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Avengers Epic Collection: Behold the Vision (The Avengers: Epic Collection)
Avengers Epic Collection: Behold the Vision (The Avengers: Epic Collection)
by Roy Thomas
Edition: Paperback
Price: £20.66

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superhero Comic Perfection, 18 May 2015
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The latest Epic Collection gives us Volume 4 in the eventual complete chronology of Avengers stories - this particular book collects material from 1968-1970. Now, this is a period widely considered to be one of the title's finest, and rereading this material, it's not hard to see why.

Roy Thomas, successor to Stan Lee (who edits), writes every issue in this collection, with art provided by my absolute favourite classic Marvel artist, John Buscema, with several issues pencilled by Sal Buscema, Gene Colan, Barry Windsor-Smith and Frank Giacoia. They all turn in fine work, but John's wonderful linework is the clear highlight for me.

The classic storylines begin straight away with the introduction of the Vision, and the team's second clash with the mad robot Ultron. For those viewers wanting to learn more about the characters from this year's Age of Ultron movie, these initial couple of issues are a must. Then, it's the introduction of the mysterious Yellowjacket, with a twist to the tale that's still hard to beat.

The pace in this collection never lets up; in quick succession, the team assist Dr Strange with a mystical problem, face the dreaded Man-Ape in Avenger the Black Panther's home nation, race to save a city from the maniacal Egghead, face an even DEADLIER iteration of Ultron, battle for the fate of the planet at the behest of Kang the Conqueror, meet the sinister Zodiac cartel, try to stop the racist group the Sons of the Serpent from setting the country ablaze, and face down supreme warrior Arkon with the help of a couple of old team-mates.

The real strengths of these stories, even as Buscema and the others throw page after page of breathless, gorgeous action scenes at us, are Thomas's wonderful scripts. While inheriting the verve and punch of Lee, the literary Thomas brings a richer depth to the characters and the stories he places them in, whether it is the ever-twisting nature of Hank and Janet's relationship, the Black Panther's soul-searching about his role in the world, the Vision's frustrations at his own muddled origins, or Hawkeye making dramatic changes to his role in the team. It's all simply brilliant, and a textbook example of how to write excellent superhero comics.

As well as the main Avengers issues, we also have a Black Knight story from Marvel Super Heroes #17, by Thomas and Howard Purcell, serving as a fine introduction to the new heroic iteration of the character. Other bonus features include the unused cover to that issue, as well as original art pages by Buscema and Windsor-Smith. These are mere trifles, however, after the sumptuous main course this volume provides. These are probably the best Avengers stories to hit the Epic Collection line so far (Volumes 1, 9 and 17 are already available), and you owe it yourself to seek them out.


Amazing Spider-Man Epic Collection: Round Robin
Amazing Spider-Man Epic Collection: Round Robin
by David Michelinie
Edition: Paperback
Price: £20.66

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Quality Collection, None-More-Nineties Material, 6 April 2015
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The latest Epic Collection returns us to the world of Peter Parker, bringing us Volume 22 in the eventual complete chronology and collecting material from 1991-1991. As usual with this line, the collection itself is wonderful, with quality reproduction on good paper and a completionist-friendly mindset. However, as with so many superhero offerings with the nineties, I feel that these stories are not exactly the webhead's finest hour.

We kick off the book with the three Spidey annuals (Amazing, Spectacular and Web Of) from 1991; all three contain a mixed bag of tales from several artists and writers. As well as shorter stories starring Spidey or his villains, such as Venom, and a retelling of several character's origin stories, we have a couple of longer ones that run across all three annuals.

The first sees Spidey team up with Iron Man and Black Panther in a tangled tale about the wonder metal vibranium, bringing the three heroes into conflict with crime boss the Kingpin and the mad robot Ultron. It's certainly not terrible, but for all the big hitters in the story, seems to lack urgency and conflict. The other triple-annual story does not even feature Spider-Man, but instead sees mercenary Silver Sable recruit a team of ex-villains as the Outlaws. Spidey being edged out by guest stars is a recurring theme with this particular collection, as are the number of VERY nineties-style characters being given an obvious push.

After the annuals, though, normal service resumes on Spidey's monthly series, and we see new artist Mark Bagley, later to have a fantastic run on the Ultimate version of the character, join regular writer David Michelinie on Peter's adventures. Bagley has a clean, fresh style, and certainly manages to capture the kinetic action of the webswinger's life. Again, though, the series seems more concerned with focusing on guest star Nova than on Spidey's rematch with the Tri-Sentinel from his cosmic days.

