Comic Review: The Defenders: The Best Defense

Published: December 5th, 2018 – December 19th, 2018
Written by: Chip Zdarsky, Al Ewing, Gerry Duggan, Jason Latour
Art by: various

Marvel Comics, 164 Pages

Review:

I was really excited for this crossover miniseries when I first saw it announced. Plus, Chip Zdarsky and Al Ewing have been writing some great comics over the last year. However, this was really a bit of a dud.

It wasn’t bad but it also wasn’t good. It sort of fits in a weird limbo and frankly, I wasn’t crazy about the format of it, as once the four heroes do come together, it’s just in the final issue of this five issue series.

You see, each of the four heroes got their own single issue and then the fifth part was the big finale. While this wouldn’t be so bad, the story just wasn’t very exciting and thus, didn’t really keep me engaged.

Al Ewing’s work on The Immortal Hulk is top notch stuff and I’ve loved Zdarsky’s runs on Marvel 2-In-One and The Spectacular Spider-Man. I hate to say it but it feels like they either dialed it in here or that they’ve been stretched thin with their other projects. However, Gerry Duggan and Jason Latour also wrote this and maybe it just falls flat because there were too many voices and not a lot of planning behind this.

This is a strange release, as it doesn’t really tie into anything else or anything that’s going on in larger pop culture. I’ve always liked Defenders books though. This one just doesn’t cut the mustard.

And man, I really wanted this to be good because I loved the superhero team and the creative team.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: recent runs on Hulk and Doctor Strange. Also, the upcoming Invaders title, which will heavily feature Namor.

Comic Review: Infinity Wars

Published: August 1st, 2018 – December 19th, 2018
Written by: Gerry Duggan
Art by: Mike Deodato Jr.

Marvel Comics, 212 Pages

Review:

Not all Marvel mega events are created equal. In fact, the last several years have seen many come and go that were pretty forgettable. While this doesn’t do much to right the ship, it at least had some interesting ideas, was pretty ambitious and had some top notch art by Mike Deodato Jr.

If I’m being honest, I was really pleased with the first two issues of this six issue story arc. It started out with a bang but once we got mashed up heroes and Infinity Gems switching hands quicker than a potato in a game of Hot Potato, my head started spinning so fast that it nearly exploded.

Plus, apart from Sleepwalker, the tie-ins to this were terrible.

I guess someone thought that mashing up Marvel heroes was a cool idea but man, it felt gimmicky as hell and none of these new creations really worked. Well, except for the Ant-Man sized Hulk. That was actually kind of cool.

Anyway, Gamora of the Guardians of the Galaxy is the villain in this. It seems completely uncharacteristic of her and the only reasoning for her turn to the dark side seems to be the fact that she is a daughter of Thanos. Daddy issues aside, it doesn’t work for me even though I did like her new, evil look.

It should be obvious to anyone that this mega event was created in a cheap attempt to capitalize off of the release of the Infinity War movie but I doubt that really helped sales of this mediocre book.

The first issue sold out at my local comic shop but issues two through six are just sitting on the shelves still, along with all the tie-in crap.

But at least I got a Sleepwalker comic again, even if it was just four issues and sadly tied to this event.

Rating: 5.25/10
Pairs well with: other Marvel mega events that fell way below the hype.

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: Hulk: Gray

Published: June 15th, 2011
Written by: Jeph Loeb
Art by: Tim Sale

Marvel Comics, 137 Pages

Review:

Being a big fan of Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale’s work at DC Comics, especially on their iconic Batman stuff, I was pretty enthused about checking out their similar work for Marvel.

This is the first of their four color themed stories I read. The other three are Spider-Man: BlueCaptain America: White and Daredevil: Yellow. I’m not sure if the others also exist as re-imaginings of origin stories but I plan to read through them all shortly.

But that’s what Hulk: Gray is. It’s a Hulk origin story as told from the point-of-view of Bruce Banner to a friend, sitting in as a sort of therapist.

I’ve never been a huge Hulk fan but I think any fan of comics knows his origin story well. I really didn’t need to read another version of it just as I don’t need to ever read or see another version of Batman’s origin.

Still, I did enjoy this take on it.

But what stood out the most about this was the art by Tim Sale. Sale has a unique retro pulp type of flair with his art style and it jumps off of the page. The use of color (and lack thereof) was damn good. As simple as some of Sale’s art can be, he has a real talent for conveying emotion and I have always loved how he draws faces. He uses the Hulk’s eyes a lot in this and he says a lot with very little.

I also like that a classic version of the Iron Man armor shows up to do battle. It is a throwback to the earliest days of Marvel and seeing these two characters throw down in Sale’s art style was a real treat.

But in all honesty, this was pretty dry and it just didn’t hit the mark for me like it should have. It certainly isn’t an iconic body of work like The Long Halloween, which is still Loeb and Sale’s magnum opus, as far as I’m concerned.

However, this was still worth indulging in and it was a fairly quick read.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: The other color themed books that Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale did for Marvel.

Comic Review: Avengers: Disassembled

Published: January 26th, 2005
Written by: Brian Michael Bendis
Art by: David Finch

Marvel Comics, 133 Pages

Review:

This is one of those iconic stories that you hear about all the time in comic book circles. However, I thought that the whole thing was pretty damn underwhelming for what it has been built up as.

The Avengers team gets ripped apart. It is due to the betrayal of one of their own. They don’t know that at first and when confronted with the idea, reject it.

However, the Scarlet Witch has basically gone batshit and blames all of her friends for killing her children that were never actually real to begin with but a psychotic projection of the Scarlet Witch’s will.

