Fans of Black Lightning and the other DC/CW super-hero shows have received good news to kick off the new year. All of those terrific shows have been renewed well before the end of the current season. Okay, sure, Arrow per se has concluded its eight-season run, but it will live on as a spin-off series tentatively titled Green Arrow & the Canaries.
The new Arrow series is set twenty years in the future of whatever the DC/CW universe looks like after the Crisis on Infinite Earths crossover event. The title hero is Oliver Queen’s daughter Mia. I don’t want to speculate and give away any possible spoilers for the new show, but I have to wonder, given Oliver’s new role in Crisis, if he might still be around in 2040.
As I write this column, I’m just three episodes of Supergirl away from being caught up on the DC/CW shows. It’s a small victory for me. If we start talking about all the other comics-related series on TV and steaming services, I probably have well over 200 episodes to watch. Not to mention dozens of comics-based movies and animated features. It’s sometimes hard to remember when all comics fans had to watch was The Adventures of Superman in the 1950s and Batman in the 1960s. Our universe has expanded.
Quite a few fun comics and collections have crossed my path lately.
Let’s get to the reviews…
Pre-Code Classics: Atomic War & Captain Courageous [PS Artbooks; $51.99] is yet another intriguing collection of vintage comic books from this British publisher. It reprints Atomic War #1-4 [November 1952 – April 1953] and Captain Courageous #1 and only [March 1942]. These titles were published by Ace, a pulp magazine publisher that also produced comic books from the 1940s to 1956. Over a dozen of its 48 titles reached double digits and, in all, Ace published 668 comic books. Several of them were cited for “violent and gruesome imagery” in Dr. Fredric Wertham’s Seduction of the Innocent and during government hearings in both the United States and the United Kingdom.
Atomic War is especially fascinating because, in an earlier PS book incorrectly titled as Pre-Code Classics: Space Action & Captain Courageous, World War III #1-2 [March 1952-May 1953] were included. Both titles – Atomic War and World War III – have essentially the same premise. During seemingly successful negotiations to end the Cold War, the Russians launch a treacherous attack. Major U.S. and other foreign cities are destroyed in a blink of an eye, followed by America launching equally devastating attacks on Russian cities and military bases. The theme of both titles is that only a strong American can prevent atomic war.
Atomic War has decent stories by unidentified writers and artwork by talents like Ken Rice, Lou Cameron, Bill Molno, Jim McLaughlin, Chic Stone and maybe Sol Brodsky.
The one-shot Captain Courageous Comics #6 (formerly Banner Comics) features the title character plus The Sword, Lone Warrior, Typhoon Tyson, Kay McKay and Paul Revere Jr. With the lone exception of the Lone Warrior, all would appear in other Ace comics titles. None of these are stand-out characters, but I’m thinking it might be fun for me to put a modern spin on them one of these days.
As always, these vintage comics collections from PS Artbooks should please comics historians and fans of little-known offbeat comics. I enjoy them a great deal.
Everything I’ve read about the real-life Bettie Page leads me to believe the iconic pin-up girl was a genuinely good person. She had some hard knocks in her life, but they didn’t darken her character. I hope, from whatever afterlife there is, that Ms. Page is enjoying Dynamite’s Bettie Page Unbound [$3.99 per issue] as much as I am.
Written by David Avallone, Unbound imagines Bettie as an unofficial government agent of sorts. She’s brave, capable, feisty, funny and gorgeous. That latter is due to the inspiration of the real Bettie and the talented artists, including Julius Ohta, Moy R, Kewber Baal and others, who draw Avallone’s scripts.
In this series, Bettie takes on Cthulhu and the Great Old Ones who are seeking to return to and conquer our world. On a quest for the magical devices that can prevent this, Bettie takes on a variety of new forms. These include warriors not unlike Red Sonja, Vampirella, Dejah Thoris and Tinker Bell. The stories are terrific fun, the art is wonderful and the myriad variant covers are amazing. The series delivers satisfying entertainment in every issue.
Bettie Page Unbound is one of my favorite current comics titles and my pick of the week. Though I’ve been faithfully buying individual issues of the series, I’m upgrading to the trade paperbacks. These comics are keepers. And, hey, just saying here, if Dynamite put out a trade collecting those variant covers, they could get even more money from me.
Another legendary beauty takes center stage in Marvel’s The Amazing Mary Jane [$3.99 per issue] by writer Leah Williams, artist Carlos Gomez, color artist Carlos Lopez and letterer Joe Caramagna. This series has a wild premise that won me over from the get-go. Forgive me, but there will be some MILD SPOILERS ahead.
Mary Jane Watson has a starring role in a Hollywood movie. But the director of the biopic about the supervillain Mysterio is actually Mysterio. Seeing the cast and crew full of “newcomers, rejects and outsiders” looking for their first break or the chance to get back in the game, Mary Jane keeps Mysterio’s secret. But the threats to the production are daunting: a lack of funding and the ire of the Vulture’s new Savage Six.
I love this series. With a Marvel Universe so complicated that it often loses me in its intricacy, this is a story I can enjoy sans the encyclopedic memory other MU comics demand. Williams’ writing blends comedy with a sometimes violent soap opera drama. Mary Jane is a fierce mother hen protecting the production. Mysterio is an actually sympathetic character. I love it.
The Amazing Mary Jane is the Mary Jane comic I’ve been waiting for and didn’t know it. I recommend it to all fans of MJ and her role as our eyes on the Marvel Universe.
I’ll be back next week with more reviews.
© 2020 Tony Isabella