Published: March 2nd, 2017 Written by: Stan Lee Art by: Jack Kirby
Marvel Comics, 270 Pages
I’m now eight volumes deep into the original Stan Lee and Jack Kirby run on the Fantastic Four series and it still hasn’t lost steam!
I loved this collection of issues and it even had a story that featured the Fantastic Four alongside Daredevil, Spider-Man and Thor!
Beyond that, it gave us the debut of my second favorite Fantastic Four villain (after Doctor Doom) and that’s Annihilus.
We also see Sue leave the team due to being pregnant. With that we get the Inhumans’ Crystal taking her place as the fourth member. I’ve read some issues with this team and I always really liked Crystal being added to the mix, as her and Johnny Storm’s relationship was one of my favorites from the early era of Marvel.
Additionally, we get stories with the Silver Surfer, Psycho-Man, The Mad Thinker, The Wizard and Galactus’ big return.
I love seeing what this series has grown into and how it’s evolved over this long, storied run by Lee and Kirby. Frankly, it just keeps getting better and what happened in this series really shaped what happened in the larger Marvel universe.
The stories were enjoyable, the writing was fun and as always, Kirby’s art was simply amazing.
Rating: 9/10 Pairs well with: the other Marvel Masterworks collections.
Release Date: January 8th, 2005 (Las Vegas premiere) Directed by: Rob Bowman Written by: Zak Penn, Stuart Zicherman, Raven Metzner Based on:Elektra by Frank Miller Music by: Christophe Beck Cast: Jennifer Garner, Goran Visnjic, Will Yun Lee, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Terence Stamp, Bob Sapp, Jason Issacs (uncredited), Ben Affleck (cameo, scene cut)
“I like your bracelet, by the way. Do you know what those are? Here. They’re warrior beads. They’re from Indonesia. Centuries ago, you had to be the best fighter in your village to earn them.” – Elektra, “Wow. I bought’em off eBay.” – Abby Miller
I never wanted to see this because the trailer was a complete turnoff that made this film look like absolute schlock of the highest and worst caliber. Not good, cheesy schlock but the kind that’s so drab and pointless that it’s shocking it even got a theatrical release and wasn’t used to torture terrorists.
Having finally seen this, I wasn’t wrong. This is definitely a terrible movie, littered with atrocious special effects, generic and lifeless characters, as well as wasting the talents of the few good actors in it.
What’s even worse is that this doesn’t feel like it belongs in the same universe as 2003’s Daredevil, which was a pretty decent movie if you watch the Director’s Cut instead of the theatrical version. Hell, even Ben Affleck filmed a cameo scene to tie them together and for whatever reason, it was cut from the final version of this film.
What this does feel like is a made-for-TV SyFy movie of the week. It’s duller than a plastic knife left too close to an open flame with about as much personality and charm as a lobotomized sloth.
The only real silver lining in this is that Jennifer Garner looks absolutely stunning. But she’s always pretty stunning and one shouldn’t have to suffer through this deplorable production just to see her kick the shit out of people while being super hot.
Elektra is bad, really bad. I mean, I guess it’s better than 2004’s Catwoman but at least that film had some memorable moments. Everything in this film is completely forgettable.
Rating: 1.75/10 Pairs well with: the 2003 Daredevil movie, as well as other superhero films from the mid-’90s through mid-’00s.
Also known as: Daredevil: A Daring New Vision (Director’s Cut title) Release Date: February 9th, 2003 (Los Angeles premiere) Directed by: Mark Steven Johnson Written by: Mark Steven Johnson Based on:Daredevil by Stan Lee, Bill Everett Music by: Graeme Revell Cast: Ben Affleck, Jennifer Garner, Michael Clarke Duncan, Colin Farrell, Joe Pantoliano, Jon Favreau, David Keith, Leland Orser, Erick Avari, Ellen Pompeo, Paul Ben-Victor, Robert Iler, Coolio (Director’s Cut only), Mark Margolis (uncredited), Kane Hodder (uncredited), Frank Miller (cameo), Kevin Smith (cameo)
Marvel Enterprises, Horseshoe Bay Productions, New Regency Pictures, 103 Minutes, 133 Minutes (Director’s Cut)
“[Director’s Cut version/Narrating] Violence doesn’t discriminate. It hits all of us… the rich, the poor, the healthy, the sick. It comes as cold and bracing as a winter breeze off the Hudson. Until it sinks into your bones… leaving you with a chill you can’t shake. They say there’s no rest for the wicked. But what about the good? The battle of Good vs. Evil is never-ending… because evil always survives… with the help of evil men. As for Daredevil, well… soon the world will know the truth. That this is a city born of heroes, that one man can make a difference.” – Matt Murdock
My review of this film is specifically for the Director’s Cut. It’s a far superior version of the movie and frankly, it’s the version that should have been released in theaters.
