Comic Review: Captain America and Crossbones – One-Shot

Published: March 16th, 2011
Written by: William Harms
Art by: Declan Shalvey, Greg Tocchini (cover)

Marvel Comics, 34 Pages

Review:

This was a one-shot that came out with a few other one-shots that focused on Captain America’s villains. That being said, Captain America is only in this story through flashbacks. But that’s okay by me, as I’m a Crossbones fan, anyway.

These are also the kind of stories I really like.

Crossbones is removed from prison by a government agency and then dropped into the jungle where he is supposed to track down some young boy and bring him back. The bulk of this takes place in a derelict nuclear power plant that had a fate similar to Chernobyl. The really cool thing though, is that we see Crossbones have to take on a horde of rabid werewolves.

The vibe of this comic feels like a mix of the original Predator film and Dog Soldiers. That is certainly a winning combination and with the high level of testosterone and action flowing through this, I couldn’t help but smile ear to ear.

Crossbones is underappreciated, in my opinion. My love of the character probably comes from the fact that when I first started buying Captain America comics, Crossbones was front and center, as he had just debuted. But I’ve also liked the character in the same way I like Bullseye, Deathstroke and Taskmaster. In fact, Taskmaster (along with Red Skull) have a small cameo in this story.

This was simply a badass, energetic, action packed read. Honestly, I wish that this was the first issue of an ongoing series.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: other one-shots in this series, as well as The Death of Captain America storyline.

Comic Review: Batgirl: Old Enemies

Published: January 2nd, 2019 – February 27th, 2019
Written by: Mairghread Scott
Art by: Paul Pelletier, Norm Rapmund, Jordie Bellaire

DC Comics, 79 Pages

Review:

Following up the pretty good Art of the Crime story arc, we get this three issue plot that stretches from Batgirl issues 30 to 32.

I’m really digging Mairghread Scott’s run on Batgirl for the most part. Barbara Gordon is one of my all-time favorite female heroes and she’s been tied up in stories that haven’t been very good over the last few years. Since Scott has taken over, we’ve gotten a much better Batgirl series and it also seems much truer to who Barbara Gordon is at her core.

Now this wasn’t great but it was decent filler between the last arc and whatever is coming next. It does feel like Batgirl may be in a weird state of limbo after everything terrible that happened to the Nightwing character and her relationship with him up until a few months ago but that’s not Scott’s doing and she’s at least putting her best foot forward and isn’t allowing Barbara to wallow and flounder.

What I like about this is that it is a political story in some regard but the politics don’t beat you over the head with any sort of biased message coming through in the writing. Like comics of old that dealt with political issues, this examines different points of view and allows the reader some of their own interpretation. It is good storytelling.

This was a quick, decent read but it didn’t completely resonate with me. I just wasn’t into the story as much as I was the previous arc. But it still builds off of that one and continues to evolve Barbara Gordon.

Cormorant was a fairly interesting villain but DC has so many masked assassin type characters that he just feels like one of dozens of Deathstroke and Deadshot wannabes. Still, he was a formidable foe for Batgirl in this story and everything here serves a real narrative purpose.

I’d like to see Mairghread Scott continue on with this title. She’s done a good job so far and it’s been awhile since I’ve cared about Batgirl. I just hope she gets a bit more comfortable and is developing these stories towards something bigger that we can all latch onto.

DC Comics recently announced that they are cutting back significantly on their titles. I hope that this isn’t one of them, as I see something solid coming together.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other modern Batgirl and Batman family stories.

Comic Review: X-Men: The Dark Phoenix Saga

Published: 1980
Written by: Chris Claremont
Art by: John Byrne

Marvel Comics, 200 Pages

Review:

Does it make me a terrible X-Men fan that I have never actually read The Dark Phoenix Saga?

I’ve tried to round up all the single issues over the years but some of them are pricey and there’s nine issues that make up this arc. But in my defense, I know the story very well, as it has been referenced a million times over throughout X-Men history. I’ve also seen various interpretations and adaptations of the plot. Granted, none of them are really accurate in regards to this, the source material.

