EP0092: Kings Watch, Batgirl and the Birds of Prey, Vol. 3, and Ms. Marvel, Volume 1

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It’s a team-up of classic comic strip characters in Kings Watch.

Batgirl and the Birds of Prey have an all-female team to fight a deadly case of man-flu in Batgirl and the Birds of Prey, Volume 3: Full Circle.

Finally, as the Captain Marvel movie approaches, we take a look at the star of Carol Danvers’ Miss Marvel series in Ms. Marvel, Volume 1: Best of the Best.

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Transcript below:
King Features comic strip characters join forces to save the Earth, then we take a look at the last volume of Batgirl and the Birds of Prey, and the first volume of the May 2000’s Miss Marvel series with Carol Danvers, straight ahead.

Welcome to the Classy Comics Podcast where we search for the best comics in the universe. From Boise, Idaho here is your host, Adam Graham.

Alright, well we lead off with a look at King’s Watch. Now King’s Watch came after Jeff Parker’s really good run on Flash Gordon. He did a good Flash Gordon solo series. I’d read it as it came out, it was just a lot of fun – really captured the fun and got me interested in Flash Gordon as a character, and this series really starts out as a bit of a reboot. The entire history and continuity these characters had from the Flash Gordon comics isn’t really in place here, so that they can start on building this extended King’s feature world. And so you have a group that includes Flash Gordon and Dale Arden as a science reporter, and Zorkov who was written as the drunk who’s somewhat functional. And then you have the Phantom and Mandrake the Magician, and also Lothar.

The plot is that Ming the Merciless is planning an invasion of Earth through another dimension, and he has this super villain – Cobra – acting as his lackey on Earth. I think the plot is really well done. It’s got a very good sense of the sort of invasion event comic, with enough peril as well as enough positive turns to really keep you interested and invested in the story. I think that there’s some good characterization but it can be a bit spotty. A lot of the characters are very one-dimensional – Zorkof and King Drunk, and the Phantom is not really well-defined in this one, though I think there is some reason for that.

This series does have a resolution but it does set the stage for future Kings Feature series, and I think the hope of Dynamite in publishing this series was that you would read this event, and then you would go and pick up all of their mini-series for Flash Gordon and Mandrake and the Phantom. Now, I read their Flash Gordon one which was not written by Jeff Parker and it wasn’t bad, but I think I’ve read mixed reviews about the other series. This one though, I think, can be read on its own and be enjoyed for just being this great invasion story, and also if you’re a fan of the 1980s series Defenders of the Earth you get to see some familiar characters in that regards. So this is a really good event comic. The more you’re into these Kings Feature strips, the more you’re going to get out of it, but even not knowing much about them other than what I knew of Flash Gordon, I still found it an enjoyable read. I’ll give this one a rating of Somewhat Classy.

Then we get to Batgirl and the Birds of Prey and Full Circle which is a nine-Issue collection because the series was brought to an end, and so you get a bit of an oversized book just to go ahead and fit all of the Issues into a single volume. The story opens with a one-Issue story, Gotham City Limits, and Barbara decides to hang out around Gotham while Helena AKA the Huntress takes her class as she’s become a school teacher along with Dinah Lance AKA Black Canary. Barbara hangs around Gotham and in the course of this she does some work as Oracle and manages to use her computer skills to provide some assistance to save Batman and all of his Gotham Knights, while also having a team up with Poison Ivy and Catwoman. And while Dinah and Helena go off to take a group of kids camping thirty miles outside of town and they fight the spirit of an evil seventeenth century witchdoctor.

I thought the story…it wasn’t really bad but it was a bit over the top and really busy. There was so much going on, particularly for one Issue, and there wasn’t really a connecting point for all of it. So, I didn’t much care for the story. The second story, Manslaughter, was a lot better. A virus is unleashed on Gotham City that affects only men, and so this has taken out Batman and it’s also taken out Night Wing – any male superhero. And Lois Lane was in Gotham City covering a story and told Superman not to come because it was possible he might get exposed, and so it’s up to female super-heroines, and eventually even some super villains. Harley Quinn joins because this virus has even the Joker sick, and of course as is the case with most stories in this book, Poison Ivy and Catwoman make appearances. But they get other characters to show up. You have Batwoman, then there’s Orphan, and you even get Spoiler to show up, and Wonder Woman just makes a heck of an entrance in this one. And so there’s a lot to like about it.

