Comic Review: Spider-Man: Maximum Carnage

Published: July 11th, 2007
Written by: Tom DeFalco, J.M. DeMatteis, Terry Kavanagh, David Michelinie
Art by: Mark Bagley, Sal Buscema, Ron Lim, Tom Lyle, Alex Saviuk

Marvel Comics, 335 Pages

Review:

This big crossover event started right around the time that I was mentally checking out on comics, as I had moved, gotten older and was more concerned about high school girls and trying to woo them with my heart-melting charm.

I’ve read some of the issues within the larger arc but I never sat down and read the whole thing in its fourteen issue entirety. That being said, this was kind of tough to get through.

Maximum Carnage truly embodies that old adage about there being too many chefs in the kitchen. With this, that saying doesn’t just apply to having too many writers but it also applies to this being overloaded with characters that no one cares about.

Carnage returns and with that he forms his own supervillain group. It’s kind of like the Sinister Six but it’s made up of new and D-list level villains like Shriek, Doppelganger, Carrion and Demogoblin. Apart from Carnage, all these villains suck and frankly, after reading this, they had such an adverse effect on the coolness of Carnage that I don’t really have the same opinion of him. This made him lose his luster. Granted, Marvel also fucks him over, after this, by introducing a bunch of symbiote Carnage babies.

Spider-Man is pretty much in over his head but he re-teams with Venom in an effort to stop Carnage and they also get help from Black Cat, Cloak & Dagger and a slew of other heroes that pop in and out. Morbius even shows up just to remind you that in the ’90s he was batshit crazy. We also get an appearance from Nightwatch, who was a ’90s Marvel character that blatantly ripped off Spawn just to piss off Todd McFarlane for becoming a self-made millionaire after leaving the company. They showed him!

Anyway, this is a clunky story without a real clear point to it other than Carnage is bad and he does terrible shit. This didn’t need to be fourteen issues long but Marvel was trying to bank on Carnage’s popularity. I’m sure it made money for them, at the time, but the story didn’t do much to help the Spider-Man mythos in any sort of long-term way. In fact, when people bring up Maximum Carnage nowadays, it is in reference to the old 16-bit video game and not the comic book story it was tied to.

This story featured good writers and good artists but it felt sloppily put together and like all the creative parties just kind of rushed it out or phoned it in. Some of the art, surprisingly, is actually hard on the eyes but I think that’s more to do with the colors than the illustrations. Also, I read this digitally and sometimes that can really fuck up the color of older comics.

I had some high hopes for this because I really felt like I missed out on it years ago. However, comics shouldn’t feel like doing chores. I didn’t really want to finish this but I did in order to review it, as it is considered an iconic story by many.

Rating: 4.5/10
Pairs well with: other mid-’90s Spider-Man comics and Marvel crossover events.

Comic Review: Iron Man: Demon In A Bottle

Published: March 3rd, 2010
Written by: Bob Layton, David Michelinie
Art by: Carmine Infantino, Bob Layton, John Romita Jr.

Marvel Comics, 167 Pages

Review:

This collection of Demon In A Bottle was a pretty cool read. However, people have referenced the story for years and truthfully, it’s not a big arc like many insinuate or imagine. In fact, this covers multiple arcs but each has a common thread and that’s Tony Stark’s fall into alcoholism.

Ultimately, this ends with him overcoming his demons and trying to fix the damage he’s caused, rebuilding himself into who Iron Man needs to be.

It’s also important to mention that this debuted the long-time Iron Man villain, Justin Hammer. Hammer was created as a character similar to Tony Stark but one who stayed on a dark path. He was also deliberately made to look like Peter Cushing and in this story, John Romita Jr. and Bob Layton did a stellar job of conveying that.

The story also features the Avengers, Namor and a slew of C-list villains that Hammer employs in an effort to overwhelm Iron Man. Overall, this is just as action-packed and exciting as it is dramatic and full of real human trauma and emotion.

