Published: July 31st, 2014 Written by: Gerry Conway, Stan Lee, David Michelinie Art by: Sal Buscema, Steve Ditko, Colleen Doran, Gil Kane, Erik Larsen, Todd McFarlane, Alex Saviuk
Marvel Comics, 501 Pages
When I was a kid and probably because I was a kid, nothing seemed cooler than Spider-Man getting cosmic powers. Basically, seeing him become a hero more akin to Superman was a neat idea and it felt like it upped the ante, as it also brought with it, bigger and badder villains than his typical foes.
However, this also happened during the Acts of Vengeance crossover event, which saw Marvel villains switch which heroes they would fight, thinking that taking on different heroes would give them a tactical advantage and catch the good guys off guard.
So with that, Spider-Man got to tie up with tougher foes anyway. However, these foes were the ones caught off guard by Spidey’s new cosmic abilities, which evolved from issue-to-issue and also surprised Spidey.
One thing that this short era of Spider-Man did was it shook up the series and made it kind of fresh. But sometimes, that isn’t the best thing to do. Especially, if something isn’t broken and Spider-Man comics in the late ’80s weren’t broken.
Reading this now, this saga is really a mixed bag. Some single issues collected within are entertaining while others just seem like they’re just not hitting the typical Spider-Man beats.
Still, this was cool to experience a second time, over three decades later. It’s not my favorite era of Spider-Man comics but it’s strange and different enough that long-standing Spidey fans who haven’t read it, might want to check it out.
Rating: 6.25/10 Pairs well with: other Spider-Man stories of the ’80s and early ’90s.
Published: March 3rd, 2010 Written by: Bob Layton, David Michelinie Art by: Carmine Infantino, Bob Layton, John Romita Jr.
Marvel Comics, 167 Pages
This collection of Demon In A Bottle was a pretty cool read. However, people have referenced the story for years and truthfully, it’s not a big arc like many insinuate or imagine. In fact, this covers multiple arcs but each has a common thread and that’s Tony Stark’s fall into alcoholism.
Ultimately, this ends with him overcoming his demons and trying to fix the damage he’s caused, rebuilding himself into who Iron Man needs to be.
It’s also important to mention that this debuted the long-time Iron Man villain, Justin Hammer. Hammer was created as a character similar to Tony Stark but one who stayed on a dark path. He was also deliberately made to look like Peter Cushing and in this story, John Romita Jr. and Bob Layton did a stellar job of conveying that.
The story also features the Avengers, Namor and a slew of C-list villains that Hammer employs in an effort to overwhelm Iron Man. Overall, this is just as action-packed and exciting as it is dramatic and full of real human trauma and emotion.
While it’s not my favorite classic Iron Man story (or stories), it is a very important piece of the character’s history and served to build up his character in a pretty dynamic way. It does what most modern mainstream comics don’t do and that’s showing weakness in a hero.
In fact, this is about a hero’s journey and personal evolution, which is something that was lost in the storytelling art of superhero comics. Hell, it’s been lost in most mainstream media, as we constantly get characters that are made to be perfect and “special” without faults or real struggle.
Rating: 7/10 Pairs well with: other Iron Man stories of the ’80s, most notably the Armor Wars saga.
Release Date: April 22nd, 2019 (Los Angeles premiere) Directed by: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo Written by: Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely Based on:The Avengers by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby Music by: Alan Silvestri Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Chris Pratt, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Paul Rudd, Brie Larson, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Don Cheadle, Jeremy Renner, Chadwick Boseman, Elizabeth Olsen, Tom Holland, Benedict Cumberbatch, Danai Gurira, Letitia Wright, Dave Bautista, Zoe Saldana, Josh Brolin, Tom Hiddleston, Benedict Wong, Pom Klementieff, Karen Gillan, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Gwyneth Paltrow, William Hurt, Cobie Smulders, Samuel L. Jackson, Ross Marquand, Jon Favreau, Marisa Tomei, Evangeline Lilly, Michael Douglas, Michelle Pfeiffer, Linda Cardellini, Tessa Thompson, Rene Russo, John Slattery, Tilda Swinton, Hayley Atwell, Natalie Portman, Taika Waititi, Angela Bassett, Frank Grillo, Robert Redford, Ty Simpkins, James D’Arcy, Ken Jeong, Yvette Nichole Brown
Marvel Studios, Walt Disney Studios, 181 Minutes
“You could not live with your own failure, and where did that bring you? Back to me.” – Thanos
*There be spoilers here! But I kept it as minimal as possible.
