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.

Comic Review: Spider-Man: The Sinister Six

Published: June 1st, 1964
Written by: Stan Lee
Art by: Steve Ditko

Marvel Comics, 75 Pages

Review:

This story premiered in the first ever Amazing Spider-Man annual. Plus, it was written by Stan “The Man” Lee and drawn by the great Steve Ditko.

The plot is pretty standard fair for ’60s Marvel and it sees six of Spider-Man’s toughest villains come together to form the original version of the Sinister Six. That being said, the Sinister Six have been one of my favorite villain groups of all-time and this storyline didn’t just create a supervillain team to test a single hero but it created a trend in the comic book medium that saw other heroes have to take on similar teams of multiple rogues.

I like how the plot was structured, in that Spider-Man had to run the gauntlet on the Sinister Six and fought each one individually. This is actually a great setup for the future, which would see the Sinister Six up the ante and take on Spidey all at once. However, in future battles, Spidey would get some help of his own.

This group consisted of Doctor Octopus, The Vulture, Kraven the Hunter, Electro, Mysterio and the Sandman. While the group would rotate some other villains in over the course of time, I really liked this group and how having them come together in this story made it feel like a Spider-Man themed Royal Rumble.

For a first time reader, this had to be a fun read, as it forced Spider-Man to face multiple challenges in the same story. Plus, it just looks great with the Ditko art.

This is not my favorite Sinister Six story but we wouldn’t have gotten the other ones without this happening first. Plus, it’s quintessential Stan Lee in how this all plays out.

It’s hard not to love this.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: other Stan Lee and Steve Ditko era Spider-Man comics.

Comic Review: Spider-Man: Blue

Published: July 27th, 2011
Written by: Jeph Loeb
Art by: Tim Sale

Marvel Comics, 137 Pages

Review:

Other than the Hulk one, I’ve really loved the color themed series of titles that Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale did for Marvel. This is the last of the four that I have read and am now reviewing.

Spider-Man: Blue was damn good. It really captured the spirit of classic Spidey and even though it had a good amount of action and superhero fun, the focal point of this story was Peter Parker’s love for Gwen Stacy but also his blossoming love for his eventual wife, Mary Jane Watson.

This throws a good array of villains at the hero and all of them serve more than a superficial purpose. Kraven the Hunter is the big bad by the end of the story and his threat and how it grows throughout the pages of this miniseries flows really well with the narrative surrounding Peter Parker’s personal life.

Loeb and Sale are just a spectacular team and their talents are on full display here. While I still prefer their Batman work, all of which are real classics in the medium, these Marvel books are some of the best works to come out of the publisher in the last decade or so.

These stories understand the characters, their motivations and the art style makes them feel like you are going back to yesteryear.

Spider-Man: Blue is a fine read and it may even hit you in the feels.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: The other color themed books that Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale did for Marvel.

Comic Review: Marvel’s What If? (2018 Minieries)

Published: October 3rd, 2018 – October 31st, 2018
Written by: various
Art by: various

Marvel Comics, 136 Pages

Review:

Marvel has had several different runs with their What If? title. I have always been a fan of it, as it gives us new and different takes on Marvel characters. Usually, they show what happens if characters made different choices or if a major event had a different outcome. I couldn’t read enough of these when I was a kid and in a lot of ways, when I first came into comics, it was What If? that pinpointed the moments throughout Marvel history that were the most pivotal.

This 2018 miniseries was only six issues and all of them were unfortunately released over just five weeks. I wish they would make this an ongoing series again or at least spread them out more.

Like the X-Men: Black miniseries, which also came out weekly over October, this had different creative teams with each issue and it showed.

The six stories in this series were What If Flash Thompson Became Spider-Man?What If X-Men? (not a clearly defined title), What If Peter Parker Became the Punisher?What If Marvel Comics Went Metal with Ghost Rider?, What if Thor Was Raised by Frost Giants? and What If Magik Became Sorcerer Supreme?

