Comic Review: Civil War II

Published: February 1st, 2017
Written by: Brian Michael Bendis
Art by: Jim Cheung, Oliver Coipel, David Marquez, Marko Djurdjevic (cover)

Marvel Comics, 317 Pages

Review:

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.

Comic Review: Spider-Man: Maximum Carnage

Published: July 11th, 2007
Written by: Tom DeFalco, J.M. DeMatteis, Terry Kavanagh, David Michelinie
Art by: Mark Bagley, Sal Buscema, Ron Lim, Tom Lyle, Alex Saviuk

Marvel Comics, 335 Pages

Review:

This big crossover event started right around the time that I was mentally checking out on comics, as I had moved, gotten older and was more concerned about high school girls and trying to woo them with my heart-melting charm.

I’ve read some of the issues within the larger arc but I never sat down and read the whole thing in its fourteen issue entirety. That being said, this was kind of tough to get through.

Maximum Carnage truly embodies that old adage about there being too many chefs in the kitchen. With this, that saying doesn’t just apply to having too many writers but it also applies to this being overloaded with characters that no one cares about.

Carnage returns and with that he forms his own supervillain group. It’s kind of like the Sinister Six but it’s made up of new and D-list level villains like Shriek, Doppelganger, Carrion and Demogoblin. Apart from Carnage, all these villains suck and frankly, after reading this, they had such an adverse effect on the coolness of Carnage that I don’t really have the same opinion of him. This made him lose his luster. Granted, Marvel also fucks him over, after this, by introducing a bunch of symbiote Carnage babies.

Spider-Man is pretty much in over his head but he re-teams with Venom in an effort to stop Carnage and they also get help from Black Cat, Cloak & Dagger and a slew of other heroes that pop in and out. Morbius even shows up just to remind you that in the ’90s he was batshit crazy. We also get an appearance from Nightwatch, who was a ’90s Marvel character that blatantly ripped off Spawn just to piss off Todd McFarlane for becoming a self-made millionaire after leaving the company. They showed him!

Anyway, this is a clunky story without a real clear point to it other than Carnage is bad and he does terrible shit. This didn’t need to be fourteen issues long but Marvel was trying to bank on Carnage’s popularity. I’m sure it made money for them, at the time, but the story didn’t do much to help the Spider-Man mythos in any sort of long-term way. In fact, when people bring up Maximum Carnage nowadays, it is in reference to the old 16-bit video game and not the comic book story it was tied to.

This story featured good writers and good artists but it felt sloppily put together and like all the creative parties just kind of rushed it out or phoned it in. Some of the art, surprisingly, is actually hard on the eyes but I think that’s more to do with the colors than the illustrations. Also, I read this digitally and sometimes that can really fuck up the color of older comics.

I had some high hopes for this because I really felt like I missed out on it years ago. However, comics shouldn’t feel like doing chores. I didn’t really want to finish this but I did in order to review it, as it is considered an iconic story by many.

Rating: 4.5/10
Pairs well with: other mid-’90s Spider-Man comics and Marvel crossover events.

Comic Review: Civil War

Published: April 11th, 2007
Written by: Mark Millar
Art by: Steve McNiven

Marvel Comics, 196 Pages

Review:

I loved Civil War when I first read it over a dozen years ago. It reignited my interest in Marvel Comics and I stuck with a lot of the core stories that were born out of these events.

For those that don’t know, this pits two factions of superheroes against each other: one group led by Captain America and the other led by Iron Man. It would also go on to inspire the movie Captain America: Civil War, nine years later.

Cap’s group is against a new law that would force superheroes to give up their secret identities and become agents of the government. Iron Man agrees with the law, after a group of C-list heroes are responsible for the deaths of hundreds of children. Spider-Man, the third central character, starts the story on one side and then switches after certain events give him newfound clarity.

The story, the idea and its execution are near perfect. In fact, I’m not sure how this wasn’t a story idea before this, as it seems like a natural development for the superhero genre. Regardless, Mark Millar penned magic here and this is, hands down, one of the greatest mega events in comic book history.

