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: 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.

Comic Review: Venomverse

Published: January 9th, 2018
Written by: Cullen Bunn
Art by: Iban Coello

Marvel Comics, 128 Pages

Review:

In preparation for the new Venom series that recently started, I wanted to check out some of the more modern Venom stories out there. Venomverse came highly recommended from a guy at one of my comic book shops. I figured that I’d give it a read, as the premise sounded interesting.

In a nutshell, after stomping a mudhole in Jack O’Lantern’s bum, Venom is zapped away to a different dimension where all the Marvel characters have symbiotes. So what you get is Venomized versions of Captain America, Doctor Strange, Wolverine, Deadpool, Mary Jane Watson, Black Panther, Rocket Raccoon and everyone else in-between. They are fighting a war against the Poisons, who are tiny aliens that absorb the symbiote heroes and villains into their own bodies and become perfect killing machines: the apex predators of the universe. Doctor Strange has been pulling all symbiote heroes and villains into the “Venomverse” dimension in an effort to turn the tide in the war.

Man, if you are a fan of Venom, this is just a really cool and fun book to read. Seriously, I absolutely loved this. I mean, Rocket Raccoon with a Venom symbiote? C’mon, man! All this thing needed was Spider-Ham and Howard the Duck in it too.

The story is really good but I barely even cared about the setup because any reason to have a Marvel Universe full of Venoms is just an awesome time. These stories don’t work so well in the regular Marvel dimension but in this Venomverse pocket of existence, things just seem to flow naturally. Plus, the Poisons were just a really cool idea and added something more to the story than just having a symbiote war for the sake of having a symbiote war.

Granted, I felt that this ended a bit anticlimactically but you also get a post credits scene just like the Marvel movies, which I thought was a neat twist. And that ending sets up the potential for the Poisons to expand into other universes and dimensions.

This was just a damn good book and pretty refreshing and entertaining, as Marvel has produced a lot of duds lately.

Rating: 9.75/10
Pairs well with: Any of the great Eddie Brock Venom stories. But for more recent stuff, the new Venom series and the Venom, Inc. story arc from recent issues of The Amazing Spider-Man.

Comic Review: Wolverine: Old Man Logan

Published: September 22nd, 2010
Written by: Mark Millar
Art by: Steve McNiven

Marvel Comics, 224 Pages

Review:

Old Man Logan has become one of those stories that has reached a sort of legendary status. That’s a very rare feat in the more modern era of comic books but this story, now having reached ten years of age, has had some lasting power and has gone on to influence other works. In some regard, it is Marvel’s versions of DC’s The Dark Knight Returns in that it takes a well known character and shows him in an alternate future after the world has fallen apart around him.

Granted, this is in no way a ripoff of Frank Miller’s classic Batman story. Old Man Logan is very much its own thing and what a great thing it is.

When the story starts, we discover that Logan, the former Wolverine, is living in California on a farm with his wife and two children. Times are hard and the Hulk’s inbred gang demand the rent. An old Hawkeye shows up and gives Logan a deal that he can’t refuse, which will pay him enough to keep the Hulk’s gang off of his back. The story then sees these two aged heroes travel from the West Coast to the East Coast to deliver a package. We discover that the entire United States is completely screwed up and while the now villainous Hulk controls the West Coast, other villains control other regions. The Kingpin (a different guy than Wilson Fisk) has Vegas, Dr. Doom has the Midwest and “The President” a.k.a. Red Skull has the East Coast.

I don’t want to give much more away for fear of spoiling the story.

This book has a lot of surprises and cool things thrown in. Logan is a pacifist, at this point, but what happens when he is pushed beyond his breaking point?

Old Man Logan is one of the most refreshing things Marvel has put out since the turn of the millennium. The story and the characters were so well received that Logan and Hawkeye have both made other appearances as their elderly selves.

There are very few comic books that I will say are must reads, especially out of the more modern titles. This is a must read though, whether you are a Wolverine fan or just a fan of the comic book medium in general.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: The Death of Wolverine and it also has some similarities to Frank Miller’s classic aged Batman tale, The Dark Knight Returns.

