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: Fantastic Four – Masterworks, Vol. 1

Published: February 25th, 2009
Written by: Stan Lee
Art by: Jack Kirby, various

Marvel Comics, 265 Pages

Review:

I’ve really wanted to go back and read the earliest collaborations between Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. So since I noticed that a lot of the Marvel Masterworks stuff is free for Comixology Unlimited subscribers, I decided to start with the oldest comic, the Fantastic Four.

Man, this was a really cool comic to read. In the past, I had read the first Namor issue and the first appearance of Doctor Doom but reading these early stories, complete and in sequence was a real treat.

Marvel was very different in the very beginning. While the company had existed under different names before this, this was their first attempt at doing superheroes. And Stan Lee took the bull by the horns and just wrote the comic he wanted, thinking he was soon to be fired.

Luckily, this was a hit. Reading the first issue now, I can see why. I mean, there were superhero comics before Stan Lee wrote this but this was very different than what people were familiar with in the forms of Batman, Superman, Captain America and Wonder Woman.

This comic was about a team and not just a team, a team that is pretty much family. It also gave us characters with bizarre and refreshing powers. Sure, the Human Torch existed in another form in the 1940s but this team, as a complete unit, had a lot of unique tools.

These earliest issues are also interesting as you can see Stan Lee and Jack Kirby trying out things and modifying them as they go, as they hadn’t quite figured what this was. But as the series rolls on and as they released other superhero titles, things just came together like they never had with superhero comics before this.

It is these ten issues here that are the real genesis of what Marvel would become.

I love that this was way over the top and often times hokey. It showed two of the greatest creators in the history of the medium trying to develop a solid formula for visual storytelling. Plus, this has so much heart in it that it’s hard to not grin from ear to ear while reading it.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: other Marvel Masterworks collections.

Comic Review: X-Men: Mutant Genesis

Published: 1991
Written by: Chris Claremont, Jim Lee, Fabian Nicieza, Whilce Portacio, Peter David, Len Kaminski
Art by: Jim Lee, Whilce Portacio, Kirk Jarvinen, Tom Raney, Terry Shoemaker, Paul Smith, Andy Kubert, Jerry DeCaire, Ernie Stiner, Steven Butler, Art Thibert

Marvel Comics, 437 Pages

Review:

I’m pretty excited for the current Jonathan Hickman run on the X-Men titles. I haven’t started reading them because the two miniseries that are coming out are doing so just about weekly. So I want to wait to have all twelve issues before giving it a read. But from what I’ve heard, it’s absolutely solid and quite refreshing.

However, before getting into the new stuff, I wanted to travel back to the height of my time reading and buying X-books: 1991.

The reason I wanted to go back there was because it was a transitional period, as the original X-Factor team came to an end, the New Mutants became X-Force and two new X-Men teams formed, each with their own ongoing monthly series. It was also a transition from the Chris Claremont era into the era of Jim Lee.

This thick trade paperback collects multiple story arcs but all of the arcs are unified in their purpose, which was to end an era and to create a new one.

Here we have the final stories of the first X-Factor team, as well as stories involving the newly formed X-Force and New Warriors, Freedom Force and the X-Men team as it existed when Claremont moved on from the series.

This almost feels like an omnibus.

It also features a lot of great creatives on the writing side and art side.

Ultimately, this was a hell of a fun read that flew by despite its meaty 437 pages.

We get dozens of heroes and a whole slew of major X-villains like Magneto, Apocalypse, the Shadow King, Proteus and Fabian Cortez, just to name a few.

While a lot of the ’90s comics I go back to don’t have the same effect on me as they did when I was twelve, this is a solid f’n read. Seriously.

And what’s really surprising is that it has all these creatives working on it and it still turned out to be a really well managed and fully realized vision that brought an era to its end, quite epically, and generated real excitement and enthusiasm for what was to come.

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: other major X-Men crossover events from the era: X-Tinction Agenda, X-Cutioner’s Song, etc.