In some ways it calls to mind the Justice League Animated Series, Episode Fury, though I think in many ways this one was a little bit better than Fury. I think that there’s a really good job with the team up – the getting to give enough of the characters in to have a good sense of their voice, and it really does have this epic feel the way that it does just build one character at a time and gives you a few moments to appreciate the awesomeness and strength of the characters who are being added to the team up. The story has a good, positive message that comes out and it doesn’t go too over the top in how much it preaches it. So, this was, I think, really good case of them dealing with man flu but more severe than typical man flu.

Then we get another one-parter. This one was Eco Deadly, and in this one Helena is called up by Tiger who’s head of Spiral, the agency that she and Dick Grayson both work for, and is asked for their help because a big corporate honcho, an evil financier is reportedly an arms dealer, and he’s also interested in an invention that will allow him to control the weather, and he ends up kidnapping the inventor of said device. And this leads to a really fun caper. The entire story is set in the city of Paris and so you just get a really good, fast-paced superhero story as they try to take down the bad guy. It’s not particularly great but it was pretty fun.

Then we get titular arc, the four-part Full Circle, and essentially as we talked about in the previous Batgirl in the Birds of Prey episode, they had helped out Calculator who was revealed in the previous story. Even though he was an arch-rival of Batgirl he had a family, he had a business, and he’d also helped out Gus. Gus was a character who was actually introduced in their first book, Who Is Oracle?, and he was actually working with Calculator though not betraying the Bird of Prey. While the previous story arc reminded us of the Calculator as a character who had humanity, this second arc reminds us that despite his humanity he’s still a villain because he’s decided that he needs to track down Oracle once and for all and he sends a robot out to assist. The robot interrogates Gus and kills Gus who won’t provide the information, and there is definitely a ruthless battle by Calculator to get this information. And he starts to get close when he takes Helena’s mother out of prison. And in this particular version of the story, the first story arc, it was revealed that it was actually Helena’s mother who caused the death of her family, that her mother had cheated on her dad and had actually been in cahoots with the gunmen who killed her dad, and that was revealed in the first book.

But also in the first book, Helena had revealed her identity as Huntress to her mom, and when Calculator kidnaps Helena’s mom because of her mob connections, he quickly learns the truth about Helena’s identity – which is information he hopes to use to be able to bring Oracle out of the woodwork. I really love this story. This is another one of those story arcs that it pays off the long-term reader by tying up the loose ends; and not only that, really taking your characters on a journey that shows how much they’ve grown. And there’s a lot of redemption in the story and the need for forgiveness – particularly as the team struggles with some of the secrets that members have been keeping from each other. It’s just a great story arc and a very good way to close out the series. I really did enjoy this series. I know that it had mixed reviews but to me it managed to tell a series of comics with likeable leads, fun stories and also just managed to tie things up really well at the end. Overall, I will give Batgirl and the Birds of Prey, Volume Three: Full Circle a rating of Classy.

Now we turn to something I’ve been wanting to do for awhile and I think it’s time to go ahead and start. If you saw Avengers: Infinity War, and I think I’ve waited long enough so this should not be a major spoiler, but if you’ve seen that, at the end of the post-credit scene there’s a call made for Captain Marvel and we get to see her symbol, Captain Marvel in this case being Carol Danvers. And before that happens Captain Marvel will get her own major movie released on March 8th. While Carol Danvers has been part of the Marvel Universe for fifty years and has been a hero in the Universe on and off for more than forty, as we took a look at her first adventures in The Essential Miss Marvel Volume One a few months ago, she really was not a big deal in the Marvel Universe until a few years ago. She spent time with the Avengers and she also took on a couple of different aliases. She was Binary for a time and also Warbird.

The first story I read about Carol Danvers was from the Live Kree or Die crossover event which ended with her being expelled from the Avengers due to alcoholism and just being out of control. She would get help for her alcoholism with Tony Start actually being her sponsor for Alcoholics Anonymous, and would continue to appear off and on in Marvel comics as a supporting character. However, I think her place in the Marvel Universe really started to improve when she got a second series, resuming her classic identity as Miss Marvel in a series that would actually go on for twice as long as the series that ran in the 1970s. And after the run on Miss Marvel she would become the new Captain Marvel.

