Comic Review: Transformers ’84: Secrets and Lies

Published: March 3rd, 2021
Written by: Simon Furman
Art by: Guido Guidi
Based on: Transformers by Hasbro

IDW Publishing, 130 Pages

Review:

I got a little hyped up when this series was first announced, as it was supposed to serve as a prequel to the original Transformers – Generation 1 comic book canon from the ’80s. I used to read those when Marvel was pumping them out and when Transformers was one of the hottest toy franchises of the time.

Sadly, I found this to be a bit underwhelming, as far as the story goes. Everything was told in flashback through narration like it was a distant legend. That’s fine and all but it didn’t need to do that and it kind of wasted time setting up the story each issue. Time that could’ve been used to tell a richer, deeper story in a more direct fashion.

The story itself was just okay and there wasn’t much in it that was surprising and all that interesting. It just read like a generic prologue where most of the events within it were fairly predictable. It’s not a bad story. it’s just not a very exciting or inspiring one.

Now I did dig the art. It was pretty much akin to what you would’ve seen in the old Marvel Transformers comics of the mid-’80s, even down to the color schemes of the characters, which differed from their cartoon and toy counterparts.

This was a fairly cool throwback but at the same time, if more Transformers stories were done in this style, I don’t think that I’d be quick to pick them up.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: other Transformers comics, as well as other comics based off of Hasbro toy lines.

Comic Review: Wolverine and The Punisher: Damaging Evidence

Published: 1993
Written by: Carl Potts
Art by: Gary Erskine

Marvel Comics, 70 Pages

Review:

This comic was really weird but also kind of cool. It’s certainly a product of the early ’90s and with that, taps into some comic book tropes that seemed cool when I was twelve but come off as really dated and hokey, as an adult nearly thirty years later.

Which young kid in 1993 didn’t want to read a Wolverine and Punisher team up story, though? Especially, with the possibility that the two legendary badasses would actually duke it out, as the cover implies?

The real villain of this story is the Kingpin but he is working on creating a cyborg soldier with the ability to destroy the Punisher. The cyborg also has personal beef with the Punisher and is glad to do his part in trying to put him down.

Wolverine kind of just stumbles into the story and at first, he’s focused on taking down the Punisher for something heinous he believes the Punisher did. There are some plot twists and turns and nothing is exactly what it seems.

This comes to a crescendo with some badass fights and the two heroes coming together in the end. While it’s not a great read, it’s still fun and entertaining.

Also, the art style is sort of unique and not what you’d typically see from Marvel in this era. I feel like it was trying to tap into a grittier, indie style but it still works for the tone of the story.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: all the other Punisher miniseries, one-shots and graphic novels from the late ’80s and early ’90s.

Comic Review: Red Sonja: Worlds Away, Vol. 4: The Blade of Skath

Published: June 12th, 2019
Written by: Erik Burnham, Amy Chu
Art by: Carlos Gomez
Based on: Red Sonya by Robert E. Howard, Red Sonja by Roy Thomas and Barry Windsor-Smith

Dynamite Entertainment, 120 Pages

Review:

I’m not sure why this series is still carrying the Worlds Away banner, as the story of Sonja traveling to modern Earth has been over since the second volume of this series. But whatever, you do you, Dynamite and Amy Chu.

This final volume in the series started out really strong and it was becoming my favorite volume in the series. But then it ended in the middle of the fucking story! What the fuck?! Why?!

I would’ve been infinitely more pissed if I had bought the trade paperback of this and not just bought the digital version during a big Comixology sale.

This started with Sonja discovering that her sword belonged to a great warrior king that lost it after killing a deadly dragon. She then seeks out this hero to return the sword only to find out that he’s a drunk and pretty useless now. As the land she’s in prepares for a big battle, she has to try and get this former king to return to his former glory and win the day. He continues to fail, drinking himself into a coma by the start of the battle. Then I don’t really know what happened because the story got prematurely cut off!

I bought and read through four volumes of this series and this is how it goes out?

Thanks, Dynamite!

Rating: 3/10
Pairs well with: other Red Sonja stories from Dynamite.

Comic Review: Spider-Man: Origin of the Hobgoblin

Published: May 18th, 2017
Written by: Tom DeFalco, Bill Mantlo, Roger Stern
Art by: Ron Frenz, Al Milgrom, John Romita Sr., John Romita Jr., Marie Severin, Mike Zeck

Marvel Comics, 266 Pages

Review:

One thing that’s been pretty consistent with Spider-Man comics over the years is that there have been great origin stories for the title hero’s major villains. 

Origin of the Hobgoblin may seriously take the cake, though, as this is a beefy collection and by the end of it, it’s still not clear who the Hobgoblin is, even though the first few chapters make it obvious and because I read the big reveal years ago.

This collects his first ten or so appearances and even then, his ability to trick and dupe Spider-Man is so damn good that his true identity remains unknown to the hero.

Hobgoblin has always been one of my favorite villains and this just made me love him more and it’s easy to see why he became so popular throughout the ’80s until Venom came along and stole everyone’s thunder for a solid decade.

