Published: February 10th, 2010
Written by: Neil Gaiman
Art by: Andy Kubert, Scott McKowen (covers)
Marvel Comics, 246 Pages
This started out as a really cool story and I enjoyed it a lot from the get go. However, it did lose steam after a few issues and wrapped up pretty weakly. I also thought the big reveal/twist was fairly predictable and that this didn’t live up to the high hopes I had for it and the past work of Neil Gaiman.
Still, it piqued my interest enough to make me want to check out some of the other stories that take place in this odd, alternative version of the Marvel universe.
I liked the setting and I really liked most of the character designs. I did, however, feel like too many characters and subplots were forced in for the sake of trying to make this a big deal, big event. A lot of the extra fluff was unnecessary and narratively cumbersome.
I don’t know if that was an issue with Gaiman’s writing or Marvel instructing him to throw in every major old school character. I feel like all the extra characters could’ve been saved for their own interesting spinoffs of this.
Beyond the rickety story, I thought that Andy Kubert’s art was pretty damn impressive. Artistically, this is one of my favorite things that he’s done and the style he used here fit with the story really well.
Also, the covers by Scott McKowen are some of my favorite from this comic’s era. They’re actually framed poster worthy and while staring at them, I thought about seeing if I could buy some.
In the end, Marvel 1602 was a fun experiment and it captivated me early on. But it was too dragged out and overloaded and with that, became more of a chore to read in the back half.
Pairs well with: other Marvel alternative timeline stories, as well as other comics written by Neil Gaiman.
Published: September 15th, 2010
Written by: Brian Michael Bendis
Art by: Alex Maleev
Marvel Comics, 461 Pages
This long stretch of Daredevil issues should’ve actually been better than the ones in the first volume, as shit got real dark, things were more action packed and this went to places I didn’t expect.
The reason why I can’t rate it as high as the previous one is because of the awful romantic subplot that actually sees Daredevil get married for a short time.
I hated this plot, the new love interest and thought that it detracted from a much better story about the shifting power in the New York City criminal structure and Daredevil dealing with that while also trying to work around the public knowing his identity.
The romance plot was just too much added into an already very layered and rich story. Plus, that stuff was poorly written and I don’t want to be that guy but I don’t think that Brian Michael Bendis understands romantic interaction above a college aged level.
That being said, Bendis’ writing is great outside of the romantic shit.
Also, I love Alex Maleev’s style and tone in regards to Bendis’ story. They come together rather nicely, even if it appears as if Maleev is tracing some characters and doing digital tricks. This was originally made at the turn of the millennium and artists were experimenting with a lot of new technology at the time. Frankly, I know he used Photoshop filters because I recognize them. Still, the end result works and I’m just a traditionalist that likes things done the old school way. This is why I also don’t like Pixar movies or that style of animation.
Out of all the different story arcs collected here, I think I like the one that features The Owl the best. I liked seeing him truly unhinged and trying to wedge himself into The Kingpin’s spot as crime boss. After that, I really loved the section with Typhoid Mary, as she’s one of my favorite Daredevil villains and doesn’t get enough love, in my opinion. She also looked great in this run, even if I still prefer her original look, as drawn by John Romita Jr. back in the late ’80s.
I love the hell out of Bendis’ run on this series and it truly rivals the great runs by Frank Miller and Ann Nocenti, who still takes the cake for me.
Remove the romantic, juvenile love shit in this story and this would’ve been a perfect Daredevil collection.
Pairs well with: the other Daredevil comics from his Marvel Knights run.
Published: April 17th, 2019
Written by: Donny Cates, Nick Spencer
Art by: Niko Henrichon, Frazer Irving, Szymon Kudranski, Rod Reis, Gabriel Hernandez Walta, Mike Del Mundo (cover)
Marvel Comics, 341 Pages
This collection of Donny Cates’ Doctor Strange run started off with a bang but then it did what most Donny Cates comics do, it went too big, too fast and became a bloated, over-the-top spectacle. But he’s even admitted that everything he writes needs to be big and epic. He’s also pointed out that he’s always trying to top the last thing he wrote.
The problem with that is that he can tell pretty good human stories with a lot of emotion that gets the reader invested. But then he Michael Bay the fucks out of everything and then has to wedge in a large amount of characters because if it’s a Cates’ story, he’s gotta blow up the universe.
Big, over-the-top spectacles aren’t necessarily a bad thing but when it’s done as much as Cates does it, he becomes a one trick pony that negatively impacts the better sides of his creative work. The spectacle ends up overshadowing the real story and you sort of get lost in it all. And after a while, it becomes ineffective, as you expect everything to reach ludicrous spreed.
When I first started reading Cates’ work, I enjoyed the grandiose-ness. However, it didn’t take long to realize that larger-than-life Armageddon scenarios were his modus operandi. And with that, he has to keep trying to top what he did before. Everything just gets bigger, faster, crazier and the next thing you know, you’re reading the Marvel Comics version of Fast & Furious 14 where it’s just stunts, speed, CGI, action, yelling and then the end credits after characters refer to each other as “family” 97 times between explosions.
