Comic Review: X-Men: The Age of Apocalypse – The Complete Epic

Published: 1995-1996
Written by: Scott Lobdell, Jeph Loeb, John Francis Moore, Mark Waid, Warren Ellis, Fabian Nicieza, Larry Hama, Howard Mackie, Terry Kavanagh
Art by: Roger Cruz, Terry Dodson, Steve Epting, Andy Kubert, Adam Kubert, Carlos Pacheco, Joe Madureira, Tony Daniel, Salvador Larroca, Chris Bachalo, Ken Lashley, Steve Skroce, Ian Churchill, Joe Bennett

Marvel Comics, 1462 Pages

Review:

I’ve really only heard great things about The Age of Apocalypse storyline since it started back in 1995, an era where I wasn’t really reading comics for awhile, except for Dark Horse’s Star Wars stuff.

In fact, the last major X-Men related event that I had read before this was X-Cutioner’s Song, a pretty good epic. But shortly after that, I got pretty burnt out once the top Marvel guys went off to form Image and then those comics were constantly hindered by delays and irregular schedules.

Based off of all the praise I heard, I always wanted to read this but it was such a massive story, spread over multiple collected volumes that I never really wanted to fork out the over $100 it would cost to buy the whole shebang. So, all these years later, I took advantage of a massive X-Men sale on Comixology and got the entire saga with its prelude for about $20.

Now that I’ve read it, I’m glad I only spent $20 because like Game of Thrones, all my friends and all the critics lied to me about how great this was. It’s not, it’s a clusterfuck of biblical proportions showcasing a lot of the things that were wrong with mid-’90s comic book art from the major publishers.

I’ll start with the art and just come out and say that this was mostly an eyesore to look at. The biggest reason was the colors, which relied so heavily on what I assume are digitally created gradients and overly vibrant colors that this was like staring into the asshole of a tropical fruit salad for hours. Everything is too busy, every single issue collected is made to be overly grandiose and if everything is larger than life and overly vivid, then that becomes the norm and thus, makes everything kind of boring.

Additionally, there is such a mix of different artistic styles that it becomes jarring as these collections jump from issue to issue every twenty pages or so. Some of the artists had great pencils but many of them illustrated in a style that didn’t feel like Marvel and instead felt like the artists were trying to emulate indie comics from Image and Valiant. Besides, the stuff that was illustrated well, ended up being wrecked by the primitive gradients and crazy colors that looked like a giallo film puked all over a box of Prismacolor markers.

When it comes to the narrative side of this, that’s also a mess.

This suffers from trying to be way more ambitious than it needed to be. The whole story is comprised of about seven or eight different subplots that are and aren’t intertwined. Some of them merge towards the end into the bigger story but some stuff just happens within this new timeline. But the story jumps around so much that it makes the whole thing hard to follow as a singular body of work. This is the same problem I have, right now, with all the new X-Men related titles that are tied to a bigger narrative but don’t feel connected as much as they should. But this is what happens when you have a half dozen different titles and different writers, all of whom want to explore different territory in their own way while being trapped within a common framework.

In fact, the only plot I actually enjoyed was the one that dealt with the characters that aren’t tied to the X-Men.

There was a two issue miniseries called X-Universe, which focused on what other Marvel characters were up to during this event. We check in on this timeline’s version of Gwen Stacy, some of the Avengers, Fantastic Four, Doctor Doom and a few others. I found this more interesting and it showed me that this alternate timeline could provide the right sort of environment for cool and refreshing takes on old characters.

While I should probably feel the same way about all the X-Men related characters and their stories, it is hard to focus on any of them because of how this jumps around so much. When I got to the non-X-Men characters, it felt like a nice break from the X-clusterfuck I was pushing myself through.

Ultimately, I was really disappointed in this. I kept powering through it because I was hoping that all these subplots and characters would unify into something coherent that clicked at the end but that didn’t happen. We eventually get to a resolution but it’s not all that satisfying.

On a side note (and spoiler alert): the way that Magneto kills Apocalypse is pretty f’n badass.

Rating: 5/10
Pairs well with: other big X-Men crossovers of the ’80s through ’00s.

