Bronze Age C-listers and Nexus: Graphic novels

MS. MARVEL: This Woman, This Warrior by Gerry Conway, Chris Claremont and multiple artists, begins the superhero career of the woman who’s now Captain Marvel. According to Gerry Conway in the text page, the creative staff came up with the name, then developed the character, reintroducing Carol Danvers, a Cape Kennedy security head who’d worked with the original Kree Captain Marvel. Now she’s a writer for J. Jonah Jameson’s new magazine (Conway, a former Spiderman writer, drew heavily on that cast, but Claremont moved away from that) — who also transforms into a split personality, Kree warrior Ms. Marvel. Can she keep her job when she can’t explain why she’s blacking out all the time? Can she survive against AIM, Grotesk, Deathbird and the Elementals? The results are enjoyable to read, but not at all memorable — I can see why I didn’t feel the urge to buy this one back when it was on the stands.

THE ESSENTIAL IRON FIST, written by Roy Thomas, Tony Isabella and Chris Claremont, with multiple artists (most notably John Byrne) is a better book, despite the (as they say) problematic overtones of having a white guy become the greatest martial artist of the lost city of K’Un Lun, far superior to all the Asians (and ending up in the same category as B’Wana Beast and the Western Ghost Rider, the white guy who becomes the sacred champion of a nonwhite culture). After his parents’ murder, Danny Rand winds up in K’Un Lun, eventually rising to become its ultimate champion, the Iron Fist, then heading to NYC to get revenge on Meachum, the man who murdered the Rands. But Meachum is powerful, Danny knows nothing about the Western world and there are a whole bunch of supervillains who wind up drawn into his orbit …

Claremont’s writing is a lot stronger here and Byrne’s art is dynamic in some of the martial arts sequences. I still don’t regret skipping this on the stands (except for one issue, guest-starring the X-Men), but I enjoyed reading it.

BLOODSTONE AND THE LEGION OF MONSTERS is actually two generations of heroes. Created by John Warner, Ulysses Bloodstone was an immortal monster-hunter who had a backup slot in Marvel’s Bronze Age Rampaging Hulk black-and-white magazine; when they totally rebooted the lead feature (originally it had been a retcon set during Hulk’s early years), His daughter Elsa debuted about two decades ago, in a four issue series written by Dan Abnett, who had more success rebooting Guardians of the Galaxy a few years later. Ulysses’ back-up run (this also includes his first appearance in Marvel Presents) is an odd mix of supervillains, monsters and Jim Starlin-style 1970s mysticism (Bloodstone’s psychic senses can read auras, for instance) before Steve Gerber kills the protagonist and wraps up the series in the final story (a really heavy handed Everything You Know Is Wrong twist ending). The Elsa material includes a visit to a secret city of monsters under NYC and several one-shots, including pairing her as buddies with the mutant Boomer. Overall a fun collection.

The seventh NEXUS OMNIBUS brings Nexus’ saga to a satisfactory stopping place (as I wrote about recently) but overall it’s a weak collection. The Nexus the Liberator miniseries (done without either of Nexus’ creators, Mike Baron and Steve Rude) is awful and much of the collection is spinoffs involving various supporting characters, though mostly enjoyable spinoffs.

Oh, and speaking of comics, I have a new post at Atomic Junkshop on change in the Silver Age.

#SFWApro. Bottom cover by Gil Kane, upper two by Dave Cockrum.


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