Published: February 1st, 2017 Written by: Brian Michael Bendis Art by: Jim Cheung, Oliver Coipel, David Marquez, Marko Djurdjevic (cover)
Marvel Comics, 317 Pages
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.
Also known as: X-Men 3, X-Men 3: The Last Stand (working titles), X3, X III: The Last Stand (alternative titles) Release Date: May 22nd, 2006 (Cannes) Directed by: Brett Ratner Written by: Simon Kinberg, Zak Penn Based on:X-Men by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby Music by: John Powell Cast: Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, Ian McKellen, Famke Janssen, Anna Paquin, Kelsey Grammer, James Marsden, Rebecca Romijn, Shawn Ashmore, Aaron Stanford, Vinnie Jones, Patrick Stewart, Ben Foster, Ellen Page, Dania Ramirez, Shohreh Aghdashloo, Bill Duke, Daniel Cudmore, Eric Dane, R. Lee Ermey
The Donners’ Company, Marvel Enterprises, Twentieth Century Fox, 104 Minutes
“Charles Xavier did more for mutants than you will ever know. My single greatest regret is that he had to die for our dream to live.” – Magneto
From memory, this was the worst X-Men film of the lot. Well, after about a dozen movies with spinoffs and whatnot, this one still takes the cake in that regard.
This really killed the film franchise, at least for its time. It wouldn’t bounce back until First Class rolled around and gave the series a bit of a soft reboot.
Here, we see the original trilogy of films come to an end and unfortunately, that end is a very unsatisfactory one. Granted, none of these films have aged particularly well and they actually feel quite dated now.
That’s not to say that some of the performances aren’t great or iconic, a few of them are. Specifically, Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen. This is probably also why they tried to find ways to include these guys in the X-Men films that followed during the reboot era.
The plot for this is pretty fucking atrocious and the film spends more time killing off beloved characters than trying to tell a good story. It’s like it went for shock and cheap emotional grabs but it failed in generating any real emotion because it all felt soulless and cheap.
I think the biggest issue with the film was that Bryan Singer left to make that big bust, Superman Returns. While Brett Ratner probably wasn’t a bad choice, the final product makes me feel like he was sort of just inserted into a movie that was already well into production and found himself in over his head.
The film is also pretty short when compared to the two chapter before it. It makes me wonder if a lot was left out of the final movie. It certainly feels like it’s lacking story, context and depth.
In the end, this is okay if you want to spend a little more time with these characters and if you turn your brain off, it has some neat moments, but overall, it’s a sloppy misfire.
Rating: 5.5/10 Pairs well with: the other films in the original X-Men trilogy.
Also known as: X2 (original title), X-Men II (working title), X² (alternative spelling) Release Date: April 24th, 2003 (UK premiere) Directed by: Bryan Singer Written by: Michael Dougherty, Dan Harris, David Hayter, Zak Penn, Bryan Singer Based on:X-Men by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby Music by: John Ottman Cast: Patrick Stewart, Hugh Jackman, Ian McKellen, Halle Berry, Famke Janssen, James Marsden, Bruce Davison, Rebecca Romijn-Stamos, Anna Paquin, Shawn Ashmore, Alan Cumming, Brian Cox, Aaron Stanford, Kelly Hu, Daniel Cudmore
Marvel Enterprises, Donners’ Company, Twentieth Century Fox, 134 Minutes
“You know, outside the circus, most people were afraid of me. But I didn’t hate them. I pitied them. Do you know why? Because most people will never know anything beyond what they see with their own two eyes.” – Nightcrawler
When this came out, I was pretty much blown away by it. Seeing it seventeen years later, not so much.
X2 is a film riddled with problems but it’s still good for what it is and for its era. It’s slightly better than its predecessor but after having just watched the Sam Raimi Spider-Man trilogy, it pales in comparison to the first two films in that series. In fact, I like the wonky Spider-Man 3 a hair bit more than this.
That being said, this does still have one of the greatest sequences in comic book movie history and that’s the part where the military squad attacks the X-Mansion, abducting the children and sending Wolverine and a few of the younger mutants fleeing into the night. I especially liked the inclusion of Colossus in this scene but that also made me wonder why he didn’t come back into the picture because he would’ve been helpful during the final battle. But I guess someone’s got to protect the kids hiding out who knows where.
Anyway, this is a film that is too driven by plot convenience and poor execution of those conveniences.
For instance, Storm can unleash dozens of tornadoes on military fighter jets but no one is worried about the innocent people living on the ground? And she does this while flying a high tech jet. Where was this immense wind power when the jet was going to be hit by raging water?
