My first introduction to Jim Krueger was around 1998-99 through the 25 cent boxes of the now extinct Excalibur Comics of Portage, Indiana. I used to rummage through every 25 cent bin I could find. I’d snatch up consecutive issues of anything that looked interesting, so that I could have something of length to read for cheap. It was around this time I was able to snatch up The Foot Soldiers 1-4 by Image comics for a buck.
At the time I didn’t really pay much attention to creators (can’t be real picky on a 25 cent a comic budget) and even though Earth X was all over my Wizard magazines and the promo pieces inside all my local comics shops, I had no idea who Jim Krueger was, or that he was the writer of Earth X or The Foot Soldiers books I had just picked up. I did however end up finding out that a previous volume had been released via Dark Horse. My goal for Wizard World Chicago ’99 was to find these Dark Horse Issues.
Low an behold, while milling around Artist Alley at WWC that year, I fell upon a table littered with The Foot Soldiers issues, next to piles of Earth X comics. There stood Jim Krueger. I bought from him all The Foot Soldiers issues I didn’t have and he signed them all. He asked if I was reading reading Earth X, and I sheepishly said no. I did go on tell him that I thought his Foot Soldiers was a great book and that I couldn’t wait for more of them.
Jim Krueger has a flair for the big story arc and bleak futures, in which he excels at inserting little seeds of hope. Here are a few of my favorite Krueger reads.
The Foot Soldiers Vol 2 #1-5 (1997)
“When all the heros are gone, who will fill their shoes?”
It’s the future and the less fortunate work themselves to death in factories, stand in ration liness and have their children ripped from their arms in the dead of night. Did I mention that everyone is less fortunate? No one dares to lift a finger of protest under the watchful eyes of the deadly Beetles. Large mechanized robots, the B.T.Ls (Beetles), watch over the populace and are quick to shoot first and ask questions later or not at all. “When all the heros are gone, who will fill their shoes?” Enter The Foot Soldiers.
One kid has his life uncharacteristically spared by a Beetle, one is a hot-headed loud mouth who never backs down from a fight and the third is a blind cripple, as humble as they come. They are given directions to find a secret place, a hidden graveyard. A graveyard of super-heroes. They are told to exume the graves to find the keys to fighting back against the Beetles.
Each hero finds his trinket that allows them to excel beyond their means. The young hot-head finds giant boots that can cause the earth under his feet to quake. They call him Stomp. The humble cripple finds healing rags, that allow him to see and heal others. They call him Rags. And the final Foot Soldier finds Accordion shoes that allow him to stretch and reach great heights. They call him Story.
The Foot Soldiers comics are some of my favorite comics in my collection to read. Definitely some of the best booty I’ve ever found in a 25 cent bin. I sure wish Mr. Krueger would write some more issues. Hear that Jim? Hook a brother up!
Earth X is an interesting beast. In the aftermath of DC‘s Kingdom Come, fans practically spontaneously combusted at the thought of Alex Ross doing a dystopian future set in the Marvel Universe. And because the comic book industry is nothing but parody, (don’t get me started) we have Earth X. So it goes…
Earth X starts with everybody’s favorite Watcher, Uatu, summoning X-51 (the Machine Man) to the moon. Uatu has been blind for the last 20 years, and even though he has been recording history, he has not been able to witness it. He is deputizing X-51 as the new watcher, so that X-51 can give Uatu a play-by-play as to what has happened on earth for the last 20 years and for what is transpiring right now.
Uatu breaks down the entire history of Earth. We are given origins to ALL super-hero life on Earth. I repeat.. we are given the origin of ALL super-hero life on Earth. Uatu explains the death of the dinosaurs, the creations of the Deviants that lead to the creation of the Eternals, which in turn lead to the creation of the Inhumans, the appearance of the Asgardians and then what lead to the creation of what we know of today as the modern Marvel Universe, filled with Super-Heros and Mutants alike. Phenomenal story-telling!
After we and X-51 get a major history lesson, X-51 gives us an update on current affairs. Everyone on Earth has gone through a mass transformation. Everyone has super-powers! The United States is in disarray. Many a super-hero are gone and dead. Reed Richards is a recluse, living out his days in a suit of Dr Doom’s armor, trying desperately to figure out a cure. Norman Osborn is the President of the United States, corrupt as ever. Tony Stark is the last unchanged man on earth, remotely commanding his Iron Avengers from an isolated prison cell of his own making. With Charles Xavier Dead , and the X-Men no more, Scott Summers has nothing to live for. All telepaths and pychics have lost their powers or are dead. One man seems to have that sole ability and he is using that ability to amass a large army of super-powered beings to overthrow America and take it for himself… they call him the Red Skull.
The payout and the end of this story is amazing. One of the best Reed Richards stories ever! I do have to warn you, I did get upset about how some of my favorite, dear to my heart characters, are depicted in the pages of Earth X. You have to trust me on this one and get over the hump, because the payout is way the hell worth it!
It’s happened literally a thousand times before. The citizens of Metropolis are in peril. He is there to save the day. But what if he wasn’t? What if Superman was too late to save the burning bus of children? Too late to save the pedestrians from the falling debris? Too late to save even Lois? What if Green Lantern’s light could only carry a few hundred individuals away from an imploding Coastal City. What if the Flash diverted the flames only to find out everyone is already dead? What if Batman gave safe haven to thousands of Gotham refugees in his bat-cave, only moments before the world exploded? Now… what if I told you this that is the hellish nightmare… that plagues the Legion of Doom?
This is premise to the beginning of Krueger and Ross’s Justice maxi-series. The villans of the Legion of Doom are terrorized for days upon days by this nightmare that they all have in common. Each night gets worse. They all come to the conclusion that the night terrors get more painful the closer they get to this catastrophic event. They believe this event is going to happen. They also believe that it is up to them to stop the world from ending and that they must first prevent the Justice League from failing, by taking them out of the equation.
This is a fabulous read for DC diehards. Classic JLA vs Legion of Doom, archenemies at their finest.
UNTIL NEXT TIME… Recently Image Comics has put together a new collected edition of The Foot Soldiers that was released this past May. It collects issues #1-4 and includes pin-ups and extra stories by others including the greats Mike Mignola, Walter Simonson and Alex Ross. I highly recommend you check it out.