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Showing off the Shelves: Captain America and Black Panther

While there are several Captain America volumes I’d still like to get sooner than not (Captain America vs. Red Skull, the Fighting Chance volumes), for the most part, I think I’m just about where I’m good for now with the character.

showing_off_the_shelves_captain_america_and_black_panther

Of course, the "core" of the collection is the Brubaker Omnibus volumes, collecting about seven years of his work on the character.

And because it’s its own thing and on the shelf immediately preceding the Cap books…I did not crop out the Black Panther by Christopher Priest 4-volume series collecting that series’ run. Though in typing that…it reminds me that there’s also the Captain America and Falcon by Priest volume out there that I’ll want to track down as well…

I’d certainly enjoy a Captain America by Mark Waid omnibus, whether it includes pre and post Heroes Reborn material, or just post. Heck, it’d be great to have a single volume of the Fighting Chance story instead of two half-length volumes.

But it is Marvel, so…yeah.

Anyway…with the addition of the Return of the Winter Soldier Omnibus, this is my current (as of January 2017) Captain America collection.

Zero Hour Revisited – Justice League Task Force #16

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justice_league_task_force_0016Return of the Hero part 2 of 3: Losers!

Writer: Christopher Priest
Penciller: Greg Larocque
Inker: Rich Rankin
Letterer: Bob Pinaha
Colorist: Dave Grafe
Assistant Editor: Ruben Diaz
Editor: Brian Augustyn
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: September 1994
Cover Price: $1.50

It’s kinda odd jumping "back" into an issue of this particular series–I vaguely recall THAT I had the first issue, and reading a 2-issue bit several issues later that tied into Batman‘s KnightQuest stuff…and now another several issues later, this. Given the singular 3-issue "crossover" WITHIN the larger Zero Hour bit, I don’t know how much this issue’s story would REALLY reflect on the ongoing series…but it doesn’t impress me either way.

The story itself–of this guy showing up after years away, having been forgotten while the world’s moved on–came years before Marvel‘s The Sentry, yet because I read that years ago, this feels vaguely like a sort of echo of it; just that I’m consciously aware of it being the reverse-order.

Perhaps part of it is my mood as I type this, but while I’d love to like this–particularly as a Priest book–it just feels a bit scattered and confusing. I mean, I know most of the characters–or at least know OF them–and even Triumph himself is not entirely unfamiliar conceptually to me. I can definitely–at this point, in 2016–identify with Triumph at the surprise of the group he finds here being THE Justice League. Despite the decade or so (at least) that the Justice League was more (for lack of better phrasing) made up of "second string" characters–it was a relatively brief period overall in the history of DC Comics, with most of the last two decades particularly having been refocused and then held to more of a "first string" of big characters.

Even with some familiarity with characters’ existence I’m not that invested in this period, and it holds plenty of blind spots for me detail-wise. As just a nearly-random issue in the midst of a larger run of a single title in a family of titles, this issue alone is clearly not meant for someone like me, especially being read in a near-vacuum more than two decades after it was published.

I’ll chalk this up as yet another tie-in issue that "ties in" to Zero Hour loosely (in the sense of the time anomalies allow for key story elements to happen without separate context/explanation) without being essential to Zero Hour itself. I wouldn’t choose this as an isolated issue to suggest anyone seek out, but if you’re reading the various Justice League stuff from this period, the entirety of Zero Hour, or just this title, it’d likely make for a better read in-context than as part of an event series.

Moving on…

Zero Hour Revisited – Justice League America #92

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justice_league_america_0092Return of the Hero part 1: The Program

Writer: Christopher Priest
Penciller: Luke Ross
Inkers: Cramer, Banning, Faucher, Marzan Jr.
Colorist: Gene D’Angelo
Letters: Clem Robins
Asst. Editor: Ruben Diaz
Editor: Brian Augustyn
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: September 1994
Cover Price: $1.50

This issue was a bit confusing to me at first…though it was a very pleasant surprise to see Christopher Priest listed as the writer of the issue…whatever conscious knowledge I had of his work on this book was lost to Time, given my genuine surprise.

The confusion for me began with being dropped right in the middle of the story, not knowing what was going on…all the more because unlike the End of an Era story in the Legionnaires/Valor books, this one is labeled as part 1, so “should” be more setup than not. We see an older version of the Justice league–led by a guy apparently named Triumph. He’s calling the shots, guiding/coordinating them as they take on an alien menace. Though they have some initial success, things fall apart rather quickly, and it finally comes down to Triumph himself having to save the day…and then we jump to the present, finding that this has been a story Triumph himself has been sharing with the “current” Justice League, unaware of the status quo–from his point of view he’s been trapped outside the normal flow of Time until now…but if he’s now free, so are the alien attackers.

