Comic Review: Thor by Kieron Gillen

Published: April 17th, 2019
Written by: Kieron Gillen
Art by: Doug Braithwaite, Richard Elson, Niko Henrichon, Jamie McKelvie, Billy Tan, Mico Suayan (cover)

Marvel Comics, 312 Pages

Review:

This stretch of Thor follows the incredible J. Michael Straczynski run and also happens alongside the Siege event.

Sadly, I wasn’t quite ready for Straczynski to hand over the reins, as he hadn’t finished the big plot threads that he started. However, Kieron Gillen did a pretty good job picking up where Straczynski left off while also having to work around Brian Michael Bendis’ Siege.

I thought that this was consistent with Straczynski’s tone and style. Although, the latter issues and Siege stuff started to go in different directions art-wise. None of it was bad but I found some sections to have too much contrast with the rest of the book.

The early parts of this deal with Doctor Doom’s plot against Asgard and you have a pretty good fight between Thor and Doom, who is wearing The Destroyer like a mecha-suit.

After there is closure from the Doom stuff, this shows the Siege event from different perspectives and then follows the fallout from that event, which shows Asgard get wrapped up in a plot by Mephisto.

While I enjoyed this pretty thoroughly, it didn’t “wow” me on the level of the Straczynski stories. Still, it also doesn’t torpedo what Straczynski created with his new take on this small pocket of the Marvel universe.

Rating: 8/10

Comic Review: Siege

Published: November 3rd, 2010
Written by: Brian Michael Bendis
Art by: Jim Cheung, Olivier Coipel, Michael Lark

Marvel Comics, 165 Pages

Review:

I didn’t specifically want to read this big event from circa 2010 but it did tie directly to the Thor run started by J. Michael Straczynski and continued on by Kieron Gillen. So I figured that I needed to know what happened here before I get into Gillen’s stretch of issues, as this takes place during that run.

The story deals with Norman Osborn, the former Green Goblin, as the Iron Patriot and head of H.A.M.M.E.R., a new version of S.H.I.E.L.D., as he attempts to bring war to Asgard against the US president’s orders. Why Norman Osborn has any sort of power in the government has never made sense to me, no matter how hard they’ve tried to explain it and I’ve actively avoided most of that era of Marvel Comics because of that. Granted, I may read the Dark Avengers just to review it.

Anyway, Norman brings war to Asgard with his Avengers team that features villains in the roles of the famous masked heroes. Obviously, this doesn’t bode well for him and his only real trump card is The Sentry, a character I hated from the get go and was glad to see die in this.

The story is chaotic and I kind of hate that it has immense overlap with the Thor material that was so damn solid in this era.

In the end, this was a quick read and the art was at least stupendous.

Rating: 6.25/10

Comic Review: The Evolutionary War

Published: 1988
Written by: Gerry Conway, Steve Englehart, Louise Simonson, Chris Claremont, Steve Gerber, Mark Gruenwald
Art by: various

Marvel Comics, 704 Pages

Review:

It has been years since I’ve read this giant crossover event that happened in the Marvel annuals over the summer of 1988. I really dug the hell out of it when I was a kid and I’ve always liked the High Evolutionary as a big villain, even though this was really his only major story.

Being that I still own the physical copies of all these issues, I figured that taking them out of their protective bags and boards and thumbing through them once again would be a fun experience.

Overall, this is one of the best large crossover events that Marvel did in the ’80s, where these things started to become the norm. I think I liked Atlantis Attacks slightly more but I’m going to revisit that one in the very near future, as well.

This is spread over eleven issues and there are two others that tie into this but aren’t a part of the main arc. However, the main arc is sort of a loose one, as the scheme of the High Evolutionary weaves in and out of these issues without most of the heroes coming into contact with one another. In fact, it isn’t until the final issue where a group of former Avengers come together and realize what’s happening and with that, they foil the High Evolutionary’s plans.