Which brings me to another poor plot convenience moment that saw Jean Grey have to push back a raging river while trying to lift the parked jet in an effort to save her friends. She’s powerful as fuck, why couldn’t she have just lifted the jet? An hour earlier, she stopped a missile with her mind. And getting back to Storm, where’s that wind power in this scene? Did you not pick up your power-ups in the final level?
I know I’m being pretty nitpicky here but these moments could’ve been shot better, explained better and just not been as stupid and devoid of logic. It seems like really lazy writing and if you needed to kill off Jean for the story, there are better ways to do it and they still could’ve had her sacrifice herself for those she loves. It just felt cheap and baffling.
This also must’ve been made in the era where they didn’t sign actors to multi-film deals because they spent so much time developing Nightcrawler but then he’s nowhere to be seen in the third film. His arc from the original X-Men trilogy is left incomplete. That just adds to the overall sloppiness of this film franchise. And it sucks because Alan Cumming was great as Nightcrawler and he was one of the high points in this trilogy.
The overall story in the film is pretty good though. I thought that the big finale was too long and could’ve been whittled down somewhat but it moves at a good, brisk pace.
Also, the set design, cinematography and overall look of the picture was a big step up from the previous one.
Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellan and Hugh Jackman kill it in just about every scene but Jackman really is the scene stealer, which is impressive when you think about where he was at in his film career in 2003 versus Stewart and McKellan.
In the end, this is still a decent way to waste a few hours but it’s not the great, epic film I saw it as when I was young and didn’t have such refined taste. Also, its since been overshadowed by the Raimi Spider-Man pictures, Nolan’s Batman movies and the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Rating: 7.25/10 Pairs well with: the other films in the original X-Men trilogy.
Also known as: X-Men: The Movie (working title), X-Men 1.5 (longer cut) Release Date: July 12th, 2000 (Ellis Island premiere) Directed by: Bryan Singer Written by: David Hayter, Tom DeSanto, Bryan Singer Based on:X-Men by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby Music by: Michael Kamen Cast: Patrick Stewart, Hugh Jackman, Ian McKellen, Halle Berry, Famke Janssen, James Marsden, Bruce Davison, Rebecca Romijn-Stamos, Ray Park, Tyler Mane, Anna Paquin, Shawn Ashmore
Marvel Enterprises, Donners’ Company, Twentieth Century Fox, 104 Minutes
“[to Senator Kelly] You know, people like you are the reason I was afraid to go to school as a child.” – Mystique
This was the movie that really got modern superhero films off the ground. It became the launching pad for several sequels, spin offs and what eventually became the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
It’s been a really long time since I’ve sat down and watched this one though. Compared to what is the norm today, twenty years later, this one feels really small and you can immediately tell that it had a smaller budget than what similar films today have.
That’s because this movie was a big risk in 1999 when it was filmed. Comic book movies other than the two Tim Burton Batman films and the first two Christopher Reeve starring Superman pictures just didn’t have a great track record and most of them were made deliberately cheesy and campy. The sequels to the films I just mentioned also fell victim to this creative misstep.
X-Men, however, took itself seriously and it succeeded because of that.
Granted, it’s a pretty flawed film with a lot of creative choices I wasn’t a fan of. These choices would actually go on to hinder the rest of the X-Men movies that Fox made but I think it was probably hard to see anything beyond just this movie when it was being made.
The acting is pretty solid for the most part but the heavy lifting in this chapter is primarily done by Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen and Anna Paquin. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t bad dialogue and bad acting, there is, but the high points greatly outshine the low ones.
Still, this is a weak adaptation. It chose a strange mix of characters to start with and by choosing these characters, the series sort of fucked itself going forward. It also altered the origins of most of the characters pretty drastically and it set some things in stone that would later lead to the film series’ continuity getting really screwed up. Some of these problems became even more clear after revisiting this.
The general plot is also wonky and weird and I’m not a big fan of it. The whole MacGuffin machine that Magneto wants to use to turn people into mutants was goofy as hell and it sabotaged the initial realism that this picture seemed to have. Well, it was as realistic as a film about superhero mutants could be before we got a hokey old timey comic book superweapon introduced.
From memory, but I’ll find out in a week or so, the sequel was much better. It delved deeper into the lore and tried to get past some of the missteps here.
In the end, this isn’t bad, by any means, it just isn’t as great as I felt that it was in 2000. Sure, it has issues but it also opened the floodgates for the superhero genre to enter the cinematic medium in a more serious way.
