, Pat Broderick, and Jackson “Butch” Guice; published by Marvel Comics beginning in 1979)
I know, I know…you’re probably thinking I mention this series with every “Comics Lust” chapter, but I would say thee nay; I only mention it 70–80 percent of the time. There’s a good reason for this: The Micronauts is the comic I was hinting at above and it is the book that made me a comic book collector. Yes, the much-loved and now defunct toyline brought me to the comic. Yes, Golden’s oh-so-lovely art grabbed my eye and made me excited for the new, green, insect-like character gracing the cover. But it was the new world, the Microverse, where subatomic particles were home to countless bizarre creatures, all held under the oppressive boot of the despotic ruler Baron Karza—my favorite toy, btw—that would make young Donist beg to go by every newsstand in the hope of finding a missed issue, or better yet, a new one.
Mantlo gave me more than I could ever hope for with each character he introduced: Commander Rann, the Space Glider, who mentally explored the Microverse over 1000 years while in a deep hibernation; Baron Karza the scourge of all; Princess Marionette, leader of the rebellion, who’s brother was imprisoned by Karza; Acroyear, a heavily-armored and deposed prince from the cold planet Spartak; Bug, an Insectivorid, fun-loving yet fierce warrior committed to his friends and ending Karza’s reign; Microtron and Biotron, living robots who don’t so much serve the Micronauts, but rather work with them. Other countless characters appear throughout the series from Prince Pharoid, Prince Shaitan, Lady Slug, Huntarr, Devil, and more to ever expand this massive space opera that at times brought in mainstream Marvel guest stars such as the Fantastic Four, Doctor Strange, and the X-Men in ways that never felt forced. Mantlo also introduced me to the concept of an authoritarian ruler, to the idea of rebellion, to classism, and most frighteningly of all, to a rigged system of gambling meant to supply spare body parts to Karza’s “Dog Soldiers” who are used as tools in his never-ending war. So, yeah, heavy stuff for a kid, but done so very well.
The unfortunate thing about The Micronauts series is that it is caught in a quagmire of licensing issues that means there are currently no trades, no omnibus, and no plans to release any as of this writing, which means you are going to have to bargain bin dive and online hunt for the individual issues. What you must find are as follows: The Micronauts #1–59, The Micronauts Annual #1–2, and The X-Men and the Micronauts #1–4. This is all of the Mantlo material and it is what you need to experience this tremendous series that holds up as well today as it did nearly 40 years ago. It is one that I reread every other year or so with a renewed sense of excitement and joy that never diminishes.

Rom

(Written by Bill Mantlo, illustrated mostly Sal Buscema, published by Marvel Comics beginning in 1979)
After sending you on a quest to find issues of The Micronauts, it’s only fair that I send myself on a journey as well. Rom, like The Micronauts, is a much-loved series by its fans. It, however, is one that I have only read a handful of issues. This is not because I did not like what I read, but only because I fell victim to the dreaded “Okay, okay! You can get ONE comic, and ONLY one comic. Now, stop whining.” All too often, something else won out over poor ol’ Rom. Much like Mantlo’s diminutive spacefaring heroes series, this comic sprang from a toy, is wrapped up in a weird licensing limbo, has never been collected, and there are no plans to have it reprinted. Rom is about a Space Knight from Galador named Rom who travels to Earth to combat the dreaded Dire Wraiths, a race of stocky, squid-headed monsters adept at sorcery and science who also have the ability to change shape. What’s not to love? Rom also frequently crosses paths with many of the Marvel mainstream heroes in what were some truly epic adventures…adventures I desperately need to catch up on. So, I will be joining you on the hunt for all 75 issues, and the four annuals, as I vow to put this collection together piecemeal with whatever beat-up copies I can find.

