Published: March 4th, 2015 Written by: various Art by: various
Marvel Comics, 458 Pages
This was a comic book series that I had wanted to read for a long time. I was collecting all of the single issues, in an effort to get the whole shebang before reading any of them, as I wanted the full experience.
However, I found the beefy collected edition at Ollie’s Bargain Outlet for like $4.95. So I couldn’t pass up that deal and because tracking down the whole series, as well as its crossovers was taking some time.
Anyway, this wasn’t exactly what I had hoped it was but it was still a really fun comic, especially as a fan of Doctor Doom, who is mostly the main character, alongside Namor, throughout the series’ run.
What I had hoped (or assumed) this was, was a book that put two villains together like a tag team in an effort to see them fight their regular nemeses. I expected more of a mix up of villains but the vast majority of this pairs Doom and Namor. And honestly, most of the time, they’re at odds with each other, so “team-up” isn’t all that accurate.
Other villains come into the series towards the end. We get to see Red Skull, Arnim Zola, The Hate-Monger, Magneto and a few others. But most of this is Doom having schemes that typically involve Namor. It pits them (well, mostly Doom) against superhero teams like The Avengers, the Fantastic Four and the ’70s version of The Champions but it also sees Doom come into conflict with other major villains.
For the most part, this is a really fun and energetic series that highlights what was great about ’70s Marvel. However, the series kept switching writers and artists and some of the issues aren’t nearly as great as the more solid ones.
It’s definitely better written in the first few issues, as those duties were handled by the great Roy Thomas. Towards the end, the book gets more exciting, as a lot of characters get wedged in but the earliest stories were just better written tales.
All in all, this is definitely worth picking up for those out there that are into ’70s Marvel and/or Doctor Doom. If you can find the collected trade paperback for as cheap as I got it, you should definitely pick it up and give it a shot.
Rating: 7.5/10 Pairs well with: the Avengers and Fantastic Four comics of the ’70s.
Published: July 8th, 1964 Written by: Stan Lee Art by: Jack Kirby, Chic Stone
Marvel Comics, 24 Pages
I recently read Avengers issue #8, the first appearance of Kang the Conqueror and I really enjoyed it. And since I actually now own a high quality original issue of this comic, the first appearance of the original Baron Zemo and his Masters of Evil, I figured that I’d read this one too.
Granted, the comic I own is graded and slabbed, so I read this digitally. It’s actually free for Comixology Unlimited members.
I’ve got to say, I enjoyed this issue immensely. Even more so than the Kang issue.
This was a pretty high energy issue that was mostly action, as the Avengers didn’t fight one big villain but instead, fought a group of villains that were very aware of each hero’s weakness.
The story also ties back to the death of Bucky and how personal that tragedy was for Captain America. We learn that Zemo was behind Bucky’s death and that gives some added emotional weight to the story, cementing him, immediately, as one of Cap’s greatest rivals.
I loved Stan Lee’s writing here, especially his dialogue. I also appreciated the extra layers added to the plot that called back to past events that existed before Stan was even writing comics.
This is, of course, all enhanced by the stupendous artwork of Jack Kirby, who is still my favorite person ever to draw Captain America. He also really gives Zemo a presence and style that no one else has been able to replicate with the same sort of impact.
For those of you that just like old school comics when stories were told over just one issue, this is a great representation of that bygone narrative style.
Rating: 8.5/10 Pairs well with: other Stan Lee and Jack Kirby era Marvel stuff, especially The Avengers and Fantastic Four.
Published: July 22nd, 2009 Written by: Mark Millar Art by: Tommy Lee Edwards
Marvel Comics, 146 Pages
This comic book was cool as hell!
It sort of reads like it’s a season of Stranger Things but where the small town is haunted by Marvel villains instead of weird shit from the Upsidedown. This also came out in the decade before Stranger Things, so it was kind of ahead of the curve but like Stranger Things, knew how to tap into ’80s nostalgia in a brilliant way.
