Comic Review: Venomverse

Published: January 9th, 2018
Written by: Cullen Bunn
Art by: Iban Coello

Marvel Comics, 128 Pages

Review:

In preparation for the new Venom series that recently started, I wanted to check out some of the more modern Venom stories out there. Venomverse came highly recommended from a guy at one of my comic book shops. I figured that I’d give it a read, as the premise sounded interesting.

In a nutshell, after stomping a mudhole in Jack O’Lantern’s bum, Venom is zapped away to a different dimension where all the Marvel characters have symbiotes. So what you get is Venomized versions of Captain America, Doctor Strange, Wolverine, Deadpool, Mary Jane Watson, Black Panther, Rocket Raccoon and everyone else in-between. They are fighting a war against the Poisons, who are tiny aliens that absorb the symbiote heroes and villains into their own bodies and become perfect killing machines: the apex predators of the universe. Doctor Strange has been pulling all symbiote heroes and villains into the “Venomverse” dimension in an effort to turn the tide in the war.

Man, if you are a fan of Venom, this is just a really cool and fun book to read. Seriously, I absolutely loved this. I mean, Rocket Raccoon with a Venom symbiote? C’mon, man! All this thing needed was Spider-Ham and Howard the Duck in it too.

The story is really good but I barely even cared about the setup because any reason to have a Marvel Universe full of Venoms is just an awesome time. These stories don’t work so well in the regular Marvel dimension but in this Venomverse pocket of existence, things just seem to flow naturally. Plus, the Poisons were just a really cool idea and added something more to the story than just having a symbiote war for the sake of having a symbiote war.

Granted, I felt that this ended a bit anticlimactically but you also get a post credits scene just like the Marvel movies, which I thought was a neat twist. And that ending sets up the potential for the Poisons to expand into other universes and dimensions.

This was just a damn good book and pretty refreshing and entertaining, as Marvel has produced a lot of duds lately.

Rating: 9.75/10
Pairs well with: Any of the great Eddie Brock Venom stories. But for more recent stuff, the new Venom series and the Venom, Inc. story arc from recent issues of The Amazing Spider-Man.

Comic Review: Wolverine: Old Man Logan

Published: September 22nd, 2010
Written by: Mark Millar
Art by: Steve McNiven

Marvel Comics, 224 Pages

Review:

Old Man Logan has become one of those stories that has reached a sort of legendary status. That’s a very rare feat in the more modern era of comic books but this story, now having reached ten years of age, has had some lasting power and has gone on to influence other works. In some regard, it is Marvel’s versions of DC’s The Dark Knight Returns in that it takes a well known character and shows him in an alternate future after the world has fallen apart around him.

Granted, this is in no way a ripoff of Frank Miller’s classic Batman story. Old Man Logan is very much its own thing and what a great thing it is.

When the story starts, we discover that Logan, the former Wolverine, is living in California on a farm with his wife and two children. Times are hard and the Hulk’s inbred gang demand the rent. An old Hawkeye shows up and gives Logan a deal that he can’t refuse, which will pay him enough to keep the Hulk’s gang off of his back. The story then sees these two aged heroes travel from the West Coast to the East Coast to deliver a package. We discover that the entire United States is completely screwed up and while the now villainous Hulk controls the West Coast, other villains control other regions. The Kingpin (a different guy than Wilson Fisk) has Vegas, Dr. Doom has the Midwest and “The President” a.k.a. Red Skull has the East Coast.

I don’t want to give much more away for fear of spoiling the story.

This book has a lot of surprises and cool things thrown in. Logan is a pacifist, at this point, but what happens when he is pushed beyond his breaking point?

Old Man Logan is one of the most refreshing things Marvel has put out since the turn of the millennium. The story and the characters were so well received that Logan and Hawkeye have both made other appearances as their elderly selves.

There are very few comic books that I will say are must reads, especially out of the more modern titles. This is a must read though, whether you are a Wolverine fan or just a fan of the comic book medium in general.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: The Death of Wolverine and it also has some similarities to Frank Miller’s classic aged Batman tale, The Dark Knight Returns.