I think that this formula has worked so well for Cates that he’s kind of stuck doing it now. While this Doctor Strange stuff came out before his more recent work, I might have had a very different take on it had I read it when it was current.
The problem though, is this kind of shows me where that formula started. Well, at least with his more prominent Marvel work.
As I stated in the beginning, this started out really strong and I was invested. But then everything went ape shit crazy and then it was over. It may have read better if Cates stuck around and actually wrote about the fallout from this story. But I guess he had to move on to the next thing and give us more mega-event level chaos.
This initially created a foundation for something truly great. After the first story arc, however, it immediately went to a Hell-on-Earth scenario with two dozen characters involved. Whatever emotional investment I had, disappeared, as I kept reading and it never quite circled back around to the great character work and found a way to use that within the chaotic spectacle that followed.
Pairs well with: other Donny Cates comics by Marvel.
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.
Pairs well with: all the other Civil War II crossover tie-in trade paperbacks.
Published: July 1st, 1989
Written by: Gerry Conway, Bill Mantlo, Roger Stern
Art by: Gene Colan, Mike Mignola, Kevin Nowlan
Marvel Comics, 154 Pages
I heard a rumor that the second Doctor Strange movie would possibly include the Marvel Cinematic Universe debut of Doctor Doom and that the story for the film would borrow heavily from this story, one I haven’t read since the early ’90s. After reading this, I don’t know how they’d pull it off but I would kind of like to see them attempt it.
Reason being, this is a stupendous comic book. In fact, it’s pretty fucking perfect.
This was originally released as one book in a series of Marvel Comics’ graphic novels. Back in the ’80s and through the early ’90s, Marvel had a graphic novel series that were printed in a larger format than regular comics and also had roughly twice the pages. They sold for more money than regular comic books but they rarely disappointed and usually the stories had a more adult edge to them, which was definitely cool for my pre-teen brain. They also had some of the best artwork of the era, as more time and care were put into these releases.
This story was one of my favorites out of the Marvel graphic novels I read and I’m glad to say that it didn’t just live up to my original opinion of it but it exceeded it. I think that’s because I was able to grasp this more as an adult and the emotional weight of the story really took hold of me.
It also doesn’t hurt that Doctor Doom is my favorite Marvel villain of all-time and I’ve always loved Doctor Strange and the mystic side of the Marvel mythos.
But this story is just so perfect. It brings these two characters together and in regards to Doctor Doom, it really displays his human side and how there might be a good man trapped underneath all that armor, emotional baggage, narcissism and borderline madness.
Doom and Strange unite and take on Mephisto in an effort to free the imprisoned soul of Doom’s mother. It reads like a dark fairy tale but it is packed with lots of action, great magical moments and all sorts of hellish beasts. It’s also all presented with exceptional art.
While this is longer than a regular sized comic book, it is still a quick, easy read. But it shows different sides of these characters and it made Doom a lot more interesting and complex, overall.
It’s also one of the best stories to feature Mephisto and what it is he can do when he’s not just sitting on a throne giving monologues and devising sinister plans.
I read the version that is currently up on Comixology and it also had a few other stories tacked on to it. It’s probably the coolest version of this to be released, if you don’t mind reading comics digitally.
Pairs well with: other ’70s & ’80s comics featuring Doctor Doom or Doctor Strange.
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 one Fantastic 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.
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.
Pairs well with: the other Marvel Masterworks collections.
Published: October 19th, 2016
Written by: various
Art by: various
Marvel Comics, 480 Pages
I’ve been going back and picking up a lot of ’70s Doctor Strange floppy issues, lately. Mainly, I love Marvel’s art style with their fantasy and horror titles from the decade and Doctor Strange had some of the best covers from that time. But after reading a few of the singles issues, I wanted to delve into a much larger chunk, so I gave this huge Epic Collection release a read.
This actually focuses on the end of Doctor Strange’s first solo series, his complete run in Marvel Premiere and then the first handful of issues of his second solo series.
This also features a ton of great artists and writers, as well as adapting some of H.P. Lovecraft’s characters and concepts into the Marvel Universe, beyond what was done in just the Conan titles.
Furthermore, this collection features just about all of the major Doctor Strange villains of the era with a lot of emphasis on Nightmare.
This was, hands down, one of the best Doctor Strange trade paperbacks I have ever read and it only solidified my love for the character from this era. It also kind of made me wish they’d have done something with Strange and Conan back in the ’70s due to the Lovecraftian flavor of this book.
I’ll be in search of other hefty collections of Doctor Strange from the ’70s and early ’80s because this was just damn cool and featured so much imagination and stupendous art. I wish people didn’t sleep on old school Doctor Strange, it’s really, really great stuff.
Pairs well with: other old school Doctor Strange collections, as well as ’70s Marvel fantasy and horror comics.