So, until the movie is released we’re going to take a look at several volumes from that series starting with Volume One: Best of the Best. And this one, it begins with a battle with Stilt-Man, and of course she is able to defeat Stilt-Man. Stilt-Man’s kind of like the Kite-Man of the Marvel Universe, and she goes and she’s recounting the story to Jessica Drew who’s a friend of hers and is also Spider-Woman, though neither in costume as she explains this. And she in telling the story pretends that Stilt-Man’s like ‘Wow! I was defeated by Miss Marvel and…’ And Jessica’s like, “Did he really say that?” And the truth is that Stilt-Man had no idea who she was, and that led to a bit of a violent reaction from Carol. And she is going to be meeting with a publicist who’s trying to reform her image and to get her more established as a hero.

And she has feelings about why she’s doing this. She says, “I can do more. I know I can. I can be the person other people strive to be. I can be better than good, I can be the best!” And there’s this sense that she has that she is really just not been serious, not been as good as she could be, and that she really wants to strive to do better, to emerge as a first class hero. And I can really get behind that, that feeling of ‘Yeah, I’ve not lived up to my potential’. I think that’s the sort of thing that a lot of people can relate to, and so it works as a setup for the story. And after this she flies out to where there’s been a crashed alien spaceship, and it turns out that the Brood have crashed on Earth and they’re fleeing an alien creature known as the Cru. And she’s eventually able to capture one the Cru and finds that the Brood tricked it into hunting down Cavarat[?] Crystals which if the Cru tried to consume – because they consume energy, they try and consume this particular crystal – it will blow this alien creature, the Cru up, but it will take half the Earth with them if they try to channel their energy.

So, she goes after the Cru to try and stop them, try and limit the damage, and it’s a pretty epic battle as she takes a huge hit in the course of this, as well as a small town in Georgia getting wiped out but not the entire planet. And the Fantastic Four actually come down to investigate, to find what happened, and she ends up being found by the Fantastic Four and taken for medical care at the hospital. And she finally gets out of the hospital and she finds that this TV series that the publicist had got to film her and to do a profile on her, called ‘Superpowers’, is set up in her home. And so she starts to do the interview but then the character Sir Warren Traveler arrives who is this sorcerer from an event known as The House of M, which from what I read was actually a pretty interesting event.

Sir Warren has these magic powers and really Carol Danvers can’t handle this on her own but that’s a good thing for her as Dr. Strange shows up. And the final two Issues of this book are her and Dr. Strange dealing with this Sir Warren Traveler. And I think the story is OK but I do have a problem this early in the series having a crossover, particularly when it’s a crossover with Dr. Strange, because if you’re not a mystically-powered superhero and you’re dealing with something that requires Dr. Strange, Dr. Strange really comes to the forefront. And I also that it’s a follow up to another event, I do think this is a problem with Marvel comics in general is that so many of their characters just get drawn into all of these big events and it sidetracks them from their own stories. And it happens all the time as the next volume of Miss Marvel takes place in the events of Civil War.

Still, I really loved the first story and I felt that first 3-Issue arc did a great job of setting up the Miss Marvel series, and gave us reason to care about her and hope that she succeeds in her goal. So, overall I’ll give this book a rating of Somewhat Classy. The stories are, for the most part, pretty good despite getting bogged down in a bit of crossover leftovers, and I invested in the character in her journey, and so we’ll see how things go from here.

So, to recap: King’s Watch gets a rating of Somewhat Classy. It’s a fun adventure bringing together the great Kings Feature characters, though it sets up some later events that aren’t near as fun. I think that Batgirl and the Birds of Prey, Volume Three: Full Circle, that gets a rating of Classy. It really did manage to tie up the series nicely with some fun adventures that gave our characters a chance to grow. And finally we give Miss Marvel Volume One: Best of the Best a rating of Somewhat Classy as we really get a sense of what Carol Danvers’ goals are, and get a couple pretty good adventures.

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