Comic Review: Iron Man, Issue #55 – First Appearance of Thanos and Drax the Destroyer

Published: January 31st, 1973
Written by: Mike Friedrich, Jim Starlin
Art by: Jim Starlin, Mike Esposito

Marvel Comics, 21 Pages

Review:

As big of a character as Thanos has become over the last few years, he had to start somewhere. And interestingly enough, his first appearance is also the first appearance of Drax the Destroyer, who would go on to be a member of the Guardians of the Galaxy.

I also find it interesting that both characters first appeared in Iron Man, as neither are really all that tied to Tony Stark outside of major events with “Infinity” in the title.

This was a quick, short story but it did a really good job of establishing these two characters. Thanos is the big bad here but the comic seemed more interested in establishing the Drax character. I’m not sure if Jim Starlin really knew what he had with Thanos yet. But he would certainly turn Thanos into one of the biggest threats in the entire comic book medium over time.

What’s cool about this is it actually shows how powerful of a character Drax is in the comics, which is something that might surprise people that only know him from the Guardians of the Galaxy films. But this also gives some context to the history between Drax and Thanos.

While Iron Man is the star of his own book and in the foreground of this story, this issue is really about Drax and Thanos.

But this has a good plot, solid old school Marvel styled art and it helps enrich the already rich Marvel cosmic mythos.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other ’70s Marvel cosmic stuff.

Comic Review: Batman: Vengeance of Bane, Issue #1 – First Appearance of Bane

Published: December 31st, 1992
Written by: Chuck Dixon
Art by: Graham Nolan, Eduardo Barreto, Adrienne Roy, Glenn Fabry

DC Comics, 56 Pages

Review:

Chuck Dixon really is a master of his craft. I always loved his Batman work, as well as what he did with The Punisher and G.I. Joe. And usually first appearances aren’t very good in retrospect. However, Dixon made Bane a true heavy hitter with just this comic.

This is sort of a prologue to the events of Knightfall, which was one of the biggest and most prolific Batman story arcs of all-time. It’s mostly known for being the story where Batman had his back broken by Bane, a plot point that eventually made its way to the big screen in 2012’s The Dark Knight Rises.

This story goes way back and actually introduces us to Bane as a child. It shows how he loses everything from his childhood, is raised in a prison and how he becomes the man that really controls that prison and everyone in it.

Vengrance of Bane also gets into how Bane got extremely intelligent and how he learned about Batman and got the drive to make his way to Gotham City to challenge its famous and revered protector.

Chuck Dixon tells a great, fluid and rich story in just these 56 pages. Even though Bane is clearly a villain, it’s hard not to have some sort of sympathy for him, seeing how he came to be. Now you certainly don’t side with him but this does more to flesh out this character in one story than most first appearances come close to managing.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: Chuck Dixon’s work on Batman titles, especially the massive Knightfall storyline.

Comic Review: Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen, Issue #134 – First Appearance of Darkseid

Published: December 2nd, 1970
Written by: Jack Kirby
Art by: Jack Kirby, Vince Colletta, Neal Adams (cover)

DC Comics, 22 Pages

Review:

Man, this was a weird ass comic book! But it was also done by Jack Kirby during his stint at DC Comic, where he did some really outside of the box stuff that led to the creation of his Fourth World universe within the larger DC Universe.

This issue of Jimmy Olsen was tied to all of that, as this is the first appearance of Darkseid, one of the greatest villains in the entire history of DC Comics.

I wanted to read this, as I’ve been reading a lot of the first appearances of some of my favorite villains. That being said, I wasn’t sure what to expect with this comic but it was pretty insane.

This issue is trippy as hell! I’m not sure if that was normal with Jimmy Olsen but I really dug it, even if it was hard to make sense of the proceedings, as I don’t have the issues around this to give it more context.

Superman even shows up in this but he was a pretty regular fixture in this title. Sadly, we don’t get to see Supes square off with Darkseid. In fact, we only get a peek at Darkside in one panel. That’s it, his big debut was just in a single panel where he was a talking head in a TV set, giving commands to one of his minions.

This is creative, kind of nuts and it flew by. I can’t say that it’s a solid comic as a standalone issue but reading it was interesting, as it was a quick, small sample of Kirby’s earliest work at DC.

For Jack Kirby fans, this is worth checking out.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: any of Jack Kirby’s Fourth World titles at DC Comics.

Comic Review: The New Teen Titans, Issue #2 – First Appearance of Deathstroke

Published: November 30th, 1980
Written by: Marv Wolfman
Art by: George Perez, Romeo Tanghal, Adrienne Roy

DC Comics, 26 Pages

Review:

If you’ve been reading Talking Pulp for awhile, it’s no secret that I’m a big fan of Deathstroke. That being said, I have never read his first appearance. The main reason is because this single issue is pretty expensive nowadays, as Deathstroke has gone on to get more and more popular over the years. Especially, after appearing in live action form in the Arrow TV series as well as the recent Justice League movie.