In this collection, we meet a guy that is pure evil, calculated, smart and able to stay several steps ahead of Spider-Man and his rivals on the crime side of things like The Kingpin. And while Hobgoblin may appear as if he’s simply ripping off Norman Osborn’s Green Goblin persona, which he most definitely is, he also takes the gimmick and improves upon it. Hobgoblin is born out of stealing another man’s legacy but with that, he builds his own, unique identity and he’s still a very different man behind the mask.

The best thing about this collection of issues is the writing. It’s just so damn good and makes me wish that modern mainstream comics could muster up just a tenth of this creativity. The plot is well-structured, layered, unpredictable and not even a wee bit derivative or redundant.

While the year is still young, this is the best comic book that I’ve read so far in 2021. 

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: other Spider-Man comics of the ’80s, specifically stories involving the Hobgoblin.

Comic Review: The Lost Boys, Vol. 1

Published: August 15th, 2017
Written by: Tim Seeley
Art by: Scott Godlewski
Based on: The Lost Boys by Janice Fischer, James Jeremias

Vertigo Comics, 143 Pages

Review:

I was kind of excited to give this a read, as it was released under DC’s Vertigo imprint and because it was written by Tim Seeley whose teen horror series Hack/Slash was something that I was a huge fan of for years. Plus, I also enjoy the hell out of the original Lost Boys movie, which this serves as a direct sequel to, taking place in the ’80s and shortly after the first movie.

While I was initially into this, as it rolled on, I sadly became underwhelmed and then disappointed by it.

All the surviving core characters are back but it was a bit jarring seeing the grandpa killed off in the first issue. It came across as sort of dismissive of the character and even though it set up the battle between the heroes and the vampires in the story, it still felt cheap, pointless and disrespectful.

I also found it odd that this takes place in the late ’80s but one of the vampire chicks had the go-to androgynous SJW mental patient hairstyle.

Additionally, the Frog brothers pretty much fuck up and get captured right off the bat, making them essentially damsels-in-distress for the majority of the story.

One thing I did like, though, was that the iconic, buff saxophone player, who we only saw for a few seconds in the movie, is revealed to be a vampire hunter in training and the oil he wears all over his body serves a dual purpose, as it is a repellent for vampires.

Other than that, this was just a waste of my time. I wanted this to be, at the very least, mindless, fun escapism. It was just a half-assed attempt at capitalizing off of a thirty year-old movie and that’s probably why there wasn’t a volume two.

Rating: 5/10
Pairs well with: the film series it’s based on and other horror comics by Tim Seeley.

Comic Review: Daredevil by Bendis and Maleev – Ultimate Collection, Book 3

Published: October 17th, 2013
Written by: Brian Michael Bendis
Art by: Alex Maleev

Marvel Comics, 450 Pages

Review:

This is the final installment of the Ultimate Collection releases of Brian Michael Bendis’ run on Daredevil. Each of these three beefy collections forms a pretty solid trilogy that actually exceeded my expectations and reminded me of how good Bendis was when he cared, which he hasn’t for a very long time.

This is my least favorite of the three volumes and that’s mainly because it felt like it lost some steam.

The first half of this book is made up of two different stories that are self-contained and don’t really move forward the larger arc that Bendis had been working on for a few years by this point. The second half of this book then picks up those more important major plot threads but then doesn’t do much with them and leaves things even more unresolved by the end.

In fact, this has a time jump at the end that kind of just further fucked up Daredevil’s life and didn’t resolve anything that Bendis brought into the character’s story. It was some weak ass J. J. Abrams shit that tainted the entire run and not just this final book.

That’s not to say there wasn’t good stuff in this, there was. But had I been reading this run in real time, watching Daredevil struggle with the world possibly knowing his identity and seeing that dragged on for fucking years, I would’ve quit reading this.

That whole plot about people finding out Matt Murdock is Daredevil and then just seeing that life altering reveal kicked around like a goddamned hacky sack was enraging as hell. You, as the reader, were never sure what anyone actually thought about the reveal, as Bendis couldn’t commit to the story and deal with it in any sort of clear way. It was lazy and fucking dumb. It lacked finality, stakes and real consequences. Honestly, by the end, it didn’t really matter and the book was then handed off to another creative team to either resolve the issue or ignore it.

One thing that was noticeably better this time around was Alex Maleev’s art. Yes, I liked it previously but in my review of the last book in this series, I pointed out some of the issues I had with it. In this volume, those problems seemed to be fixed or a lot less apparent.

Overall, there’s a whole hell of a lot that I liked about Bendis’ Daredevil run but his finale left me annoyed and scratching my head like everything J. J. Abrams has ever started and not truly finished.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: the other Daredevil comics from his Marvel Knights run.

Comic Review: Red Sonja: Worlds Away, Vol. 3: Hell Or Hyrkania

Published: September 26th, 2018
Written by: Amy Chu
Art by: Carlos Gomez
Based on: Red Sonya by Robert E. Howard, Red Sonja by Roy Thomas and Barry Windsor-Smith

Dynamite Entertainment, 144 Pages

Review:

The main selling point of this Red Sonja series was that it took my favorite female hero and put her in the modern world. I like fish out of water stories, especially those that are part of the sword & sorcery genre. However, this third volume in Worlds Away sends Sonja back to her world. So I guess she’s no longer “Worlds Away”.

