Published: February 1st, 2017 Written by: Brian Michael Bendis Art by: Jim Cheung, Oliver Coipel, David Marquez, Marko Djurdjevic (cover)
Marvel Comics, 317 Pages
Man, this was bewilderingly bad.
Historically, I’ve been pretty 50/50 on Brian Michael Bendis’ writing but man, it’s like when he did this, he already knew he was leaving Marvel. It also reads like he was given orders to use certain characters and he was begrudgingly forced to work them in. Granted, he’s also created some of the terrible modern characters.
While I’ve been well aware of the criticism that the Captain Marvel character gets in modern times, I always liked her when she was Ms. Marvel. But this new, short-haired, suddenly pushed into a leadership role Carol Danvers is not even the same character, remotely.
Based off of how she’s written here, as a self-righteous, fascist, tyrant bitch, I totally see why fans can’t stand her. If this story is an accurate portrayal of how she is post-2015 or so, I have no interest in following her character unless she’s actually made into a permanent villain. But even then, there are so many better villains I’d rather read about.
And I’m not really sure how I’m supposed to interpret her character. Is she supposed to be psychotic, god-powered, tyrannical piece of shit? Or am I supposed to empathize with her point-of-view?
What made the first Civil War so great was that you could emphasize and relate to both points-of-view and it made for a compelling read. Civil War II just made me hate Carol and every character that so easily sided with her. These characters aren’t heroes, as their actions in this story crossed the line into villainy.
Whatever. Fuck this comic. Fuck Bendis. Fuck post-2015 Marvel. But at least the art was really good.
Rating: 4/10 Pairs well with: all the other Civil War II crossover tie-in trade paperbacks.
Published: 1985-1986 Written by: Steve Englehart, Danny Fingeroth, Jim Shooter, Roger Stern Art by: Mark Bright, John Buscema, Steve Ditko
Marvel Comics, 278 Pages
I hate when I buy a thick, hefty collection that is sold to me as one thing, but once I buy it I find out that the thing I bought it for is about a third of the total collection and the rest of the volume is padded with other random stories.
While the issues collected here are presented in chronological order in how they appeared in single issues of the Avengers comics, they are all tied to larger stories or continued in other comics.
It’s pretty fucking infuriating when companies do this because I just wanted to read a Kang story that I had hoped would be pretty epic based off of the page count of this large Avengers release.
Instead, I got a medium sized Kang story and then a bunch of random plot threads that were left incomplete and open ended as they tied to Secret Wars II, Fantastic Four, X-Men and a story about both ’80s Avengers teams playing baseball.
Had I just read the Kang story, this would’ve been great. It would’ve been even better if it was reduced to the roughly four issues that the story took place in and I was charged a lot less than what I played for this disorganized mess.
Now to be fair, I did like most of this but when you’re pulled in one direction just to be left with blue balls, it’s pretty irritating. Especially, when you’re the one paying for it.
As far as the Kang story goes, I loved it. It was one of the best I’ve read and it featured one of my favorite incarnations of the Avengers team, as I started reading this series around the same era.
Had I known that I was going to get shafted by this, I would’ve just forked out the money for the less than a handful of physical floppy issues I needed for the story I wanted.
Rating: 6.5/10 Pairs well with: other Kang-centric stories, as well as other comics that happened around the events of Secret Wars II.
Published: 1995-1996 Written by: Scott Lobdell, Jeph Loeb, John Francis Moore, Mark Waid, Warren Ellis, Fabian Nicieza, Larry Hama, Howard Mackie, Terry Kavanagh Art by: Roger Cruz, Terry Dodson, Steve Epting, Andy Kubert, Adam Kubert, Carlos Pacheco, Joe Madureira, Tony Daniel, Salvador Larroca, Chris Bachalo, Ken Lashley, Steve Skroce, Ian Churchill, Joe Bennett
Marvel Comics, 1462 Pages
I’ve really only heard great things about The Age of Apocalypse storyline since it started back in 1995, an era where I wasn’t really reading comics for awhile, except for Dark Horse’s Star Wars stuff.
In fact, the last major X-Men related event that I had read before this was X-Cutioner’s Song, a pretty good epic. But shortly after that, I got pretty burnt out once the top Marvel guys went off to form Image and then those comics were constantly hindered by delays and irregular schedules.
Based off of all the praise I heard, I always wanted to read this but it was such a massive story, spread over multiple collected volumes that I never really wanted to fork out the over $100 it would cost to buy the whole shebang. So, all these years later, I took advantage of a massive X-Men sale on Comixology and got the entire saga with its prelude for about $20.