Here we are… the end.
Well, it’s the end of an era but not the end of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Although, this may be the end for me, as there isn’t much else I’m looking forward to from the MCU after Endgame. Granted, there hasn’t been much news on what’s coming next, either.
But anyway, how was this film? The big, badass finale to a 22 movie franchise?
It was good but it wasn’t anything close to stellar.
My biggest issue with it was that it was a pretty big clusterfuck that had too many parts to try and balance. Where the previous film Infinity War did that just fine, Endgame had so many more extra layers thrown on top of it that it was overkill. I mean every single character that had any sort of significant impact on MCU storylines over 22 films ended up shoehorned into this thing. Even Natalie Portman, who wanted nothing to do with these movies after being in two of them and dialing in a mediocre performance both times.
Also, the time travel element to the story did a bunch of things that didn’t make sense and they also pissed on Back to the Future because it’s easier to shit on a classic (and its fictitious application of quantum physics) than to actually write a coherent time travel story of your own. Endgame opted to go the lazy Doctor Who “timey wimey” route than to concern itself with paradoxes and all that other catastrophic nonsense. They even kill a version of a character from the past and it in no way effects the present version of that same character.
The big battle at the end was the most epic thing that the Marvel Cinematic Universe has done but what should have felt like Marvel’s version of The Return of the King felt more like Ready Player Two. It was a CGI shitfest and I’m not even sure how Spider-Man was web-swinging on a large, open battlefield where the only objects above him were fast moving spaceships going in the opposite of the direction he was swinging in. But whatever, physics is hard, brah.
I liked that this film gave us some closure for some major characters. Granted, I’m not all that happy with what that closure was but like Chris Evans and Robert Downey Jr., I’m also very, very tired of this franchise. I feel like Endgame really is a jumping off point for fans that have rode this train for 11 years that feel like they need a break. I feel like I need a break and even if my mind was made up before this film, Endgame really solidified it.
Although, I am a bit excited for whatever happens with the Guardians of the Galaxy and Thor. As for the rest of the characters and their films, I don’t really care. I think I’m only really enthused about cosmic Marvel and not Earth Marvel, at this point.
Almost all of the acting was damn good, especially in regards to Robert Downey Jr., Karen Gillan, Jeremy Renner and Scarlett Johansson.
Brie Larson on the other hand is a fucking charisma vacuum and every time she was on screen, I felt like I was looking at a first time community theater actress trying to play Nurse Ratched. And the Justin Bieber makeover was terrible. That scene where she blew up the ship and floated there, victoriously, just made me yearn for someone, anyone else to be in that role. My brain immediately thought, “Man, imagine if that was Charlize Theron, the theater would’ve just erupted instead of everyone just sitting here sucking loudly on empty soda cups.” I’m not wrong, I rarely ever am.
Anyway, the movie was messy but it had some really good moments. But this isn’t a movie that can stand on its own. You need the previous 21 films for context or all of this would be lost on you. Sure, it’s emotional and some bits are powerful but without 11 years of context, the weight isn’t there. And I prefer to judge films on their own merits as a sole body of work and not as an episode of a TV show or a chapter in a book. But at the same time, there is no way you can recap everything before this, as this film series is now too damn big.
Well, it’s over I guess. In 2008, it was hard imagining this day. But here it is. And I’m tired.
Rating: 7.75/10 Pairs well with: Everything in the MCU before this film, as it all leads up to this one.
Published: May, 1980 – June, 1980 Written by: David Michelinie Art by: George Perez
Marvel Comics, 36 Pages
The Taskmaster is the shit! Which is why the two issues that make up his first appearance have been on my comic book bucket list for years. Recently, I tracked down affordable copies and finally gave his first little story arc a read.
Well, I wouldn’t call this great but if you like Taskmaster, this is still worth a look. Plus, it also has his origin wedged into the story, as he describes his abilities and history to the Avengers through flashbacks.
I think the thing that really stands out about this story and this era in Avengers history is the art of George Perez. In fact, since this is all about Taskmaster, I should point out the visual similarities between him and another George Perez creation, Deathstroke. He would create both of these iconic villains just a few months apart in 1980.
Anyway, the story sees the Avengers try to rescue the Wasp, who has been captured and is being experimented on in a castle. The Scott Lang Ant-Man and Hank Pym, as Yellow Jacket, infiltrate the castle and reach the Wasp. Once they are inside and have a scuffle, the Taskmaster makes his presence known with a big final page reveal.
