Greetings from the Odinson,
2019 The Year in Review
Normally I would take this opportunity to look back on the year that was and talk about the comic books, television, films, and pop culture of 2019 that caught the Odinson’s attention.
2019 in Comics: In the DCU, it was the Year of the Villain, as Lex Luthor and all the devilish super villains got significant upgrades and the pendulum between the forces of good and evil swayed heavily in favor of the dark side. 2019 saw the surprising, unannounced end of The Walking Dead, the seminal survival/drama that has captured the imagination of fans for over fifteen years. And, we saw the release of Spawn #301 which set the recorded for longest running creator-owned, independently published comic book in history. Congratulations to Todd McFarlane.
2019 in TV: In 2019, Game of Thrones aired its final episode, and whether you liked it or not, the show’s end marked a significant moment to one of the best eras of television. 2019 saw the return of Deadwood, and fans finally got the closure for the beloved series they had been denied for over a decade. Disney+ released Jon Favreau’s The Mandalorian to pretty universal high praise. Plus, we got to witness one of the most ambitious television ventures as the CW’s Arrowverse took a worthy shot at adapted the classic epic – Crisis on Infinite Earths.
2019 in Movies: Comic book related films once again dominated the Box Office with audience-pleasing releases like Captain Marvel,SHAZAM!, Avengers: End Game, and Spider-Man: Far From Home. Filmmakers that are obviously inspired by the comic book medium added to the mix with films like M. Night Shyamalan’s Glass andJohn Wick 3. Pop culture royalty made triumphant returns in Godzilla: King of Monsters and Jay and Silent Bob Reboot. And, THE SAGA came to an end in Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker.
However, all these topics have been touched on in other End of the Year lists and I have even spoken about many of them myself in this very column throughout the year. What I want to talk about in this Year in Review are two very specific comic book love letters that had quite a profound impact on the Odinson – Marvel Nostalgia Tales and Superman: Up in the Sky.
1 – Marvel Nostalgia Tales – Every comic book fan has their own personal Golden Age of Comics. Usually between the time when toys are retired to the toy box and the issue of a driver’s license. Ages 8 to 16. For the Odinson, my Golden Age was the glorious 1980s, pound-for-pound the greatest decade in Pop Culture History.
I’m talking right smack in the middle of the saga of ROM Spaceknight, Secret Wars, and Mutant Massacres. Avengers on the west coast, Captain America resigning, Red Centurion Iron Man, and the Hulk turning grey. Walt Simonson’s Thor, John Byrne’s Fantastic Four, and Chris Claremont’s X-Men. It was a glorious time to be a comics fan, and a Marvel fan especially. In 2019, the House of Ideas struck a chord with the Odinson by recognizing my most beloved era with three nostalgic tales.
Symbiote Spider-Man: This tale is set during the Alien Costume Saga (1984-1985) which (chronologically) began with Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars #8, carried over into Amazing Spider-Man #252, and culminated in the pages of Web of Spider-Man #1. An epilogue to this tale in Amazing Spider-Man #300 saw the birth of Venom, a character that would go on to become not only one of Spidey’s most frequent sparring partners, but an actual staple in the pantheon of the Marvel Universe.
This era introduced fans to Spidey’s new black and white costume. It was a bold move on Marvel’s part because, unless your name was Janet Van Dyne or Tony Stark, costume changes did not happen very often (X-Men excluded), especially to a costume as iconic as Spider-Man’s. The change was met with mixed reactions from the fans. As a kid, I was a bit bewildered, but there is no denying those sleek black and white threads weren’t super cool. As the years have gone by, knowing the change was part of a bigger overall story arc for the Web-Slinger, the Odinson has come to appreciate that time even more, and 2019’s Symbiote Spider-Man, 2020’s Symbiote Spider-Man: Alien Reality, and hopefully future installments are set smack dab in the middle of it all.
The Incredible Hulk: Last Call: To say that Peter David had a character-defining run on the Hulk is a huge understatement. In the 1980s and 1990s, David’s 12-year run on the Jade Giant is just as significant in the annals of Marvel History as Chris Claremont’s run on X-Men and Walt Simonson’s run on Thor. This 1-shot pays homage to that run.
Last Call is superbly executed. It doesn’t beat the reader over the head with nostalgia. It can be enjoyed as a standalone by modern fans, but for those of us that lived through the Peter David era of the Hulk, there are all sorts of Easter Eggs and callbacks to put smiles on our faces, not the least of which a tie-in to Incredible Hulk #368.
The Avengers: Loki Unleashed: Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. Roy Thomas and John Buscema. Kurt Busiek and George Perez. There is no denying these are the gold standard by which all other Avengers runs will be measured. For the Odinson, one of the runs that belongs in that conversation is the astounding Roger Stern era (1983-1988).
It was an era that introduced us to the Odinson’s All-Time favorite Captain Marvel – Monica Rambeau (see Amazing Spider-Man Annual #16 written by Stern for her 1st appearance). We were treated to a classic Spidey/Avengers team-up in I Want to Be an Avenger. We saw the Vision try to conqueror the world in Absolute Vision. And, we witnessed Earth’s Mightiest Heroes battle the immortals in Assault on Olympus. All these and so much more make Roger Stern’s run on the Avengers one of the All-Time classics. And you cannot mention Roger Stern without mentioning the timeless classic Under Siege.
Under Siege is one of those benchmark moments in Avengers History. Our heroes suffer one of their greatest defeats and have to rally in true heroic fashion. They rise to the occasion and triumph over evil! And, this 1-shot – Loki Unleashed – picks up in the aftermath of that seminal tale. It even uses the font on its title the Avengers comics from that era did. Bravo!
Tapping creators for those Nostalgic Marvel love letters who were at the height of their powers from that era (the 80s-90s) like Peter David (Incredible Hulk), Roger Stern (Avengers), Dale Keown (Incredible Hulk), and Ron Lim (Silver Surfer) was a stroke of genius. The Odinson is very thankful that era is still remembered and would like to say thank you to Marvel Comics for not forgetting.
2 – Superman: Up in the Sky – I have to begin by saying the Odinson has his issues with Tom King. Not that I think he is a bad writer. Far from it. I just have a few issues with some choices he has made (i.e. Wally West, Harley Quinn getting it over on the Trinity, and Catwoman karate chopping not one, not two, but three Flashes, but these are all just personal fanboy tiffs).
I’m here to say, and I want it to be very clear – Superman: Up in the Sky is, in a word, beautiful.
The plot surrounds the alien abduction of a child and Superman’s Odyssey-like quest across the cosmos to rescue her. At its core, this is plain and simply a character-defining story about Superman. How does Earth fair in his absence? What, if any, are the Man of Steel’s limitations? What makes this man super? Is it the rays of a yellow sun, or is it something so much more profound?
Plus, when it comes to Batman vs. Superman, Tom King confirms a suspicion that the Odinson has had going all the back to The Dark Knight Returns, and if Catwoman can karate chop the Flash and it be cannon, then so is this. 🙂
All kidding aside…
Superman: Up in the Sky is heartfelt, poignant, inspiring, masterfully illustrated by Sandra Hope and Andy Kubert, and quite frankly my favorite Superman story of the decade. It is instantly in my Top 5 Superman Tales of All Time.
This is Odinson bidding thee farewell
NOTE: Be sure to check out my book – The Survivors: A Glen Haven Tale. Available in Paperback, Kindle, and Audiobook.