The title six-parter has guest writer Al Milgrom paired with Bagley for a story about an old sidekick returning for cyborg-style revenge. The work is again fine, if a little repetitive in its repeated fights and chase scenes, but this time Spider-Man has to share page space with Moon Knight, Nova, Night Thrasher, the Punisher and Moon Knight (!). With that many superheroes to fit in, it's no wonder that, save from perfunctory appearances from Mary-Jane and Aunt May, Peter's wonderful supporting cast is largely neglected in this volume.

The final monthly two-parter has Spidey tangle with doctor-turned vigilante Cardiac as our hero's sense of justice conflicts with the other's lust for revenge. It is again, perfectly fine work, just not vintage brilliance.

The collection wraps up with the Fear Itself graphic novel, a longer work with the wallcrawler joining Silver Sable on an international mission against a mysterious villainess in possession of a terrifying fear-based weapon. While the story is co-written by Stan Lee, it seems to lack his usual exuberant flourishes, although the art, by Ross Andru, hearkens back to more classic Amazing Tales.

To round off the collection, the book also gives us the original Fear Itself cover, details on Bagley's winning of Marvel's Try-Out contest, the cover, introduction and pin-ups from the original Round Robin trade paperback, and Spider-Man-related trading card art from the relevant years. So, while I might have been somewhat down on the material presented here, I have nothing but good things to say about the presentation itself.

Completists will, of course, be adding this to their Epic Collection shelf, and there is certainly nothing out-and-out terrible here, but for everyone else, this is a less than essential period of Spider-Man's life.


Thor Epic Collection: To Wake the Mangog (Epic Collection: Thor)
Thor Epic Collection: To Wake the Mangog (Epic Collection: Thor)
by Stan Lee
Edition: Paperback
Price: £20.66

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars For the Realm Eternal!, 16 Mar. 2015
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The twenty-fifth book (my, how time flies) in the ever-impressive Epic Collection series brings us this, Volume 4 in the eventual complete run of Thor stories, collecting material from 1968 to 1970. It is essentially the end stretch of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby's years-long collaboration on the title, and as such showcases the very best of those creators' work.

By this stage in Thor's adventures, things had definitely developed a grandiose, cosmic scale; while the thunder god still spends plenty of time on his adopted home planet of Earth, many of the stories presented here deal with the glittering realm of Asgard, and the fantastic gods and monsters who dwell there. This is not a superhero who foils bank robberies each night; this is a champion who battles vast, inconceivable forces at the behest of the all-powerful Allfather.

The book opens with the titular storyline, in which Thor is summoned back to Asgard to prevent Ragnarok at the hands of the Mangog, a monster with the power of a "billion billion" beings. Their clash shakes Asgard itself amidst storms, floods and volcanic eruptions. Then, the Mighty one is drawn into a titanic battle between the world-eater Galactus and Ego, the Living Planet, learning the first hints of the former's origins along the way. In fact, much of this volume deals with Odin's concern over the threat of Galactus, a threat even gods may fear.

There are many other stories contained here, as well, as Thor takes on Pluto, Lord of the Underworld, mysterious lifeform Him (later to be better-known as Adam Warlock), unstoppable android the Thermal Man and the brutal villain known as the Wrecker. Together with subplots including Balder's continuing and complex relationship with the villainous Norn queen Karnilla, the pace never lets up.

Lee's dialogue and prose has never been more gloriously overblown; the cod-Shakespearian, archaic voices of the Asgardians and the dramatic, doom-laden tones of the narrator contrast with the peppy, exclamatory words used by the Earthlings. It all works to give the book a unique flavour that is both exciting and different.

Kirby, of course, has rarely been better, letting his imagination run riot with the baroque fashions and gloriously ornate machines of Asgard. In the vast, cosmic scenes he manages to infuse the pages with real power - several spreads see him experiment with photomontage techniques for the backgrounds to great effect. His heroes and heroines are dynamic, gorgeous, larger than life; his villains monstrous and threatening. A Kirby fight scene is something to behold, with exquisite storytelling and energy in even the smallest scuffle.

The stories contained in this book showcase the very best of what the Thor title can be; wonderful mythic tales fused with the modern legends of the superhero. Bonus pages contain original Kirby art, much of it unused, and help to round out another essential collection.