Out of the six titles, the only ones I really enjoyed were the Magik and Punisher ones. Thor and Flash Thompson were okay but the X-Men one was a mess and the Ghost Rider one was one of the worst comics I’ve read in several years. I mean, it was beyond atrocious and getting through it was a hell of a chore.

Marvel could rectify their problems with this series, if they don’t rush them next time. If this was a regular monthly series like it was at its peak, the stories would probably have more time devoted to them.

Some of the art even felt rushed and half assed.

Ultimately, I liked a few issues but I can’t really recommend the series over all.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: old school What If? comics, many of which have been re-released for $1 under the True Believers imprint.

Comic Review: Superior Spider-Man, Vol. 5: The Superior Venom

Published: July 17th, 2014
Written by: Dan Slott, Christos N. Gage
Art by: Humberto Ramos, Javier Rodriquez

Marvel Comics, 158 Pages

Review:

After the previous volume of Superior Spider-Man, which was mostly slow moving filler, we are rewarded with this action fest.

In this story, Otto-Spidey meets the Venom symbiote for the first time. This is during the era where Flash Thompson had the alien suit. After a scuffle, the Superior Spider-Man becomes the symbiote’s new host and shit goes crazy in his personal and superhero life. This all leads to Venom-Octavius taking on the Avengers in the streets of New York.

The Venom-centric storyline is the highlight of this collection but the two one issue stories that follow are also pretty good, especially the final one which was a story from an annual that saw Dr. Octo-Spider take on Ghost Rider baddie, Blackout.

The Blackout story was important simply because Aunt May is in mortal danger and she ends up witnessing Superior Spider-Man commit a truly heinous act.

Another big takeaway from this is that even though Spidey-pus already dealt with the Avengers once before, this is his first time dealing with Tony Stark, who is probably going to discover that this is not the Spider-Man that they all know and love.

Also, the ghost Peter Parker returns here, after being banished from his own physical brain by Octavius.

Between ghost Parker and Iron Man’s meddling into things, it’s obvious that shit is about to hit the fan and that Octavius’ hijacking of Parker’s body is going to be exposed. So where will it go? Well, the next collection is the big conclusion.

This volume did a good job of building off of the previous ones while serving to setup the final chapter.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: Other Superior Spider-Man collections and any of Dan Slott’s other Spider-Man titles.

Comic Review: Venom Inc.

Published: May 22nd, 2018
Written by: Dan Slott
Art by: Mike Costa, Ryan Stegman, Gerardo Sandova

Marvel Comics, 160 Pages

Review:

Man, I have heard a lot of good things about Dan Slott’s run on The Amazing Spider-Man. So I figured that I’d read the stuff from over his last year or so, as his run is coming to an end with issue number 800. That comes out a few days after I am writing this. Granted, it’ll probably already be out by the time I post this, as I have ten or fifteen comic reviews currently in my queue to be scheduled and posted.

So after reading Venomverse, I also wanted more modern Eddie Brock as Venom stories. So, this was a great spot to pick up from, as I approach the end of Slott’s run.

This story was spread over The Amazing Spider-Man issue numbers 792 and 793, as well as Venom numbers 159 and 160, and The Amazing Spider-Man: Venomc Inc. Alpha and Omega books.

For starters, this was an exciting read. I loved it.

I don’t know much about Flash Thompson’s story over the last ten years but obviously a lot has happened to the once bully. I also really like Mania, who is a female hero with a Venom-like symbiote. Granted, her symbiote is stolen from her in the beginning of this story and that is used to setup the formation of a Venom-like gang and then the team up of Spidey, Venom, Flash Thompson as Anti-Venom, Black Cat and Mania without her alien suit.

Really, I kind of just wish this team stayed a team after this story. Maybe I’ll be surprised as I delve deeper into Slott’s stories after this, which eventually culminate into the debut of his most popular villain, the Red Goblin. By the way, the Red Goblin has serious ties to Spidey and Venom.

