Published: May 18th, 2017 Written by: Stan Lee Art by: Jack Kirby, John Romita Sr.
Marvel Comics, 289 Pages
Here we are, at the end of the legendary 100-plus issue run on Fantastic Four by the truly dynamic duo of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. And man, they really went out with a bang, as this final volume was packed full of many of the great characters that have been in the series since its beginning.
Now Kirby exited the series with one issue left in the final story arc that he worked on but John Romita Sr. slid right in and gave us some pretty stellar art as well. But other than the final issue, collected here, this is all Kirby and Kirby really at his best.
This is also Stan Lee at his best, as he finds a way to work in so many classic characters without this turning into a convoluted mess. The only noticeable omissions from this beefy volume were Silver Surfer, Galactus and Black Panther but just about every other character that debuted in Fantastic Four, up to this point, shows up, even if it’s just a quick cameo. Most of that happens in the 100th issue.
Beyond that, this is full of good stories and we even see the brief return of the Frightful Four, one of my favorite villain groups that gets no love in modern times.
Overall, I’m glad that I read this entire run and this was a nice cap off to a great series.
Rating: 9.25/10 Pairs well with: the other Marvel Masterworks collections.
Also known as: Big Green (fake working title), The Hulk (working title) Release Date: June 17th, 2003 (US premiere) Directed by: Ang Lee Written by: James Schamus, Michael France, John Turman Based on:The Incredible Hulk by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby Music by: Danny Elfman Cast: Eric Bana, Jennifer Connelly, Sam Elliott, Josh Lucas, Nick Nolte, Cara Buono, Lou Ferrigno (cameo)
“You know what scares me the most? When it happens, when it comes over me… and I totally lose control, I like it.” – Bruce Banner
I haven’t watched this since around the time that it came out and with good reason. Despite liking the cast, this was a boring dud of a film that ran on for way too long and didn’t really give us a whole lot to care about.
Which is probably why a sequel was never made and the character of the Hulk was rebooted for the Marvel Cinematic Universe just half a decade later.
I did like Eric Bana as the title character and I thought that he was a solid choice. However, the script just made him completely vanilla. And I guess I can say the same for everyone else other than Sam Elliott and Nick Nolte.
Elliott was perfect as Thunderbolt Ross. But, then again, he’s perfect in just about everything.
Nolte was also damn great and committed to the role so well, that he was the only character I truly felt anything emotional from. The character was awful, though. He was sort of like the Absorbing Man but he was a different character, altogether and his story just didn’t work for me. That’s not to say that Nolte didn’t nail the part, he did. It’s just to say that the part was pretty shit.
The story was also shit and that’s really the main issue. The script and the plot were both uninspiring and slower than a mentally handicapped snail trying to compete at Monaco.
Additionally, Ang Lee wasn’t a wise choice for the director. It was a baffling decision to me in 2003 and even more so in 2020, looking back at this green turd sandwich and being annoyed by his visual style and his failed attempts at trying to give this some sort of artistic merit, inspired by his more beautiful Hong Kong pictures.
The audience wants to see Hulk smash, not kung fu masters magically flying over bamboo forests or gay, emotionally conflicted cowboys staring at meadow grass blowing in the wind. While Lee has an action background with his Hong Kong pictures, those movies are such a vastly different style than this one. Additionally, his style of really emotional human drama is great in the right picture but it’s not necessary in something like this.
Ultimately, this felt like a weird amalgamation of all things Ang Lee mashed together in the most non-Ang Lee style of motion picture.
Other than a few performances, the only other thing I really liked were the special effects.
What sucks, is that I really wanted to like this but I knew before even seeing it that it was destined to be a strange misfire.
Rating: 5.25/10 Pairs well with: other Marvel movies before the MCU was established in 2008.
Published: 1992 Written by: Peter David Art by: George Perez
Marvel Comics, 98 Pages
Since this ’90s Peter David Hulk story was recently repackaged and reprinted in a thick floppy comic titled Maestro, I figured that I’d give it a read, as I’ve never read this story and have always loved Peter David’s Hulk material. Plus, with George Perez art, what’s not to love?