Yeah, does this story sound stupid to you? Because it definitely felt stupid to me. I thought Bendis was a big deal but everything I read by him is just as batshit as the Scarlet Witch, Wanda’s fucked up brain in this story. I’ve just never been too keen on Bendis, other than his earliest work on the Miles Morales Spider-Man stuff. His Superman stories, his current job, are also just some weird ass shit.

I don’t know, this book hurt my head. It’s only saving grace was superb art from David Finch and awesome action sequences.

Also, this leads into the big Civil War event that effected all Marvel titles, as well as the major X-Men events: The House of M and The Messiah Complex.

Avengers Disassembled has been talked about fondly for years by many. I’m just glad that this was only 133 pages.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: This leads into the massive X-Men stories The House of M and The Messiah Complex, also it has ramifications that carry over on the Avengers side of things and into the Civil War event.

Comic Review: The Immortal Hulk, Vol. 1: Or Is He Both?

Published: June 6th, 2018 – September 5th, 2018
Written by: Al Ewing
Art by: Joe Bennett, Alex Ross (covers)

Marvel Comics, 128 Pages

Review:

I wanted to support this for two reasons.

One, I love Bruce Banner and I thought that it was great to have him back. Nothing beats the original Hulk and this new take on the character, where the green Hulk is now more intelligent than Banner, peaked my interest.

Two, and this is incredibly superficial, but I love these Alex Ross covers, especially the first issue. It was very Frankenstein-esque and totally f’n badass.

The problem with this story arc, which takes place over the first five issues of this new series, is that it, like the Hulk, has multiple personality disorder. With that disorder, though, it’s level of quality is incredibly inconsistent from issue to issue.

Issue one was a pretty good introduction to this updated version of the Hulk. Issue two was really f’d up but damn intriguing and frankly, I loved it. Issue three, however, was so bad, I was astonished at how poorly it was crafted after being really happy with the book’s first two outings. The fourth issue was pretty much just boring filler, trying to explain the story, as the first three issues didn’t have a lot of detail and mostly just focused on the Hulk being a real force of nature with an attitude similar to the Punisher. The fifth and final issue pits the Hulk against Alpha Flight’s Sasquatch but there is a big twist and you discover that Hulk is just battling his own daddy issues. *exhales loudly* Really? …Really?

I wanted to like this, I truly did.

I liked the beginning of the arc, I thought the art was solid and I liked the tone of this darker yet smarter Hulk tale. But by the time I got to the end of the story, I wanted to chuck these comics into the fireplace. I don’t own a fireplace, though. Florida is too hot for that shit.

This first arc was the test to see if I was going to end up adding this to my pull list. I won’t. I’m done with this series. That is, unless someone whose opinion I trust continues to read it and tells me it’s gotten better. Unless that happens, I’ve got mountains of other comics to read.

Rating: 5.25/10
Pairs well with: I don’t know, not a whole lot, really. This is pretty unique and it’s great to have Banner back but the tone is so different from older Banner stories. But maybe read Damage, which is DC Comics’ new character that is very Hulk-like but a better read, right now.

Comic Review: Infinity

Published: February 5th, 2014
Written by: Jonathan Hickman
Art by: various

Marvel Comics, 866 Pages

Review:

Since new ideas are hard to come by, Marvel decided to sort of rehash the Infinity events from the ’90s in this modern version of a story that features Thanos and every single Marvel hero that can possibly fit on a splash page.

I’m not knocking the technique, if a story is good, it’s good. All stories borrow from something else and Marvel (just like DC) likes to recycle the core elements of their big crossover events, again and again. Marvel has had two Civil War storylines, Avengers Vs. X-Men, which was practically like Civil War, and multiple versions of Secret War. Then there are massive Skrull events that seem to have happened an awful lot too.

I guess the main similarity between this and the ’90s Infinity events is that it features dozens upon dozens of Marvel heroes against a seemingly omnipotent Thanos. However, Thanos’ purpose is different here and there is no sign of the Infinity Gauntlet. In this story, he comes to Earth to find his long lost son Thane. Why? Because Thanos wants to murder him, as he’s done with his other offspring.

I read the large collected edition of this, which was well over 800 pages. It was massive and thick and took some time to get through. At first, it started slow and I felt like I didn’t know what was going on because I haven’t read a lot of modern Marvel stuff and there are all of these new heroes I’ve never experienced. Don’t worry, this still has every classic hero in it too. Every major player is here, as should be expected with an event like this.

Reading this, I can see where it also influenced the recent Avengers: Infinity War movie, as it has the introduction of the Black Order, who played a big part in that film.

The story also deals with a threat from the Builders, who basically want to destroy the universe because villains do those sort of things in comic books.

There are a lot of layers to the story and it can feel overwhelming and overly complicated but the core of it is very good. This event had some really awesome and powerful moments and also featured some of the most badass stuff Thor has ever done.

It also gave us Thane, a character that is more dangerous than his famous father and who looks to be a massive threat for the heroes after the conclusion of this story.

I thought the pacing was good, once the story really got going. The six Infinity issues were certainly the high point of the story where the Avengers and New Avengers issues that were part of this collection served to give more exposition to the larger narrative.

This massive collected edition is capped off by a Silver Surfer story that takes place alongside these events. The Surfer didn’t appear in the main story but he had his own tale that was worth telling, as he was on the other side of the galaxy dealing with the same events in a different way.

And I guess another really important thing about this mega event is that the art was fabulous. I loved it, every panel, every page and every issue of every comic series collected here was visual perfection. Kudos to the artists: Jim Cheung, Jerome Opena and Dustin Weaver.

Rating: 8.75/10
Pairs well with: The ’90s Infinity trilogy of events: The Infinity GauntletThe Infinity War and The Infinity Crusade.