Dusting off the old blog to start (and let’s see how long it goes!) a new feature picking up where I’ve left off on withering Twitter — a biweekly look at what comics I grabbed from the comic shops on that week’s trip thirty minutes east to neighboring Joplin, MO. Every trip I dig around in the back issue bins at the city’s two Vintage Stock locations, and every trip some theme emerges. Let’s see what happened this week!
Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man (1976) 77, 92, 139-140, 245, (2017) 305
Marvel Team-Up (1972) 142
Sensational Spider-Man (1996) 4
Spider-Man’s Tangled Web (2001) 11, 21
Spider-Man/Deadpool (2016) 24
Amazing Spider-Man (2018) 12
A dozen Spidey comics from 1983 to 2019 — Vintage Stock always has a buy-one, get-one back issue character or team of the month, and wouldn’t ya know it, January’s character is Spider-Man. I never see old Amazing Spider-Man issues in their longboxes, but I do find these ’80s Spectacular Spideys with some frequency. First, Bill Mantlo & Al Milgrom pit our hero against the Gladiator (as often, a reluctant villain). Then, Milgrom flying solo has the Kingpin send the Answer after symbiote-clad Spider-Man & the Black Cat. And finally, Gerry Conway & Sal Buscema offer up two chapters of the original Tombstone storyline. The Marvel Team-Up issue, also from the ’80s, pairs black-costumed Spidey with Monica Rambeau, which I thought looked interesting.
Moving on, the two ’90s books in the Spidey stack are Dan Jurgens doing Ben Reilly Spider-Man in an early issue of Sensational and J.M. DeMatteis & Luke Ross doing Chameleon & Kraven stuff over in Spectacular a year later (that’s issue 245) — ’90s Spidey’s generally not my thing, but DeMatteis’s recent Ben Reilly: Spider-Man mini-series and his currently-running The Lost Hunt have me in a mood to sample the late ’90s.
Sliding into the 21st century, I was startled to spot these two Darwyn Cooke/J. Bone Tangled Web issues and doubly startled that they’re thirty-eight story pages with cardstock covers. Marvel’s just started occasionally doing books with covers that aren’t the same crap they print the pages on again, mostly first issues and anniversaries, so these twenty-year-old books feel, in-hand, like they’ve come from another planet.
Finally, from the twenty-teens, when I saw the last name “Thompson” on the front of the Spider-Man/Deadpool issue I hoped it was Kelly, but instead it’s Robbie, whose issues of the book I don’t remember enjoying, but it’s Chris Bachalo on art, so if nothing else it’ll be very pretty. Then, an issue of Chip Zdarsky’s short-lived Spectacular Spidey run; I’ve been pretty down on Chip lately, what with his second Daredevil #1 being possibly the worst presumed jumping-on point that I’ve ever read and the current storyline being a mish-mash of tired “prophesied champion in this ancient war, blah blah blah” tropes that I don’t think Matt Murdock needs bolted to him, on top of his Batman also being a mash-up of recycled material from Waid & Porter’s Tower of Babel & Morrison’s run on the character — BUT, I thought I remembered liking at least an issue of this run, and even if the writing isn’t to my taste, long-time fave Adam Kubert draws the book. And then there’s an issue of Nick “dude, read the room, Nazi Captain America is NOT a good idea right now” Spencer’s Amazing run that Marvel editorial rewarded him with after he wrapped that jaw-droppingly ill-timed storyline. Thumbing through this issue, it appears this is Spidey & Jameson suffering through an interactive “J. Jonah Jameson, this is your life!” presentation courtesy of the Kingpin and Arcade, which does look like a good time.
Moving on …
Avengers: War Across Time (2023) 1 – Hey, a brand-new comic! Forty pages of former DC Comics boss Paul Levitz tiptoeing through ’60s Avengers continuity wouldn’t normally be my thing if not for the fact that it’s drawn by Alan freakin’ Davis. I think it has been proven that I’ll buy almost anything that dude draws.
Captain America Reborn (2009) 4 – Slowly but surely, issue-by-issue, trying to snag most or all of Ed Brubaker’s Captain America, including this mini-series that brought Steve back with art by Bryan Hitch.