Now that I’ve read it, I’m glad I only spent $20 because like Game of Thrones, all my friends and all the critics lied to me about how great this was. It’s not, it’s a clusterfuck of biblical proportions showcasing a lot of the things that were wrong with mid-’90s comic book art from the major publishers.
I’ll start with the art and just come out and say that this was mostly an eyesore to look at. The biggest reason was the colors, which relied so heavily on what I assume are digitally created gradients and overly vibrant colors that this was like staring into the asshole of a tropical fruit salad for hours. Everything is too busy, every single issue collected is made to be overly grandiose and if everything is larger than life and overly vivid, then that becomes the norm and thus, makes everything kind of boring.
Additionally, there is such a mix of different artistic styles that it becomes jarring as these collections jump from issue to issue every twenty pages or so. Some of the artists had great pencils but many of them illustrated in a style that didn’t feel like Marvel and instead felt like the artists were trying to emulate indie comics from Image and Valiant. Besides, the stuff that was illustrated well, ended up being wrecked by the primitive gradients and crazy colors that looked like a giallo film puked all over a box of Prismacolor markers.
When it comes to the narrative side of this, that’s also a mess.
This suffers from trying to be way more ambitious than it needed to be. The whole story is comprised of about seven or eight different subplots that are and aren’t intertwined. Some of them merge towards the end into the bigger story but some stuff just happens within this new timeline. But the story jumps around so much that it makes the whole thing hard to follow as a singular body of work. This is the same problem I have, right now, with all the new X-Men related titles that are tied to a bigger narrative but don’t feel connected as much as they should. But this is what happens when you have a half dozen different titles and different writers, all of whom want to explore different territory in their own way while being trapped within a common framework.
In fact, the only plot I actually enjoyed was the one that dealt with the characters that aren’t tied to the X-Men.
There was a two issue miniseries called X-Universe, which focused on what other Marvel characters were up to during this event. We check in on this timeline’s version of Gwen Stacy, some of the Avengers, Fantastic Four, Doctor Doom and a few others. I found this more interesting and it showed me that this alternate timeline could provide the right sort of environment for cool and refreshing takes on old characters.
While I should probably feel the same way about all the X-Men related characters and their stories, it is hard to focus on any of them because of how this jumps around so much. When I got to the non-X-Men characters, it felt like a nice break from the X-clusterfuck I was pushing myself through.
Ultimately, I was really disappointed in this. I kept powering through it because I was hoping that all these subplots and characters would unify into something coherent that clicked at the end but that didn’t happen. We eventually get to a resolution but it’s not all that satisfying.
On a side note (and spoiler alert): the way that Magneto kills Apocalypse is pretty f’n badass.
Rating: 5/10 Pairs well with: other big X-Men crossovers of the ’80s through ’00s.
Published: September 4th, 2019 Written by: Ed Brisson, Jed MacKay, Jim Zub Art by: Max Dunbar, Scott Hepburn, Djibril Morissette-Phan, Nick Bradshaw (cover)
Marvel Comics, 33 Pages
I used to read Alpha Flight back in the day but they were always sort of C-list heroes. Maybe it’s because they were Canadians and always seemed overshadowed by the A-list teams, as well as all the X-Men spinoff teams that monopolized the late ’80s and early ’90s. But I always had a soft spot for them, even if they only showed up in other comic titles when a hero or team would find themselves in Canada for some reason.
That being said, it’s been awhile since I read an Alpha Flight comic book, so when I saw this on the shelf of my local comic shop, I decided to give it a shot at $4.99.
Lately, I’ve only seen the team appear in the Old Man Logan and The Immortal Hulk titles. So maybe there are plans to dust them off and give them a new ongoing series considering that Jonathan Hickman is steering the X-Men ship now.
Anyway, this was an anthology that featured three short stories crammed into this slightly bigger than normal single issue.
I would have rather they just chose one of these stories and fleshed it out more into something bigger than a tapas meal. Still, each story was okay and engaging enough, they just felt skeletal, rushed and if I’m being honest, there didn’t seem to be much care put into them, except for the middle story about an event from Puck’s past.
Maybe this was made to test the market to see if there was still interest in a standalone Alpha Flight title. If this did go on to bring us a new series, I’d give the duties to Ed Brisson, as he seems like the one writer that has a good grasp on the characters, especially after using them in his Old Man Logan stories.
Rating: 6.25/10 Pairs well with: other Alpha Flight comics, as well as other recent Marvel one-shots and anthologies.
Published: 1980-1981 Written by: Chris Claremont Art by: John Byrne
Marvel Comics, 176 Pages
I read the collected trade paperback of this famous story but I was surprised to find that Days of Future Past is only a two issue story arc. The majority of this collection is padded out with a few different stories around that saga. However, everything in this collection directly follows The Dark Phoenix Saga.
