Warlock: The Power Of... Warlock/Warlock And The Infinity Watch
featuring Roy Thomas and Jim Starlin
(Art by Gil Kane, Dan Adkins, Angel Medina, Rick Leonardi, Terry Austin and Bob Almond)
Marvel's Mightiest Heroes Book 37. In the first of these two stories we see how the entity known only as Him encounters the High Evolutionary and is reborn as Adam Warlock, tasked with defending the world of Counter-Earth. The second story leaps forward to the aftermath of 'The Infinity Gauntlet' and has Warlock deciding to give up his godlike powers and distribute the Infinity Gems among a team of protectors.
Cards on the table; I've never particularly liked Adam Warlock or the stories involving him. Unlike so many of Marvel's characters I therefore had no fond nostalgia for him to fall back on when reading this book and, in all honestly, the stories here only reinforced my dislike of the character.
Warlock was an attempt to give a Marvel twist to none other than Jesus Christ, the way that they had previously done for gods and heroes from other religious pantheons. Whilst I'm no fundamental Christian to be offended by the very idea of this, I certainly feel that the finished product is very poor. They should have kept the Jesus parallels either very subtextual or make them overt and actually use them to say something significant. Instead they fall in the middle and it comes across as half-hearted and limp, as well as largely pointless.
Of the two stories here, the first is definitely the worst, consisting largely of the High Evolutionary just expositing his plans to make an identical copy of Earth but to make it a paradise. Naturally his plans get spoiled and the new Counter-Earth is just as violent and troubled as the real one, needing Warlock to save it. This leaves us, the readers, wondering why there needs to be an alternate Earth at all. Arguably it's so that Warlock can't just call in the Avengers of Fantastic Four to help, but that then begs the question of why this story is set in the Marvel Universe in the first place.
The only really engaging thing I found in this book, in Starlin's story, was the concept of Warlock having the powers of a god, being confronted by Marvel's other godlike beings (Celestials, Eternity, Galactus, the Living Tribunal and others) and deciding to relinquish his power. There is a little bit of exploration of how losing his godlike powers affects Warlock personally, which I found interesting, but not nearly enough for my tastes.
2 out of 5
Wolverine: And Now... The Wolverine/Get Mystique
featuring Len Wein and Jason Aaron
(Art by Herb Trimpe, Jack Abel and Ron Garney)
Marvel's Mightiest Heroes Book 55. Here we get the first ever story to feature the iconic clawed mutant as the Canadian government sends him to fight both the Hulk and the Wendigo. The second story has Wolverine setting out to hunt down and kill Mystique for her numerous betrayals.
I was genuinely surprised by how fully-formed Wolverine is in his first appearance, with the character being totally recognisable as the Logan we know despite the story coming out years before he was developed to any great depth (his original costume is a near-miss, however). Wein does the all-too-common and often annoying Marvel trick of introducing a new hero by having them fight an existing one, but at least here it feels justified. If the raging Hulk started having a slug-fest in your country, you'd definitely send your own superhero to try and stop him.
Jason Aaron's 'Get Mystique' is a traditional revenge story like you see in classic Westerns, with Logan hunting his enemy from town to town until he finally catches up for a final showdown. It's well-written and beautifully illustrated. What I liked most about it is the way it contrasts the two main characters, showing how despite his rough edges Wolverine has grown as a person through his association with the X-Men in a way that Mystique is incapable of.
4 out of 5
Wolverine Battles The Incredible Hulk
featuring Len Wein and Mary Jo Duffy
(Art by Herb Trimpe, Jack Abel, Ken Landgraf and George Perez)
Two stories, beginning with the very first appearance of the Wolverine in the pages of 'The Incredible Hulk'. The second story features Logan getting into a bar brawl with the Avenger Hercules.
When the behemoths Hulk and Wendigo start having a slugfest in Canada, the Canadian government are pretty justified in sending in their secret weapon; Weapon X. It's always interesting to go back and see how recognisable comic book characters are in their first appearances and I have to say that, aside from a slightly goofy mask on his costume, Wolverine is fully-formed and recognisable. Even the abrasive attitude, which would become the character's signature character trait, is present. The story itself is nothing particularly special, but I definitely enjoyed the three-way fight between the Hulk, Wolverine and Wendigo.
The second story is a short self-contained fluff piece, but it has one thing going for it. Often when heroes fight each other it's for spurious and unconvincing reasons, but here I can definitely see the grumpy Logan getting into a bar brawl with the obnoxiously macho Hercules. They're both the type to brawl just because brawling's fun, so it feels fitting in that respect.
3 out of 5
Wonder Man: The Coming Of The Wonder Man/When Avengers Clash/Avengers Two - Wonder Man & Beast
(Art by Don Heck, Dick Ayers, Sal Buscema, Pablo Marcos, Mark Bagley and Greg Adams)
Marvel's Mightiest Heroes Book 30. Three stories from across nearly forty years of the ionic Avenger. Here we have Wonder Man's first ever appearance as an agent of Baron Zemo, tasked with destroying the Avengers from within. In the second story Wonder Man must face not only the Vision, whose brain patterns were based on his own, but also his biological brother, the supervillain Grim Reaper. The third story has Wonder Man travelling to L.A. to deal with loose ends from his past accompanied by the Beast.
The biggest problem with this book for me is one that may not be a problem for some readers, so bear that in mind. My problem was that, to my mind, Wonder Man is not a particular interesting or engaging superhero. I'm not sure why that is since he has a range of superpowers and a varied villain-turned-hero-turned-corpse-turned-hero-again backstory, but the simple truth is that I've never found Simon Williams to be an engaging Marvel protagonist and this book didn't change that opinion at all. If you already like Wonder Man, then you can pretty much ignore me and just enjoy the book for yourself.
Stan Lee's initial story is a fairly straightforward 'duped by a supervillain into fighting the heroes' story that Lee seemed to write every other week back in the 60s. It's not bad, but there's nothing here that makes it stand out really.
The second story, by Shooter, is a bit more engaging, with Wonder Man having to deal with two consequences of his death and resurrection; the use of his brain patterns to create the Vision and the fact his brother Eric became a supervillain specifically to take revenge for Simon's death. Unfortunately the framing of the confrontation with the Grim Reaper, in which the heroes are forced to have a mock trial to see whether Wonder Man or Vision are the real Simon, is just bizarre.
Roger Stern's story was the least engaging for me. It more or less has Wonder Man, recently returned from death for the second time, moping about how he used to be a villain and how he used to be dead. Those things would make for interesting character points if it weren't for the fact that this takes place in a world where half of the superheroes out there used to be villains and/or have returned from death. It just feels like an extended scene of Wonder Man whining and Beast making really, really terrible jokes.
2 out of 5