Captain America: Symbol of Truth (2022) 9 and Captain America: Sentinel of Liberty (2022) 8 – The latest issues of the two currently-running Captain America comics, two of the few comics I don’t preorder online and instead roll the dice and hope one of the two Vintage Stocks still has a rack copy of. Both have been interesting; Symbol of Truth‘s effort to move Priest’s Black Panther villain/anti-hero the White Wolf into the bad guy big-time is intriguing, but every issue seems to breeze by; Sentinel of Liberty is always the denser read, and while I’m normally not a fan of world-shaking retcons and newly unearthed century-long conspiracies in superhero narratives that have been going on for about that same length of time, I think Colin Kelly & Jackson Lanzing have managed to pull off the high wire act of getting me to buy it without feeling like it somehow violates everything that’s led up to now. Looking forward to digging into these shortly.
Captain Marvel (2019) 22 – I’ve been grabbing issues of Kelly Thompson’s ongoing run of the Carol Danvers Captain Marvel title whenever I see one I don’t have; I was a big fan of her work on the Kate Bishop Hawkeye series, the West Coast Avengers book that picked up with Kate following its cancellation, and the Rogue & Gambit title Mr & Mrs X, so why wasn’t I buying this from the get-go? I dunno, probably due to the residual stink on the character after Civil War II and the fact that every other run since the character was relaunched in 2012 has looked totally unappealing. But I jumped on this title just now because of the current storyline with the Brood, which guest-stars the X-Men and plays off of their shared history with Claremont & Cockrum’s Alien-alikes, and wouldn’t ya know it, it’s a joy. This particular issue tosses Carol into one o’ them dark futures Marvel heroes wind up in so often where she meets some familiar faces and the usual superhero offspring taking up the family business.
ClanDestine (1994) 8 – The Alan Davis characters & title that the creators of the Ms. Marvel TV series series appropriated the name of for Kamala’s other-dimensional family connection to avoid using the Inhumans — I’ve got a few other issues of this, both the original ’90s series and a late ’00s revival, but haven’t dug in since I still don’t have the beginning. One of these days …
Defenders (2021) 2 – An issue of the first Al Ewing & Javier Rodriguez Defenders series; I read its sequel at a friend’s recommendation, and now I have two issues of the first go-round. Maybe once I pull all these together some of my lingering questions will be answered.
FF (2011) 16 & 17 – Two weeks ago I grabbed a small pile of Fantastic Four-related books (maybe six?) while mostly looking for the handful of issues of Dan Slott’s recently-concluded run that one of my current artistic faves Rachael Stott drew; got zero of what I was looking for, but instead came home with a Waid/Wieringo issue, one from Dwayne McDuffie’s short run following Straczynski’s abbreviated stint on the title, and a few issues from Jonathan Hickman’s years chronicling Marvel’s First Family’s exploits. Well, same deal this week — almost came home with a Slott/Stott issue, but instead got these two Jonathan Hickman/Nick Dragotta issues of the substitute-title-turned-spinoff (after the Human Torch died they “cancelled” Fantastic Four and replaced it with this title, featuring the remaining members of the team plus Spider-Man as the “Future Foundation,” and then resumed Fantastic Four a year later and kept this going for another year). Issue 17 looks to be a variation on the classic “Johnny Storm drives Peter Parker insane” theme, so that’s probably a winner.
Marvel Comics Presents (1988) 51 – This was only one or two bucks, which is about all most issues of this “classic” anthology are worth. Behind the Paul Gulacy cover is — oh god — eight pages of a particularly unpleasant-looking Rob Liefeld-drawn AND written Wolverine serial; an installment of The Comet Man, the short-lived Marvel creation of Bill Mumy & Miguel Ferrer(!) with sharp, kinetic art by Kelly Jones; and one-offs featuring Iron Man (can’t argue with the Mark Bright art) and mercenary hero Le Peregrine (written by Fabian Nicieza).
Maverick (1997) 3 – This was a dollar. Decent Jim Cheung art — did he go right from this to John Francis Moore’s X-Force?