Sometimes the main arc is just very minimally wedged into a story like with The Punisher annual, which sees Frank Castle fighting drug lords in Latin America. Knowing what we know already, we see Castle fight a robot that we know is associated with the High Evolutionary and we know that the drugs being pushed by this specific cartel is tied to the High Evolutionary’s experiments.

Being that these are annuals, there are always main stories and then shorter backup stories tacked on to the end of the issues. The backup stories in these tell the origin of the High Evolutionary and recap everything he’s been involved with up to this point. These were all rather good and interesting and it shows the character as a sort of high-tech Dr. Moreau from the famous 1896 H. G. Wells sci-fi/horror novel The Island of Doctor Moreau.

In the end, this was a hell of a lot of fun to revisit. The writing and art were handled by a team of Marvel’s best creatives from the era. I dug the art a lot and it was damn consistent throughout.

Rating: 7.5/10

Comic Review: X-Factor – Epic Collection: Genesis & Apocalypse

Published: March 1st, 2017
Written by: John Byrne, Chris Claremont, Tom DeFalco, Bob Harras, Bob Layton, Louise Simonson, Roger Stern
Art by: John Buscema, John Byrne, Jackson Guice, Bob Layton, Rick Leonardi, Paul Neary, Keith Pollard, Terry Shoemaker, Marc Silvestri

Marvel Comics, 457 Pages

Review:

This is a collection of the lead up to the original X-Factor run, as well as the first nine issues of the series, along with an Iron Man and a Spider-Man story that tie into it.

Since I’ve never read this stuff, I wanted to check it out, as X-Factor was one of my favorite series when it was near the end of this team’s run, before the Havok-led team took over and forever became the squad that most people think about when they think about X-Factor.

I’ve got to say that I was underwhelmed by this first stretch of issues and it doesn’t really find its footing. While Apocalypse’s debut appears here, it was also underwhelming considering how iconic he becomes. I assume that his stories after the original one are better because when I started picking up the series, as a kid, when the issues where in the fifties, I thought Apocalypse was cool and intimidating as hell.

This is interesting as it shows you the earliest stories involving Cameron Hodge before he revealed himself to be an anti-mutant Hitler-like dictator behind the events of the massive X-Tinction Agenda crossover event. Also, it gives you the last days of Angel before Apocalypse turns him into the tortured Archangel. I believe that story comes in the next volume.

The story was clunky and I think that’s because these early X-Factor appearances were spread over multiple comics with multiple writers. Its like Marvel was trying to force the team on everyone and with that, it makes the tone inconsistent and the overall narrative disjointed.

I did enjoy the art, though. I always dug ’80s Marvel’s common style and it’s a big reason as to why I really jumped into these comics back then.

This earliest X-Factor collection didn’t do much for me but it also didn’t dissuade me from wanting to read later editions, as I remember how solid this series was a few years after this debut.

Rating: 5.5/10

Comic Review: Avengers: Citizen Kang

Published: 1992
Written by: Roy Thomas
Art by: Larry Alexander, Geof Isherwood, Herb Trimpe, Dan Panosian (cover)

Marvel Comics, 223 Pages

Review:

Citizen Kang wasn’t just an Avengers story, it spanned four different annuals in 1992 and also featured the Fantastic Four quite heavily, as well as some characters from the Inhumans and Eternals.

It’s a damn cool story if you are a fan of Kang the Conqueror, as I am. Back when this was current, I loved the story because it gives you the full backstory of Kang up to this point in his history. A lot of the pages collected here are flashback stuff but it’s not by any means boring, even if you know Kang’s previous stuff. Reason being, Kang’s a complicated character with multiple versions of himself running around. So this served to give you the CliffsNotes version of that complicated history.

But this isn’t just a condensed history of Kang, that’s just a small part of this total package. This actually sees Kang try to take down his enemies, be they actual heroes or other villains that have caused him problems.