This is free for Comixology Unlimited subscribers though, so I thought that delving into it was long overdue and that I really didn’t have an excuse anymore.

I expected this to be enjoyable but it still took me by surprise, as it was better than what I anticipated and all the years of hype I’ve experienced, didn’t diminish it in anyway.

The Dark Phoenix Saga is quintessential Chris Claremont. I can’t say that this is where he peaked but this is certainly a very elevated highpoint in his long run writing X-Men related stories.

This also came out in a time when Marvel wasn’t addicted to big crossover mega-events. This was a mega-event for its time but it wasn’t marketed or structured in the way that these things are now. It was just a good, lengthy story, limited to one already existing comic that found a way to utilize a lot of characters but in a way that balanced them all out and made them all useful to the plot.

One cool thing about this arc, is it also features the first appearances of Kitty Pryde, Emma Frost, Sebastian Shaw, the Hellfire Club and Dazzler. There’s a bunch of stuff going on within this story but it doesn’t off track and still builds towards the big battle between Jean Grey as Dark Phoenix and her X-Men family. It’s, at times, heartbreaking and tragic but it also makes you love all these people all over again in an organic, natural and emotional way. This hits emotional notes in the reader in ways that comic books never seem to come close to in 2019.

I can’t just give credit to Chris Claremont and his stupendous writing though. The art by John Byrne is absolutely superb and it is just as rich, colorful and meticulously crafted as the story its telling.

The Dark Phoenix Saga is one of the greatest Marvel stories ever told. It’s classic Marvel and truly represents what I loved about the era and how I fell in love with this creative medium in the first place.

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: other early Chris Claremont X-Men comics.

TV Review: The Comic Book Greats: Episode 10 – Spotlight on Jim Lee (1992)

Released: 1992
Created by: Stan Lee
Directed by: Rick Stawinski
Music by: Rick Stawinski, Rob Stawinski
Cast: Stan Lee (host), Jim Lee

Excelsior Productions, Stabur Home Video, 51 Minutes

Review:

Well, I think I have found my favorite installment of The Comic Book Greats video series!

This episode was stupendous and Jim Lee was such a treat to see on this show. He has a great rapport with Stan Lee and he does an fantastic job of talking the audience through his method for creating comic book art that it works even for the most inexperienced layman.

Jim Lee, as I also said about Todd McFarlane, would be a great teacher. He is thorough in his lessons here and covers a lot of ground in a limited amount of time.

I also liked the interview segment of this episode a lot, as Jim Lee gets very personal about his life up to the point when this was recorded and it’s just an interesting story, as comic books weren’t where he originally intended to end up, career-wise.

Lee would go on to be one of the most prolific creators in the history of the comic book industry. Seeing him so young and this early in his career is a real treat for anyone that’s a fan of the medium.

Jim’s got a great personality, a real love for what he does and he still does all these years later. This is why I watch his YouTube channel where he live streams periodically and talks to his fans as he works on new art.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: other episodes in The Comic Book Greats video series.

Comic Review: Red Sonja Vs. Thulsa Doom

Published: November 1st, 2006
Written by: Peter David, Luke Lieberman
Art by: Will Conrad
Based on: characters by Robert E. Howard, Roy Thomas, Barry Windsor-Smith

Dynamite Entertainment, 129 Pages

Review:

Since both Red Sonja and Conan have had new comics series start over the last few months, I’ve been in a barbarian kind of mood. I especially love the characters that have come from or evolved out of the original stories of Robert E. Howard.

While the comic book version of Red Sonja was created by Roy Thomas and Barry Windsor-Smith, she is partially based on Howard’s Red Sonya of Rogatino and has often times fought alongside Howard’s most famous hero, Conan the Barbarian.

In this story, we don’t see Red Sonja alongside Conan but we do get to see her face off with one of Conan’s villains, Thulsa Doom. And what I love about this version of Doom, is that he sometimes takes on the appearance of the James Earl Jones version of the character from the 1982 Conan movie but also disguises himself as a tall, brutish man. Yes, he also still transforms into a giant snake.