Documentary Review: Marvel Studios: Assembling a Universe (2014)

Release Date: March 18th, 2014
Music by: Brian Tyler
Cast: Hayley Atwell, Shane Black, Kenneth Branagh, Dominic Cooper, Vin Diesel, Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Jon Favreau, Kevin Feige, Clark Gregg, James Gunn, Chris Hardwick, Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, Scarlett Johansson, Joe Johnston, Louis Leterrier, Jeph Loeb, Anthony Mackie, George R.R. Martin, Tom Morello, Bobby Moynihan, Gwyneth Paltrow, Chris Pratt, Joe Quesada, Robert Redford, Jeremy Renner, Mark Ruffalo, Sebastian Stan, Emily VanCamp, Ming-Na Wen, Jed Whedon, Joss Whedon, Edgar Wright (uncredited)

ABC Studios, Disney, Marvel, 42 Minutes

Review:

After watching the beefy but solid Star Wars documentary Empire of Dreams, I noticed that Disney+ also featured a similar made-for-TV documentary about the making of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I figured I’d check it out, as it originally aired in 2014, on the cusp of the MCU reaching its peak.

Unfortunately, this isn’t as compelling as Empire of Dreams and it plays more like a Marvel produced production used mainly to pimp themselves out and market Captain America: Winter Solider and the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. TV show. But I get it, this played on ABC, which like Marvel, is owned by Disney.

It’s still an informative piece with a lot of insight into the making of the first Iron Man movie, which opened the floodgates for the rest of the MCU.

It also expands beyond that and delves a little bit into each movie up to the then still in-production Guardians of the Galaxy. In fact, I think that this was the first real peek into the Guardians of the Galaxy production.

The best part about this short feature is the interviews with the stars and filmmakers who helped bring this universe to life. I especially liked hearing the enthusiasm that Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Gwyneth Paltrow and Jon Favreau had with the early Iron Man pictures.

Overall, this isn’t a must watch but it’s worth your time if you are a big MCU fan.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other filmmaking documentaries about blockbusters. Empire of Dreams, immediately comes to mind.

Comic Review: 1985

Published: July 22nd, 2009
Written by: Mark Millar
Art by: Tommy Lee Edwards

Marvel Comics, 146 Pages

Review:

This comic book was cool as hell!

It sort of reads like it’s a season of Stranger Things but where the small town is haunted by Marvel villains instead of weird shit from the Upsidedown. This also came out in the decade before Stranger Things, so it was kind of ahead of the curve but like Stranger Things, knew how to tap into ’80s nostalgia in a brilliant way.

But this was also written by Mark Millar, a true master of his craft.

What’s unique and cool about this comic is that it doesn’t take place in the Marvel Universe, it takes place in our universe.

The story follows a young boy in 1985. He is having issues like any normal ’80s kid dealing with divorced parents. He bonds with his father pretty strongly though, as they both have a deep love of comic books and are experts on Marvel lore. At the same time, Marvel villains start showing up in the real world because there are no heroes here to stop them.

Overall, this was a really neat idea and for the most part, I thought it was superbly executed.

1985 is incredibly imaginative but it really worked so well because the art fit the concept and the tone. While Millar deserves credit for a great story, Tommy Lee Edwards gave it so much more life than just words on paper. And his style works better for the setting than having that sort of standard Marvel art style.

This is one of those comics that I’m happy to have discovered as an adult but wish would have been around when I was a kid. If you know a kid that loves Marvel but they’ve never read this, I think that they’ll probably love the hell out of it.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: the Stranger Things comics, as well as other Mark Millar stories.

Comic Review: Spider-Man: Life Story

Published: March 20th, 2019 – August 28th, 2019
Written by: Chip Zdarsky
Art by: Mark Bagley

Marvel Comics, 200 Pages

Review:

When I first heard about this miniseries, I was pretty stoked for it.

The concept is that it starts in the ’60s when Spider-Man debuted and it follows him over the six decades he’s existed but it does that in real time. Basically, instead of Spider-Man only aging fifteen years (or so) since his debut, this story covers his entire life span, as he ages accordingly from decade to decade.

Each of the six issues represents a decade. But that is also kind of a problem with the story too.

You see, you can’t wedge a whole decade into twenty or thirty pages of a comic. So each issue just focuses on some sort of event in Spider-Man’s life from that era.