Swords of the Swashbucklers

(Written by Bill Mantlo, illustrated by Jackson “Butch” Guice, published by Marvel/Epic beginning in 1984)
This is yet another one I missed the first time around, but it is one I often saw on the shelves back in the day. Thankfully, I recently remedied the fact that I had not read this immensely fun, time-traveling, spacefaring pirate tale filled with quests across the cosmos, family drama, alien creatures, superpowered women, and epic battles that instantly charmed me but that ended all too abruptly. Swords of the Swashbucklers was first introduced as the 14th “Marvel Graphic Novel,” a 48-page standalone tale that quickly leaped into a twelve-issue series that was strong up until the final issue that was rushed to completion because of the series cancellation. Issue 12 is disheartening in that I would have preferred a more satisfactory ending over an additional six issues, but whatchagonnado? Business is business. Still, the series as a whole is very much worth your time, especially given that after 30 years, Raader and her pirate crew have returned with Swashbucklers: The Story Continues (written by Marc Guggenheim, illustrated by Andrea Mutti, published by Dynamite in 2018), which I intend to pick up today, and that looks to right the wrong of an enjoyable series ended in its prime. The good thing about Swords of the Swashbucklers is that you don’t need to hunt for this series issue by issue, but rather you can get the beautiful, recently-released hardcover that collects the original graphic novel and the twelve issues before setting sail for new uncharted lands.

Cloak and Dagger

(Written by Bill Mantlo, illustrated by Rick Leonardi, published by Marvel Comics beginning in 1983)
Okay, maybe this was not the most appropriate book to read for a thirteen-year-old. Cloak and Dagger is the story of two teenagers who run away from their homes and meet on the streets of New York City where they become friends. Naive and scared, the pair soon falls victim to some ne’er-do-wells who force them to take a synthetic form of heroin that eventually leaves them with superpowers. Cloak has the ability to absorb both light and living beings into his cloak which leads to a terrible dark dimension that will slowly suck the living light/soul out of his victims. He can also use his abilities to be intangible and to teleport but at the cost of a terrible, undying hunger. Dagger has the ability to generate psychic “knives” of pure light that she can fling with her mind and can render people weak or unconscious and even cure them of their addictions. Her knives also have the ability to diminish Cloak’s hunger…for a time. The heroes fight street-level thugs and serial killers while having the occasional run-in with other Marvel heroes at large. They first appeared as a co-creation of Mantlo and Ed Hannigan in the pages of Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man #64 (1982) before eventually graduating to their own miniseries in Cloak and Dagger #1–4 (1983), then their own short-lived series Cloak and Dagger #1–11 (1985), then the Cloak and Dagger and Doctor Strange shared Strange Tales #1–6 (1987), and finally the “Marvel Graphic Novel” Power Pack and Cloak and Dagger: Shelter from the Storm (1989). If you don’t want to pick up the individual issues, and you want the most bang for your buck before the June 7, 2018 television series debut, then you should grab the trades Cloak and Dagger: Shadows and Light and Cloak and Dagger: Lost and Found.

Vision and Scarlet Witch #1–4

(Written by Bill Mantlo, illustrated by Rick Leonardi, published by Marvel beginning in 1982)
Talk about your messed up families. Seriously. The Vision, an immensely powerful android, was created using the brainwave patterns of Simon Williams (Wonder Man) and imprinted upon the body of the World War II era Human Torch by none other than Ultron. Ultron considers himself the Vision’s daddy, Wonder Man considers himself his brother, and Wonder Man’s actual brother, The Grim Reaper, is pissed off by The Vision’s existence and does not consider him to be of any relation at all. Got it? Okay, Scarlet Witch…she and Quicksilver are twins, a certain notorious character is revealed to be their father (it must be where Quicksilver gets his stylish hair), but the two grew up believing they were the offspring of the speedster The Whizzer, which is not true. Quicksilver marries Crystal (one of the Inhumans…if you were lost before this point, don’t worry your pretty little head, just go with the flow) and they have a kid named Luna. The Scarlet Witch marries the Vision and their quest to create a child—both together and separately, after Mantlo’s awesome limited series—will boggle your mind. Aside from having some monumentally awkward family reunions, the miniseries is thrilling, bizarre, and at times action-packed. Just the way I like it. If you can’t find the inexpensive four-issue limited series, then Avengers: Vision and the Scarlet Witch will get you where you need to be.

Before, during, and after the comics mentioned above, Mantlo touched a vast number of comic titles we all know and love. He eventually left comics to go into law, but in 1992, he was the tragic victim of a hit-and-run that nearly killed him and left him with severe brain damage that requires him to have lifelong care. Mantlo will always be my hero and his works are something comic fans can celebrate forever.

This Week’s Reading List

I’m done. Stick a fork in me. Too much beer last night, and I haven’t even read this week’s comics yet. Happy reading to you all.

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