Iron Man Epic Collection: Stark Wars
Iron Man Epic Collection: Stark Wars
by Bob Layton
Edition: Paperback
Price: £20.39

5.0 out of 5 stars Epic Armour Wars, 14 Feb. 2015
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This collection will be Volume 13 in the eventual complete Iron Man chronology (Volumes 1, 10 and 16 have already been released), and covers the years 1987 and 1988. This might be the best run released so far in the series, as it covers one brilliant story arc, and nearly a dozen very good ones that lead into it.

The stories are nearly all co-written by David Michelinie and Bob Layton, and they are safe hands for ol' Shellhead to be in. They manage to balance every aspect of Tony Stark's life - the avenging superhero, the playboy dilettante, and the driven businessman. What's better, they make those aspects mesh believably and in ways that ramp in the excitement in each. The art likewise is nearly all the work of Mark D. Bright and Layton, and they have a clean, classic style that works for epic aerial dogfights as well as tense meetings in gleaming skyscrapers.

So, to the stories themselves; as the collection opens, Tony Stark is working his way back to the top, rebuilding his company and enjoying his flashy new red-and-silver suit. The first half of the book sees him facing the evil scientist collective AIM, intangible saboteur the Ghost and mysterious new heroine Stratosfire, before attempting to protect villain-turned-witness Force from Beetle, Blacklash and Blizzard. These are all exciting tales that still find time to flesh out Tony and his supporting cast, especially best friend and ex-Iron Man stand-in Rhodey.

After these short stories, though, the titular story arc (more commonly known as Armour Wars among the fandom) begins, and it is simply brilliant. When Tony discovers that his technology has been incorporated into the armour of several supervillains, he holds himself responsible for every death caused by their hands, and vows to destroy the technology - no matter the cost.

As well as seeing Iron Man thrillingly tackle bad guys such as Stilt Man, the Controller, Crimson Dynamo and Titanium Man, the arc also forces the golden avenger into conflict with his friends, including Steve Rogers, as he also struggles to destroy the technology used by SHIELD and supervillain prison the Vault. We follow every internal torment of Stark as he risks friendships, his livelihood and his reputation in order to achieve his goals. It's a classic storyline.

As an epilogue to the storyline, legendary writer-artist Barry Windsor-Smith provides a typically intense issue that goes inside Tony's mind, portraying his inner turmoil is visceral, graphic style. It's the perfect end to a wonderful collection.

Extras include a preview page and full interview from Marvel Age, pinups from Marvel Fanfare, letters page commentary from Mark Gruenwald, a house ad, and the original cover art and introduction from the Armour Wars trade. It's a complete package, and one that thoroughly deserves a place on your shelf.


X-Men Epic Collection: Children of the Atom
X-Men Epic Collection: Children of the Atom
by Stan Lee
Edition: Paperback
Price: £20.66

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Birth of the Mutants, 14 Jan. 2015
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Finally, the comics phenomenon that is the X-Men comes to the Epic Collection line - and with a volume 1 no less. That means that you can follow the adventures of Marvel's Merry Mutants all the way from issue #1. In fact, this pleasingly thick volume contains the first TWENTY-THREE issues of X-Men, covering the years 1963-1966.

The majority of the material collected here is by the dream team of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, although in the latter part of the book Roy Thomas takes over writing duties, while Werner Roth and Alex Toth handle the art. In all cases, the scripting is in the hyperbolous sixties Marvel style, and the art is fresh, dynamic and beautifully laid out.

We are introduced to the mysterious Professor X, and his very special class of teenage students - Cyclops, Beast, Angel, Iceman and Marvel Girl. Together, they learn to control their amazing mutant abilities as well as struggle to prevent others of their kind from joining the villainous Magneto. As well as the aforementioned master of magnetism, the uncanny students also meet the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants (including future stars Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch), the robotic Sentinels, heroic jungle lord Ka-Zar and many more, plus the X-Men tussle with the Avengers in one of those classic Marvel misunderstandings.

Now, the X-Men weren't immediately smash hit successes, and reading these first few stories, you can understand that; the initial five students take a while to develop interesting personalities, and there is certainly a lot of repetition in their many 'detect new mutant, race Magneto to find them' stories, but there are also some gems within these pages. The issue in which Professor X tells his startled students the tragic origin of the unstoppable Juggernaut, as the aforementioned menace comes inexorably nearer to their school, is bravura, suspenseful comics craft of the highest order.

So, too, are the emerging threads that would become integral to the property; as Beast and Cyclops are both set upon by anti-mutant mobs despite their best heroic efforts, the themes of persecution and tolerance that make the book so unique begin to make themselves known. It certainly sets them apart from beloved superhero teams such as the Avengers and Fantastic Four.

