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Iron Man by David Michelinie & Bob Layton (& John Romita Jr.) Omnibus, Vol 1 (Review/Retrospective)

To get ready for Iron Man 3, we’ll be taking a look at some Iron Man and Avengers stories, both modern and classic. We hope to do two or three a week throughout the month, so check back regularly for the latest update.

It’s hard to believe, given the high profile the character has attained since Robert Downey Jr. first played Tony Stark in Iron Man back in 2008, but Iron Man used to be one of Marvel’s second-tier characters. Of course, like any other comic book character, Iron Man has had his ups and downs. There have been solid runs by great creative teams, and disappointing stories told by writers and artists unsuited to the character. However, Iron Man never really had one of those iconic comic book runs of the seventies and eighties, the kind of high-profile character-defining run like Walt Simonson’s tenure on Thor or Frank Miller’s work on Daredevil or Chris Clarement’s extended run on the X-Men franchise.

Perhaps the closest to such a run from the Bronze Age is the work by David Michelinie and Bob Layton, who actually enjoyed two extended runs writing for the character at the end of the seventies and into the eighties. This gigantic omnibus collection includes the first of those two runs, which were bisected (mostly) by Denny O’Neil’s extended time on the title. While it’s not as cohesive and solid a run as any of the aforementioned examples, it still demonstrates a solid understanding of Iron Man, and features two of the character’s most iconic stories.

You have to whip it...

You have to whip it…

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Tony Daniel’s Run on Batman – Battle for the Cowl, Life After Death & Eye of the Beholder (Review/Retrospective)

To celebrate the release of The Dark Knight Rises, July is “Batman month” here at the m0vie blog. Check back daily for comics, movies and television reviews and discussion of the Caped Crusader.

Tony Daniel’s Batman is a decently entertaining book, one that has clearly been put together with a great deal of skill and care by an artist and writer who seems to be not only enjoying himself, but keen to learn on the job. Handed the unenviable task of writing Battle for the Cowl, the three-issue miniseries designed to link Grant Morrison’s Batman run to his Batman & Robin run, Daniel was given an assignment that would make even a seasoned writer blush with uncertainty – tasked with writing connective tissue between two densely-layered Grant Morrison series, it’s hard to imagine a writer who would have managed anything that much better than the somewhat limp mess that Daniel produced. Still, DC was keen enough to grant the artist not only on-going art chores on the Batman series (rapidly approaching its seven-hundredth issue), but also to let him write it. While it’s hardly the most iconic or memorable tenure on a Batman-related title, it does have a number of charming and somewhat redeeming features. The most impressive one is that Daniel seems willing to learn and to improve as he goes.

Some men just want to see the world burn…

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X-Men: The Age of Apocalypse Omnibus (Review/Retrospective)

With our month looking at Avengers comics officially over, we thought it might be fun to dig into that other iconic Marvel property, the X-Men. Join us for a month of X-Men related reviews and discussion.

The nineties represent a contentious time for fans of the X-Men franchise. The decade saw comic books explode into a huge market, with ridiculous sales and publicity, and the entire X-Men franchise rode that wave perfectly. Chris Claremont and Jim Lee’s adjectiveless X-Men #1 remains the biggest-selling comic book of all time, after all, and the franchise quickly secured itself as Marvel’s premiere comic book franchise. On the other hand, the line had been thrown into disarray by the departure of long-term steward Chris Claremont and its era-defining artist Jim Lee. The family of titles had struggled to find a footing through some uneven crossovers and events like X-Cutioner’s Song and Fatal Attractions. However, I think the decade produced one gem that can be considered as a true classic, along with the best of Claremont’s tenure and the work of Grant Morrison. The Age of Apocalypse might seem an odd choice to identify as one of the highlights of the X-Men saga, but I think it deserves very serious consideration.

Apocalypse now…

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X-Men: Inferno – Fantastic Four (Review/Retrospective)

With our month looking at Avengers comics officially over, we thought it might be fun to dig into that other iconic Marvel property, the X-Men. Join us for a month of X-Men related reviews and discussion.