But this was also written by Mark Millar, a true master of his craft.
What’s unique and cool about this comic is that it doesn’t take place in the Marvel Universe, it takes place in our universe.
The story follows a young boy in 1985. He is having issues like any normal ’80s kid dealing with divorced parents. He bonds with his father pretty strongly though, as they both have a deep love of comic books and are experts on Marvel lore. At the same time, Marvel villains start showing up in the real world because there are no heroes here to stop them.
Overall, this was a really neat idea and for the most part, I thought it was superbly executed.
1985 is incredibly imaginative but it really worked so well because the art fit the concept and the tone. While Millar deserves credit for a great story, Tommy Lee Edwards gave it so much more life than just words on paper. And his style works better for the setting than having that sort of standard Marvel art style.
This is one of those comics that I’m happy to have discovered as an adult but wish would have been around when I was a kid. If you know a kid that loves Marvel but they’ve never read this, I think that they’ll probably love the hell out of it.
Rating: 9/10 Pairs well with: the Stranger Things comics, as well as other Mark Millar stories.
Published: March 1st, 2006 Written by: Ed Brubaker Art by: Steve Epting, Michael Lark, J.P. Leon
Marvel Comics, 167 Pages
At the start of Ed Brubaker’s historic Captain America run, I wasn’t paying attention to comics. I found my way back to them around the time that Cap died, a few years into Brubaker’s tenure. So I never got to read the original Winter Soldier story.
I’ve got to say, this pretty much lives up to the hype. However, I’m only speaking as someone that’s read the first part, as the story covers two volumes.
So I don’t know how this will conclude or where it will go in the immediate future but this was a damn fine setup.
This may be the best and the most human Steve Rogers has ever been written. This explores the layers to his character and it does a fantastic job of giving the reader the right context without just relying on them to know Cap’s backstory. Additionally, it also doesn’t just dwell on the past and act as a lengthy modernized recap of those events.
I also love the art. And honestly, it’s the evolution of comic book art that really brought me back to the medium. And one of the books that lured me in was Captain America.
Rating: 8.75/10 Pairs well with: the rest of Ed Brubaker’s Captain America run.
Published: August 26th, 2015 Written by: David Mandel Art by: Michael Walsh, Amanda Conner (cover)
Marvel Comics, 22 Pages
Marvel is not good at comedy. Well, at least not in modern times and this comic was just a stark reminder of that. Modern Marvel’s comedy is about as cringe as Vince McMahon’s.
Anyway, I thought the premise sounded amusing, so I figured I’d give this a read, as it is just a one-shot.
The plot is about a guy who works for Hydra but this mostly shows his home life and how being an agent for Hydra conflicts with his duties as a husband and father.
The wife loves Hydra too but she’s annoyed by her husband’s life being ruled over by the organization. Their kids wear superhero t-shirts and go out on Halloween dressed up as heroes that made their father piss blood but that’s supposed to be funny.
We also get to see a funeral presided over by M.O.D.O.K., Madame Hydra sexually harassing the main character and Baron Zemo on stage emceeing a “guess how many marbles are in the fishbowl” game. Oh yeah, and Hydra kids have a little league game against S.H.I.E.L.D. kids because, you know, comedy.
This obviously exists in its own reality apart from the regular Marvel continuity but even as a standalone comedy, it doesn’t work. It’s way too absurdist and none of the jokes hit in the way that they are intended.
The art sucks too.
I’m glad I only wasted a buck on this.
Rating: 3/10 Pairs well with: I guess modern Marvel comics that try to be funny.
Published: January 9th, 2019 – May 1st, 2019 Written by: Matthew Rosenberg Art by: Szymon Kudranski, Greg Smallwood (covers)
Marvel Comics, 119 Pages
This picks up right where World War Frank left off.
Overall, this wasn’t as strong as the first Matthew Rosenberg story arc but this builds off of it in an interesting way. However, by the end of it, you’re left empty handed because Baron Zemo evades the Punisher once again.