Comic Review: Spider-Man: Carnage

Published: 1992
Written by: David Michelinie
Art by: Mark Bagley

Marvel Comics, 70 Pages

Review:

This three issue story arc originally appeared in The Amazing Spider-Man issues 361 through 363. And it was also one of the biggest Spider-Man storylines to come out during my middle school years when I was the most impressionable, as far as comics go.

In 1992, there were few characters as popular as Venom. However, this milestone story gave us a second symbiote, Carnage.

What made this character’s debut so important is that it changed the landscape.

Venom was no longer Spider-Man’s deadliest foe. In Carnage, we have a psychotic serial killer in possession of an alien suit born from Venom. Therefore, it also inherited Venom’s strength. In addition to that, this symbiote has evolved due to being born on Earth, so it has better control of its mass, structure and can fire off projectile weapons made of its alien skin.

Carnage is so powerful and evil that Spider-Man had to enlist the help of Venom. Because of that, this was the turning point in Venom’s life where he no longer played the villain but he became more of an anti-hero and often times a reluctant ally to Spidey.

For a debut, this story packs a punch. Most of that is because Carnage is so damn scary. But the credit really has to go to the creative team. David Michelinie wrote another classic story and the great art of Mark Bagley gave Michelinie’s words and Carnage’s form real life. While people always talk about Todd McFarlane and Erik Larsen’s runs on The Amazing Spider-Man, Bagley was just as iconic and frankly, I like his style better than Larsen’s.

Carnage is one of the highest points in Michelinie’s long run on Spider-Man. While it’s not as impactful as Venom’s debut, it’s nearly on the same level and still, to this day, one of the greatest Spider-Man stories ever told.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: the earlier stories featuring Venom and then the later Maximum Carnage event.

Comic Review: Captain America: Winter Soldier, Vol. 2

Published: October 11th, 2006
Written by: Ed Brubaker
Art by: Steve Epting, Michael Lark, Mike Perkins

Marvel Comics, 136 Pages

Review:

This was a pretty good second half to the original Winter Soldier story. I liked the first half a bit more though. But I think that’s because reading this lacked tension, as I knew that Winter Soldier was actually Bucky and that he’d come around and start to see the light.

That lack of tension is my fault for taking so long to read this story. It’s certainly not Brubaker’s fault and I’m sure this was tense as hell for those that read it for the first time in 2006 without any knowledge of the Winter Soldier character.

I like that Brubaker does spend a good amount of time flashbacking to World War II and the Invaders era. The context was nice and the parallels between Cap and Bucky’s lives then and now was well done.

This story also adds in Falcon and Iron Man, which obviously influenced the MCU films that saw these two characters chime in on Cap’s relationship with Winter Soldier.

Like the previous volume, the art was really good and Brubaker truly benefits from having solid artists on his Captain America books, as they definitely enhance the atmosphere and tone of the plot in the right way.

For Cap fans who haven’t read the Brubaker run, you’re doing yourselves a disservice. Hell, for fans of just the movies, this is definitely worth checking out just to understand the depth of these characters’ bond.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: the rest of Ed Brubaker’s Captain America run.

Comic Review: Captain America: Winter Soldier, Vol. 1

Published: March 1st, 2006
Written by: Ed Brubaker
Art by: Steve Epting, Michael Lark, J.P. Leon

Marvel Comics, 167 Pages

Review:

At the start of Ed Brubaker’s historic Captain America run, I wasn’t paying attention to comics. I found my way back to them around the time that Cap died, a few years into Brubaker’s tenure. So I never got to read the original Winter Soldier story.

I’ve got to say, this pretty much lives up to the hype. However, I’m only speaking as someone that’s read the first part, as the story covers two volumes.

So I don’t know how this will conclude or where it will go in the immediate future but this was a damn fine setup.

This may be the best and the most human Steve Rogers has ever been written. This explores the layers to his character and it does a fantastic job of giving the reader the right context without just relying on them to know Cap’s backstory. Additionally, it also doesn’t just dwell on the past and act as a lengthy modernized recap of those events.

I also love the art. And honestly, it’s the evolution of comic book art that really brought me back to the medium. And one of the books that lured me in was Captain America.

Rating: 8.75/10
Pairs well with: the rest of Ed Brubaker’s Captain America run.