This was an ambitious and big story and I thought that Roy Thomas delivered. Being that he had been at Marvel for a few decades at the time that he wrote this, he knew a lot of these characters and their histories together very well.

Also, being that this is four annuals collected into one volume, it also includes all the extra side stories and supplemental material. My only gripe with this release was how it was all organized. It just pieced the four annuals together as they were printed. I would have rather had the main story flow in order and then tack on all the extras at the end, instead of having them feel like roadblocks between each main chapter.

Still, everything in this was entertaining and hit its mark.

Rating: 8/10

Comic Review: What If THIS Was the Fantastic Four – A Tribute to Mike Wieringo

Published: June, 2008
Written by: Mike Wieringo, various
Art by: Mike Wieringo, various

Marvel Comics, 48 Pages

Review:

Back in the early ’90s when I was spending all of my allowance money on comics, the short-lived Fantastic Four team of Spider-Man, Wolverine, Hulk and Ghost Rider blew my adolescent, pre-teen mind. I was always kind of bummed that it was over as quick as it started but I loved the team and had always wanted to see more of them as a unit.

While they never got a series or anything more than a few issues and a Marvel trading card, the world was given this pretty cool issue of What If?, which was also a tribute to Mike Wieringo, who was working on the issue when he died.

Due to Wieringo’s passing, this issue was completed by other people stepping up to get it done and to get it out as a tribute.

This is a pretty cool story but because it’s a single issue of What If?, they have to cram a lot into a limited space. So this progresses through time quickly, once it gets rolling.

There are several villains and some hero cameos in this. The highlight for me was seeing Sandman form a new Frightful Four team that included himself, Venom, Sabretooth and Abomination. While I don’t like the lineup as much as the original Frightful Four, it was a cool villain group tailor made for the new Fantastic Four.

All in all, this was a blast to read and it churned up feelings of nostalgia for when I first read the debut of this team nearly thirty years ago.

Rating: 7/10

Comic Review: Moon Knight – Epic Collection, Vol. 3: Final Rest

Published: December 19th, 2018
Written by: Doug Moench, Steven Grant, Tony Isabella, Alan Zelenetz
Art by: Bill Sienkiewicz, Kevin Nowlan, Joe Brozowski, Bo Hampton

Marvel Comics, 486 Pages

Review:

Well, I’ve gotta say that as much as I’ve loved the other early Moon Knight – Epic Collections that I’ve read, this one most definitely takes the cake! In fact, it’s pretty f’n perfect, even if it features issues with different creative teams.

It kicks off with Doug Moench writing and Bill Sienkiewicz doing the art. They had lead me through the series through pretty much its entirety up to this point. However, just a few issues in, creative teams shift and then later, shift again.

Regardless of that, the tone of the stories and the art remained pretty damn consistent. And this just reminded me of the level of quality control and consistency that Marvel used to have, which they are sorely lacking today.

This kicks off with a really awesome story featuring Stained Glass Scarlet, who has become a character I really like after reading just her first two appearances.

We then get the even better debut story of Black Spectre, which became my favorite Moon Knight story up to this point in the original series’ run. Frankly, it’s one that will be really hard to top.

After that, we get a lot of stories that continue to develop the character of Moon Knight and his inner battle with his multiple personalities. I’d say my favorite story arc of the lot is the werewolf one, though. And man, I loved the art style used for the werewolf, as it reminded me of The Howling, which probably inspired the design, as that film came out just a few years before this was originally published.

There’s also appearances by the X-Men, the Fantastic Four, Doctor Strange and Moon Knight’s first encounter with The Kingpin.

This was just an incredible stretch of issues and while I own some, I may actually seek out the single issues and complete this run.

