Essential Iron Man Volume 2 by Stan Lee, Archie Goodwin and various artists (in Gene Colan [cover by Colan, rights with current holder], Johnny Craig, Jack Kirby and George Tuska) is a good example of Kurt Busiek’s observation (Busiek wrote IM some years later) that Tony Stark offers multiple story inspirations. There’s him fighting villains as Iron Man (Mandarin, Titanium Man, Melter, crossovers from other books such as Mole Man and unimpressive newbies such as the Freak), Tony’s inventions drawing interested eyes (there’s a great humorous moment where a spy robbing Stark Enterprises tries to take out Iron Man with a chair), Tony’s playboy status and his role as a businessman (a running subplot involves Senator Byrd—rising slightly from Vol. 1’s one-note characterization—investigating Stark in Congress). That said, I don’t think Shellhead’s stories quite rise to the Silver Age A-list—nothing really bad, just not brilliant. This volume does introduce Jasper Sitwell, a comically straight-arrow Shield agent who does prove he has the right stuff, female crimelord Whitney Frost and Janice Cord who was Tony’s big love interest for a couple of years.
NEXUS ARCHIVE Vol. 1 by Mike Baron and Steve Rude collects the earliest stories of their creation Nexus, AKA Horatio Hellpop, a man driven by nightmares to execute evildoers, even though he hates the blood on his hand. I remembered this as a great series back in the 1980s, and it lives up to my memories as it introduces Horatio’s best friend Dave, his lover Sundra, Jewish ET vigilante Judah Maccabees, plus the complex politics Nexus has to deal with. I look forward to picking up Vol. 2 eventually.
WITCHFINDER: The MYsteries of Unland by Kim Newman, Maura McHugh and Tyler Crook has Sir Edward Grey investigate an official’s murder in a small company town on the edge of fen country and discover, of course, a supernatural power lurking in the fens that doesn’t like people who walk on dry land much. This is enjoyable enough, but Edward really doesn’t do much effective here—I’m not sure he’d change the outcome of the plot any if he vanished. This will go up in the Hellboy Chronology in a few minutes.
Moving on to regular books, THE GREY KING was the fourth in the Dark Is Rising series by Susan Cooper (I skipped over the third, Greenwitch, because I remembered it being a disappointment). This opens with Will sick and stripped of his powers after Book Three, so his family ship him off for a vacation with relatives in Wales. This, however, turns out to be part of the Light’s plan, as it gives Will an opportunity to find more keys to the fight against the dark and discover a major player in a young Welsh boy. The big reveal naturally didn’t work as well as it originally did, and the book as a whole was disappointing, as the Dark never comes off as threatening the way it did in The Dark Is Rising—apparently the worst they can do is get a boy’s dog killed (seriously).