This isn’t a bad issue by any means…and I look forward to getting more of this 3-part story for more context and seeing how stuff develops. As-is, the story itself doesn’t impress me…it’s just another story of an older version of the Justice League “before.” Before the “bwa-ha-ha” era and whatnot. I’m certainly soured by stuff I’ve read in the past 10-15+ years…I’m not a fan of “previously unknown or forgotten” individuals showing up, essentially being “retconned” into the story(ies).

And yet, ultimately this WORKS, because with Zero Hour going on, Time anomalies popping up all over the place…that means somewhere “out there” is a universe where this guy DID work with the Justice League. Just not in the timeline that I–as the reader–have read about in this version of the DC universe.

The art’s not bad, though it’s kinda run-of-the-mill for me. I can’t put my finger on it exactly, but something about the visuals just SAYS “early/mid 1990s!” to me…perhaps knowing I had a several-year “blind spot” between the late-’92/early-’93 JL stuff and Morrison‘s JLA. That that particular blind spot was this era would explain why I associate it there.

While this issue doesn’t engage me all that well–it’s not something I’d want to pay much per issue for, and if I was paying $3.99 I would certainly NOT be happy with it as a standalone–it’s the start (apparently) of a story, and does it kinda creatively, and definitely in a “classic” non-linear way that I associate with Priest thanks to Black Panther (some 4+ years later than this) or Quantum and Woody (perhaps around the time this came out).

As a Zero Hour tie-in, I like this… it may not tie directly to ZH itself, but does make use of the event to tell a story involving a likely Time anomaly that does not have to be the focus of the story itself…instead, the focus can simply be on the anomalous agent. in this case, Triumph.

That name is interestingly familiar to me, though I can’t quite place the character…whether it’s deja vu and/or I’ve seen the name on this cover before, or because there’s more to do with Triumph in the DC Universe in general. I guess this begins shedding some light on that dark spot in my DC knowledge.

"Upgrading" and beyond: Priest’s Black Panther

black_panther_old_and_newOne key comic series for me during college was Priest‘s Black Panther. I’d first tried the series because of its part in the launch of Marvel Knights in Fall 1998, and kept up with it for a few issues. I was nearly ready to let it go–and posted something about that on an old usenet forum–and was convinced to try a couple more issues. The way I remember it, the very next issue was “that” one with the big revelation about why T’Challa actually joined with the Avengers…and I stayed with the series through the end of its run and even followed the short-lived The Crew that followed it.

While I have the entire series in single issues, I remember being thrilled to find the series in paperback (though I don’t remember these early volumes being QUITE so early–2001 based on the indicia). And I was QUITE disappointed when nothing else got collected beyond the first 12 issues, and when this series was basically ignored and “forgotten” for everything that’s come since.

black_panther_book_stack

black_panther_one_volume_thicker_than_two_oldNow, in one single volume, we get 17 issues…five more than the previous two volumes combined. Which really makes this quite an “upgrade.” The two prior volumes collected 5 issues and 7 issues each. Though my photo doesn’t show it very effectively, the new volume IS thicker than the previous two, even with the extra set of covers. The old volumes are also noticeably of their time-period, as they’re from when Marvel tried to save money by shaving 1/8 inch black_panther_new_taller_than_both_oldoff the height of their publications to use less paper or something to that general effect.

This new volume also stands out as being another where after all those years, Marvel switched to a red box with white text for their logo instead of the red text on white box.

While I was left hanging with only the first twelve issues collected, with 17 issues or so per volume, three volumes would get us through the first 50 issues or so, and a fourth would be able to include The Crew as an extension of this series.

I’m definitely hoping the cover/title of this edition holds true: Black Panther: The Complete Collection by Christopher Priest.

Though an Omnibus or other hardcover series of collections would be preferred…I’ll gladly take this over nothing, and it sure beats the skinny little 6ish-issue collections.

black_panther_old_prices

Despite the decade or so waiting, the price of this new volume is surprisingly well in-line (if not better value) than the originals. $15 and $17 got me 12 issues for $32; another $3 adds five more issues (the same quantity as the first $15!). Of course, I don’t recall what I paid for these originals, whether it was full cover price or a discount; given I’d’ve sworn I got them during grad school as they came out, but they seem significantly older.

black_panther_new_price

And of course, I paid significantly less than cover price by pre-ordering this from Amazon this time around.

black_panther_new_book_back_text

I doubt I’d care whatsoever about the Black Panther character if it wasn’t for this series. So while I’m shying away from Marvel‘s print products lately…stuff like this gets through on the nostalgia factor.

And being able to have the contents of two books in one with even more content, I’m actually glad to “upgrade” to have–hopefully–the entire series in nice-looking paperbacks that actually look like they go together, on the shelf…and AS a series, having numbering. Perhaps I’m odd, but I prefer the numbers, as it makes it more obvious this isn’t just a single contained story or volume…and the publisher has more “confidence” in it to give a number rather than just one skinny volume at a time with no apparent intent to go beyond the current.

Still…a  Black Panther by Priest omnibus would be quite a volume–even as two volumes–to sit on a shelf with the Classic Quantum and Woody volume.

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