Comic Review: The Ghost Rider, Issue #1 – First Appearance of the Phantom Rider

Published: February, 1967
Written by: Gary Friedrich, Roy Thomas
Art by: Dick Ayers, Vince Colletta

Marvel Comics, 18 Pages

Review:

The character referred to nowadays as the Phantom Rider was actually the first version of Ghost Rider. They changed his name later on due to there being confusion with the more modern Ghost Rider, Johnny Blaze. However, now there are at least five different Ghost Riders, so whatever… confusion once again ensues!

Anyway, I’ve read stories featuring the Phantom Rider but I never really knew his origin story. I guess I always assumed that it was similar to all the other Ghost Riders but it is, in fact, quite different.

Being that this is his first appearance, this also serves as his origin.

This Ghost Rider a.k.a. Carter Slade was just an average dude in the Old West. He had some boxing experience under his belt, so I guess that helped him know how to throw a punch. However, he gets his ass kicked almost immediately and nearly dies.

He is then saved by some powerful spirit while in the care of some nice Native Americans. They give him some glowing powder, he then tames some special horse, decides to rub the glowing powder all over his outfit and thus, becomes the original Ghost Rider.

It’s a bit of an odd origin tale but so where a lot of early comic book origins. But this is also probably why he was soon replaced with Johnny Blaze, the first Ghost Rider with a flaming skull, motorcycle and magic chains.

The story is hokey and kind of weird, even for late ’60s comics. But I thought the art was pretty good for the time and it lives up to what was the Marvel standard.

Having now checked this out, it’s certainly not a must read and the first Ghost Rider is kind of an obscure character anyway. But it’s not a waste of time and worth reading if you already have an affinity for the character.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: the issues that came after it, as well as other ’60s and ’70s Marvel titles with horror elements.

Comic Review: X-Men ’92

Published: 2016-2017
Written by: Chad Bowers, Chris Sims
Art by: Mirati Firmansyah, Coby Hamscher, David Nakayama (cover)
Based on: the X-Men animated series by Fox Kids

Marvel Comics, 240 Pages

Review:

If you were a kid in the ’90s, you probably watched the X-Men cartoon that used to be on Fox on Saturday mornings. It was solid, did a pretty good job of adapting some of the comic book’s big storylines and introduced a lot of non-comic reading kids to the X-Men franchise.

It ended after a few seasons and never really had a proper follow up. Well, that is until recently, as the show moved into the medium it was born out of: comic books.

Maybe this took its cues from DC Comics and how they came out with Batman ’66, a comic book series that revisited the 1960s Adam West Batman TV series. But one can’t deny that Batman ’66 was a cool comic, a great idea and with that, should have inspired other comic books that continued the stories of comic book characters as they were presented in other mediums. Hell, I’m still waiting for that Batman ’89 comic that was once teased and then had those teases retracted.

But this is about X-Men ’92, which was a decent follow up to the animated series.

Overall, this was a fun read but it didn’t wow me in the same way that Batman ’66 did. Where that Batman comic felt tonally right and as if it was a true continuation of the series, X-Men ’92 throws some weird curveballs and also tries to force in way too many characters just for the sake of the creators trying to give you the animated series’ versions of these characters.

Maybe they knew this series would be short lived and therefore, they wanted to wedge in every character they could but it really becomes too much to process in the second half of this series. Also, I wasn’t a fan of devoting so much time to a Dracula/vampire story. None of that was central to the core of the cartoon and it shouldn’t have been central to the core of this comic.

Also, this feels like it is just borrowing the visual style of the TV show but it doesn’t seem to understand the tone or the spirit of it.

It’s still entertaining for fans of the source material but I wouldn’t call it a must read or all that necessary. Die hards should check it out but I can see why this didn’t make it a year where Batman ’66 has still been hanging on for quite awhile with a long running series and several crossovers.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: the animated series it’s based on, as well as ’90s X-Men comics and various spinoffs.

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

Published: 1991-1992
Written by: Erik Larsen, Terry Kavanagh
Art by: Erik Larsen, Scott McDaniel

Marvel Comics, 165 Pages

Review:

I was really digging re-reading all the earliest Sinister Six storylines. But then I got to this one, the third of the three I wanted to re-experience and it really took the wind out of my sails.

This was a complete clusterfuck, narratively speaking.

I guess there is a big difference between the skill level of David Michelinie and Erik Larsen when it comes to writing. The two teamed up for the storyline, The Return of the Sinister Six, a year earlier in The Amazing Spider-Man. In this arc, Larsen took the reigns pretty much solo, as he had been moved to the Spider-Man title while Michelinie was still working on The Amazing Spider-Man with artist Mark Bagley. While that great duo were introducing us to Carnage, Larsen gave us this mess.

The biggest problem with this miniseries, is that it seemed like Larsen was using it as a way to feature and draw all the characters he wasn’t able to touch before this. This is a cameo bonanza in the worst way and many of these characters enter the story just for the hell of it and don’t serve much purpose to the overall narrative. It’s like Larsen just wanted to draw splash pages of the Hulk, Ghost Rider, the Fantastic Four, and a billion different villains. We also get a small and incredibly pointless cameo from Sleepwalker, one of my favorite ’90s characters.

Larsen’s art here was pretty damn solid, I have to give him that. He has a very distinct style and people either love it or hate it, similar to the style of Rob Liefeld. I have mostly liked Larsen’s style and this was interesting to see, as he did this right before jumping ship to Image Comics and his own creation, The Savage Dragon.