While it’s not my favorite classic Iron Man story (or stories), it is a very important piece of the character’s history and served to build up his character in a pretty dynamic way. It does what most modern mainstream comics don’t do and that’s showing weakness in a hero.

In fact, this is about a hero’s journey and personal evolution, which is something that was lost in the storytelling art of superhero comics. Hell, it’s been lost in most mainstream media, as we constantly get characters that are made to be perfect and “special” without faults or real struggle.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other Iron Man stories of the ’80s, most notably the Armor Wars saga.

Comic Review: Daredevil by Frank Miller & Klaus Janson, Vol. 1

Published: March 6th, 2014
Written by: Frank Miller, Bill Mantlo, Roger McKenzie, David Michelinie, Marv Wolfman
Art by: Frank Miller, Klaus Janson

Marvel Comics, 326 Pages

Review:

I recently got to scratch off one of my comic book bucket list items. That item was the completion of the entire Frank Miller Daredevil run. I now own all the single issues and it feels good. So to celebrate, I thought that I’d re-read through them all, as they were collected in three beefy volumes that I also own.

This first collection starts with two issues of The Spectacular Spider-Man, which featured Daredevil and had art by Frank Miller. Getting into the start of his run on Daredevil itself, the first handful of issues aren’t written by Miller but he does do the art. But once Miller fully takes over and Klaus Janson comes in to do Miller’s inks, this book really takes off in a new and exciting way, as it becomes grittier and almost has a noir vibe to it.

In this collection, we see the Bullseye character evolve more into the lunatic he actually is. We are also introduced to Elektra, as she makes her first appearance here.

Now nothing is truly wrapped up in this volume and it mainly just lays the foundation for the rest of Miller’s tenure on the title. But it sets things up nicely, really changes the landscape of the title, as long-standing love interest Black Widow moves on with her life and Daredevil is pulled into two new romantic directions.

This also establishes the real tension between Daredevil and The Kingpin.

As the first of three collections covering this run, this book is damn stellar. It’s also a great jumping on point for fans that want to read some of the best years in Daredevil’s long history.

Frankly, I’d read all of Miller’s run and then follow it up with the Ann Nocenti era.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: the rest of Frank Miller’s run, as well as Ann Nocenti’s and the stories in-between.

Comic Review: Iron Man: Legacy of Doom

Published: 2008
Written by: David Michelinie
Art by: Bob Layton, Ron Lim

Marvel Comics, 110 Pages

Review:

While this is my least favorite of the three parts in the Doomquest trilogy, it is still a really fun comic miniseries and it captures the right spirit of the previous tales, even though this one came out a few decades later than the other two.

In this story, Doom finally attempts to get his promised revenge on Iron Man by tricking him into entering Mephisto’s Hell dimension. While Iron Man is stuck dealing with that, Doom then gets revenge on Morgan le Fay and is able to acquire the legendary sword, Excalibur.

Iron Man eventually escapes Hell, confronts a now invincible Doom who can now cut through Iron Man’s armor suit thanks to Excalibur. However, Iron Man then gets suped up after acquiring the sheath of Excalibur.

Eventually, the two have to work together again as a giant kaiju-sized monster made of eyeballs comes into their dimension in an effort to destroy everything in its path.

This story is over the top and fantastical but that’s what makes it awesome and a worthy sequel to the two stories before it.

King Arthur isn’t directly involved like he was in the other tales but Merlin comes in and plays an important role.

I’d suggest reading the first two parts of the Doomquest trilogy before getting into this one, as you’ll miss some important context, but this is still a solid story, especially for fans of either character.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: the other two parts of the Doomquest trilogy, as well as Emperor Doom, Infamous Iron Man, Avengers: The Private War of Dr. Doom and Doctor Strange & Doctor Doom: Triumph & Torment.

Comic Review: Iron Man: Doomquest

Published: April 9th, 2008
Written by: David Michelinie, Bob Layton
Art by: Bob Layton, John Romita Jr.

Marvel Comics, 133 Pages

Review:

I wanted to read some classic Doctor Doom stories and while I’ve known about the Doomquest story arc from Iron Man issues 149 and 150, I had never read it.