The theatrical version was kind of shit and a major disappointment. The Director’s Cut, however, showed that the director had made a much better film that was unfortunately butchered by the studio, probably due to its running time. In fact, the theatrical version chopped off thirty minutes from director Mark Steven Johnson’s preferred body of work.
If I’m being honest, though, Johnson is not a great director and this film, even in its superior Director’s Cut presentation, still has a lot of flaws and feels kind of dated, even for its year of release. Although, comic book movies hadn’t really found their proper groove yet, as Nolan’s first Batman movie was still two years away and the first MCU movie was still half of a decade out.
Daredevil also didn’t have the budget that other comic book movies would get just a few years later, as it was made by a smaller studio that had to offset the licensing fees they paid to acquire the character and his pocket of the Marvel Comics universe.
Still, the performances mostly make up for the weaker things in this film. I really liked Ben Affleck as Daredevil and Jennifer Garner did well as Elektra. Most importantly, the two had tremendous chemistry, which I guess was pretty natural and genuine, as they got married a few years later and stayed together for thirteen, which is a lifetime in Hollywood.
I also really liked Michael Clarke Duncan as Wilson Fisk and Jon Favreau was a great Foggy Nelson.
My only real issue with the cast for the larger roles was Bullseye. Colin Farrell is a good actor but this version of the character was baffling and if I’m being honest, stupid. Bullseye should have been a bit nutty but he also should’ve been in his proper costume and not looked like a guy selling codeine at a rap-metal concert. But I guess Marvel editor Joe Quesada suggested to the director that Bullseye shouldn’t wear his traditional outfit. I guess that’s just another reason to dislike Quesada on top of his large part in destroying his own industry because of politics, hiring unproven talent for diversity reasons and lashing out at customers on social media. But I digress.
The film has a decent enough story, even if it feels pretty bare bones and paint by numbers. The Director’s Cut actually expands on the story, adding in more context and nuance, as well as a side plot that makes the overall experience a much better one than the theatrical version.
I especially liked the origin stuff about Daredevil as a kid. The scenes between the kid actor and his dad, played by the always underappreciated David Keith, are damn good.
Another thing I don’t like, though, is the style of the fighting in the film. It’s fine when everything feels grounded and real but it gets ruined by relying too heavily on the Hong Kong style of martial arts filmmaking. There are too many moments where it is obvious that the characters are on wires and you see them move in ways that don’t make sense in regards to actual physics. That shit doesn’t work for this sort of film. But I get it, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon was a massive hit a few years earlier and Hollywood tried to emulate the Hong Kong style but kept failing miserably outside of The Matrix movies.
Daredevil – Director’s Cut is still pretty enjoyable, though. Age didn’t really improve it or ruin it. It’s mistakes are pretty clear but they were also clear in 2003.
However, I still really like the cast, for the most part, and it would’ve been interesting seeing how this could’ve continued had sequels bee made. Instead, the studio stupidly opted out of that and went with an abominable Elektra spinoff, a film that I still haven’t been able to stomach in its entirety. But I guess I should review it soon, as I work my way through all of the Marvel movies ever made.
Rating: 7.5/10 Pairs well with: other Marvel comics films before the Marvel Cinematic Universe started in 2008.
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.
Published: March 27th, 2014 Written by: Frank Miller Art by: David Mazzucchelli
Marvel Comics, 231 Pages
After Frank Miller’s historic Daredevil run, he returned to do the graphic novel Love & War. A few years later, he returned to the regular Daredevil title for this story arc, which really was the exclamation point on Miller’s Daredevil work before Ann Nocenti then started her awesome run for several years.
This story starts with The Kingpin finding out Daredevil’s identity. He then uses this knowledge to try and destroy Matt Murdock’s personal life and thus, crush the Daredevil persona that has been a thorn in his side for years.
This is probably the darkest moment in Daredevil’s life, as he hits rock bottom, his former love Karen Page also hits rock bottom and the guy has to build himself back up after legitimately losing his mind for awhile.
I like this story, quite a bit. However, the breaking of Daredevil seemed a bit forced and it got somewhat over the top. I get it, though, Miller only had so many issues to work with and the pacing of comic book stories was much different in this era, as they weren’t writing for the trade paperback market and just told single issue chapters from month-to-month. But this did have the plot elements that should’ve been used and fleshed out to make this more of a lengthy epic than it was.
