Greetings from the Odinson,
I just got through watching the Japanese trailer for the Avengers Movie, which includes even more spectacular scenes not seen in previous trailers. The Odinson is so stoked to see this movie. I am at once happy and sad, though. Happy that my all time favorite super hero team is being made into a live action movie (helmed by Joss Whedon no less), and sad that DC and Warner Bros. seem unable, or unwilling, to put together a Justice League movie. I grew up on the Super Friends cartoons and later thoroughly enjoyed the Justice League Unlimited animated series. Why is DC dragging their feet on this one? The time is now!
I get so fired up about the Avengers movie and the chance that there will one day be a JLA movie because these are my favorite kinds of stories. When a group of heroes must unite to stand against a common foe or accomplish a goal no single hero can take on alone, this is the subject of legends. In ancient times, Jason and the Argonauts, a group of heroes that included the Boreads brothers, Orpheus, Atalanta, and Hercules, ventured forth upon a harrowing quest to find the magical Golden Fleece. King Arthur and his valiant Knights of the Round Table, a group comprised of brave paladins like Gawain, Perceval, and Lancelot, brought peace to the land and protected the Kingdom of Camelot from the forces of darkness and quested for the Holy Grail. Robin Hood and His Merry Men, the outlaw heroes Little John, Will Scarlet, and Friar Tuck, defied a usurper to the throne of England and fought to restore justice to the land. These are the tales that inspire. And like the Argonauts, Knights of the Round Table, and the Merry Men, comics are full of brave men and women that come together for a common goal.
Team books are so much better than the single hero comics. You get more bang for your buck. Instead of just reading about Superman or Batman, why not pick up an issue of JLA and read about both heroes in the same story. That was the genius of comic book series like Marvel Team-Up and Marvel Two-In-One. Not only was the reader getting treated to an in continuity Spider-Man or Thing story, but the reader also got to see these popular characters interacting and teaming up with other heroes from around the Marvel Universe. Those two series went a long way in establishing a truly shared world in the Marvel Universe. A super hero team up is an event! Those are my favorite kinds of stories.
There are thousands of fantastic team stories out there to enjoy. Here are a few of my all time favorites.
WildC.A.T.s Opening Arc – Ah, back during that first magical year of Image super heroes. What an explosion of imagination and possibilities that was. And standing front and center was Jim Lee’s WildC.A.T.s. In WildC.A.T.s #1-4, a dark conspiracy is unfolding. A sinister evil is about to close its clawed fist around the world and enslave mankind forever. In this opening arc, a group of heroes comes together, some human, some alien, and some mutant hybrids of the two. They suddenly find themselves smack dab in the middle of a war that has been raging in the shadows for centuries and is now spilling over into the light of day. The U.S. government thinks the C.A.T.s are dangerous outlaws. So, this motley crew of heroes must try to stay one step ahead of their government pursuers and try to stop an alien warlord from unleashing hell on Earth. Man, that’s what reading comic books is all about.
Superman and the Legion of Super-Heroes – The Legion is a team of super heroes in the 31st Century that are inspired by the heroic exploits of the Man of Steel. In this amazing tale by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank, Superman is notified in present day Metropolis by a distress call from the future. The Last Son of Krypton ventures into the future where he finds the Legion scattered across the galaxy and on the run from a powerful new threat. And worse, he may be powerless to help. Geoff Johns’ writing here is superb and his characterizations of these heroes are dead on. In a cast this size it would be easy for these character’s to blend together and begin to sound the same, but Johns does a great job of making every character distinct. And Gary Frank is easily a Top 5 Superman artist of all time. Anyone that can give me the look of a Christopher Reeve Man of Steel and not make it look like a parody is aces.
Fantastic Four #242-244 – Oh, now this story is exactly what I’m talking about. There can be no greater threat to planet Earth than a creature known as the World Devourer. Terrax the Tamer, the devious Herald of Galactus, has turned on his master and lured the titan back to Earth. He forces a situation where the Fantastic Four must kill Galactus or allow their planet to be destroyed. Due to the actions of his treacherous Herald, Galactus has not fed for sometime and he is at his weakest. But even a weakened Galactus is more than a match for the FF alone. Enter Earth’s Mightiest Heroes! The Fantastic Four team up with the Avengers and Doctor Strange to stop Galactus from feeding on planet Earth. What follows is one of the mightiest displays of super heroic team work ever captured in four colors. This story also features the debut of Nova, a cosmic character that will go on to become quite important to the Silver Surfer in future stories. This is a stand out moment in John Byrne’s already amazing run on the FF and easily one of the Odinson’s favorite Galactus tales.
JLA: Rock of Ages – What can I possibly say about this epic tale by Grant Morrison and Howard Porter that I haven’t already said? JLA #10-15 is quite possibly the perfect comic book story. It all begins when the Injustice Gang, a cabal of the Justice League’s deadliest enemies, bushwhacks the League with evil doppelgangers of the heroes themselves. That by itself would be enough for any comic story, but Morrison has more up his sleeve. Lex Luthor has come into possession of the powerful artifact known as the Philosopher’s Stone, and with its power he and his cohorts will be unstoppable. What follows is a romp through space and time where the JLA meet gods, see the end of everything, and bare witness to a future where Darkseid rules the DCU with an iron fist. This tale just escalates and escalates until its inevitable climax and by the end of the story the reader is left breathless. Rock of Ages is just an amazing piece of fiction.
Avengers: Under Siege – Trying to pick my favorite Avengers story is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. I guess putting down “All of Them” would just be a cop out. So, if I’m forced to make a decision then I’m going to have to go with Under Siege. Baron Zemo has assembled a new Masters of Evil, one more powerful than any incarnation that has come before it. They infiltrate Avengers Mansion and one-by-one Earth’s Mightiest Heroes fall before the villains united might. Mighty Hercules is drugged and beaten to within an inch of his life and left hanging by a thread in a coma. Captain America is captured and forced to watch as the sinister Mr. Hyde tortures poor Jarvis. Captain Marvel II (Photon) is trapped in a dark dimension and the Black Knight is soundly defeated. The only one left to stop these madmen is the Wasp. These are the moments that define a hero. When the Avengers are all but beaten and at their lowest point, the reader watches in amazement as these stalwart heroes fight back and ultimately win the day. This tale also sets up the future as the core members of Zemo’s Masters of Evil will go on to become the Thunderbolts.
New Teen Titans: Kidnapped – Man, like with the Avengers, trying to pick my favorite Teen titans tale is tough. The Judas Contract is definitely up there. As are stories featuring Trigon, Brother Blood, the Fearsome Five, Thunder and Lightning, and the Brotherhood of Evil. I could even make cases for Terra Incognito, Who is Donna Troy? and the Death of Trident. But if I could only read one Titans tale for the rest of my life it would have to be Kidnapped. This is the first time we are introduced to Starfire’s sinister sister, Blackfire. This adventure sends the Titans to the far side of the universe to fight a galactic civil war side-by-side with the Omega Men. This sci-fi epic is a tale of war, betrayal, redemption, and at its core a love story. This is the story where the Teen Titans stopped being just kid sidekicks and started to establish themselves as the next generation of heroes. Tales like this from the masters, Marv Wolfman and George Perez, are a huge reason why I am a comic fan to this day. I’m still waiting for the day when DC will give me a collected trade paperback edition of this magnificent yarn to put on my bookshelf.
Whether it’s in sports, at work, or in the realms of comic books, team work is important. From Jason and the Argonauts to the Teen Titans a group of people coming together and working toward the same goal can always accomplish more than an individual can. These are some of my favorite team stories. What are yours?
This is Odinson bidding thee farewell