I read this digitally. This single issue is still on my bucket list for comics I want to own before I die but I really wanted to read this simply because it was the first time the world got to see Deathstroke, the Terminator.

On a side note, it also features Grant Wilson’s first time out as Ravager. He is the son of Deathstroke, which isn’t much of a spoiler, as this story is almost 40 years old.

Anyway, this adds a lot of background context to the events of the more famous New Teen Titans story arc, The Judas Contract. We understand more about Deathstroke’s motivations because of this first appearance.

Like The Judas Contract, this story was written by Marv Wolfman and the art was done by George Perez. They were one of the best tandems in comics history and it’s pretty apparent that they were writing this story with the long game in mind.

Perez designed Deathstroke in the same year that he designed Taskmaster for Marvel in Avengers issues 195 and 196. I mentioned in my review about that story arc that the two characters have very strong design similarities. Also, both are at the top of my list as favorite characters under the banner of their publishers.

This was a really exciting read for me. I have a strong bias towards Deathstroke but Wolfman wrote some of the best team superhero comics ever. Perez’s art is fluid and mesmerizing. The two together are pure dynamite.

This issue also reminds me of a time when single issue comics could tell a self contained story with limited space but cover a lot of ground.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: other Teen Titans stories from the Marv Wolfman and George Perez era.

Comic Review: The Avengers, Issues #195-196 – First Appearance of Taskmaster

Published: May, 1980 – June, 1980
Written by: David Michelinie
Art by: George Perez

Marvel Comics, 36 Pages

Review:

The Taskmaster is the shit! Which is why the two issues that make up his first appearance have been on my comic book bucket list for years. Recently, I tracked down affordable copies and finally gave his first little story arc a read.

Well, I wouldn’t call this great but if you like Taskmaster, this is still worth a look. Plus, it also has his origin wedged into the story, as he describes his abilities and history to the Avengers through flashbacks.

I think the thing that really stands out about this story and this era in Avengers history is the art of George Perez. In fact, since this is all about Taskmaster, I should point out the visual similarities between him and another George Perez creation, Deathstroke. He would create both of these iconic villains just a few months apart in 1980.

Anyway, the story sees the Avengers try to rescue the Wasp, who has been captured and is being experimented on in a castle. The Scott Lang Ant-Man and Hank Pym, as Yellow Jacket, infiltrate the castle and reach the Wasp. Once they are inside and have a scuffle, the Taskmaster makes his presence known with a big final page reveal.

In the second issue, the Taskmaster takes on the Avengers and nearly beats them. He also tells his origin story, explaining his unique skills that give him an advantage over all of the Avengers he’s observed in the past. However, we quickly discover his Achilles heel, at least in this story, as he doesn’t know how to defeat an Avengers teammate he’s never seen before.

The story is enjoyable and there is a lot of action. The real highlight is the George Perez art, though. Man, he really was one of my favorite artists from this era.

While these single issues aren’t cheap, due to them being a first appearance, you can read them on Comixology for just a few bucks.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: other Avengers stories circa 1980.

Comic Review: Daredevil, Issues #254-256 – First Appearance of Typhoid Mary

Published: May, 1988 – July, 1988
Written by: Ann Nocenti
Art by: John Romita Jr., Al Williamson

Marvel Comics, 70 Pages

Review:

Everyone loves Frank Miller’s run on Daredevil. However, when I discovered the character, Miller had already moved on. It didn’t matter though, because I loved the stories so much that I picked this up nearly every month.

I came into this during the long Ann Nocenti run. I didn’t have the appreciation for it, at the time. I just liked Daredevil and everything that came with it.

Now, as a cultured adult, I understand what I love most about this era.

First, it’s Nocenti’s writing. She did some great things with all the key characters and really built off of what Frank Miller did before her. If I can be so bold, I think she improved upon it greatly and her run on the title is my favorite out of all the creators who have touched this character.

Second, the artwork of John Romita Jr. is incredible. I have always loved his style and he was the perfect artist for Nocenti’s Daredevil.

The three issues I’m reviewing here are pretty important, as this is the first appearance, origin and story arc for one of the best Daredevil villains, Typhoid Mary.

In recent years, I feel like Mary hasn’t been utilized well. Going back in time, reading this, and seeing how she was in the beginning was refreshing. I’ve always loved the character, more so than Elektra, and felt like she was a good foil with a romantic twist for the hero.

Here, she is just so sinister and the Romita art gives her so much life. She’s never looked cooler or more badass than she did when Romita was drawing her.

Overall, the story is also really good. I love how she comes into the plot, how the Kingpin brings her into the fold and how it all plays out, as she is on a mission to destroy Matt Murdock once and for all. And she doesn’t even want the money, she just thinks that ruining his life would be fun.

The story is dark, satisfying and a great example of how the team of Nocenti and Romita were one of the best in the late ’80s.

Once I start filling in some holes in my Daredevil collection, I’ll do more reviews of Nocenti stories.

Rating: 9.25/10
Pairs well with: anything from the great Ann Nocenti run on Daredevil.