Rating: 10/10

Comic Review: The Amazing Spider-Man – Epic Collection: Ghosts of the Past

Published: July 4th, 2019
Written by: Craig Anderson, Peter David, Tom DeFalco, Danny Fingeroth, Bob Layton, Stan Lee, Louise Simonson
Art by: Sal Buscema, Paty Cockrum, Ron Frenz, Mike Harris, Greg Larocque, Bob Layton, Bob McLeod, Mary Wilshire

Marvel Comics, 473 Pages

Review:

Being that this beefy volume was an Epic Collection, it was chock full of several story arcs. Luckily for me, most of them were really good. But then this also came out in a great era for The Amazing Spider-Man comic series.

The first big arc features Hobgoblin and it is a follow-up to Spider-Man: Origin of the Hobgoblin, which I recently reviewed and f’n loved. In fact, I think it’s the first Hobgoblin story after the arcs that were featured in that superb collection.

Beyond the Hobgoblin story, we get about a half dozen short arcs featuring a myriad of villains and other heroes. This also includes the first appearance of Silver Sable, which was a pretty neat story.

After the Hobgoblin stuff, the two that really stick out are the one where Frog-Man and Toad team-up and the Firelord story that brought in the Avengers.

The Frog-Man and Toad tale was goofy and just filler but it was also fun and engaging. However, I’ve also always liked Frog-Man, despite his ineffectiveness as a real threat to anything.

The Firelord story was cool as hell, as Spider-Man was truly tested, as the villain is a cosmic powered being and damn near invincible when facing off against a sole Earth hero. The Avengers had to get involved and it also showed Spider-Man coming pretty close to going over the edge. Knowing what I know now, it was probably due to the effects of him recently wearing the Venom suit.

In the end, this was a cool run of issues. It takes place between Spidey getting the Venom suit and his first encounter with Venom. He switches between the classic red-and-blue suit and the safe black suit throughout this. I always found that confusing when I was a kid, as I wish he just would’ve worn the black outfit for that stretch.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: other Spider-Man stories of the ’80s and early ’90s.

Comic Review: The Eternals: To Slay A God/Manifest Destiny

Published: 2008-2009
Written by: Charles Knauf, Daniel Knauf, Fred Van Lente
Art by: Daniel Acuna, Pascal Alixe, Eric Nguyen

Marvel Comics, 258 Pages (total, both volumes)

Review:

I’ve got to say, this was a pleasant surprise. Especially, because this series followed the more well-regarded Neil Gaiman run on The Eternals, which I really wasn’t a fan of, at all.

My only real issue with it was that the story seemed large enough that it probably should’ve crossed over into other comics, as it had members of just about every important Marvel team show up in this story. Plus, with a gigantic Celestial just standing around near the Golden Gate Bridge, you’d probably expect a large contingent of heroes to be there, on the defense.

Looking beyond that, Iron Man was directly involved in the story and this was during the time when he was the director of S.H.I.E.L.D., so I’m sure he had some pull with the other primary heroes of Earth, who might be a bit weary of the Celestial just camping out near a major city and massive landmark.

The story here was pretty good, though. I dug this quite a bit and it was my favorite Eternals thing outside of the original Jack Kirby run in the ’70s and The Eternals Saga massive event that took place in the pages of The Mighty Thor from 1978 to late 1980.

I feel like even if you aren’t too familiar with these somewhat obscure Marvel characters, the writers of this series did a good job of cluing the reader in to who they are. The only thing the reader might be missing is all the extra context that comes with reading the earlier comics.

This story really ups the ante in a cool way and it draws The Eternals into the mainstream more, having them exist more directly with so many of Marvel’s core characters.

I thought that the art in this series was also damn good. It really embodies that mid-’00s Marvel art style but I really enjoyed that look at the time and still do, as the ’10s came with some really questionable and downright awful artistic choices by the company.

Sadly, this run on the series didn’t last very long and that’s why I just merged both collected trade paperbacks into one review. For whatever reason, this team has never had long runs and haven’t been popular amongst fans. While I like them, it makes me wonder why they would introduce them into the Marvel Cinematic Universe when there are still so many more interesting and popular characters that they haven’t used yet.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other runs of The Eternals over the years.