In the second issue, the Taskmaster takes on the Avengers and nearly beats them. He also tells his origin story, explaining his unique skills that give him an advantage over all of the Avengers he’s observed in the past. However, we quickly discover his Achilles heel, at least in this story, as he doesn’t know how to defeat an Avengers teammate he’s never seen before.
The story is enjoyable and there is a lot of action. The real highlight is the George Perez art, though. Man, he really was one of my favorite artists from this era.
While these single issues aren’t cheap, due to them being a first appearance, you can read them on Comixology for just a few bucks.
Rating: 7.25/10 Pairs well with: other Avengers stories circa 1980.
Also known as: Ant-Man 2 (alternate title), Cherry Blue (fake working title) Release Date: June 25th, 2018 (El Capitan Theatre premiere) Directed by: Peyton Reed Written by: Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers, Paul Rudd, Andrew Barrer, Gabriel Ferrari Based on:Ant-Man by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, Jack Kirby; Wasp by Stan Lee, Ernie Hart, Jack Kirby Music by: Christophe Beck Cast: Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Michael Peña, Walton Goggins, Bobby Cannavale, Tip “T.I.” Harris, Judy Greer, David Dastmalchian, Michael Douglas, Hannah John-Kamen, Abby Ryder Fortson, Randall Park, Michelle Pfeiffer, Laurence Fishburne
Marvel Studios, Walt Disney Studios, 118 Minutes
“I do some dumb things, and the people I love the most – they pay the price.” – Scott Lang
It feels like Infinity War just happened but we’ve already got another Marvel movie within the MCU continuity. But then, I felt like Infinity War was way too close to Black Panther.
I wasn’t a massive fan of the first Ant-Man. I did like it quite a bit but it wasn’t really in the upper echelon of my mental ranking of Marvel movies. This one isn’t either but I did enjoy the hell out of it and I loved the humor and the overall tone, after coming off of such a somber ending in Infinity War.
First and foremost, this has Walton Goggins in it, who is a guy I will watch in anything. Goggins is a f’n master whether he’s doing drama, comedy or just needs to play some sort of eccentric badass. He’s a little bit of all those things in this movie but sadly, he just isn’t in it enough. But that’s okay, he survives to return at a later date and this movie’s story had to wedge a lot in.
That being said, the writers did a good job covering a lot of bases while still having the movie’s pace and multiple threads flow smoothly.
There are a few things I didn’t like about the film but they weren’t big enough to ruin it.
I thought that the lab was ridiculous. The fact that they can shrink it down to the size of a box and then run around with it and nothing inside of the structure gets damaged or destroyed, is pretty fucking dumb. Has anyone that worked on this picture ever seen a Godzilla film? What happens when giants come into contact with buildings? Them shits crumble! Could Godzilla run around with a building under his arm or yank it away from King Kong or toss it to Anguirus? No, that shit would get torn to bits like a gingerbread house at an elementary school Christmas party.
And then the whole thing where they hide the lab building in plain sight throughout the city is also pretty stupid. I’m sorry but if I drive a specific route to work everyday, I’m going to notice that there’s some ten story building that just popped up out of nowhere.
Alright, the Incredible Shrinking Lab is really my biggest gripe but I just rolled my eyes, exhaled heavily and got over it so I wouldn’t be fixated on it to the point that it ruined the whole movie.
I liked the Ghost character. I thought her backstory was good, even if it was a bit generic. It did give me a bit of the feels though. She wasn’t a cookie cutter villain and offered up something really cool for the heroes to play off of. It’s nice seeing heroes in an MCU film not fight a villain that’s just an evil version of themselves with the same power set. This was really refreshing and it allowed for more creative confrontations. Plus, her suit was fucking cool and I really liked Hannah John-Kamen in the role. I hope she goes on to have a bigger footprint in the larger MCU. And really, she deserves a redemption story after the events of this film. Good job, Marvel! Usually your villains are shit. But the villain front has been looking better lately between Ghost, Killmonger, Thanos and Walton f’n Goggins.
Paul Rudd was Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly was a goddess and Michael Douglas was a badass MFer per usual. l loved Pfeiffer as Janet van Dyne and I can’t wait to see more of her. The rest of the returning cast was fun too. I’ve always liked Judy Greer and I have a new level of respect for Bobby Cannavale after seeing how incredible he was last year in the third season of Mr. Robot.