Having just read two of DC’s massive Crisis events and seeing how they were massive clusterfucks, this is the complete antithesis of those and goes to show how much better Marvel is (or was) at bringing a massive group of characters together.

I also really enjoyed Steve McNiven’s art and it fit the tone well. McNiven was one of the top artists at the time and his talent was put to great use here.

My only negative takeaway is that this story should’ve been longer than seven issues. It felt like there was a lot more story to tell. But then again, there are literally dozens of Civil War tie-ins that you can read for more context and to see what other heroes were up to during this saga. From memory, a lot of them were also pretty good.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: all the other Civil War crossover tie-in trade paperbacks, as well as The Death of Captain America.

Comic Review: Symbiote Spider-Man

Published: April 10th, 2019 – August 14th, 2019
Written by: Peter David
Art by: Greg Land

Marvel Comics, 131 Pages

Review:

Man, this was a really refreshing miniseries. And at the end, it promised that there would be more to come with this symbiote era version of Spider-Man.

Granted, I don’t know exactly where this fits within the established canon or if it is just an alternate Earth but for a self-contained story, Peter David brought his A game and it really made me want to go back and read some of his classic Hulk stories.

I also enjoyed Greg Land’s art and I thought from a stylistic standpoint, the combining of Land and David created a really late ’80s to early ’90s feel for this book. While that can be good or bad, it worked well and just made this a really entertaining and exciting comic.

The story takes place in that small window of time where Spider-Man and Black Cat were a couple. It was a rocky relationship that had a lot of baggage but this story really captures the feeling of it from the days when I was just discovering Spider-Man comics.

The plot focuses on Mysterio and his attempt at trying to get a piece of Spider-Man’s symbiote suit. With the help of Black Cat, who is blackmailed, he succeeds and this leads to Mysterio becoming a host for a piece of the symbiote suit. In essence, we get a mash up of Mysterio and Venom and while that may sound cheap and gimmicky, it works out really well and man, he’s just cool as hell.

I sincerely dug this comic and honestly, I hope that Peter David gets to continue to work on this version of the Spider-Man character. Also, I’d love to see him get to tackle more stuff in modern times, as most of the writing in 2019 is nowhere near Peter David on an off day.

Rating: 8.75/10
Pairs well with: the Spider-Man: Life Story miniseries, as well as symbiote era Spider-Man comics.

Comic Review: Spider-Man Noir

Published: September 16th, 2009
Written by: David Hine, Fabrice Sapolsky
Art by: Carmine Di Giandomenico

Marvel Comics, 96 Pages

Review:

I like Spider-Man, I like film-noir… but I didn’t like Spider-Man Noir.

I mean, I think the character is kind of cool and the idea of him and his world is a cool idea but the execution was pretty damn lackluster and also kind of predictable and derivative.

This book is just boring and I’m not sure how that was possible with the material. There is so much that could have been done with this story but it just tries to shoehorn in 1940s versions of already established characters in ways that just don’t fit them very well.

Why couldn’t this feature an actual 1940s Spider-Man with his own cast of characters instead of forcing Peter Parker, Aunt May, Black Cat, Norman Osborne, The Vulture, Kraven and J. Jonah Jameson on us? Does this take place in a dimension where everything is still like it was in the 1940s?

So Peter is an angry kid, Aunt May is basically the same, Black Cat is a cookie cutter femme fatale, Osborne is a gangster, The Vulture looks more like Count Orlok from Nosferatu than the Vulture and Kraven the Hunter is a guy in a flashy suit with a monkey on his shoulder.

I yawned so hard that I cracked my jaw.

But on the flip side of all that, I thought the art was pretty good. It was too vibrant and colorful to truly feel noir-esque but at least I had something nice to look at since the story was putting me to sleep.

Luckily, this was only 96 pages.

Rating: 4.5/10
Pairs well with: Dan Slott’s mediocre run on Spider-Man titles.