The story sees the smart version of the Green Hulk travel to the distant future. He’s pulled there by his longtime friend Rick Jones, who is now a decrepit, ancient dude that has to move around in Professor X’s ’90s hover chair. He also lives in a museum full of the long dead Marvel heroes’ personal items and weapons.
Hulk’s arrival in the future is so that he can defeat the future version of himself, an aged, balding asshole tyrant named Maestro. For those who know the character, this is his first appearance. He would go on to be more prominent years later.
This is a pretty action packed story with an epic battle between two Hulks. But it also has a lot of layers to it for being under 100 pages. In a weird twist, that no one ever seems to talk about, the Hulk is raped by one of Maestro’s concubines when he finds himself a captive of the tyrant.
The story is fast paced and I enjoyed it. I actually think that it should have been a bit longer but it packs a punch and helped to establish one of the better Hulk villains.
Rating: 7/10 Pairs well with: other Peter David Hulk stories, as well as comics from the Old Man Logan continuity.
Published: February 1st, 2017 Written by: Brian Michael Bendis Art by: Jim Cheung, Oliver Coipel, David Marquez, Marko Djurdjevic (cover)
Marvel Comics, 317 Pages
Man, this was bewilderingly bad.
Historically, I’ve been pretty 50/50 on Brian Michael Bendis’ writing but man, it’s like when he did this, he already knew he was leaving Marvel. It also reads like he was given orders to use certain characters and he was begrudgingly forced to work them in. Granted, he’s also created some of the terrible modern characters.
While I’ve been well aware of the criticism that the Captain Marvel character gets in modern times, I always liked her when she was Ms. Marvel. But this new, short-haired, suddenly pushed into a leadership role Carol Danvers is not even the same character, remotely.
Based off of how she’s written here, as a self-righteous, fascist, tyrant bitch, I totally see why fans can’t stand her. If this story is an accurate portrayal of how she is post-2015 or so, I have no interest in following her character unless she’s actually made into a permanent villain. But even then, there are so many better villains I’d rather read about.
And I’m not really sure how I’m supposed to interpret her character. Is she supposed to be psychotic, god-powered, tyrannical piece of shit? Or am I supposed to empathize with her point-of-view?
What made the first Civil War so great was that you could emphasize and relate to both points-of-view and it made for a compelling read. Civil War II just made me hate Carol and every character that so easily sided with her. These characters aren’t heroes, as their actions in this story crossed the line into villainy.
Whatever. Fuck this comic. Fuck Bendis. Fuck post-2015 Marvel. But at least the art was really good.
Rating: 4/10 Pairs well with: all the other Civil War II crossover tie-in trade paperbacks.
Published: March 6th, 2014 Written by: Stan Lee Art by: Jack Kirby
Marvel Comics, 247 Pages
Man, I’m really glad that I started reading Fantastic Four from the beginning. There’s just something unique and truly special about Stan Lee and Jack Kirby creations and collaborations. And while these stories are hokey and not as refined as they would become, it’s really cool seeing the earliest version of the Marvel universe take shape.
Each volume in the Masterworks releases really builds off of the previous ones and expands the larger universe more and more.
Here, we get to see stories with the Avengers, as well as the X-Men, bringing several core Marvel characters together in their earliest days. I also liked that the Hulk came back for a multi-part story arc. Although, this one was lacking in Spider-Man magic. But I also just love old school Spidey and FF stories.
This brings back most of the main villains from previous issues and even introduces some new ones like The Hate-Monger. I actually own that comic in its original floppy form, so reading it here means that I don’t have to physically touch my already weathered copy.
Stan Lee really seems to be hitting his stride with these characters and these stories while Jack Kirby’s art seems a bit more fine tuned and dynamic. Granted, Kirby was one of the most dynamic comic book artists in history but his work in this collection really shows how much he’s enjoying drawing these characters. It just has this little extra flair that’s hard to describe. I guess it’s like eating a meal made with love, as opposed to eating a meal that was just made out of necessity.
Overall, this was thoroughly enjoyable and it kept moving the story forward while constructing a very young universe that would grow into something massive.
Rating: 8.5/10 Pairs well with: the other Marvel Masterworks collections.