The scene where Michael Peña is telling a story and his voice is dubbed over the other actors is hysterical, by the way. I haven’t laughed out loud at something in a Marvel movie like I did during this scene probably ever.
Ant-Man and the Wasp isn’t Marvel at its best but it’s a much needed breath of fresh air after feeling the weight of the universe come down on you following Infinity War. This gave the MCU audience a lighthearted break from the doom and gloom of Thanos’ major victory.
Rating: 8/10 Pairs well with: Everything else in the MCU but it should be pointed out that this film happens alongside Avengers: Infinity War.
Also known as: Stark Wars Published: December 10th, 1987 (start of the story arc) Written by: Bob Layton, David Michelinie Art by: Mark Bright, Bob Sharen
Marvel Comics, 209 Pages
Good lord, it has been an incredibly long time since I read through this classic Iron Man story arc. Probably at least twenty-five years. But as I’ve been going through all my old comics in an effort to preserve them and catalog them, I wanted to revisit this old school tale.
Armor Wars, at the time of its printing, was referred to as Stark Wars, which was probably a cheap attempt at capitalizing off of Star Wars.
The story kicks off with Tony Stark finding out that his tech secrets have been stolen. He sets off to try to correct this, learning that his secrets have been sold off to a bunch of supervillains and tech industry rivals. This sets up a situation where Tony has to go rogue, deal with the consequences of those actions and also has to battle a bunch of his famous foes, who are now more enhanced thanks to Tony’s secrets.
Ultimately, this is a very well written comic book story arc for its time. To this day, this is still considered one of the best Iron Man stories of all-time. It is certainly one of my favorites and when I was a kid, it really served to introduce me to a lot of Iron Man’s famous villains. This is where I first discovered the Crimson Dynamo, Titanium Man, the Controller and a few others. I was already a fan of Beetle from his appearances in Spider-Man stories.
This story also features the West Coast Avengers, who had one of the coolest comics in the late ’80s.
One of the biggest highlights, however, was that this has a chapter where Iron Man fights Captain America. This happened a few decades before the Civil War storyline in the comics and was the first time that I remember seeing two heroes really throw down with each other without one being controlled by some villain or being corrupted by some sort of power or force.
Apart from the Iron Man and Captain America fight, I loved the chapter that saw Tony Stark go head to head with both the Titanium Man and the Crimson Dynamo at the same time. This was just a great comic, even as a stand alone and not a chapter in a larger story arc.
This is still one of the greatest Iron Man tales ever written. I thought that the conclusion was a bit anticlimactic but it was an ending that still worked and ushered in a new era for Tony Stark and his friends.
Rating: 8.5/10 Pairs well with: Other classic Iron Man story arcs: Demon In A Bottle, Doomquest, 10 Rings to Rule the World, Iron Monger, The Ghost and the Machine and The Dragon Seed Saga. Also, Armor Wars II.
With the release of Avengers: Infinity War this upcoming Friday, we are on the verge of experiencing the culmination of ten years of hard work on the part of the studios, filmmakers, writers and actors involved with this massive franchise.
We are currently at the tail end of the third phase of films, appropriately called Phase 3. We have had close to twenty films already: solo movies, team-up movies and a mixture of different genres and styles all coalescing up to this point.
Having already experienced dozens of hours of entertainment since 2008’s Iron Man, I thought that it was a good time to rank all of the films that have led up to this point.
It also helps that I just revisited all of these movies in an attempt to prepare myself for Avengers: Infinity War.
So without further ado, the list!
1. Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
2. Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 (2017)
3. Captain America: The Winter Solider (2014)
4. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
5. Iron Man (2008)
6. Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
7. Iron Man 3 (2013)
8. Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)
9. The Black Panther (2018)
10. Doctor Strange (2016)
11. The Avengers (2012)
12. Thor (2011)
13. Iron Man 2 (2010)
14. Captain America: Civil War (2016)
15. Ant-Man (2015)
16. Thor: The Dark World (2013)
17. The Incredible Hulk (2008)
18. Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
Release Date: June 29th, 2015 (Dolby Theatre premiere) Directed by: Peyton Reed Written by: Edgar Wright, Joe Cornish, Adam McKay, Paul Rudd Based on:Ant-Man by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, Jack Kirby Music by: Christophe Beck Cast: Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Corey Stoll, Bobby Cannavale, Michael Peña, Tip “T.I.” Harris, Anthony Mackie, Wood Harris, Judy Greer, David Dastmalchian, Michael Douglas
Marvel Studios, Walt Disney Studios, 117 Minutes
*Originally written in 2015.