This story was written by Peter David and Luke Lieberman. David was one of my favorite writers a decade and a half before this when he was working on one of the greatest runs on The Incredible Hulk and also wrote some of my favorite X-Factor stories.

Here, David does a superb job of bringing these characters together in a way that was pretty unique and creative. It’s easy to just make one character good, one character bad and then pit them against each other. David did a solid job of making Doom use his guile to get the upper hand over Sonja when her guard was down.

This is action packed and badass, through and through. The final showdown between Sonja and Doom is pretty satisfying and it leaves things open for Doom to slither back into her life, somewhere down the road.

Will Conrad’s art was enjoyable. I love his style and it fits the narrative tone very well.

I also liked a lot of the covers for this series. It had a lot of variants, which is typical of Dynamite Entertainment, but for the most part, they were all stunning to look at.

Red Sonja Vs. Thulsa Doom is a damn entertaining book for fans of the sword and sorcery genre, especially the fans of Robert E. Howard.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other Red Sonja comics from Dynamite Entertainment.

Comic Review: Batman: Vengeance of Bane, Issue #1 – First Appearance of Bane

Published: December 31st, 1992
Written by: Chuck Dixon
Art by: Graham Nolan, Eduardo Barreto, Adrienne Roy, Glenn Fabry

DC Comics, 56 Pages

Review:

Chuck Dixon really is a master of his craft. I always loved his Batman work, as well as what he did with The Punisher and G.I. Joe. And usually first appearances aren’t very good in retrospect. However, Dixon made Bane a true heavy hitter with just this comic.

This is sort of a prologue to the events of Knightfall, which was one of the biggest and most prolific Batman story arcs of all-time. It’s mostly known for being the story where Batman had his back broken by Bane, a plot point that eventually made its way to the big screen in 2012’s The Dark Knight Rises.

This story goes way back and actually introduces us to Bane as a child. It shows how he loses everything from his childhood, is raised in a prison and how he becomes the man that really controls that prison and everyone in it.

Vengrance of Bane also gets into how Bane got extremely intelligent and how he learned about Batman and got the drive to make his way to Gotham City to challenge its famous and revered protector.

Chuck Dixon tells a great, fluid and rich story in just these 56 pages. Even though Bane is clearly a villain, it’s hard not to have some sort of sympathy for him, seeing how he came to be. Now you certainly don’t side with him but this does more to flesh out this character in one story than most first appearances come close to managing.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: Chuck Dixon’s work on Batman titles, especially the massive Knightfall storyline.

Comic Review: Killmonger

Published: December 5th, 2018 – March 6th, 2019
Written by: Bryan Hill
Art by: Juan E. Ferreyra

Marvel Comics, 117 Pages

Review:

I didn’t pick this series up until it was a few issues in. A friend of mine told me to check it out and said it was my cup of tea.

It was pretty damn entertaining and it felt more in line with the current runs of The Punisher and Daredevil than an actual Black Panther comic. Also, this is an origin story of Erik Killmonger’s earlier life in the New York underworld.

We see him form a cool squad with a chess piece theme. They initially work for the Kingpin but have a falling out pretty early, which pits Killmonger against Bullseye at the midpoint of this five-part miniseries’ arc.

This is mostly just focused on the criminal underworld and gritty action, as opposed to being a fantastical superhero sci-fi story. But it does a fantastic job of fleshing out the comic book incarnation of Erik Killmonger while also taking some cues from the Marvel Cinematic Universe version of the character that was played by Michael B. Jordan in the Black Panther movie.

The story is action packed and just cool. It almost feels like an old school ’70s or ’80s action film with a grindhouse vibe to it. My only real complaint about the series is that the final issue felt weak comapred to everything leading up to it and for the most part, the story played out a bit too predictably.

Regardless of that, this does build the character up in a great way and it makes me hope that Bryan Hill will get to do something more with the character in the future. Hell, I wouldn’t mind seeing an ongoing series continue on from this miniseries.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: current runs on The Punisher and Daredevil. It doesn’t pair well with the current run of Black Panther, which is more of an intergalactic space opera.