Marvel Masterworks: Fantastic Four Vol. 2

Written by Stan Lee
Penciled by Jack Kirby
Inked by Dick Ayers and Steve Ditko
304 pages, color
Published by Marvel Comics

Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s 102-issue run on Fantastic Four is fairly legendary, and with so many options now available to read those original issues (hardcover and softcover full-color Marvel Masterworks reprints, plus black and white Essential Fantastic Four volumes) it seemed like a good a time as any to start catching up on my Marvel history. Like my recent dip into Marvel Masterworks: The Avengers, though, I found a fairly wide range of material here; some good, some extremely dated.

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Ozma of Oz #1

Written by Eric Shanower
Based on the novel by L. Frank Baum
Art by Skottie Young
32 pages, color
Published by Marvel

Ozma of Oz was one of my favorite books when I was growing up. I’m not sure where our copy of the book came from, but I must have read it fifty or more times. The third Oz novel, it’s actually only the second one to feature Dorothy, who after a sea voyage comes awry ends up journeying to Oz’s neighboring country of Ev, as well as meeting her old friends again and embarking on a brand-new adventure. Quite frankly? I think it blows The Wonderful Wizard of Oz out of the water.

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Generation Hope #1

Written by Kieron Gillen
Art by Salvador Espin
40 pages, color
Published by Marvel

New comics in the X-Men family are a dime a dozen; often, with no warning, they just appear, seemingly spinning off characters at random. With Generation Hope, though, we’ve got two distinct differences from many other recent spin-offs. First, there isn’t an "X" anywhere in the title (although perhaps out of desperation, the logo creator put an X in Hope’s "O"). And second, this comic has actually spun directly out of a storyline, and appears to be moving forward with one of the big storylines happening in Uncanny X-Men and company. And so, as a result? I think this title has a real chance of succeeding.

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Incognito: Bad Influences #1

Written by Ed Brubaker
Art by Sean Phillips
32 pages, color
Published by Marvel Comics

One of my absolute favorite comics last year was Incognito, Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips’s mini-series about a super-villain forced to live in a witness protection program. There were twists and turns galore, and in general just getting into the mind of Zack Overkill was a surprisingly interesting experience. Brubaker and Phillips have now returned to Zack with Incognito: Bad Influences, and now that the first issue is out? It’s not at all what I had expected from these creators.

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Age of Heroes #3

Written by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Kevin Grevioux, with Fred Van Lente and Dan Slott
Penciled by Brad Walker and M.C. Wyman, with Jefte Palo and Ty Templeton
Inked by Walden Wong and Victor Olazaba, with Jefte Palo and Ty Templeton
32 pages, color
Published by Marvel Comics

Age of Heroes is a slightly strange mini-series. When Marvel has a new "era" to introduce, they’re prone to releasing an anthology mini-series to tie into the latest banner. With Age of Heroes, though, it’s been a strange mixture of original stories and pieces specifically designed to feed into new mini-series and ongoing series. It’s almost like getting a movie theatre full of trailers for upcoming movies, but you also have a couple of short films interspersed among them.

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Uncanny X-Men #526

Written by Matt Fraction with Allan Heinberg
Penciled by Whilce Portacio with Olivier Coipel
Inked by Ed Tadeo with Mark Morales
40 pages, color
Published by Marvel Comics

After the conclusion of the "Second Coming" crossover throughout the X-Men family of titles, I’ve been eagerly awaiting the latest Uncanny X-Men. It’s my favorite of the mutant titles, to be fair, but writer Matt Fraction left us with such a nice cliffhanger at the end of "Second Coming" that it’s been hard to not want to see more. And so far? It’s hard to not feel a little perplexed by the choice of artist for the next five months.

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Incredible Hulk #610

Written by Greg Pak and Scott Reed
Pencils by Paul Pelletier and Miguel Munera
Inks by Danny Miki and Jeffrey Huet
40 pages, color
Published by Marvel Comics

I’d love it if big comic companies would gleefully advertise "reset buttons" being pressed in the way they used to write cover copy. "Because YOU demanded it: everything goes back to the way it was!" Unfair? Probably. But reading the latest issue of Incredible Hulk, it’s certainly hard to shake that feeling that honesty needs to be employed a little more in an industry that (mostly) seems determined to change as little as possible in their most recognizable characters.

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Thunderbolts #144

Written by Jeff Parker
Art by Kev Walker
32 pages, color
Published by Marvel Comics

When Kurt Busiek and Mark Bagley created Thunderbolts some thirteen years ago, they might not have imagined that their book would be one of the few new ongoing franchises at Marvel that would prove to have enough power to stick around. It was a sharp enough concept—villains pretending to be heroes—that even with minor tweaks along the way it’s kept going. Jeff Parker, the book’s latest writer, came on board a few months ago to wrap up the "Dark Reign" era of the title, and usher in the next incarnation of the title. So far? I think this is probably my favorite take on the title since those original Busiek and Bagley issues.

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Prince of Power #1

Written by Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente
Penciled by Reilly Brown
Inked by Terry Pallot and Jason Paz
32 pages, color
Published by Marvel

It might now be over, but I’m still slightly amazed at how good The Incredible Hercules turned out to be. Taking two non-star characters (Greek demi-god Hercules and boy genius Amadeus Cho) and handing them the old Incredible Hulk title as their own? It seemed like a sucker bet, but instead readers found a rare mixture of humor, drama, and poignancy that manages to amuse and enthrall. Having (theoretically) killed off Hercules at the end of the series, a lesser character would go home and call it a day. But if you’re Amadeus Cho (7th smartest person in the Marvel Universe), you go out and get your own mini-series, Prince of Power. Why wait for revival when you can take it over on your own?

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Marvel Masterworks: The Avengers Vol. 1

Written by Stan Lee
Penciled by Jack Kirby and Don Heck
Inked by Dick Ayres, Paul Reinman, George Roussos, and Chic Stone
248 pages, color
Published by Marvel Comics

This may shock some of you, but until earlier this year I had never read an issue of The Avengers prior to the 1980s. It’s been on the list of things to try for ages, but it wasn’t until a recent purchase of the softcover Marvel Masterworks: The Avengers Vol. 1 that I finally decided to fix that problem. Now that I’ve finally experienced it? It’s not at all what I was expecting, a book that was simultaneously more intriguing and disappointing than I’d expected.

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