Comic Review: Spider-Man: The Return of the Sinister Six

Published: 1990
Written by: David Michelinie
Art by: Erik Larsen, Terry Austin, Mike Machlan

Marvel Comics, 141 Pages

Review:

This story arc took place in The Amazing Spider-Man issue numbers 334 through 339. It was a follow up to the original Sinister Six story that Stan Lee and Steve Ditko gave us with the first ever Amazing Spider-Man annual way back in 1964.

What’s strange to me, is that it took so long for six of Spidey’s best villains to team-up again. However, with Kraven the Hunter being dead, this version of the group replaced him with Hobgoblin. But the team is still led by Doctor Octopus and also features Electro, Mysterio, the Vulture and the Sandman. However, in a bit of a twist, Sandman has gone straight and Octopus blackmails him into joining the group.

This story also features a lot of cameos from other villains and heroes but Spider-Man ultimately faces the Sinister Six on his own and at one point, he finally fights them all at once, which he didn’t do in the first story.

While the Dave Michelinie/Todd McFarlane era of The Amazing Spider-Man is heralded as one of the best of all-time, the Dave Michelinie/Erik Larsen era is also damn good and really just continues off of what Michelinie developed with McFarlane. This came out at the height of me reading Spider-Man comics. To me, this was an event bigger than any of those Infinity things and this wasn’t really even an event.

Reading this now, I almost have a deeper appreciation for it than I did as a kid in 1990. The plot is well constructed and it has a lot of layers to it. Also, there’s a few subplots that have their own interesting narratives. There’s much more here than Peter Parker’s Royal Rumble match with his rogues and it makes this a really rich tale with good character development and real depth.

Some of the plot points, like the bizarreness of Octavius’ scheme are baffling but even the questionable stuff is amusing and just makes me yearn for the early ’90s comic book storytelling style. Twenty-nine years later, I definitely see issues I didn’t as a kid but it in no way wrecks the experience that is this great arc.

Also at the time, I was a hardcore Erik Larsen fan. I first discovered his art on this title. While I always preferred McFarlane, through the eyes of an eleven year-old, Larsen was a comic art superstar. I loved how he drew Spidey and his iconic villains and I think it still looks great. While I respect Larsen and McFarlane for forming Image and coming out with their own comics, there’s that part of me that wished that they both would’ve stuck around and worked on Spider-Man books a bit longer, as I was just so in love with what they were doing at the time and wasn’t ready to let them hand it off to someone else. But then, Mark Bagley did do a fine job, as well.

All these years later, this was fun to pick up again. I was a little worried that I’d think it’d suck now but it brought me back to where I was, reading it for the first time in 1990. Sometimes picking up old comics is like opening a time capsule. With this one, I was happy to find that it was even better than I remembered it.

And now I can’t wait to revisit its sequel, The Revenge of the Sinister Six.

Rating: 9.25/10
Pairs well with: Stan Lee and Steve Ditko’s original Sinister Six story, as well as the sequel to this one, The Revenge of the Sinister Six. Also, anything from the Michelinie and Larsen run on The Amazing Spider-Man.

Comic Review: Spider-Gwen, Vol. 5: Gwenom

Published: April 18th, 2018
Written by: Jason Latour
Art by: Robbi Rodriguez, Khary Randolph (covers)

Marvel Comics, 136 Pages

Review:

I think that I took too long of a break between reading volume 4 and volume 5 of Spider-Gwen. Reason being, this felt like the title had run out of steam. Maybe that’s because it did run out of steam by this point but it could be my own fault for lacking the enthusiasm I had for this series before I took a long break.

This just didn’t hit the right notes for me but that also probably has a lot to do with this being just another story of a Spidercharacter becoming Venom. Marvel has done this to death. Apart from the original Spider-Man titles, we got to see this with Miles Morales and Otto Octavius, both fairly recently.