Included as extras are several pages of original Kirby artwork, a collection of vintage house ads, and even an unused Kirby cover; the Epic Collections, as always, are pleasing in their completeness. While the X-Men would not reach their true potential for another ten years, these original tales are indispensable reading for any mutant fan.


Wolverine Epic Collection: Madripoor Nights
Wolverine Epic Collection: Madripoor Nights
by Chris Claremont
Edition: Paperback
Price: £20.66

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars He's the Best at What He Does, 30 Dec. 2014
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It's not news to anybody at this point that Wolverine was far and away the most popular character to emerge from the X-Men series - since his debut in the mid-seventies he's grown to be a ubiquitous presence in the Marvel Universe, whether on page or on screen. Just look - his Epic Collection precedes the first X-Men one by a month. Of course, some modern readers might argue that he has become OVERexposed, diluted by his vast number of appearances. With that it mind, it's wonderful to return to 1988 and the start of his first-ever solo ongoing series, so that we can remind ourselves just why he became the most popular character of the modern age.

This volume collects both the introductory ten-part series from Marvel Comics Presents, as well as the first sixteen issues of the Wolverine series itself. Together, they take Wolvie out on his own (at this point in the comics, the X-Men were scattered around the world, having faked their own deaths), as he finds a new life in the lawless south-east Asian island of Madripoor.

Taking on the pseudonym of 'Patch' and attempting to conceal his mutant nature from the raucous locals, he finds himself caught up in the local criminal turf wars as well as taking part in some rather more esoteric adventures. In these pages you will meet crime lords Roche, Tyger Tiger and Nguyen Ngoc Coy, brutal enforcers Roughouse and Bloodsport, a visiting Hulk (in his Joe Fixit persona), ex-Spider-Woman-turned-private-eye Jessica Drew, ancient demon Ba'al, lethal mutant Silver Samurai and more.

The stories are nearly all penned by mutant maestro Chris Claremont, although Peter David scripts the concluding six-parter, and likewise are drawn by Marvel legend John Buscema, with a guest spot from Gene Colan. Claremont has always had a good fix on what makes Wolverine tick, and takes pleasure in exploring his ruthless, wry nature through laconic inner monologues and witty quips - this is a Marvel antihero who is more than willing to deal death to the deserving. Buscema, too, his art sketchier and rougher to match the setting, shows the mastery of visual storytelling that made his name.

As much as Wolverine is the protagonist, though, and as fun as his supporting cast is, the real star of this collection is Madripoor itself. With elements of Casablanca, eighties Daredevil and countless noir movies thrown into the mix, the city-island is a living, breathing cesspit where life is cheap and sudden violence mixes with sleazy glamour. It helps give these adventures very much a unique flavour.

As with a lot of the later material, extras abound in this Epic Collection. As well as plenty of pinups of Wolverine himself, there are Marvel Age articles on both series collected here, ads of the time, the covers of previous collections to collect this material, and lots of original Buscema art. All of which help to make this a definitive printing of Wolvie's original solo outings; why not pick them up and remind yourself what the fuss was all about. What he does might not be pretty... but it sure is fun.


Captain America Epic Collection: Captain America Lives Again
Captain America Epic Collection: Captain America Lives Again
by Stan Lee
Edition: Paperback
Price: £20.66

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Golden Age Reborn, 21 Dec. 2014
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Though this may be labelled Volume 1 in Captain America's Epic Collection series, bear in mind that his adventures are collected from his Silver Age reappearance, not his original heyday in the Golden Age of comics. Considering that the style of forties comics was very different, I feel like this was a good way to go. So, then, this book covers material from 1963-1967, as WWII supersoldier Steve Rogers awakens into a world much different than the one he knew.

First up in this collection, though, is a Human Torch story from Strange Tales #114, as the hotheaded teen hero faces a Captain America who, let's say, is not the genuine article. After that quick diversion, we have Avengers #4 (which you may already have if you purchased Avengers Epic Collection Vol. 1 last month), in which the Avengers fish the actual Captain out of icy waters and thrust him fully into the Marvel age.

The rest of this thick volume is filled with Cap's solo adventures from Tales of Suspense, the title he shared with Iron Man before both of them received their own books. As such, the stories are each a mere ten pages long, although many continue on from each other.

In these tales, the good Captain struggles to find a life in a world he doesn't know, haunted by the loved ones he left behind in time. For a reasonable chunk of the book, we flash back to the war and his adventures with his teen sidekick Bucky; as they struggle against the Nazis and their saboteur allies, the pages are packed with explosive fistfights and derring-do.

