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: 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: Superior Spider-Man, Vol. 6: Goblin Nation

Published: April 30th, 2015
Written by: Dan Slott, Christos N. Gage
Art by: Giuseppe Camuncoli, Javier Rodriguez

Marvel Comics, 172 Pages

Review:

Well, it’s been a heck of a ride but here we are, at the sixth and final collection of Dan Slott’s Superior Spider-Man series.

For those who aren’t aware, Doctor Octopus has taken over the body of Peter Parker and taken over the mantle of Spider-Man with the idea that he can be the “Superior” Spider-Man. It’s a weird premise and initially I thought it was stupid but as I have read on in this series, I’m impressed by it. Some collections have been good, some have been average but overall the series has worked for me and it’s sad seeing it come to an end but you can’t let stories this controversial and ridiculous go on for too long.

This immediately starts with a bang, as it is quickly revealed that the Green Goblin knows that Otto Octavius is Spider-Man. This then spirals into a war between the Goblin and Superior Spidey. However, the Goblin has more intelligence, an army and a very important hostage. Ock-Spidey has, well… himself.

Frankly, Dan Slott closed this series out with a bang. I’m not a huge fan of his writing and have mostly disliked a large portion of his ten year Spider-Man run. But this was some really solid storytelling, utilized all the core characters well and brought things to a close in a pretty powerful way. The final two issues of this series were exceptionally well written and tapped into those feelings I got, as a kid, reading the classic Spider-Man stories I loved.

Ultimately, Peter Parker gets his body back. Explaining the how or why would spoil the effect of seeing this unfold on paper and I don’t want to take that away from anyone that wants to read this. But it was nice seeing Slott give some space at the end to allow the real Parker to try and fix the damage that Octavius did to his life as both Peter and Spidey.

Slott isn’t the best writer when it comes to plotting a single issue but between this and his recent conclusion to The Amazing Spider-Man (with issue 800), he has shown that he can be a great storyteller over the long-term. He has a big idea, he strings you along and then he can deliver a satisfactory conclusion that usually makes up for whatever hiccups you experienced along the way.

This was a great book and this series, despite my strong reservations about the premise, was one of the best Spider-Man experiences I’ve had in a really long time.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: Other Superior Spider-Man collections and any of Dan Slott’s other Spider-Man titles.

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: Superior Spider-Man, Vol. 4: Necessary Evil

Published: January 15th, 2014
Written by: Dan Slott
Art by: Giuseppe Camuncoli, Ryan Stegman

Marvel Comics, 115 Pages

Review:

This is the fourth out of six collected volumes of Dan Slott’s controversial Superior Spider-Man series. This was my least favorite installment but it was still enjoyable.

Necessary Evil felt more like filler and it didn’t do much to advance any of the larger story arcs other than some of the stuff in Spidey’s personal life.

For instance, the company he works for gets shut down and he gets his doctorate. Other than that, the plot thread with the various Goblin villains was, more or less, at a stand still here, even though you were reminded about it a few times.

The biggest positive was seeing Spider-Man 2099 going back in time, once again. However, this was his first interaction with Otto Octavius as Spider-Man, so things went awry and we got a decent fight. Eventually, they have to work together and their story was good for the first three issues in this volume.

The final two issues dealt with more personal stuff for Spidey.

This wasn’t a complete waste of time and it needed to slow things down for a handful of issues anyway, as this series was thundering forward at breakneck speed since it started.

The most important thing, is that I’m still on board and looking forward to the next volume, which pits Doc Ock Spidey against Venom.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: Other Superior Spider-Man collections and any of Dan Slott’s other Spider-Man titles.

Comic Review: The Superior Spider-Man, Vol. 3: No Escape

Published: November 20th, 2013
Written by: Dan Slott, Christos N. Gage
Art by: Humberto Ramos, Giuseppe Camuncoli

Marvel Comics, 139 Pages

Review:

I have been surprised by this series. I wasn’t too keen on the premise and I thought it was way too bizarre to work and was just a shitty attempt at shocking audiences, creating controversy and attempting a cash grab. I mean, it was exactly that but the story, once you move past the absurdity of it, is pretty damn good.

Also, each volume I read is a bit better than the previous one. This gets right into some action and is actually two stories collected into one volume: each story being solid, action packed and fun.

I love this character and how it is such a drastic departure from the Peter Parker Spider-Man. He is a super intelligent vigilante that blackmails the mayor (J. Jonah Jameson, mind you) into supporting his cause publicly and financially (on the city’s dime).

The first story sees Spider-Man take on the Spider Slayer, Vulture, Boomerang and Scorpion on the island prison, the Raft. Obviously, he succeeds but then forces the mayor to give him the Raft to use as his headquarters for his technological war on crime. Spider-Man also gets help from the Lizard in this story.

Then we see Spidey using his tech, giant mecha and foot soldiers in a successful effort at destroying the Kingpin’s stronghold. This brings the new Hobgoblin back into the story, as well as the Green Goblin/Goblin King. Spidey’s weird behavior and blatant fascism brings the modern version of the Wraith into the picture as well. There is even an appearance by Menace, who was a Goblin character that Dan Slott created early in his Spider-Man run.

I’m digging this series a lot more than I thought I would. After finishing this, the last free volume on Comixology, I had to buy the remaining three collections in order to finish this series.

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

Comic Review: The Superior Spider-Man, Vol. 2: A Troubled Mind

Published: December 5th, 2013
Written by: Dan Slott
Art by: Humberto Ramos, Ryan Stegman, Marcos Martin (cover)

Marvel Comics, 115 Pages

Review:

I’m digging this series much more than I thought I would. And this volume is where something happens that really reaches through Octavius’ ego and actually starts to move him towards being genuinely more heroic. I love redemption stories and this is just that, albeit told over twenty-plus comics and collected into five volumes.

But don’t get it twisted, Otto Octavius as Spider-Man is still dastardly and evil, for the most part. You just start to see the cracks showing. Now that he is in the role of Spider-Man, it is starting to effect him when he experiences what it’s like to save someone as opposed to being a menace to the world.

Dan Slott really sort of found his footing in this volume and I hope the quality continues to improve beyond this or at the very least, remains consistent.

I also like that Cardiac had a major part to play in this string of issues. I have always really liked Cardiac since he debuted in The Amazing Spider-Man during Erik Larsen’s run in the early ’90s. He started as a villain but quickly became an anti-hero because he was fighting for something, even if his methods weren’t morally sound. He is one of those characters that could be great, given the right story, but has mostly been underutilized since his debut a quarter of a century ago (damn, that makes me feel old).

We also see the Goblin King, the next gen Hobgoblin and a few other villains that show up. One highlight of the book is seeing the Superior Spider-Man face off against the Avengers, who are weary about Spider-Man and his recent behavior. However, Slott did make the Avengers pretty fascist in this story and it didn’t seem in line with who Captain America is.

Still, this is a really good book overall and it’s got me pumped up for the follow ups.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: Other Superior Spider-Man collections and any of Dan Slott’s other Spider-Man titles.