Days of Future Past is a story I have never read, until now, but it’s been heralded as on of the best in the decades since it came out. But if I’m being honest, I didn’t think it was a real classic of a story. At least, not in how it has been sold to me over the years.
It’s a good, fun story but I think it’s severely over hyped. I think that it’s fondly remembered because it introduced the idea of possible dark futures to the X-Men mythos and that’s a storytelling device that never really went away after this tale. We’ve had time travelling characters showing up in X-Men stories all the time ever since Days of Future Past.
That being said, one can’t deny the impact that this story had and anything with lasting power like that is going to always be a pivotal point for fans to go back and reference. But looking at it objectively, without any actual nostalgia for it, allows me to rate the story on its own merit, detached from decades of nostalgia and hype.
Also, maybe I’m a bit less impressed than I should be because I read this just after The Dark Phoenix Saga and that story is legitimately a real classic, in my eyes. But that’s not to say that Days of Future Past isn’t a milestone, it is.
Ultimately, this is still a solid collection of stories where the two issue Days of Future Past story arc is the high point. But I was surprised to discover that it wasn’t a long, massive epic like I always thought that it was.
Rating: 7.5/10 Pairs well with: other X-Men stories from the Chris Claremont/John Byrne era.
Published: 1998 Written by: John Cassaday, Ben Raab Art by: John Cassaday, Liquid! (cover)
Marvel Comics, 64 Pages
I wasn’t expecting much from this two-issue story arc but I was pleasantly surprised by how fun this was.
I love the X-Men and I love Alpha Flight. I especially love when they come together.
In this story we see the X-Men get captured by Baron Strucker and Hydra. Alpha Flight then goes in to save them.
I didn’t realize that this was a 1998 story when I first read it, as the version on Comixology listed it as 2016. So at first I thought it was a cool throwback because it had a very ’90s art style.
This is also the second X-Men/Alpha Flight team up mini-miniseries. I have read and owned the first one for years now. I don’t remember how good that one was but if it’s on par with this, that’d be great.
For a short story that didn’t have much room to breathe, this was a good, fun comic that reminded me why I loved these two teams back in the ’80s and ’90s.
Alpha Flight needs more love, people.
Rating: 7.5/10 Pairs well with: other ’90s X-Men and Alpha Flight stories.
Published: September 19th, 2018 – December 5th, 2018 Written by: Al Ewing Art by: Joe Bennett, Lee Garbett, Alex Ross (covers)
Marvel Comics, 112 Pages
Sometimes, I love being wrong. In this case, I was wrong about this series.
It didn’t do much for me by the end of the first story arc and even though it had some good stuff in it, it felt really lackluster, overall. I quit picking up the issues, month to month. But then a friend asked if I was still reading it and told me that it was becoming his favorite comic. So I went back and rounded up the issues I missed and gave it a second chance.
The Green Door story arc is pretty friggin’ enjoyable and it set the stage for what I hope is a stellar third arc.
This version of the Hulk has grown on me and man, this series started out dark but it gets even darker and more messed up.
At one point, the Hulk is cut into pieces, placed into jars and studied. This obviously doesn’t end well for the evil scientists and we get to see the Hulk do some things we’ve never seen before. But in a way, this whole series has become a reinvention of the character without trashing what the Hulk was before it.
I have to give props to Al Ewing for writing something so interesting and unique for a character that has been pretty one dimensional throughout his history. While I mostly like the Hulk character, I’ve never been an avid reader of Hulk titles because they just haven’t been that great.
This really taps into the core of what Hulk used to be. He’s a monster. He’s a version of a Jekyll and Hyde or werewolf type character. Over the years, that has been lost or at least, it hasn’t been utilized in the right way.
I’ve grown to love this story and its direction. Al Ewing has reinvented the Hulk in a refreshing way in the same vein that Donny Cates has given new life to Venom.
I was sure that I was done with this series and now I’m actually excited for the next part of Hulk’s journey.
Rating: 8.25/10 Pairs well with: The first volume of The Immortal Hulk, which now reads better after seeing where the series was going with this volume. Also, I’m assuming the followup story, The Immortal Hulk In Hell.
Published: February 1st, 2006 Written by: Brian Michael Bendis Art by: Oliver Coipel
Marvel Comics, 280 Pages
This picks up after the events that happened in Avengers: Disassembled. This story also has effects that will go on to be felt in Marvel’s Civil War event, as well as X-Men: The Messiah Complex.