Most of the volume is set in the (sixties) present-day, though, as Rogers aids Nick Fury and his superspies of SHIELD, battles Batroc the Leaper and the terrifying MODOK for the first time, and has to deal with the similar re-emergence of his archnemesis, the Red Skull. Along the way, in typically Marvel Age soap-style, he meets the (here unnamed) woman who will become his great paramour, and broods over his place in this brave new world.

The stories are almost entirely written by Stan Lee, with Roy Thomas contributing a couple of issues. Most of the comics, too, are drawn by the great Jack Kirby, one of Cap's original creators, although the guest artists play like a who's-who of Marvel talent - Don Heck, George Tuska, John Romita, Gil Kane and more. Still, Cap is never more dynamic than under the facile pencil of Jolly Jack, the book a riot of exuberant and incredible fight scenes and doomsday machines.

While perhaps these aren't the cream of sixties Marvel madness, both because of the brevity of each issue and the continuing search for Cap's exact place in the wider Marvel Universe, the stories collected here are still a masterclass in superhero adventure. Included as extras are three rare pages of original art from Kirby and Kane, but the main draw here is the second birth of an American icon.


Silver Surfer Epic Collection: When Calls Galactus
Silver Surfer Epic Collection: When Calls Galactus
by Stan Lee
Edition: Paperback
Price: £20.66

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant Material... Possibly Redundant Collection?, 15 Dec. 2014
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I agonised long and hard about what score to give this, the first Silver Surfer Epic Collection, because while the stories collected inside are worthy of four or even five stars, the collection itself proves somewhat more problematic. Now, before you all mark this review unhelpful for such prevaricating nonsense, let me explain, true believers...

This initial volume of the Sentinel of the Spaceways' adventures covers material from the years 1966-1968, largely the work of Marvel's twin titans, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. I'll get to the stories themselves later, but it is important to note that these collected tales are all, bar a couple of Hulk half-issues from Tales to Astonish, from the pages of Fantastic Four. What this means is that if you are a Marvelite also collecting the Fantastic Four Epic Collections, you will be getting all these issues again. In fact, you'll be getting them in more complete form than what is presented here - several issues are trimmed down to the Surfer-centric material (sometimes even down to a few panels, the rest of the page taken up with a large picture of the Surfer).

Now; I understand why they have done this; if you are a Surfer fan who DOESN'T plan on getting the Fantastic Four ECs, then this book allows you to have all of Norrin Radd's adventures collected from the very start. And if you like the Surfer but only want his solo series from 1968, then Volume 2 of this series will collect it in its entirety, making this volume an easy skip.

Another problem is in the size of this book; turns out that the entirety of the Surfer's appearances before his solo series come to about 300 pages, making this EC considerably slimmer than previous collections in this series, which usually clock up at between 450 and 500 pages. Again, I realise this was necessary in order to split the solo series off into its own volume, but I wish the smaller pagecount had been better reflected in the book's price.

...now, having said all that, if none of the above matters to you, then please feel free to add on a star or two, because the stories here are great. Beginning with the legendary Galactus trilogy that sees the Surfer herald the arrival of his planet-eating master on Earth, we then see the chromed hero exiled on our own fair planet despite his longing for the cosmos. Along the way he battles the Thing and the Hulk, has his Power Cosmic stolen by Doctor Doom, and escapes into the Microverse just as Galactus returns to claim him.

Make no mistake, this stuff is Stan and Jack at the height of their powers, throwing out all the incredible cosmic art, heartbreak and wonder that they used to forge the Marvel age. The Surfer was their most philosophical, serene creation, a chrome angel tied to Earth yet longing to soar.

So it's up to you, really; know that if you are buying this collection to have the Silver Surfer's earliest adventures all in one place, then you will not be disappointed. Just be sure you know exactly what you will be getting, so that you can decide whether it is essential for your shelf.


Avengers Epic Collection: Earth's Mightiest Heroes
Avengers Epic Collection: Earth's Mightiest Heroes
by Stan Lee
Edition: Paperback
Price: £20.66

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Assembling... for the First Time, 7 Dec. 2014
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Next up in Marvel's fabulous Epic Collection series is Volume One of the Avengers - normally this series is collected in non-chronological order, but as it's the company's 75th anniversary this year, they have been releasing the initial volumes of their biggest series. And so, we have the first twenty issues (covering the years 1963-1965) of the Earth's Mightiest Heroes.