Ant-Man is the next film in a long line of Marvel films that are a part of the Avengers universe. Ant-Man being one of the original Avengers means that this film is long overdue. In fact, I had hoped that it would have happened in Phase One of the Avengers film line and not as the last film in the Phase Two set of movies. Regardless, it is nice to finally have Hank Pym in the Avengers fray. Oh wait, I mean Scott Lang.
Yes, Scott Lang (played by Paul Rudd) is the hero here even though Hank Pym (played by Michael Douglas) is in the film. Pym however, is Lang’s mentor and the original Ant-Man, who we knew nothing about until now. Janet van Dyne, the original Wasp, is also shown in costume via flashbacks. There is kind of a nice set up, in the film’s intro, that shows us a very young Michael Douglas (thanks to CGI) bantering with Howard Stark and Agent Peggy Carter in 1989.
Scott Lang is one of the more unique characters to be on the Avengers roster, even though he hasn’t achieved that status yet, in this film. He is a thief turned hero – on a quest for redemption in order to have a normal relationship with his young daughter. The Scott Lang character kind of takes the best parts of Hawkeye’s character in Avengers: Age of Ultron and magnifies them much more. You care about Scott, his daughter and their relationship probably more intimately than the relationship of any other characters in the Marvel movie mythos except for Steve Rogers and Peggy Carter.
Paul Rudd and Michael Douglas do a superb job in bringing life to this long overdue Marvel character. Evangeline Lilly is also great, as the daughter of Pym and the Wasp. Corey Stoll was okay as the villain who eventually becomes Yellowjacket. Although, Yellowjacket isn’t a villain in the comics, he is just another alias of Hank Pym.
Yellowjacket being the villain just seems half-assed. He is essentially the same thing as Ant-Man except he can fly and shoot lasers. Ant-Man has the advantage in that he can summon armies of ants. I’m sorry, but an army of ants against a tiny guy with lasers isn’t going to bode well for the tiny guy with lasers. What could one guy with a laser gun do against an army of ravenous orcs? This also goes back to a recent comment George R.R. Martin made about how Marvel too often pits its heroes against villains with the same set of powers and it isn’t as interesting as heroes matching up with something that is a contrast to their abilities. I couldn’t agree with Martin more.
Despite the villain issue, this film is better than that mess Avengers: Age of Ultron. When I stated in my review of that film that the solo Marvel films are better due to story, character development and not being forced to fit too much into one movie, Ant-Man just solidified that point for me even more. It is more fluid, more organic and tells a human story, unlike those massive CGI-littered Joss Whedon action fests.
To be honest, Ant-Man is one of the best Marvel films to date. It is better than both Avengers, both Thor films, the first Captain America, the second and third Iron Man, that one Hulk film with the other actor and whatever else there is except for Guardians of the Galaxy, Captain America: Winter Soldier and the first Iron Man film.
It isn’t a picture without flaws though. At times, it got a bit too hokey. The humor was great for the most part and I loved the comedic characters, especially Lang’s crew played by Michael Peña, T.I. and David Dastmalchian (the one with the Russian accent), who you might remember as the Joker’s henchman that Harvey Dent abducted in The Dark Knight.
The film felt rushed at times and the editing was a bit shaky. Like other Marvel films, things feel like they got left on the cutting room floor. Where some characters felt well developed, others were lacking. Corey Stoll’s role just seemed disjointed at times, as his motivations were never all that clear and his slip into insanity just kind of happened. It just didn’t feel like an organic metamorphosis.
Additionally, the sound editing was problematic. When Lang is taking direction from Pym in his helmet, it sounds like voice over work and doesn’t sound natural. Other Marvel films have had similar problems. Also, when Lang is ant-sized, in some scenes he can’t be heard by normal-sized characters but in others he can. I’m not sure if this was explained and I missed it or if it is just some Marvel-sized plot hole.
Judy Greer is also in this film, which makes me wonder how many more summer blockbusters will she cameo in? And using her for a minor role was a waste of her talent, unless they have plans for her later on. I feel like she could have been used for a bigger Marvel role than the 14th Avenger’s baby mama.
I liked this film. Be sure to wait for the mid-credits scene and then for the post-credits scene. We get two special bonuses with this film. Granted, they don’t necessarily lead to anything profound but they put in motion the next steps in the Ant-Man branch of the Avengers franchise family tree.