The first entry in Marvel’s line of European-style albums, released under the sobriquet “Marvel Graphic Novels”, THE DEATH OF CAPTAIN MARVEL remains as effective and affecting today as it was when it was first published. A good deal of that is down to the subject matter, which sees the titular Mar-Vell dying not in battle nor giving his life nobly to stop some threat, but rather being stricken with inoperable cancer, a situation that almost anyone can empathize with. The added page count and larger page size gave creator Jim Starlin the space to tell his tale in depth. Truly it has been said, the most memorable thing Captain Mar-Vell ever did was die.
It can be difficult to discuss the work of Dave Sim these days, given how his beliefs evolved over time, but in the early 1980s, there was no better comic book month after month than CEREBUS, and this issue, set in the middle of Sim’s first long story arc “High Society” , is a watershed moment. The entire issue consists of a conversation between Cerebus, now a candidate to become prime Minister, and Jaka, his lost lady love, who attempts to talk him into walking away from it all. In modern terms, this was the first series to employ the kind of pacing that is often called “decompressed” and one can see the seeds of any number of modern creators’ approaches in this work.
An amazing crossover story that was produced at exactly the right moment, when both of the series involved were at their absolute hottest. In UNCANNY X-MEN AND THE NEW TEEN TITANS, regular X-Men scribe Chris Claremont is backed up by the stellar artwork of Walt Simonson, and there isn’t anybody else who could have given him quite the same sort of grand canvas to paint upon. The Titans are just a shade under-used, a difficulty caused by the fact that only a handful of issues had been released by the time this book entered production. But everybody involved brought their A-game to this book, a true classic.
The oversized climax to the appropriately well-regarded “Great Darkness Saga” storyline that finally put LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES on the map in terms of being a mainstream commercial hit. Keith Giffen’s graphics propelled the Legion into the modern era, leaving behind the trappings of the quasi-retro future that it had been under for decades. Together with writer Paul Levitz, they combined soap opera dramatics with a multitude of ongoing subplots and a sense of legitimate jeopardy. This story and X-TITANS were the one-two punch that made Darkseid a major figure in the DC cosmology again.
It was a bit ridiculous to call them graphic Novels, but it has to be said, the initial few entries in the line were pretty strong. GOD LOVES, MAN KILLS is perhaps the quintessential X-Men story of the era, one in which all of the themes of the series are distilled and dramatized in a single welcoming package. Really the only X-Men comic book you need to read to understand what it was all about. Writer Chris Claremont was having a banner year, here partnered with Brent Anderson, who brought some Neal Adams-esque flair to the proceedings (after Neal himself walked away from being involved in the project due to the work-for-hire conditions.)
SPECIAL BONUS SIXTH ENTRY: No single issue was more noteworthy than the rest of the run, but the WOLVERINE limited series produced by Chris Claremont and Frank Miller turned that character into a superstar, and remains seminal to this day. It’s a perfect fusion of the strengths and interests of both creators, balancing Miller’s sparse graphics and punchy storytelling with Claremont’s introspective and emotional scripting. A masterpiece.