I got the collected edition on Comixology, which also features the sequel story from Iron Man issues 249 and 250, making this collection the forst two-thirds of what is referred to unofficially as the Doomquest Trilogy. The third and final part is a four issue miniseries called Iron Man: Legacy of Doom, which I will also read in the near future, as these two stories were spectacular and have now become two of my favorite Iron Man and Doctor Doom arcs.

The common thread between every part of this trilogy is the creative team, as well as featuring Iron Man matching wits with Doom.

I enjoyed the stories here and thought that David Michelinie and Bob Layton captured the best of both characters. Plus, both stories featured time travel. The first story sent Iron Man and Doom back to the time of King Arthur where Doom actually meets Morgan le Fay for the first time. They are also involved in the events of Camelot and King Arthur. The second story sends them to the future, a few years shy of Marvel’s 2099 era but this also ties to the Camelot storyline, as both are pulled to the future to help a reincarnated Arthur and Merlin.

What really stands out and accents the story greatly is the art of John Romita Jr. As much as I love the classic art style of Jack Kirby, who is my favorite artist of all-time, I actually think that Romita Jr. draws the best Doctor Doom. He just gets the look right from the mask, the position of the cape, the character’s anatomy and his posture. He also draws a great Iron Man, as well as all the Camelot stuff.

This collection of two stories was just great from top to bottom. The whole thing is energetic, exciting and damn entertaining.

If anything, I’m just stoked to read the final part of the trilogy now.

Rating: 9.25/10
Pairs well with: other Iron Man stories of the ’80s, as well as tales with other Avengers taking on Doctor Doom.

Comic Review: Avengers: Emperor Doom

Published: 1987
Written by: David Michelinie
Art by: Bob Hall, Bill Oakley, Ken Lopez

Marvel Comics, 64 Pages

Review:

I used to own this and I need to round up another copy. It was one of my favorite “big” stories of its time. But all of the Marvel graphic novels of the ’80s that I owned, all have a special place in my heart.

Reading it now, it was still a really engaging story that featured my favorite Avengers of the ’80s, the West Coast Avengers. It also throws in Captain America and Namor. However, Namor is initially one of the villains of the story due to his allegiance to Atlantis and his willingness to do anything to secure his homeland’s safety.

The main villain is Doctor Doom, if the title wasn’t enough of a hint. This is also one of his grandest schemes and he actually pulls it off and succeeds at becoming the Emperor of Earth. However, the Avengers do end up coming to their senses and stop Doom.

This story also features the usually underutilized Purple Man. It’s his power that Doom steals and then harnesses on a global scale, giving him control of humanity’s minds.

Under Doom, the Earth finds peace and some of its major problems are solved. However, those pesky Avengers have to muck it all up because humans should be free to make their own decisions and not be mentally enslaved by some global puppet master. I don’t think that modern Marvel writers would agree with that but hey, they’re also killing their own company.

Emperor Doom is a solid story. However, it may have benefited from more space than a 64 page graphic novel could allow. This could have been a major crossover event and maybe have been better than it was.

Still, it is a good use of its 64 pages and it was a hell of a lot of fun to revisit.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other Marvel graphic novels from the era.

Comic Review: Spider-Man: Carnage

Published: 1992
Written by: David Michelinie
Art by: Mark Bagley

Marvel Comics, 70 Pages

Review:

This three issue story arc originally appeared in The Amazing Spider-Man issues 361 through 363. And it was also one of the biggest Spider-Man storylines to come out during my middle school years when I was the most impressionable, as far as comics go.

In 1992, there were few characters as popular as Venom. However, this milestone story gave us a second symbiote, Carnage.

What made this character’s debut so important is that it changed the landscape.

Venom was no longer Spider-Man’s deadliest foe. In Carnage, we have a psychotic serial killer in possession of an alien suit born from Venom. Therefore, it also inherited Venom’s strength. In addition to that, this symbiote has evolved due to being born on Earth, so it has better control of its mass, structure and can fire off projectile weapons made of its alien skin.