Initially the work of Silver Age dream team Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, this mighty book follows the titanic assemblage of Iron Man, Thor, the Hulk, Ant Man and the Wasp, who decide to join forces after being accidentally brought together by the evil Loki. From the beginning, though, it is clear that this is a team whose membership will not be set in stone; the Hulk becomes more of an occasional antagonist after the second issue, while the fourth sees the rebirth of Golden Age legend Captain America into the modern age. And by the end of this hefty collection, the largest shakeup yet takes us into the era known fondly by fans as 'Cap's Kooky Quartet.' It's an approach that ensures the book never gets stale, and it's fun seeing how different heroes interact with each other.

Lee's purple, excitable prose coupled with Kirby's dynamic and energetic art proves as irresistible as ever, even if it takes a few issues (with the addition of Cap) for the concept to really 'click.' After issue eight, the overworked Kirby is replaced with Marvel stalwart Don Heck; although not the artistic genius that Kirby was, Heck's pencils are still a fine example of the forceful sixties Marvel style.

Over these initial twenty issues, the Avengers deal with menaces including the wrathful Atlantean prince Submariner, Nazi war criminal Baron Zemo and his Masters of Evil, evil time-traveller Kang the Conquerer, organised crime boss Count Nefaria and many more. As the Earth's premier superhero team, the Avengers face threats that no single champion could hope to overcome. Amidst all this action, it is the very human humour and pathos among the team's members that really make the stories.

While they don't yet hit the heights that later storylines will accomplish, these early stories are important must-haves for any Avengers fan. As with most of the other Epic Collections, a few extras are included; in this case, house ads from the time period and original art by Kirby and Heck, showing several changes from the printed material. Another great collection; long may they continue!


Iron Man Epic Collection: The Golden Avenger (Epic Collection: the Invincible Iron Man)
Iron Man Epic Collection: The Golden Avenger (Epic Collection: the Invincible Iron Man)
by Stan Lee
Edition: Paperback
Price: £20.66

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Forging the Legend, 30 Nov. 2014
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Thanks to the sterling efforts of Robert Downey jr and an army of moviemakers, Iron Man is currently one of the most popular superheroes on the planet. Thanks to his newfound pop culture prominence, there are probably a whole lot of comics fans, both new and old, that wouldn't mind seeing how the adventures of ol' Shellhead got started. Fortuitous, then, that as part of their 75th anniversary celebrations, Marvel have released the first volume in Iron Man's own Epic Collection series (volumes 10 and 16 of which are already out).

This chunky volume contains material from 1963-1965, when Tony Stark's adventures appeared in the anthology title Tales of Suspense. As such, most of the stories are a mere 13 pages in length, although several extend to 18 pages as the golden Avenger's star began to rise. The comics are mostly written, as was so much in the dawn of the Marvel Age, by Stan Lee (with the aid of a handful of guest writers including Robert Bernstein and Al Hartley), while the dynamic art is provided by sixties stalwart Don Heck (although a select few are pencilled by Marvel's twin titans Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko).

Within these pages you will find the startling origin of the metal-clad hero, as playboy genius Tony Stark, mortally wounded, creates a fantastic suit that he then uses to fight the forces of evil. Note that, in this volume at least, those forces are mainly those of communism, as Iron Man protects America's interests against a tide of villains from behind the iron and bamboo curtains.

There are supervillains too, of course; some that would come to haunt Stark for years to come (his opposite numbers Crimson Dynamo and Titanium Man, plus the diabolical mastermind who would become his nemesis... the Mandarin), as well as a few that, to be charitable, did not exactly take off (giant brute Gargantus, the less than frightening Mister Doll). To combat these foes, Stark will continually upgrade his amazing suit - in this single volume he metamorphoses from the clunky 'diving suit' prototype to the sleek, red and gold number that fans are more familiar with.

This being a Marvellous Stan Lee production, the soapier, human elements are not neglected either, with the threat of his injured heart causing Stark no end of distress, and a burgeoning love triangle between him, his secretary Pepper, and his right-hand man Happy forming an emotional counterpoint to all the slam-bang action. Don Heck, often an unsung hero of Marvel's silver age, manages to depict both the high-octane battle scenes and Stark's glamorous lifestyle excitingly and with real energy.

While not the immediate work of genius that, say, Spider-Man was, these original stories showcase just why the iron-clad Avenger has been an enduring presence in the world of comics for over fifty years. And with these lovingly restored comics, as well as a selection of vintage ads and original artwork, this thick paperback is a great way to celebrate that.


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