Still, this is a solid piece of work by Miller. I can’t say that it’s better than his lengthy, original run but it still feels married to it and it brings the character to new depths before handing the reins over to another fantastic writer.
Rating: 8.5/10 Pairs well with: Frank Miller’s run on Daredevil.
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: 1986 Written by: Frank Miller Art by: Bill Sienkiewicz
Marvel Comics, 65 Pages
This was a one-shot graphic novel that came out a few years after Frank Miller had completed his Daredevil run. However, it was a return to form, narratively speaking, while also coming off as even darker due to the haunting and beautiful visuals created by one-of-a-kind artist Bill Sienkiewicz.
The plot is fairly short and sweet but it’s important to the overall character development of The Kingpin, as well as his relationship with Daredevil.
The story sees The Kingpin try his damnedest to save his beloved wife Vanessa. He does some pretty heinous shit while trying to get her the treatment she needs. However, this all horribly backfires in a way that will effect him forever.
Additionally, there is a side story about the doctor’s wife and her situation, as she is being watched over by a violent madman that believes her to be an angel.
This has a very layered story and it taps into neo-noir and psychological horror vibes.
While this does feature Daredevil, he almost feels secondary to the majority of the story. He just sort of moves in and out of it and the real players moving the chess pieces on the board are the doctor and The Kingpin.
Ultimately, and without spoiling too much, this is really compelling stuff with exceptional art and some of Frank Miller’s best writing.
Rating: 8/10 Pairs well with: Frank Miller’s run on Daredevil.
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: July 2nd, 2015 Written by: Frank Miller, Mike W. Barr Art by: John Buscema, Klaus Janson, Bill Sienkiewicz
Marvel Comics, 317 Pages
While this is the weakest of the three volumes that collect the Frank Miller run on Daredevil, it’s still a damn good book and it closes out the run, setting things up for a new creative team.
In the previous volume, we already dealt with the death of Elektra and the defeat of Bullseye. This one pretty much covers the fallout from that, emotionally, as well as how it effects the overall story and the primary characters within.
This collection also includes the graphic novel Love & War, which I will actually review as its own body of work at a later date.
The thing I really liked seeing in here was how Daredevil dealt with his grief, as well as how he and Black Widow sort of came back into each other’s lives after everything that happened to them previously, as well as the issues Daredevil is left to deal with after losing the love of his life.
The story also does a great job of fleshing out Foggy Nelson and giving him things to do, other than just being Matt Murdock’s best bud and business partner.
On top of that, we get a powerful moment between Daredevil and Bullseye, as well as some really interesting and character defining moments for The Kingpin.
This was definitely a worthy conclusion to the Frank Miller era, even if it wasn’t as exciting as the other two volumes. This is much more a story about human emotion and working through it than it is straight action and street level badassery. However, there’s enough of that stuff in here to keep the normie superhero comic book fan engaged.
Rating: 8.5/10 Pairs well with: the rest of Frank Miller’s run, as well as Ann Nocenti’s and the stories in-between.
Published: March 5th, 2015 Written by: Frank Miller, Roger McKenzie Art by: Frank Miller, Klaus Janson
Marvel Comics, 314 Pages
This is the second of the three large collections of the Frank Miller run on Daredevil, this is also the volume where the heaviest shit goes down. Primarily, the return of Bullseye, the death of Elektra and the first time Daredevil meets the Punisher.
I can’t speak on the third volume until I revisit it but I always remembered these string of issues as being the high point of Miller’s run and re-reading it now, I’d say that’s probably true.
This builds off of what Miller established already and it takes things to the next level, cementing Daredevil as one of the most intriguing heroes in Marvel’s lore. It also helps cement The Kingpin and Bullseye as real sons of bitches.
What’s really great about this, is that Miller, despite not yet having a lot of mileage under his belt, was able to write a really emotional and heartbreaking story. Binge reading through this, the overall Elektra arc goes by pretty fast. Still, you get emotionally invested in her and Daredevil’s relationship just as deeply as you would Spider-Man’s with Gwen Stacy or Mary Jane. It’s a tremendous feat to write something this captivating and heart-wrenching but Miller truly achieves greatness here.
For fans of The Gladiator, this is also where he redeems himself and it’s also a sad tale but really satisfactory despite his overall arc not being too big.
Beyond the story, the art is still fantastic and the work of Miller and Klaus Janson gets better with nearly every issue, as both men find their stride and put just as much care into the visuals of these stories, as Miller put into the writing.
If you are a fan of Daredevil and you haven’t read the Miller run, you’ve done yourself as real disservice.
Rating: 9.75/10 Pairs well with: the rest of Frank Miller’s run, as well as Ann Nocenti’s and the stories in-between.