Comic Review: The Infinity Crusade

Published: December 17th, 2008
Written by: Jim Starlin
Art by: Ron Lim, various

Marvel Comics, 488 Pages

Review:

Well, I read through the great Infinity Gauntlet storyline and followed that up with the mediocre Infinity War sequel. Naturally, I thought that I should finish the trilogy of Infinity stories with this one: The Infinity Crusade.

However, I wasn’t a fan of Magus and his whole shtick from the previous chapter in this large saga. The reason why I’m pointing that out here is because the setup is essentially the same. Where Magus was the physical embodiment of Adam Warlock’s evil side, the big threat in this story is the physical embodiment of Adam Warlock’s good side. I admit, I rolled my eyes when I was reminded that this was the setup to this story.

Frankly, I thought the plot was lame and what was even lamer was the McGuffin. No longer was the focus on the Infinity Gauntlet, now the focus was on this “Goddess” character and her Cosmic Egg. Basically, she just sits around in her giant cosmic egg using religion to brainwash a large group of heroes to be her holy army. So this is like Civil War but with religion and a giant friggin’ egg.

It also doesn’t help that there is virtually no action, this is overly talkie and just boring. Well, to be fair, the fifth issue in the six issue arc was just straight up action. But outside of that, there wasn’t anything exciting other than a few brief physical spats and some cosmic magic battles, the biggest of which featured psychically projected heads shooting laser beams at the “Goddess”.

Plus, the story suffers from being spread over several different titles. So when I read the collected edition of the main comic, there is key stuff missing from it, as it happened in another issue of a different title altogether. I get that this is how crossover events work but the two previous Infinity sagas kept the main story in the main title and the other comics just had tie-in subplots.

This whole mega event is just proof that Marvel was milking the Infinity thing way too hard. The Infinity War was just okay and then this was a disaster. Neither of them came as close to the greatness that was The Infinity Gauntlet.

Rating: 4.5/10
Pairs well with: Its prequels The Infinity Gauntlet and The Infinity War.

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.

Comic Review: Avengers vs. X-Men – Collected Edition

Published: November 7th, 2012
Written by: Brian Michael Bendis
Art by: various

Marvel Comics, 568 Pages

Review:

Being less than a month away from Avengers: Infinity War, the biggest cinematic event to date for Marvel, I wanted to read something in the comics that was also a massive tale. I haven’t read this before but I had heard some positive feedback about it and figured I’d check it out.

I mean, who doesn’t want to see what would happen if the Avengers and the X-Men came to blows?

So there is this Hope Summers character that’s some modern Marvel creation and I don’t know much abut her other than she was raised by Cable and the Phoenix Force is rushing back to Earth to attach itself to her.

Cyclops of the X-Men wants to protect her on his terms, Captain America wants to take her into custody to protect her and the planet as well. Cyclops acts like a big fascist dick and a fight breaks out between the X-Men and the Avengers. All of which could have been prevented if Cyclops wasn’t an egotistical fascist dick.

The Phoenix Force tries to latch onto Hope but she rejects it. The Phoenix is then split into five parts and possess Cyclops, Emma Frost, Namor, Magik and Colossus. So now the Avengers have to fight five fascist Phoenixes with a mutant army.

Ultimately, Cyclops becomes the Dark Phoenix.

The story just wasn’t good and most of the characters were just irrational. In fact, I wouldn’t be comfortable living in a world where most of these heroes had powers. We live in a time and age where comics don’t have to be written for children with stupid situations that don’t make a lot of sense to an adult who can apply reason and empathy to life’s problems and conflicts.

But I guess the writers needed a reason to pit the Avengers against the X-Men so they went with a real lazy route and made Cyclops into a prickish moron because no one likes him anyway.

Civil War was a much better mega event. It was well thought out, asked real questions, gave good arguments for both sides of the equation and it just worked. Avengers vs. X-Men just seemed forced and aimless.