Carnage is so powerful and evil that Spider-Man had to enlist the help of Venom. Because of that, this was the turning point in Venom’s life where he no longer played the villain but he became more of an anti-hero and often times a reluctant ally to Spidey.

For a debut, this story packs a punch. Most of that is because Carnage is so damn scary. But the credit really has to go to the creative team. David Michelinie wrote another classic story and the great art of Mark Bagley gave Michelinie’s words and Carnage’s form real life. While people always talk about Todd McFarlane and Erik Larsen’s runs on The Amazing Spider-Man, Bagley was just as iconic and frankly, I like his style better than Larsen’s.

Carnage is one of the highest points in Michelinie’s long run on Spider-Man. While it’s not as impactful as Venom’s debut, it’s nearly on the same level and still, to this day, one of the greatest Spider-Man stories ever told.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: the earlier stories featuring Venom and then the later Maximum Carnage event.

Comic Review: Spider-Man: The Return of the Sinister Six

Published: 1990
Written by: David Michelinie
Art by: Erik Larsen, Terry Austin, Mike Machlan

Marvel Comics, 141 Pages

Review:

This story arc took place in The Amazing Spider-Man issue numbers 334 through 339. It was a follow up to the original Sinister Six story that Stan Lee and Steve Ditko gave us with the first ever Amazing Spider-Man annual way back in 1964.

What’s strange to me, is that it took so long for six of Spidey’s best villains to team-up again. However, with Kraven the Hunter being dead, this version of the group replaced him with Hobgoblin. But the team is still led by Doctor Octopus and also features Electro, Mysterio, the Vulture and the Sandman. However, in a bit of a twist, Sandman has gone straight and Octopus blackmails him into joining the group.

This story also features a lot of cameos from other villains and heroes but Spider-Man ultimately faces the Sinister Six on his own and at one point, he finally fights them all at once, which he didn’t do in the first story.

While the Dave Michelinie/Todd McFarlane era of The Amazing Spider-Man is heralded as one of the best of all-time, the Dave Michelinie/Erik Larsen era is also damn good and really just continues off of what Michelinie developed with McFarlane. This came out at the height of me reading Spider-Man comics. To me, this was an event bigger than any of those Infinity things and this wasn’t really even an event.

Reading this now, I almost have a deeper appreciation for it than I did as a kid in 1990. The plot is well constructed and it has a lot of layers to it. Also, there’s a few subplots that have their own interesting narratives. There’s much more here than Peter Parker’s Royal Rumble match with his rogues and it makes this a really rich tale with good character development and real depth.

Some of the plot points, like the bizarreness of Octavius’ scheme are baffling but even the questionable stuff is amusing and just makes me yearn for the early ’90s comic book storytelling style. Twenty-nine years later, I definitely see issues I didn’t as a kid but it in no way wrecks the experience that is this great arc.

Also at the time, I was a hardcore Erik Larsen fan. I first discovered his art on this title. While I always preferred McFarlane, through the eyes of an eleven year-old, Larsen was a comic art superstar. I loved how he drew Spidey and his iconic villains and I think it still looks great. While I respect Larsen and McFarlane for forming Image and coming out with their own comics, there’s that part of me that wished that they both would’ve stuck around and worked on Spider-Man books a bit longer, as I was just so in love with what they were doing at the time and wasn’t ready to let them hand it off to someone else. But then, Mark Bagley did do a fine job, as well.

All these years later, this was fun to pick up again. I was a little worried that I’d think it’d suck now but it brought me back to where I was, reading it for the first time in 1990. Sometimes picking up old comics is like opening a time capsule. With this one, I was happy to find that it was even better than I remembered it.

And now I can’t wait to revisit its sequel, The Revenge of the Sinister Six.

Rating: 9.25/10
Pairs well with: Stan Lee and Steve Ditko’s original Sinister Six story, as well as the sequel to this one, The Revenge of the Sinister Six. Also, anything from the Michelinie and Larsen run on The Amazing Spider-Man.