Published: June 24th, 2009 Written by: Stan Lee Art by: Jack Kirby, Dick Ayers
Marvel Comics, 298 Pages
While this isn’t the peak of the Stan Lee and Jack Kirby 100-issue run on the Fantastic Four, they really start to slide into their grove here, as the larger Marvel universe has expanded and this is the first collection that sees the Fantastic Four meet other heroes.
In this volume, we get to see them meet the Hulk, Spider-Man, Ant-Man and Wasp for the first time in Fantastic Four titles. The Hulk issue is particularly important, as it is the first time that Stan Lee created heroes crossed over in Marvel continuity.
In addition to that, we get more stories featuring Namor, Doctor Doom, the Puppet Master, as well as new villains like the Super Skrull, the Impossible Man, Molecule Man, the Mad Thinker and Rama-Tut, who would later become Kang the Conqueror, one of Marvel’s greatest and most powerful baddies.
This is simply a fun and entertaining read. As hokey as the earliest Stan Lee era stuff can be, it’s just enjoyable as hell and pretty endearing. He was one of the greatest creatives in the comic book medium and it’s really apparent here, as he travels in a lot of different directions, from issue-to-issue and covers a lot of ground, laying the foundation for the Marvel comic book universe, as a whole.
Incorporating the heroes of other titles into this, really sets the stage for the broader continuity. We also get to see a Watcher for the first time, which kind of propels things forward in the cosmic realm for future Marvel stories.
Where the first ten issues felt kind of random and like they were trying to find their way, these ten issues (plus an annual) seem to be building towards something. While I’m not sure if Stan Lee already had Galactus in mind, the man has definitely cleared the path for that massive introduction, which wouldn’t happen for another two years.
I also have to give props to Jack Kirby, who had an incredibly consistent art style his entire career but definitely looks as if he found his grove with these characters and their world.
Rating: 8.75/10 Pairs well with: the other Marvel Masterworks collections.
Published: October 19th, 2016 Written by: various Art by: various
Marvel Comics, 480 Pages
I’ve been going back and picking up a lot of ’70s Doctor Strange floppy issues, lately. Mainly, I love Marvel’s art style with their fantasy and horror titles from the decade and Doctor Strange had some of the best covers from that time. But after reading a few of the singles issues, I wanted to delve into a much larger chunk, so I gave this huge Epic Collection release a read.
This actually focuses on the end of Doctor Strange’s first solo series, his complete run in Marvel Premiere and then the first handful of issues of his second solo series.
This also features a ton of great artists and writers, as well as adapting some of H.P. Lovecraft’s characters and concepts into the Marvel Universe, beyond what was done in just the Conan titles.
Furthermore, this collection features just about all of the major Doctor Strange villains of the era with a lot of emphasis on Nightmare.
This was, hands down, one of the best Doctor Strange trade paperbacks I have ever read and it only solidified my love for the character from this era. It also kind of made me wish they’d have done something with Strange and Conan back in the ’70s due to the Lovecraftian flavor of this book.
I’ll be in search of other hefty collections of Doctor Strange from the ’70s and early ’80s because this was just damn cool and featured so much imagination and stupendous art. I wish people didn’t sleep on old school Doctor Strange, it’s really, really great stuff.
Rating: 9/10 Pairs well with: other old school Doctor Strange collections, as well as ’70s Marvel fantasy and horror comics.
Published: March 6th, 2014 Written by: Frank Miller, Bill Mantlo, Roger McKenzie, David Michelinie, Marv Wolfman Art by: Frank Miller, Klaus Janson
Marvel Comics, 326 Pages
I recently got to scratch off one of my comic book bucket list items. That item was the completion of the entire Frank Miller Daredevil run. I now own all the single issues and it feels good. So to celebrate, I thought that I’d re-read through them all, as they were collected in three beefy volumes that I also own.
This first collection starts with two issues of The Spectacular Spider-Man, which featured Daredevil and had art by Frank Miller. Getting into the start of his run on Daredevil itself, the first handful of issues aren’t written by Miller but he does do the art. But once Miller fully takes over and Klaus Janson comes in to do Miller’s inks, this book really takes off in a new and exciting way, as it becomes grittier and almost has a noir vibe to it.
In this collection, we see the Bullseye character evolve more into the lunatic he actually is. We are also introduced to Elektra, as she makes her first appearance here.