I’m not saying that the Gwen Stacy version of Spider-Woman shouldn’t have a Venom story but this felt forced and like the writer was pushed into this by Marvel or because this series has now be rolling for a couple years and its hard to not become formulaic. It’s almost as if a Venom story was expected.

But just because something worked a few times, doesn’t mean that it will keep working. Also, it doesn’t mean that you can’t veer away from it and do your own thing. In fact, it’s much better to do your own thing and to explore new ideas with new characters, as opposed to rehashing some tired ass shit most Spider-fans have lived through multiple times.

I’m also just getting tired of this alternate universe. I kind of like the evil Daredevil thing but it’s also become a bit tiresome, as has this version of the Punisher and just about everyone else. It’s like the comic had some good ideas for twists on these characters but there wasn’t much else there beyond those twists.

This story arc also wedges in so many characters that it feels like a mess. I’m not even sure why some of them were there other than to have cameos galore in an effort to show how different this alternate reality is. But if you haven’t already done that by volume 5, hell, by volume 2, then maybe this series doesn’t deserve to continue.

I love Gwen Stacy and I really like this take on her character but she’s got to find a purpose for existing other than just being a cool idea and a really cool costume. And I feel like that’s all that she is now.

Rating: 5.75/10
Pairs well with: Other Spider-Gwen collections.

Comic Review: Venom Inc.

Published: May 22nd, 2018
Written by: Dan Slott
Art by: Mike Costa, Ryan Stegman, Gerardo Sandova

Marvel Comics, 160 Pages

Review:

Man, I have heard a lot of good things about Dan Slott’s run on The Amazing Spider-Man. So I figured that I’d read the stuff from over his last year or so, as his run is coming to an end with issue number 800. That comes out a few days after I am writing this. Granted, it’ll probably already be out by the time I post this, as I have ten or fifteen comic reviews currently in my queue to be scheduled and posted.

So after reading Venomverse, I also wanted more modern Eddie Brock as Venom stories. So, this was a great spot to pick up from, as I approach the end of Slott’s run.

This story was spread over The Amazing Spider-Man issue numbers 792 and 793, as well as Venom numbers 159 and 160, and The Amazing Spider-Man: Venomc Inc. Alpha and Omega books.

For starters, this was an exciting read. I loved it.

I don’t know much about Flash Thompson’s story over the last ten years but obviously a lot has happened to the once bully. I also really like Mania, who is a female hero with a Venom-like symbiote. Granted, her symbiote is stolen from her in the beginning of this story and that is used to setup the formation of a Venom-like gang and then the team up of Spidey, Venom, Flash Thompson as Anti-Venom, Black Cat and Mania without her alien suit.

Really, I kind of just wish this team stayed a team after this story. Maybe I’ll be surprised as I delve deeper into Slott’s stories after this, which eventually culminate into the debut of his most popular villain, the Red Goblin. By the way, the Red Goblin has serious ties to Spidey and Venom.

The art in this story arc was really good. It was split between the three guys working on the three different titles that combined to make this crossover. However, Mike Costa, whose work I loved in IDW’s G.I. Joe titles did a great job and I liked seeing him tackle another franchise that I love.

If you are a Venom fan or just love symbiote Spider-Man stories, this won’t disappoint.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: Any of the great Eddie Brock Venom stories. But for more recent stuff, the new Venom series and the Venomverse story arc.

Comic Review: The Unbelievable Gwenpool, Vol. 1: Believe It

Published: November 29th, 2016
Written by: Christopher Hastings
Art by: Gurihiru

Marvel Comics, 152 Pages

Review:

In a time when Marvel books haven’t been very good, I wasn’t anticipating enjoying this. In fact, I put off reading it for awhile, as it seemed to be just another aimless attempt at gender swapping a character and also a soulless attempt at trying to piggyback off of the success of the Spider-Gwen series. I assumed, as I’m sure many people have, that this was yet another version of Gwen Stacy pushed into the role of a popular Marvel hero. Well, it isn’t. Sure, the name and the look are obviously trying to capitalize off of the contemporary Gwen Stacy shtick but this character is actually a girl named Gwen Poole and she is from the real world… our real world.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy Spider-Gwen for the most part and have reviewed all of the books, as they’ve been released. She is a better example of Marvel taking a character of the opposite sex and pushing her into a role that was originally a male’s. But since I have always adored Gwen Stacy, I thought the idea of her having powers was badass. Plus, the art and her costume design was incredible.