Rating: 7/10 Pairs well with: the other films in the original X-Men trilogy.
Published: August 7th, 2014 Written by: Stan Lee Art by: Jack Kirby
Marvel Comics, 248 Pages
This right here is the volume I’ve been waiting to get to! This is the collection of the Stan Lee/Jack Kirby run on Fantastic Four where everything changes and the Marvel universe expands exponentially!
This edition of the Masterworks series covers issues 41 through 50, as well as the third annual.
Within this collection, we get a great Frightful Four story, the marriage between Mr. Fantastic and the Invisible Girl, the full debut of the Inhumans, as well as the first appearances of Silver Surfer and Galactus! There are also cameos from just about every hero and villain from the Marvel universe of the 1960s! This chapter in the saga literally has everyone and everything!
What’s even better than that, is that Stan Lee is absolutely on his A-game with these stories and scripts and Jack Kirby’s art was on-point.
If you can only ever read oneFantastic Four collection, graphic novel or trade paperback, it should be this one.
This is quintessential Fantastic Four at its finest. It’s the epitome of what was so damn great about ’60s Marvel and the work of Lee and Kirby.
Just buy it, read it, read it a dozen more times and cherish it forever.
Rating: 10+/10 Pairs well with: the other Marvel Masterworks collections.
Published: 1975 Written by: Linda Fite Art by: Werner Roth, Gil Kane (cover)
Marvel Comics, 37 Pages
This is where the X-Men team that I grew up with came to be. Yet, I had never read this until now, despite being a massive X-Men fan once I embraced them in the late ’80s.
Now this came out more than three years before I was born and I felt like I knew the story well enough but actually reading it was a worthwhile experience, as the story had a bit more character development than I could’ve anticipated. Especially in regards to Wolverine, Sunfire and Storm. It also allowed me to get more familiar with Warpath’s older brother, Thunderbird, whose superhero career was very short-lived.
This story also involves the island of Krakoa, which is a major aspect of the current X-Men related comics.
All in all, this was solid. I felt like the team was thrown together rather abruptly and it was a dangerous mission without them really training for it but it worked out and we got to see this new crew gel in spite of them all being pretty selfish and petty in the beginning.
What’s really great about this, is that it tells a beefy, deep story with just 37 pages. It really shows the difference in pacing in the comic book medium from the time when this was made up to the ’90s (or so) when comic stories felt like they flew by too quickly.
Additionally, the character designs and the art in this were superb.
I didn’t anticipate this being great, I always just thought of it as a a simple introduction. And while it’s not great, it is still better than I thought it’d be and it just made me appreciate this era of Marvel even more.
Rating: 7.75/10 Pairs well with: other ’70s X-Men comics.
Published: June 5th, 2014 Written by: Stan Lee Art by: Jack Kirby
Marvel Comics, 272 Pages
I’ve been blowing through these Fantastic Four – Masterworks collections pretty fast. But these represent the collaboration of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby at its best while also showcasing the earliest stages of the Marvel universe, as it was still developing, taking shape and hitting its stride.
This one kicks off with the second Fantastic Four annual and then collects issues 31 through 40.
I’ve always wanted to read the second annual and man, it did not disappoint. It actually tells the origin of Doctor Doom, as well as showing him meet Rama-Tut a.k.a. Kang the Conqueror for the first time. I knew enough of what was in this massive 72-page issue but I never got to read it until now.
Beyond that, this gives us more Namor, the return of the Mole Man, as well as a great Skrull story. Probably my two favorite things come in the second half though, which sees the debut of the villainous Frightful Four, as well as the first time that the Fantastic Four meet Daredevil, which is a great story on its own.
This was a real high point for me in the overall grander Fantastic Four mythos. A lot of cool stuff happens and this just keeps building up the Marvel universe in a great way.
Rating: 9/10 Pairs well with: the other Marvel Masterworks collections.
Published: March 6th, 2014 Written by: Stan Lee Art by: Jack Kirby
Marvel Comics, 247 Pages
Man, I’m really glad that I started reading Fantastic Four from the beginning. There’s just something unique and truly special about Stan Lee and Jack Kirby creations and collaborations. And while these stories are hokey and not as refined as they would become, it’s really cool seeing the earliest version of the Marvel universe take shape.
Each volume in the Masterworks releases really builds off of the previous ones and expands the larger universe more and more.