Now nothing is truly wrapped up in this volume and it mainly just lays the foundation for the rest of Miller’s tenure on the title. But it sets things up nicely, really changes the landscape of the title, as long-standing love interest Black Widow moves on with her life and Daredevil is pulled into two new romantic directions.
This also establishes the real tension between Daredevil and The Kingpin.
As the first of three collections covering this run, this book is damn stellar. It’s also a great jumping on point for fans that want to read some of the best years in Daredevil’s long history.
Frankly, I’d read all of Miller’s run and then follow it up with the Ann Nocenti era.
Rating: 9/10 Pairs well with: the rest of Frank Miller’s run, as well as Ann Nocenti’s and the stories in-between.
Published: December 10th, 2014 Written by: Chris Claremont, Peter David Art by: John Buscema, Gene Colan
Marvel Comics, 495 Pages
As big of a Wolverine fan as I am, I have never read his earliest solo stories that revolved around his time in Madripoor when he was going by the name of “Patch”. I knew enough about this era but nothing is ever as good as reading it for yourself.
I read this on Comixology after buying it pretty cheap during a Wolverine sale. Normally, it’s like $30 but I know I got it for less than $10 and it was well worth that price tag.
This is a beefy collection that covers the first 16 issues of his solo comic, as well as the story that came out just before it and another comic that takes place within the same time frame. It makes for one nice long epic of Logan’s life in Madripoor. I’m not sure if he sticks around there after this collection and for how long but this really gives you the important stuff from that era.
I also knew that Jessica Drew a.k.a. Spider-Woman was around for some of this but I didn’t realize that she wasn’t Spider-Woman here and that she was pretty much just herself, as a ninja badass. I also didn’t realize that she was actually a big part of the Wolverine Madripoor stuff.
We also get a cool plot that teams Wolverine up with the Gray Hulk a.k.a. Mr. Joe Fix-It for the first time. It’s a pretty cool tale and it also fits well within the larger tapestry that sees Logan trying to fight the criminal underworld in this fictitious Asian island nation.
Almost everything here is written by the great Chris Claremont, who probably knows Wolverine the best. Some of this is also written by Peter David but he’s a legend too and he knows how to write a story with great energy.
Ultimately, this wasn’t close to being my favorite Wolverine story, and it may actually be a bit underwhelming because of that, but it is still damn entertaining and really reflects a truly unique time in the character’s mythos.
Rating: 7.5/10 Pairs well with: other Wolverine solo stories from the late ’80s into the early ’90s.
Published: 1985-1986 Written by: Steve Englehart, Danny Fingeroth, Jim Shooter, Roger Stern Art by: Mark Bright, John Buscema, Steve Ditko
Marvel Comics, 278 Pages
I hate when I buy a thick, hefty collection that is sold to me as one thing, but once I buy it I find out that the thing I bought it for is about a third of the total collection and the rest of the volume is padded with other random stories.
While the issues collected here are presented in chronological order in how they appeared in single issues of the Avengers comics, they are all tied to larger stories or continued in other comics.
It’s pretty fucking infuriating when companies do this because I just wanted to read a Kang story that I had hoped would be pretty epic based off of the page count of this large Avengers release.
Instead, I got a medium sized Kang story and then a bunch of random plot threads that were left incomplete and open ended as they tied to Secret Wars II, Fantastic Four, X-Men and a story about both ’80s Avengers teams playing baseball.
Had I just read the Kang story, this would’ve been great. It would’ve been even better if it was reduced to the roughly four issues that the story took place in and I was charged a lot less than what I played for this disorganized mess.
Now to be fair, I did like most of this but when you’re pulled in one direction just to be left with blue balls, it’s pretty irritating. Especially, when you’re the one paying for it.
As far as the Kang story goes, I loved it. It was one of the best I’ve read and it featured one of my favorite incarnations of the Avengers team, as I started reading this series around the same era.
Had I known that I was going to get shafted by this, I would’ve just forked out the money for the less than a handful of physical floppy issues I needed for the story I wanted.
Rating: 6.5/10 Pairs well with: other Kang-centric stories, as well as other comics that happened around the events of Secret Wars II.