The art was good though.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: Both of the Marvel Civil War events, as it is very similar. Also, the old school X-Men: Dark Phoenix Saga.

Comic Review: Spider-Gwen, Vol. 4: Predators

Published: October 31st, 2017
Written by: Jason Latour
Art by: Robbi Rodriguez

Marvel Comics, 112 Pages

Review:

Finally, a series of Spider-Gwen comics that are action packed and back on track! The last collection was full of holiday one-off issues and a lot of filler. Now we are back in the thick of it!

This collection brings back Harry Osborne, who is still infected by the Lizard syrum. His father Norman also plays a key role here, after refusing to help his son previously. We also see this universe’s evil version of Matt Murdock finally push Gwen Stacy into an uncomfortable direction, as she is forced to work with The Hand in an effort to capture her friend Harry.

We also get to see Spider-Gwen do battle with Wolverine, the original one, as well as this universe’s version of Shadowcat, who is more like X-23 than the Kitty Pryde we all know and love. Rhino also returns and we get to see the first appearance of the Venom symbiote but in the Spider-Gwen universe, it has a different origin.

At first, Spider-Gwen has to protect Harry from Wolverine, Shadowcat and The Hand but she eventually defies Matt Murdock and is able to turn Shadowcat and then Wolverine into allies against The Hand. All the while, she is mulling over the idea of whether or not she should become one with the Venom symbiote, as her exposure to radiation makes it “safe” for her to use, where it is lethal to any other living mammal.

The book benefits from not having Gwen go all emo, as she seems to do a lot in the earlier collections. She just jumps into the action, which there is a lot of and things don’t really ease up until the final chapter in the book, which is a side story about the Mary Janes band.

In fact, the only real negative is the Mary Janes story. Not that I don’t like their part in the Spider-Gwen universe but in this collection, it pulls you out of the running narrative and doesn’t allow this series of issues to feel like it has any sort of conclusion.

But I do like this much better than the previous set of stories and I’ll pick up the next collection when it is available.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: Other Spider-Gwen collections.

Comic Review: Spider-Gwen, Vol. 3: Long-Distance

Published: July 3rd, 2017
Written by: Jason Latour
Art by: Robbi Rodriguez

Marvel Comics, 112 Pages

Review:

This collection of Spider-Gwen starts off with a Thanksgiving issue that is more of a distraction than anything. But at least we get a visit from the Jessica Drew Spider-Woman and the Roger Gocking version of Porcupine, who is her baby’s nanny now.

Following the Thanksgiving issue, we go into a Christmas issue. This series really likes doing holiday themed stories, as these both follow the Halloween issue that capped off the last collection of Spider-Gwen.

Luckily, we didn’t get a New Year’s, Valentine’s or St. Patty’s issue. But what we did get is odd and bizarre one-off stories that didn’t really push the overall narrative of the series forward.

On the plus side, we didn’t get more whiney Emo-Gwen brooding. We got some humor, some parody and a general lightheartedness. However, I feel like I could have skipped this book entirely and not missed a thing.

With this collection, I feel like the writers ran out of ideas for this series that started out pretty darn strong. It reads more like comedy than anything else and with all that has been established before this, there is a lot of ground that can be covered.

Gwen also still doesn’t have her powers at the beginning of this. She has a limited amount of “power-ups” she can use to become Spider-Gwen and really this is being written more like a video game where things like power-ups need to be explained but I guess that’s cool for the Millennial generation, as is the emo brooding heroine.

I liked Spider-Gwen but if I was reading the series, issue to issue and not collected, I probably would have checked out over this stretch, as it feels like it’s just aimless and throwing shit up on the wall. I’ll at least check out the next volume and see if it gets back on track but this was where my interest really started to wane.

This book has a lot of cameos though, so if you’re a fan of team ups and cameos, you’ll probably dig some of this.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: Other Spider-Gwen collections.