Here, we get to see stories with the Avengers, as well as the X-Men, bringing several core Marvel characters together in their earliest days. I also liked that the Hulk came back for a multi-part story arc. Although, this one was lacking in Spider-Man magic. But I also just love old school Spidey and FF stories.
This brings back most of the main villains from previous issues and even introduces some new ones like The Hate-Monger. I actually own that comic in its original floppy form, so reading it here means that I don’t have to physically touch my already weathered copy.
Stan Lee really seems to be hitting his stride with these characters and these stories while Jack Kirby’s art seems a bit more fine tuned and dynamic. Granted, Kirby was one of the most dynamic comic book artists in history but his work in this collection really shows how much he’s enjoying drawing these characters. It just has this little extra flair that’s hard to describe. I guess it’s like eating a meal made with love, as opposed to eating a meal that was just made out of necessity.
Overall, this was thoroughly enjoyable and it kept moving the story forward while constructing a very young universe that would grow into something massive.
Rating: 8.5/10 Pairs well with: the other Marvel Masterworks collections.
Published: December 10th, 2014 Written by: Chris Claremont, Peter David Art by: John Buscema, Gene Colan
Marvel Comics, 495 Pages
As big of a Wolverine fan as I am, I have never read his earliest solo stories that revolved around his time in Madripoor when he was going by the name of “Patch”. I knew enough about this era but nothing is ever as good as reading it for yourself.
I read this on Comixology after buying it pretty cheap during a Wolverine sale. Normally, it’s like $30 but I know I got it for less than $10 and it was well worth that price tag.
This is a beefy collection that covers the first 16 issues of his solo comic, as well as the story that came out just before it and another comic that takes place within the same time frame. It makes for one nice long epic of Logan’s life in Madripoor. I’m not sure if he sticks around there after this collection and for how long but this really gives you the important stuff from that era.
I also knew that Jessica Drew a.k.a. Spider-Woman was around for some of this but I didn’t realize that she wasn’t Spider-Woman here and that she was pretty much just herself, as a ninja badass. I also didn’t realize that she was actually a big part of the Wolverine Madripoor stuff.
We also get a cool plot that teams Wolverine up with the Gray Hulk a.k.a. Mr. Joe Fix-It for the first time. It’s a pretty cool tale and it also fits well within the larger tapestry that sees Logan trying to fight the criminal underworld in this fictitious Asian island nation.
Almost everything here is written by the great Chris Claremont, who probably knows Wolverine the best. Some of this is also written by Peter David but he’s a legend too and he knows how to write a story with great energy.
Ultimately, this wasn’t close to being my favorite Wolverine story, and it may actually be a bit underwhelming because of that, but it is still damn entertaining and really reflects a truly unique time in the character’s mythos.
Rating: 7.5/10 Pairs well with: other Wolverine solo stories from the late ’80s into the early ’90s.
Published: December 14th, 2005 Written by: Greg Pak Art by: Greg Land
Marvel Comics, 123 Pages
After reading the Grant Morrison Dark Phoenix story, I didn’t have much hope for this one, which follows it pretty closely. However, this was a big step up and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
The Phoenix Force comes back to Earth in an effort to rejoin Jean Grey but it discovers that Jean is dead. So it reanimates her corpse and poses as her, making for some painful moments with Wolverine and Cyclops. But this is also where Emma Frost has to step up and become a real leader on the X-Men team, after she had spent years as one of their greatest villains.
The thing that I loved most about this is that the stakes were real and you got a sense of the immensity of the terrible situation the heroes were in. However, the story stayed fairly small and close knit to a small group of X-Men members, as opposed to trying to make this a mega event that pulled in every character from the Marvel universe.
Greg Pak did a superb job in writing this and I’d say it’s my favorite story of his that I’ve read after the masterpiece that was Planet Hulk.
While Greg Land is a somewhat controversial artist that’s been accused of tracing photos, which there is actually a lot of evidence to back that up, I still really liked his art here and it felt top notch. I’m not as “offended” as some within the comic industry and its fans have been about the possibility of the man not being a “legit” artist. That’s because the finished product is still spectacular and he truly understands how to stage and set a scene, whether it’s slice of life moments or action. For more on Land, Comic Tropes did a good video on the guy here.
Overall, this was a really good, refreshing read that took the messy Phoenix story that preceded it and sort of fixed it. This was a satisfying conclusion to the string of Phoenix sagas that led up to this. Granted, it wasn’t the last Phoenix tale but this still brought things to a gratifying close for a short time, anyway.
Rating: 8.75/10 Pairs well with: other story arcs about Jean Grey as Phoenix.