Still, Rosenberg is doing a stupendous job on The Punisher and I hope he sticks around for some time and keeps this momentum going.
Also, this just hits the right notes for me, as it is Frank Castle, being merciless, trying his damnedest to hunt down and kill Zemo, even if his biggest rival Jigsaw keeps getting in his way.
I’m a fan of the art style by Szymon Kudranski, it’s gritty and works for the tone. However, I have seen some criticism about how he doesn’t make characters with specific physical traits pop off of the panel in ways that you can instantly recognize.
For instance, his take on Jigsaw makes it hard to tell that you’re looking at Jigsaw unless he’s shown in close up. I agree with the criticism but it doesn’t break the book for me, as it is clear who the characters are through the story. But this should be improved upon.
While this was a pretty badass arc, it falls a bit short of the previous one because it seemed to slow the narrative down and with how this ends, it leaves Frank Castle’s hunt for Baron Zemo unfinished. While I love Zemo, he’s one of my favorite villains, period, the Punisher’s apprehension or murder of him is really being dragged out much longer than it needs to be.
But maybe Rosenberg has a solid plan for the next arc. I guess I’ll have to wait and find out.
Rating: 8.25/10 Pairs well with: old school late ’80s to early ’90s Punisher and the recent Marvel Knights 20th anniversary event.
Published: August 22nd, 2018 – December 19th, 2018 Written by: Matthew Rosenberg Art by: Szymon Kudranski, Greg Smallwood (covers)
Marvel Comics, 129 Pages
It’s been a long time since I cared about the Punisher. So long in fact that even though I knew this new series was starting, I didn’t seek it out. It wasn’t until someone I trusted told me that I needed to check out the first issue, as it read like classic Punisher and was a no nonsense, balls out, action packed, political thriller.
They weren’t wrong. This thing was a high octane festival of testosterone overload. While that might not appeal to some people, to fans of the Punisher comics of the late ’80s to early ’90s, this comic is a true throwback to that style and tone. Although, it is modernized, it still feels like those old comics I read when I first fell in love with the character as a scrapping young comic reader and creator.
Now this story arc is full of cameos but no one distracts from Frank Castle being his best self and even when other people (heroes and villains) try to prevent his one man war, he is too driven to be deterred.
The main antagonist here is Baron Zemo, who is one of my all-time favorites and who has been underutilized outside of Thunderbolts comics. Zemo isn’t the only villain though. We also get the Mandarin, Jigsaw and some others.
The issue that sees Jigsaw confront the Punisher while he is in a jail cell is incredible. It was the biggest high point out of several. But that’s what this story arc is, it’s a lot of high points and it’s jam packed with action and even some mystery.
World War Frank is not just solid storytelling, it is one of the most solid Frank Castle stories in years.
Rating: 9.25/10 Pairs well with: old school late ’80s to early ’90s Punisher and the recent Marvel Knights 20th anniversary event.
Release Date: April 12th, 2016 (Dolby Theatre premiere) Directed by: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo Written by: Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely Based on:Captain America by Joe Simon, Jack Kirby Music by: Henry Jackman Cast: Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Don Cheadle, Jeremy Renner, Chadwick Boseman, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Rudd, Emily VanCamp, Tom Holland, Frank Grillo, William Hurt, Daniel Brühl
Marvel Studios, Walt Disney Studios, 147 Minutes
The last time a bunch of Avengers got together on the big screen, the result was pretty lackluster. Actually, I could say it was pretty shitty. So, was Captain America: Civil War any better?
Well, it is based off of one of Marvel’s biggest events in the comic books over the last few years. It sees things come to a breaking point and it pits two groups of heroes against one another: one team led by Captain America and the other led by Iron Man. I was pretty happy with the comic series, so I had a bit of hope that the cinematic interpretation of that plot would generate a worthwhile film.