So following the tragic events of Avengers: Disassembled, the Avengers and the X-Men meet to discuss the fate of the Scarlet Witch. Wolverine leads the charge pretty much calling for her death, as the potential for what she can do with her powers is too great. Other Avengers and X-Men disagree but ultimately, you get the idea that this is going to go somewhere really friggin’ dark.
After that, Wolverine wakes up in an alternate reality and is aware that he’s not where he’s supposed to be, even though all of his allies are buying into the mystical charade. Wolverine has to go against his friends, search for answers and has to convince his allies that something happened that completely changed reality.
In the end, the Scarlet Witch only leaves like ten percent of the mutants in the world with their powers intact. So Wolverine saves the day, essentially, but the Scarlet Witch with her insane powers is still a crazy bitch.
This story was a cool idea but it didn’t really move forward in a way that excited me. Granted, I wasn’t too fond of Avengers: Disassemble, which lead to this.
This is one of the big Marvel stories of the ’00s and it is certainly better than the schlock they are synonymous with now but it still pales in comparison to the great epics that came before this. Don’t get me wrong, Marvel has some events that were duds in the old days too but this book just missed the mark and frankly, it could have been longer and probably needed to be, as the pace was insanely quick.
I really enjoyed Oliver Coipel’s art, though.
Rating: 6.25/10 Pairs well with:Avengers: Disassembled, The Messiah Complex, also it has ramifications that carry over into the Civil War event.
Published: August 22nd, 2018 – September 12th, 2018 Written by: Ed Brisson Art by: Damian Couceiro, Andrea Sorrentino (covers)
Marvel Comics, 46 Pages
This wasn’t the best story that we’ve gotten in the ongoing Old Man Logan series but it was still mildly entertaining and decent filler, as the arc after this one is probably the big finale of the series.
This story was told in two parts over issues 46 and 47. It sees Logan go on a little mission with Alpha Flight up to rural Nova Scotia. While there, they are confronted by an alien plant creature that is devouring the town and growing in size.
The story is used as a way to have Logan reflect on his life, which he knows is coming to an end. He does some crazy and very painful shit in order to stop the plant alien menace but that’s what nearly indestructible manly men do in comics.
Anyway, we get a nice moment between Old Man Logan and Puck. This whole story is really just one big human moment but other than tapping into Logan’s thought process and his physical way of working through his emotions, there’s not a whole lot here.
Still, it’s always cool seeing Wolverine in Canada and I usually enjoy Alpha Flight cameos.
Rating: 6.5/10 Pairs well with: Other Old Man Logan stories.
Published: June 6th, 2018 – September 5th, 2018 Written by: Al Ewing Art by: Joe Bennett, Alex Ross (covers)
Marvel Comics, 128 Pages
I wanted to support this for two reasons.
One, I love Bruce Banner and I thought that it was great to have him back. Nothing beats the original Hulk and this new take on the character, where the green Hulk is now more intelligent than Banner, peaked my interest.
Two, and this is incredibly superficial, but I love these Alex Ross covers, especially the first issue. It was very Frankenstein-esque and totally f’n badass.
The problem with this story arc, which takes place over the first five issues of this new series, is that it, like the Hulk, has multiple personality disorder. With that disorder, though, it’s level of quality is incredibly inconsistent from issue to issue.
Issue one was a pretty good introduction to this updated version of the Hulk. Issue two was really f’d up but damn intriguing and frankly, I loved it. Issue three, however, was so bad, I was astonished at how poorly it was crafted after being really happy with the book’s first two outings. The fourth issue was pretty much just boring filler, trying to explain the story, as the first three issues didn’t have a lot of detail and mostly just focused on the Hulk being a real force of nature with an attitude similar to the Punisher. The fifth and final issue pits the Hulk against Alpha Flight’s Sasquatch but there is a big twist and you discover that Hulk is just battling his own daddy issues. *exhales loudly* Really? …Really?
I wanted to like this, I truly did.
I liked the beginning of the arc, I thought the art was solid and I liked the tone of this darker yet smarter Hulk tale. But by the time I got to the end of the story, I wanted to chuck these comics into the fireplace. I don’t own a fireplace, though. Florida is too hot for that shit.
This first arc was the test to see if I was going to end up adding this to my pull list. I won’t. I’m done with this series. That is, unless someone whose opinion I trust continues to read it and tells me it’s gotten better. Unless that happens, I’ve got mountains of other comics to read.
Rating: 5.25/10 Pairs well with: I don’t know, not a whole lot, really. This is pretty unique and it’s great to have Banner back but the tone is so different from older Banner stories. But maybe read Damage, which is DC Comics’ new character that is very Hulk-like but a better read, right now.