Comic Review: The Avengers, Issues #195-196 – First Appearance of Taskmaster

Published: May, 1980 – June, 1980
Written by: David Michelinie
Art by: George Perez

Marvel Comics, 36 Pages

Review:

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.

Comic Review: Infinity Wars

Published: August 1st, 2018 – December 19th, 2018
Written by: Gerry Duggan
Art by: Mike Deodato Jr.

Marvel Comics, 212 Pages

Review:

Not all Marvel mega events are created equal. In fact, the last several years have seen many come and go that were pretty forgettable. While this doesn’t do much to right the ship, it at least had some interesting ideas, was pretty ambitious and had some top notch art by Mike Deodato Jr.

If I’m being honest, I was really pleased with the first two issues of this six issue story arc. It started out with a bang but once we got mashed up heroes and Infinity Gems switching hands quicker than a potato in a game of Hot Potato, my head started spinning so fast that it nearly exploded.

Plus, apart from Sleepwalker, the tie-ins to this were terrible.

I guess someone thought that mashing up Marvel heroes was a cool idea but man, it felt gimmicky as hell and none of these new creations really worked. Well, except for the Ant-Man sized Hulk. That was actually kind of cool.

Anyway, Gamora of the Guardians of the Galaxy is the villain in this. It seems completely uncharacteristic of her and the only reasoning for her turn to the dark side seems to be the fact that she is a daughter of Thanos. Daddy issues aside, it doesn’t work for me even though I did like her new, evil look.

It should be obvious to anyone that this mega event was created in a cheap attempt to capitalize off of the release of the Infinity War movie but I doubt that really helped sales of this mediocre book.

The first issue sold out at my local comic shop but issues two through six are just sitting on the shelves still, along with all the tie-in crap.

But at least I got a Sleepwalker comic again, even if it was just four issues and sadly tied to this event.

Rating: 5.25/10
Pairs well with: other Marvel mega events that fell way below the hype.

Comic Review: The Immortal Hulk, Vol. 2: The Green Door

Published: September 19th, 2018 – December 5th, 2018
Written by: Al Ewing
Art by: Joe Bennett, Lee Garbett, Alex Ross (covers)

Marvel Comics, 112 Pages

Review:

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.

Comic Review: House of M

Published: February 1st, 2006
Written by: Brian Michael Bendis
Art by: Oliver Coipel

Marvel Comics, 280 Pages

Review:

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: DisassembledThe Messiah Complex, also it has ramifications that carry over into the Civil War event.

Comic Review: Avengers: Disassembled

Published: January 26th, 2005
Written by: Brian Michael Bendis
Art by: David Finch

Marvel Comics, 133 Pages

Review:

This is one of those iconic stories that you hear about all the time in comic book circles. However, I thought that the whole thing was pretty damn underwhelming for what it has been built up as.

The Avengers team gets ripped apart. It is due to the betrayal of one of their own. They don’t know that at first and when confronted with the idea, reject it.

However, the Scarlet Witch has basically gone batshit and blames all of her friends for killing her children that were never actually real to begin with but a psychotic projection of the Scarlet Witch’s will.

Yeah, does this story sound stupid to you? Because it definitely felt stupid to me. I thought Bendis was a big deal but everything I read by him is just as batshit as the Scarlet Witch, Wanda’s fucked up brain in this story. I’ve just never been too keen on Bendis, other than his earliest work on the Miles Morales Spider-Man stuff. His Superman stories, his current job, are also just some weird ass shit.

I don’t know, this book hurt my head. It’s only saving grace was superb art from David Finch and awesome action sequences.

Also, this leads into the big Civil War event that effected all Marvel titles, as well as the major X-Men events: The House of M and The Messiah Complex.

Avengers Disassembled has been talked about fondly for years by many. I’m just glad that this was only 133 pages.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: This leads into the massive X-Men stories The House of M and The Messiah Complex, also it has ramifications that carry over on the Avengers side of things and into the Civil War event.

Comic Review: The Immortal Hulk, Vol. 1: Or Is He Both?

Published: June 6th, 2018 – September 5th, 2018
Written by: Al Ewing
Art by: Joe Bennett, Alex Ross (covers)

Marvel Comics, 128 Pages

Review:

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.

Comic Review: X-Men: X-Tinction Agenda

Published: November, 1990 – January, 1991
Written by: Chris Claremont, Louise Simonson
Art by: Jim Lee, Marc Silvestri, Rob Liefeld, Jon Bogdanove, Rick Leonardi, Guang Yap

Marvel Comics, 299 Pages

Review:

I have wanted a collected version of this story for decades. I have a lot of the single issues but have always been missing a few and haven’t had much luck being able to complete the set over the years (mainly because of the highly sought after New Mutants issues). Plus, the trade paperback version was out of print for a really long time and good copies of it got pretty expensive. But, I was able to get this off of a sale on Comixology for around $5. I think the regular price, even for digital, was a whopping $25 or so.

Anyway, I’m glad that I got this version because it has a whole four issue prologue to the actual X-Tinction Agenda event. The first third of this book is a four issue story arc that happened in The Uncanny X-Men a few years before X-Tinction Agenda and it helps set the stage nicely. Plus, that story was heavy on using Wolverine and Rogue, which are two great characters from that era. You even get some Carol Danvers Ms. Marvel before anyone even really cared about the character.

The main part of this story deals with the X-Men, X-Force and the New Mutants returning to Genosha where mutant genocide is taking place. The villain of the story is Cameron Hodge, considered long dead since Archangel decapitated him with his wings several years earlier. Hodge is such a good villain and frankly, this is my favorite version of the character and the one I experienced first. He hasn’t had the staying power of Magneto, Apocalypse or Mister Sinister but he is, by far, one of the most formidable adversaries any X-team has ever faced.

This has been one of the all-time classic tales in X-Men lore. It was a huge event when I was a kid. And it may not be talked about as much in modern times but this was really where I jumped on to all the other X-books outside of the standard X-Men title. It also set the stage for a lot of major changes to all the books and teams going into the ’90s.

I could talk about the art and the artists that worked on this crossover event but just look at the credits I posted above. Look at those names. This book sells itself just on the merits of that talent level. Add the fact that this is written by both Chris Claremont and Louise Simonson is also pretty f’n incredible.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: Other major X-Men related events of the era: X-Cutioner’s Song, Mutant Massacre, Fall of the Mutants, Muir Island Saga, etc.