Film Review: Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

Release Date: April 23rd, 2018 (Los Angeles premiere)
Directed by: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo
Written by: Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely
Based on: The Avengers by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby
Music by: Alan Silvestri
Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Chris Pratt, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Don Cheadle, Jeremy Renner, Chadwick Boseman, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Tom Holland, Benedict Cumberbatch, Danai Gurira, Letitia Wright, Dave Bautista, Zoe Saldana, Josh Brolin, Tom Hiddleston, Idris Elba, Peter Dinklage, Benedict Wong, Pom Klementieff, Karen Gillan, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Gwyneth Paltrow, Benicio del Toro, William Hurt, Cobie Smulders, Samuel L. Jackson, Ross Marquand

Marvel Studios, Walt Disney Studios, 149 Minutes

Review:

“In time, you will know what it’s like to lose. To feel so desperately that you’re right. Yet to fail all the same. Dread it. Run from it. Destiny still arrives. ” – Thanos

*There be spoilers here! But I kept it as minimal as possible.

Well, this film has been ten years in the making, as it is the culmination of everything that has happened in the Marvel Cinematic Universe since Iron Man hit theaters in May of 2008. Ten years and eighteen films later, all the carefully crafted moving parts come together to create a unified front against the greatest cinematic Marvel villain of them all, Thanos.

So cramming in all these characters is a tremendous feat. And really, I think everyone’s biggest concern was how that would work. Despite my concerns and fears, I haven’t anxiously anticipated the release of a film as strongly as this one since 2008’s The Dark Knight.

But having now seen it, I finally know whether or not the Russos succeeded in successfully conquering such a tremendous feat. So did they succeed?

To quote Stone Cold Steve Austin, “Oh… Hell… Yeaaah!!!”

The way that the Russos balanced everything was incredible. It’s as if they read a ton of major comic book crossover events in preparation for this incredible task and they sort of took their cue from them.

What I mean by that is that this film handles itself like a well written crossover mega event in the comics. It segments the heroes into different groups on different missions, all fighting for the same endgame. It’s like when a crossover is spread over four different comic titles and when you read them in a collected format, you get a story where each chapter is an issue from a different comic. Like X-Cutioner’s Song from the early ’90s was spread over Uncanny X-MenX-FactorX-Men (vol. 2) and X-Force. When you read them in chronological order (or in a collected trade paperback) each issue/title focused on a specific group that was different from the previous chapter but all the stories were part of a bigger tapestry that saw everything come together. That’s exactly how Avengers: Infinity War works, which is really cool to experience in a live action format.

So you have multiple groups here: one led by Captain America that goes to Wakanda, one lead by Iron Man that goes into space, the Guardians of the Galaxy split into two groups with one of them being led by Thor and then there is Thanos’ story and he does get a lot of time to shine. In fact, he was handled better than every Marvel Cinematic Universe villain that isn’t Loki. But who knows, Thanos may still eclipse Loki when it’s all said and done.

This was a pretty long movie but it needed to be and unlike other Marvel movies that seem to run on for too long, there wasn’t a single moment where I looked at my watch or felt antsy like I needed them to wrap it up. In fact, when I got to the end, I felt like I had finally exhaled and I couldn’t get up out of my seat, there was a lot of amazing stuff to process and I sat there with a smile, completely and utterly impressed with how this turned out.

It’s obvious that the special effects are good and some of the most impressive ever created. Marvel never disappoints in that regard.

One thing that really stood out for me much more than it ever has in any other Marvel picture was the score. This film has a very good and memorable smorgasbord of booming orchestral tunes and the Avengers theme was re-imagined in some creative ways. Alan Silvestri really came up with an incredible score that serviced not just this film but served the entire franchise well. There aren’t scores like there were through the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s but this one felt like a throwback to that superior era for movie music.

If I had to compare this to anything, it’s like if someone took the best parts of both The Lord of the Rings and the original Star Wars movies and then mixed them together and replaced those films heroes and villains with Marvel characters. It truly was incredible and I can be a snobby dick that’s hard to impress sometimes. I just wish the modern comic writers at Marvel would take their cue from these movies and write comics worthy of these characters once again. But as superheroes are dying in print, they are thriving on celluloid.

Simply for the fact that I haven’t felt like this after seeing a movie in the theater since The Dark Knight, ten years ago, I have to give this film a perfect score. Sure, it’s not the greatest movie ever made but it is a f’n clinic on how to do a massive team up movie and a film that is presented on a massive scale that doesn’t lose itself and keeps you very engaged. Granted, this film also benefits from having 18 movies before it, where all of these key characters, minus Thanos, were able to be developed in preparation for this Royal Rumble of a superhero movie.

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: Everything in the MCU before this film, as it all leads up to this one.