I do have to say that Larsen’s writing improves once he goes to Image and I’m thinking that he knew he was leaving when he took on this project and he felt that it was the only chance he would get to draw a lot of these characters.

To put it bluntly though, this story is ’90s as fuck and I don’t mean that complimentary. It’s trying really damn hard to be edgy. In fact, in the final battle all the villains are shooting machine guns like common street thugs while Spider-Man is wearing all this expensive, over the top, ’90s style tech. Hell, Spidey even gets a cyborg arm in this.

Also, the Sinister Six isn’t really even fully formed. Sandman is not on the team and is trying to get the other villains to stop Doctor Octopus. So really, this is the Sinister Five but then they bring in the giant beast Gog. So is he the sixth member now? It’s not really clear and it’s just one of many things that makes this story total chaos.

This was bad, dreadfully bad. I remembered liking it when it originally came out but I was also thirteen years-old and way more into the visual side of comics over having a coherent plot.

Rating: 4.75/10
Pairs well with: Stan Lee and Steve Ditko’s original Sinister Six story, as well as the prequel to this one, The Return of the Sinister Six. Also, anything from the Michelinie and Larsen run on The Amazing Spider-Man.

Comic Review: The Immortal Hulk, Vol. 2: The Green Door

Published: September 19th, 2018 – December 5th, 2018
Written by: Al Ewing
Art by: Joe Bennett, Lee Garbett, Alex Ross (covers)

Marvel Comics, 112 Pages

Review:

Sometimes, I love being wrong. In this case, I was wrong about this series.

It didn’t do much for me by the end of the first story arc and even though it had some good stuff in it, it felt really lackluster, overall. I quit picking up the issues, month to month. But then a friend asked if I was still reading it and told me that it was becoming his favorite comic. So I went back and rounded up the issues I missed and gave it a second chance.

The Green Door story arc is pretty friggin’ enjoyable and it set the stage for what I hope is a stellar third arc.

This version of the Hulk has grown on me and man, this series started out dark but it gets even darker and more messed up.

At one point, the Hulk is cut into pieces, placed into jars and studied. This obviously doesn’t end well for the evil scientists and we get to see the Hulk do some things we’ve never seen before. But in a way, this whole series has become a reinvention of the character without trashing what the Hulk was before it.

I have to give props to Al Ewing for writing something so interesting and unique for a character that has been pretty one dimensional throughout his history. While I mostly like the Hulk character, I’ve never been an avid reader of Hulk titles because they just haven’t been that great.

This really taps into the core of what Hulk used to be. He’s a monster. He’s a version of a Jekyll and Hyde or werewolf type character. Over the years, that has been lost or at least, it hasn’t been utilized in the right way.

I’ve grown to love this story and its direction. Al Ewing has reinvented the Hulk in a refreshing way in the same vein that Donny Cates has given new life to Venom.

I was sure that I was done with this series and now I’m actually excited for the next part of Hulk’s journey.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: The first volume of The Immortal Hulk, which now reads better after seeing where the series was going with this volume. Also, I’m assuming the followup story, The Immortal Hulk In Hell.

Comic Review: Cosmic Ghost Rider: Baby Thanos Must Die

Published: July 4th, 2018 – November 14th, 2018
Written by: Donny Cates
Art by: Dylan Burnett

Marvel Comics, 112 Pages

Review:

As of late, Donny Cates has been on a level that most writers in the comic book industry aren’t even close to. Everything the guy writes is stellar and man, I hope his level of creativity maintains going into the future because I’m really excited about his Guardians of the Galaxy run starting in early 2019. And that Guardians team will also feature Cosmic Ghost Rider.

Out of all of Cates’ recent stuff, this series is my favorite overall, even though it was really just a five issue miniseries to help lead into the relaunch of Guardians of the Galaxy. But it also served as a bridge from Cates’ run on Thanos.

For those who don’t know, Cosmic Ghost Rider is Frank Castle a.k.a. The Punisher. So how did he become this bizarre mashup of a character? Well, the Punisher became a Ghost Rider and after that, was given cosmic powers by Galactus. So everyone’s favorite murderous vigilante from Marvel is basically the Punisher with Ghost Rider and Silver Surfer powers. He’s also a lot older and pretty insane.

The premise of this sees Castle try something no one else has. He goes back in time to murder Thanos as a baby. Thus, freeing the cosmos of all the death and suffering that Thanos, the Mad Titan, can unleash on the universe in the future. However, once Frank Castle confronts the baby, he can’t pull the trigger and instead, takes baby Thanos with him in an effort to raise him better. Of course, all that baby Thanos experiences while gallivanting around with Castle is lots of violence and death.

So did Cosmic Ghost Rider actually create Thanos? This explores that and throws a lot of other curveballs at you.

Plus, you get lots of cameos and crazy situations in this strange pocket of the Marvel universe. And yes, somewhere, the Punsiher still exists in his normal form because this Frank is Frank from a future timeline.

This miniseries was hands down one of the most fun comic books that I’ve read in quite awhile. It’s also badass and feels like a real throwback to ’90s “extreme” culture. It reads more like a balls to the wall indie comic I would’ve read in my teen years than anything Marvel would typically put out.

Dylan Burnett’s artwork is also enchanting and I spent a lot of time really soaking in the art of this series. Plus, I didn’t just buy a copy of each of the five issues, I also picked up a lot of the variants, as this series had great covers throughout its entire run.

I loved Cosmic Ghost Rider. It delivered in a time when so few comics from the two major companies are worth reading.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: other recent Donny Cates stuff like Death of the InhumansVenom and his Thanos stories before this.

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.