The art in this story arc was really good. It was split between the three guys working on the three different titles that combined to make this crossover. However, Mike Costa, whose work I loved in IDW’s G.I. Joe titles did a great job and I liked seeing him tackle another franchise that I love.

If you are a Venom fan or just love symbiote Spider-Man stories, this won’t disappoint.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: Any of the great Eddie Brock Venom stories. But for more recent stuff, the new Venom series and the Venomverse story arc.

Comic Review: The Amazing Spider-Man: Go Down Swinging

Published: March 7th, 2018
Written by: Dan Slott
Art by: Stuart Immonen, Giuseppe Camuncoli, Jim Cheung, Humberto Ramos, Alex Ross (covers)

Marvel Comics, 148 Pages

Review:

Let me preface this review by saying, “Holy shit balls!”

Man, oh, man… I friggin’ loved this story and this is the best Spider-Man story arc that I have read since before that 2008 catastrophe Brand New Day, which made me quit reading Spider-Man after two decades of loyalty. Yes, I even made it through that godforsaken Clone Saga in the ’90s without quitting.

While Dan Slott was a big part of Brand New Day and continued to keep writing Spider-Man for a decade, including this story, his last, I had heard good things over the last few years. But it wasn’t until I heard about this story that I figured that I’d finally give the guy another shot. Well, he’s really undone the damage of Brand New Day and also seems to be righting the ship with some of the things that have changed since then. Well, at least this arc starts with Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson making out. That’s a big giant leap out of the Brand New Day muck.

So Norman Osborn, the original Green Goblin, has acquired the Carnage symbiote. He sort of has it under control and used it to remove the restrictions that Peter Parker put in his blood to prevent him from ever being the Green Goblin again. So what we have now is the Green Goblin and all of his powers enhanced by the Carnage suit. So to paraphrase what the official story arc write-up said, “This is Spider-Man’s greatest villain merged with his most deadly.” Basically, shit just got real.

The story sees Osborn hellbent on destroying Spider-Man, which is made easier when he finally remebers that Spidey is Peter Parker. That’s where it becomes an all out assault on Parker and his loved ones. Osborn tells Parker to stop being Spider-Man and if he abides by this, his loved ones will be safe. Peter’s allies unite in an effort to take on Osborne but ultimately, Peter Parker has to put the costume back on and have a big showdown with this new Red Goblin for all the marbles.

The story is intense, really intense. It was hard to put down and the big 80 page finale that was issue 800 was perfection. I understand people’s reservations with Slott’s epic run on The Amazing Spider-Man but this story arc was some grade A stuff, especially in an era where Marvel hasn’t been putting out a lot of quality books.

This served to not just up the ante and give Spider-Man one of his toughest threats of all-time, it also gave closure to a lot of plot threads that have stretched decades. There is an important death in this but it was done tastefully and only made that character better. Also, it was a decades long redemption story that gave a sad but satisfying payoff for those who hated and then learned to love this character over the years.

I also thought that the art was incredible. Marvel has been letting amateurish looking art creep into their titles but The Amazing Spider-Man has kept the best of the best and the quality of Go Down Swinging is such a great contrast to the terrible Marvel books I see, wall to wall, in every comic book shop I frequent.

I can’t praise this enough. And thank god they pushed Mockingbird out of the equation, as that relationship never seemed to work for me (and others from what I’ve read).

Dan Slott may have started out throwing gasoline on a dumpster fire but he ended by giving us one of the high points in the long history of The Amazing Spider-Man.

Rating: 9.25/10
Pairs well with: Since this is the big finale of the long and storied Dan Slott run, all of the Slott Spider-Man stuff before this. However, you may want to pickup the story arc Threat Level: Red, as it serves to setup this big finale. Try to avoid Brand New Day unless you’re into torture.