The total package of this series is really cool and interesting but it almost feels as if each decade could’ve been a miniseries of its own and that this is a comic that could have lived on for several years. And with the team of Chip Zdarsky and Mark Bagley, it could’ve been like a Spider-Man renaissance.

But ultimately, each chapter was pretty damn good. I only thought that the last one was a bit weak but I wasn’t too keen on how it ended. I felt like Spider-Man’s fate was kind of predictable, as this was his “life story”.

The thing is, it was hard investing into the weight of the finale, when you haven’t lived through the emergence of the massive threat that they face to end the series. And that just gets back to my feeling about there needing to be more time devoted to each decade than just single issues.

However, I’m hoping that this is just a framework or a road map and that Marvel at least has some plans to expand on this story in the future. If that’s the case, I really hope it is brought to us by Zdarsky and Bagley, once again.

If not, well… this was still one of the best comic book miniseries to come out this year.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: the recent Symbiote Spider-Man miniseries by Peter David and Greg Land.

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: World War Hulk

Published: May 7th, 2008
Written by: Greg Pak
Art by: John Romita Jr.

Marvel Comics, 197 Pages

Review:

Planet Hulk is one of my favorite story arcs of the ’00s. I never read the followup, World War Hulk until now though. I think the reason behind that is because Planet Hulk was so perfect, I didn’t want to diminish its impact on me by jumping right into the next big chapter in the Hulk’s life.

That being said, I’m glad that I did finally read this as it was a lot of fun. Sure, it doesn’t live up to what Planet Hulk was but those were big shoes to fill and this is still a worthwhile followup that shows the Hulk finally make it home with a serious chip on his shoulder.

At its core, this is a revenge tale. But there are a lot of layers and a dark secret that comes out at the end that really shakes the foundation of what this era’s Hulk stands for.

You see, the Hulk is not only mad that his friends (Mr. Fantastic, Iron Man, Doctor Strange and Black Bolt) sent him away against his will, marooning him on a terribly violent planet, but now he wants revenge because his wife and unborn child were killed by what he believes was the fault of these same former friends. So the Hulk returns to Earth with his allies from Planet Hulk ready for a showdown with his old teammates in the heart of New York City.

This story is full of epic destruction and incredible action. It’s also nice seeing John Romita Jr. do the art for this, as I’ve been an avid fan of his work since I first discovered him in the pages of Daredevil in the late ’80s.

World War Hulk is full of a ton of Marvel superheroes, all trying to stop the Hulk’s war against Earth’s mightiest. While it isn’t on Planet Hulk‘s level, it’s still a worthy sequel and changes the Marvel landscape going forward.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: the story that precedes this one, the near perfect Planet Hulk.

Comic Review: Avengers: Kree/Skrull War

Published: 1971-1972
Written by: Roy Thomas
Art by: Neal Adams, John Buscema, Sal Buscema

Marvel Comics, 205 Pages

Review:

I never read the original Kree/Skrull War storyline but I’ve heard it referenced my entire life. But with it being free on Comixology and with my desire to read a lot of the major old school comic book milestones, I had to finally give this a read.

So if I’m being honest, this really is a mixed bag.

Now when this is good, it’s damn good. However, the middle act of this large story feels like it gets off track before it all comes back together for the big finale, which is a space battle between two warring alien races and members of the Avengers team.

This story is at its best when both Ronan the Accuser and Annihilus are front and center. Other than that, it deals with the newer Avengers team screwing up and the original team having to come back and disband them. Ultimately, this leads to the newer Avengers redeeming themselves and it also showcases Rick Jones, a man without any powers, as a brave, courageous badass. Never mind that Ronan nearly slaps him to smithereens at one point though.

The only weak thing about this story besides the middle act, is that it was probably too drawn out. In fact, most of that middle act should have been whittled down. If that was fixed, this would have had better pacing and it would have been much, much better overall.

I really loved seeing old school Ronan and Annihilus though. Man, they’re such good villains when used correctly and not written as fodder for heroes. Most modern comic book fans probably don’t know how scary it was to see either of these guys show up, back in the day. Annihilus, especially, was a terrifying enemy.

Lastly, I have to mention that this was just great to look at. The art of Neal Adams, John Buscema and Sal Buscema was ’70s Marvel perfection.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: other ’70s Marvel milestone events.