Gwenpool, on the other hand, and let’s be honest, looks hokey and cheesy and like it’s more of a manga than an American comic book. While I like some manga, I’ve never been a massive fan of the style. But it works here because it truly fits the tone of what Gwenpool is.

Point blank, this is one of the funniest comics I have ever read. Marvel’s humor in the modern era just doesn’t work for me, as it is full of Millennial dialogue, randomness and absurdity. Maybe being a Gen-Xer means that I’m now in an older demographic than the people that comics are written for but from what I can tell, most comics are still sold to Gen-Xers. And maybe this is why these Millennial styled books sit on shelves and most people don’t want them.

Gwenpool sets itself apart in that it is goofy but it really feels like it’s taking its stylistic and narrative cues from the manga style its art seems to be an homage to.

Sillyness aside, this is a well written story arc for any genre. I love that the origin of the character is just dismissed and this thing just gets going. What we do know is that Gwen Poole is from the real world, like our real world. She knows everything about everyone in the Marvel universe, as she is an avid comic book fan from our reality.

This story sees her forced into working for the villain M.O.D.O.K. She also has run-ins with other famous Marvel characters: Doctor Strange, the modern female Thor, the modern Ms. Marvel, Black Cat and Howard the Duck. She also receives some combat training from the villain Batroc.

This was just an enjoyable and a refreshing experience and I shouldn’t have slept on it. But now that I’ve given it an honest chance, I’m certainly going to pick up volume 2 at some point.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: Other Gwenpool releases and Spider-Gwen for some obvious similarities.

Comic Review: The Infinity War

Published: April 5th, 2006
Written by: Jim Starlin
Art by: Ron Lim

Marvel Comics, 400 Pages

Review:

I just finished up The Infinity Gauntlet mega crossover event, so naturally I wanted to jump right into The Infinity War. Plus, the next Avengers movie centers around these storylines, so I wanted to revisit them, as I haven’t read them since they were fairly current back in the early ’90s.

Like its predecessor, this tale is jam packed with more Marvel heroes and villains than can reasonably fit onto one page. There are more characters in this story than the previous one and everyone is present and accounted for, unlike the first Infinity story, which saw half of the heroes (and the universe’s population) removed from existence.

Sadly, this is not as good as its predecessor. The Infinity Gauntlet was very talkie in the first half and then just broke off into three giant comic book issues of straight up action. The Infinity War has some action but it is minuscule when compared to the previous saga.

Also, Magus was a cool idea for a villain but he didn’t even come close to having the presence and intensity of Thanos. Also, Thanos is pretty much neutered in this story and is more of a hero than a villain. I get that he is in someway atoning for his actions when he had possession of the Infinity Gauntlet but it seems like it is way too soon for him to be working with the heroes of the Marvel universe, even if the situation called for it. There certainly should have been more push back from the heroes.

Ultimately, the story was boring. It was a lot of talking… A. LOT. Hell, this story was mostly just talking and talking and more talking. The overall plot was dragged down by an extreme overabundance of dialogue.

I remember really liking all the stuff tied into this event more than the event itself. In the broader universe, Marvel characters were forced to face their evil doppelgängers. I’ll have to re-read some of the single issues I have that are spunoff from this main story arc.

I feel like this book was more of a gimmick than an attempt to really continue the Infinity saga in a way that was actually meaningful. Most of the book felt like it was just full of splash pages with as many characters as possible crammed into a large room, trying to dodge their speech balloons.

This was still a mostly fun read but it was a weak followup to the far superior Infinity Gauntlet.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: The other parts of the trilogy: The Infinity Gauntlet and The Infinity Crusade.