The Mighty Thor (1998) 23 & 24, 58 & 59 – From Dan Jurgens’s six-year run writing the character across the turn of the century, though one of these issues actually isn’t his; I used to have some of this run in trade paperback, but those books are long gone. The first two of these issues I grabbed for the John Romita Jr. art, though I must say the figure of Thor on the cover of 23 is kind of ghastly. Issue 58 is another appearance in today’s purchases of the mighty Alan Davis, though I didn’t realize it was the first part of a three-issue crossover between this title, Iron Man, and Avengers (during DC stalwart Geoff Johns’s short run on Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, no less) — all three issues drawn by Davis. And then issue 59 is written by, of all people, Priest, who would’ve also been writing Black Panther at the time, with highly expressive and effective cartooning on that issue by one Trent Kaniuga. Interesting little one-off set on the streets of New York a few years from now in a world where Thor just up and vanished one day.
Thunderbolts (1997) 105 – I think I fell off of what had been New Thunderbolts pretty quickly after issue 100, which killed off former Captain Marvel Genis-Vell in a pretty thorough fashion. (Did I even buy 101? I have no recollection at this point.) This one’s in the middle of *sigh* Civil War, the event that ultimately proves the original concept’s undoing; Ellis & Deodato’s black comedy Suicide Squad-alike run starts five issues later.
Action Comics 585 – Don’t see a lot of John Byrne Superman issues at Vintage Stock, and I think this was only a couple of bucks, so it was an easy call to stick it in the pile. It’s a team-up with the Phantom Stranger, of all characters, one of those guys who gets less interesting the more they decide to reveal about him.
Batman 445 – Wolfman & Aparo sending Batman to Russia to fight a protege of the KGBeast? Sure! Why not?
Batman: Dark Detective (2005) 1 – Oh, I remember this — the Englehart & Rogers reunion mini-series, a late ’70s throwback that happened to be set in then-current continuity. Remember thinking it so-so at the time, but I got this copy for less than cover price.
Suicide Squad (1987) 19 – The second of the annual “Personal Files” breather issues of Ostrander & McDonnell’s original Suicide Squad. This is another run that I toss whatever issue I come across in the pile when I see ’em.
I Am Batman (2021) 15 – Jace Fox’s Batman fighting Sinestro on the cover, which is an interesting match-up; I’m only so-so on this book, which is why I tentatively dropped it, then reconsidered but missed ordering this issue, hence this being in the pile. It’s finishing up in just a few months — might as well see how it all ends!
Superman: The Man of Steel (1991) 19 & 100 – Louise Simonson & Jon Bogdanove’s Man of Steel is absolutely my fave of the ’90s Superman titles, with — despite the tight week-to-week continuity between the Superman titles at that time — its own strong voice and Bogdanove’s bold, action-packed art giving it a flair the other books tended to lack. In the last couple of years of piling on the back issues, this has been a title I’ve specifically sought out, so I was thrilled to spot an issue I didn’t have today — a chapter of The Death of Superman, no less! (It’s the one that features the mind-boggling-at-the-time image of Doomsday punching Supergirl so hard that she goes “SPLAT!”) However, ’til now I’ve been generally gun-shy about grabbing the post-Simonson issues … except that I noticed that issue 100 here featured art by the always-terrific Doug Mahnke, who I guess was the regular artist on the book at the turn of the century — so again, even if the writing doesn’t quite click with me, the art’s at least gonna be worth poring over.
And that’s the lot. I did also snag two Marvel Legends figures; I haven’t been as driven to go completist on the most recent Marvel Cinematic Universe sets (despite some very cool Build-A-Figures in these waves), but Jonathan Majors’s not-exactly-Kang was a highlight of the final episode of Loki and the figure likeness is spooky-good, so I figured he was a must-have, and I’ve never been satisfied with the original Black Panther Nakia figure so the new figure of her was top-of-the-list from the Wakanda Forever assortment; this version of T’Challa’s beloved has a stunning and much improved Lupita Nyong’o portrait, though the figure itself, especially after seeing the film, winds up feeling mission-specific in a way the last film’s Dora Milaje outfit didn’t. Still a cool look, though, with a lot of metallic paint detail across it. Wish the ring weapons were a little less flat-looking — these are the sorts of lackluster action figure weapons that turn folks into the kinds of people who have an assortment of paints for toy touch-ups. Speaking of accessories, He-Who-Remains’s apple has already almost gotten lost, like, three times since I opened the figure …