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Unsung Superheroes?

We spotlight five superhero titles you might be overlooking

By Arnold T. Blumberg     January 30, 2002


OVERLORDS: DEFENDERS AGAINST THE EARTH
© 2001 Marvel Comics
We go through our daily lives, trudging to work, eating our meals, paying our bills - or not, as the case may be - grabbing a few measly hours of sleep (or is all this just me?), and we have precious little leisure time to spend with our childhood heroes in their fantastic, four-color world. So we tend to be selective, homing in on the few titles we can keep up with on a monthly basis, and as a result we miss so much that might be as entertaining if not more so. There are also so many gems hidden in the flood of titles that churn through the local comic shops that it's easy to let them go by and stick with what seems familiar, comfortable...easy.

Well, CINESCAPE isn't going to let you dwell in your complacency any longer! We've compiled a quick capsule list of five superhero series (in no particular order) that may not be the top sellers in the marketplace but still deliver a power-packed punch of excitement and adventure in every issue. You might consider trying one of these in place of your usual X-infusion or Batman fix and seeing what all the fuss is about. At the very least, it should provide you with a distracting change of pace before you have to get back to the depressing business of life.


Marvel Comics' DEFENDERS

WONDER WOMAN (DC Comics) - What, we hear you saying? This is hardly an obscure title? True enough, but after celebrating her 60th birthday with a new Alex Ross tabloid-sized tribute and a superb tome from Chronicle Books, WONDER WOMAN still doesn't seem to make anyone's Top Ten list all that often; maybe it's all those mutant books. Anyway, thanks to the efforts of writers like Phil Jimenez, who remains so devoted to the character and her ideals of truth, courage, and beauty, Wonder Woman remains a solid role model and a welcome change from the usual testosterone-overloaded fare that you'll find in the pages of most superhero titles. And now my girlfriend won't smack me.

Wonder Woman as illustrated by writer/artist Phil Jimenez

RUSE (CrossGen Comics)- Not a superhero title, you might say? You're being very confrontational today, you know that? Well you're right, but when it comes to this charming Victorian adventure, blending equal dollops of Sherlock Holmes mystery with good old-fashioned superheroic cosmic jeopardy and strange powers, it's worth it to stretch the rules just a bit. RUSE is from the folks at CrossGen, and it's also one of their more atypical titles, eschewing the outward fantasy trappings of their other series for a historical verisimilitude that throws the surreal elements into sharper relief. Scripted by the ever-reliable Mark Waid and illustrated by talents like Butch Guice, RUSE isn't fooling anyone - it's a solid effort with plenty of potential.

The Legion of Super-Heroes gets yet another new lease on life in THE LEGION #1.

TOM STRONG (America's Best Comics) - I know it's odd to suggest that some readers may not have automatically sought out a title written by living legend Alan Moore, but it has been known. This is a superb homage to everything that's good and exhilarating about superhero stories, based largely on the sort of mythos made famous in the Captain Marvel/Shazam titles and countless old pulp tales. Tom Strong is the ultimate hero in more ways than one, and with his extended family and unending parade of technological gadgets, he cuts a swath through evil in every corner of time and space. With stories of deadly earnestness followed up by sheer comedic romps, TOM STRONG is also a title that doesn't let the reader get too comfortable. Don't like one of Tom's escapades? Wait a few pages.

There's a new detective in town! Cover of RUSE #1.

LEGION (DC Comics) - Anyone who's been savvy enough to crack the cover of one of DC's LEGION Archives volumes already knows that the 30th century superhero team remains one of the purest distillations of the form ever published. With a variety of intriguing heroes possessing powers both exciting and ludicrous, facing off against a plethora of villains in a universe of such complexity and scope that the mind reels at the continuity headaches inherent in the material, the story of the Legion of Super-Heroes is a sprawling epic that serves as a blueprint for how to tell a super story. Now Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning preside over a stylish relaunch of the group's own title, adding an edgier tone as the Legionnaires enter adulthood once and for all.

OVERLORDS: DEFENDERS AGAINST THE EARTH

THE DEFENDERS (Marvel Comics) - Actually, if you have overlooked this one, you're a bit late...sort of. Kurt Busiek (one of the great pillars of continuity in comic book writing today) and Erik Larsen of SAVAGE DRAGON fame brought back Marvel's hard-luck non-team with a sleek new incarnation that finally justified the existence of a group that couldn't stand being around one another. Cursed to appear wherever there is trouble, the Defenders may be one of the most reluctant super-teams in history, but they get the job done. Now, however, they are undergoing a transformation that could be seen as a stroke of genius on Busiek's part. What if heroes decided the best way to safeguard humanity was to take over? Shades of WATCHMEN. OVERLORDS, a new title focusing on the change in attitude, is the result, and so the first phase of the "New" DEFENDERS has come to an end. All the better - now you can collect a complete set!


There are, of course, dozens of other titles worth mentioning, and we're only scratching the surface by narrowing our focus to superheroes alone. In the future, we'll try to spotlight additional series from other genres. So go out and buy some more comics already!

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