Each volume in this series has fallen off in quality. Now that the whole premise for its very reason to exist is now wiped away, it just doesn’t work for me anymore.

Additionally, the more cartoony style of narrative especially doesn’t work.

Frankly, this was just pretty weak, overall, and a disappointment after how cool the first volume was. And even though the second volume wasn’t as good as the first, it at least kept Sonja in the modern world and sent her on a cross country road trip, which was kind of cool.

Here, she goes back home and helps the guy from the modern world get back. Also, she finally beats Kulan Gath in this version of the Red Sonja mythos and all seems resolved.

Granted, there’s a little seed planted at the end to extend this series into a fourth volume. It makes me wonder if this was intended to be an ongoing series and that by this point, it kind of faceplanted and got cancelled shortly thereafter, only giving us enough issues for a fourth and final volume.

Rating: 5/10
Pairs well with: other Red Sonja stories from Dynamite.

Comic Review: Punisher/Black Widow: Spinning Doomsday’s Web

Published: 1992
Written by: D.G. Chichester
Art by: Larry Stroman, Earl Norem (cover)

Marvel Comics, 51 Pages

Review:

I’m really digging the hell out of reading the old ’80s and early ’90s Marvel graphic novels. Back then, they made these great stories that were too big and too hard for the regular comics and almost all of the ones featuring the Punisher are damn good.

This one is no different and it was great seeing him get to team up with the Black Widow, as both characters are pretty “no fucks given” when it comes to taking down evil scumbags.

This story also had a good, intimidating villain that I kind of wish wasn’t just a one-off baddie. He’s a normal human but he’s a hell of an evil, terrorist bastard.

This starts as a Black Widow story and man, she gets her ass kicked pretty hard going against orders and trying to bring the bad guy down. Luckily, she survives and then the Punisher comes into the story, causing the two to work together for a common goal.

Honestly, this is simply badass but it’s also short and sweet. I really dug the story and the art by Larry Stroman was really damn cool.

I miss marquee Marvel graphic novels like this but then again, in the modern era, they’d never be as good as this.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: other Punisher comics of the late ’80s and early ’90s.

Comic Review: Tales of the Green Lantern Corps., Vol. 1

Published: March 3rd, 2009
Written by: Robin Snyder
Art by: Dave Gibbons

DC Comics, 157 Pages

Review:

I always thought that the Hal Jordan Green Lantern was cool. However, I never really started reading his stories until the Geoff Johns era and a lot of that had to do with the art by Ethan Van Sciver, which popped off of the shelves when I walked into a comic book shop for the first time in a decade in the mid-’00s.

Through that era of Green Lantern titles, I grew to love several characters and the rich mythos of that pocket of the larger DC Comics universe.

In the years since, I like going way back and reading some of the earlier stuff to get a grasp on the more classic stories. This collection is one of those, as it features stories originally published in the early ’80s.

This collection has one primary story that takes up about the first half of the book. It features Hal Jordan and other Green Lanterns as they face off against villains Krona and Nekron. In fact, this story is the first appearance of Nekron, who would grow into a fairly prominent villain over the years.

The second half of the book features short stories of what appears to be random Lanterns. It’s a collection of both origin stories and quick adventures for a plethora of Lanterns. Some of it is cool and really imaginative but not all of them really connected for me.

Still, as a more modern Green Lantern fan, this was cool to read. Plus, it features tremendous art by the great Dave Gibbons, one of my favorite comic book artists of all-time.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: other old school Green Lantern stories.

Comic Review: Red Sonja: Worlds Away, Vol. 2

Published: May 2nd, 2018
Written by: Amy Chu, Erik Burnham
Art by: Carlos Gomez, Tom Mandrake
Based on: Red Sonya by Robert E. Howard, Red Sonja by Roy Thomas and Barry Windsor-Smith

Dynamite Entertainment, 182 Pages

Review:

This series is pretty fun and this installment, the second out of four, just solidified that for me.

I liked the first volume more but this was cool, as it took Sonja out of New York City and sent her on a road trip across America. With that, she takes down a dangerous drug cartel that stretches across the United States.

Like the first volume, a lot of things that happen are the result of plot convenience. However, it’s bothering me less now and I’ve sort of just brushed it aside, as that seems to be the writing style of this series and to make certain things happen organically and naturally would probably take up more space than this story has. So it’s actually much more fantastical than a typical Red Sonja story but I’m already looking at this with the tone of an edgy adult cartoon more than anything serious.

The art was pretty decent but Dynamite usually has decent art in their Red Sonja titles. At the same time, it’s not great or memorable but it gets the job done.

Thus far, I like this series and since I’m halfway through it, I suspect that I’ll finish it and review the other two volumes as well.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: other Red Sonja stories from Dynamite, as well as the Conan comic book stories that put him in the modern world and the second Beastmaster movie that sent the hero to 1990s Los Angeles.