The biggest criticism I have, is the same criticism I’ve had with the Avengers films, there are too many people and they aren’t handled well in an ensemble. Sure, we get little bits of character development in some areas but ultimately, some of these characters, who don’t have their own solo films, would benefit more if they were to have their own two hour outing. I mean, hasn’t Scarlett Johansson earned a Black Widow movie yet? Or just put her with Hawkeye and two of the original Avengers can actually have some room to breathe on their own. Black Panther is getting his own movie but I doubt the Scarlet Witch is because she doesn’t have a penis.
Another criticism, is the gigantic fonts every time the film had to announce what location they were in. It was overwhelming on the big screen. Glad I didn’t see this in 3D because I would’ve been punching the air. I get that each Marvel film is different, and that’s good, but it made the visual style feel noticeably inconsistent with the other movies.
One thing I hate in films, these days, are action sequences where the camera cuts to a new shot for every punch, kick, throw, jump or any stunt, really. Mix that in with the shaky camera effect during the action and it is hard to tell what the hell is going on. It just looks like someone edited together a bunch of one second clips from high school lunchroom fights on YouTube. It also takes away from the stunts themselves and doesn’t really show the hard work of one of the most thankless jobs in Hollywood. As I mentioned style inconsistency before, this also fits into that, as the earlier Marvel films were more crisp and fluid and didn’t try to come off as some uber realistic gritty street fight.
This really wasn’t a Captain America film, it was an Avengers film. I will say that it was the best of the Avengers flicks but it was the worst of the Captain America ones.
The movie was too damn long, a lot of unnecessary shit was drawn out. I’d rather the film focus on building the newer characters than having half of the pointless shit that I had to sit through. It could’ve been an hour less and it wouldn’t have made much of a difference, other than improving the picture.
Another major problem with this film, which plagues everything that Marvel does on the film front, is it wasted its villains and it made them generic and not memorable at all.
When I first heard that Baron Zemo was in this film, I was excited. He’s been one of my favorite Marvel villains for years. He’s cool as hell and he got even more awesome when he started leading the Thunderbolts team. He had a great mask, a great style and was just a fantastic bad guy. In this movie, he’s some Colonel from that country the Avengers destroyed in the last movie and he just wears normal clothes. No cool mask, no endless supply of money, no cool pistol, nothing interesting or cool whatsoever. He looked like my friend French Kevin’s dad. Anyone could’ve played Zemo and just showed up to work in flip flops and a wife beater and Marvel would’ve just been like, “Looks great! This guy is seriously a credible threat!”
Crossbones showed up to. Well, he was in the previous Captain America film. In this movie, he has a cool outfit and looks Crossbones-esque. But then he gets beat up and blows himself up. So, one of Captain America’s best villains, is wasted in ten minutes. Kind of like how they did Baron Von Strucker in the last Avengers movie.
Marvel can’t do villains. If they actually treated them like they did their heroes, they could be great. But what we get, is awesome heroes fighting French Kevin’s dad in every movie. And Thanos is still coming, right? Because we haven’t seen him in a while. Or are the Avengers just going to fight an angry P.T.A. that has taken over an elementary cafeteria in the next movie?
I will say that Black Panther was cool but I’m not totally sold, Winter Soldier was great but he always is and Spider-Man was refreshing. Granted, I can’t judge Spidey until I see his own film but Tom Holland seems like a great casting choice. The kid just feels right.
In the end, this certainly did not live up to the hype. It was nowhere as iconic as the Civil War that happened in the comic books. It didn’t feel nearly as important as that. Although, Tony Stark did embrace the fascist dickbag persona, at least for awhile, as Disney was too cowardly to just make him the villain of the story, outright. And their cowardice was also apparent when there were no real prices to pay at the end of this thing. No one died. I’m not saying that is necessary but the weight of the collateral damage and human wreckage in the comic books, is really what made Civil War so impactful.
I’m just glad that Tony Stark got his ass kicked in by Captain America. Freedom. Mother. Fucker.