This weekend, we’re taking a look at one or two of the smaller Inferno crossovers. These issues are collected in the crossovers companion book.

I have to admit, one of the best things about these companion books collecting the tie-ins to mammoth crossovers like Acts of Vengeance or Inferno is that way that they seem to capture a particular moment in time. In the Inferno collection alone, you get a taste of Walt Simonson’s Avengers, Ann Nocenti’s Daredevil and Chris Claremont’s Excalibur. I will confess that I am woefully poorly versed in the history of The Fantastic Four, arguably Marvel’s “first family.” The issues collected here, for example, are my first sampling of Steve Englehart’s tenure on The Fantastic Four.

A good old fashioned death trap!

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X-Men: Inferno – Avengers (Review/Retrospective)

With our month looking at Avengers comics officially over, we thought it might be fun to dig into that other iconic Marvel property, the X-Men. Join us for a month of X-Men related reviews and discussion.

This weekend, we’re taking a look at one or two of the smaller Inferno crossovers. These issues are collected in the crossovers companion book.

In many ways, Chris Claremont’s Inferno can be read as something of a practice run for John Byrne’s Acts of Vengeance. Both were massive crossovers that spread across a significant portion of Marvel’s publishing line, demanding writers to tie their stories in to these big and over-arching events. While Inferno‘s reach was arguably more modest than that of Acts of Vengeance, it seemed that the demonic invasion of New York could not be contained to the X-Men books, and ended up impacting titles as diverse as The Fantastic Four and Daredevil. Walt Simonson’s Avengers tied into Inferno as well, making an interesting attempt to launch a new team against the backdrop of an X-Men event.

Meet the new team…

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X-Men: The Asgardian Wars (Review)

With our month looking at Avengers comics officially over, we thought it might be fun to dig into that other iconic Marvel property, the X-Men. Join us for a month of X-Men related reviews and discussion.

It has been said that the X-Men rarely interact with the broader Marvel Universe. While characters like Wolverine and the Beast might have appeared on a roster or two of The Avengers, and Storm might have popped up in Fantastic Four, events within the X-Men line seemed to be self-contained, with Marvel’s mutants generally fighting their own problems in their own way. After all, Captain America was hardly a champion of civil liberties if he didn’t stand up for mutant rights, so it made sense to keep the mutants relatively self-contained.

However, despite this (somewhat deserved) reputation, it’s interesting to look back at the connections that writer Chris Claremont fostered with the wider Marvel Universe. Some of these (like the Claremont’s frequent connections to the Ka-Zar mythos) were relatively frequent within the pages of the main title (and no less strange for it), but Claremont was also a fan of making an event of a crossover between the X-Men and any other major players – things like Fantastic Four vs. X-Men. This story arc, told over four special issues, is something similar, making a big deal of the crossover between the world of Thor and the X-Men.

The Goddess of Thunder!

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Acts of Vengeance: Fantastic Four vs. Congress (Review/Retrospective)

April (and a little bit of May) are “Avengers month” at the m0vie blog. In anticipation of Joss Whedon’s superhero epic, we’ll have a variety of articles and reviews published looking at various aspects of “Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.”

In celebration of the release of The Avengers, this weekend we’re taking a look at the massive 1989-90 crossover “Acts of Vengeance”, which pitted various villains against some unlikely heroes. I’ll be looking at some of the most fun match-ups. This arc is collected in the companion omnibus.

The more I read of Acts of Vengeance and its related crossovers, the more I think that the collections work best as a slice of Marvel, capturing a couple of issues from a vast array of creative teams working on a huge number of titles, to give a sampling of Marvel’s output at the time. Walt Simonson’s Fantastic Four is very highly regarded by quite a few fans of the comic book series. While it arguably hasn’t become as popular as John Byrne’s Fantastic Four or even Mark Waid’s Fantastic Four, I have to admit that I’m delighted to be able to sample three issues collected in a nice oversized hardcover. Simonson seems to gently (or not-so-gently) mock the premise of the event itself, but his three issue story arc here is fascinating and decades ahead of its time.

No, Ben, we ain’t…

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