Comic Review: The Punisher: World War Frank

Published: August 22nd, 2018 – December 19th, 2018
Written by: Matthew Rosenberg
Art by: Szymon Kudranski, Greg Smallwood (covers)

Marvel Comics, 129 Pages

Review:

It’s been a long time since I cared about the Punisher. So long in fact that even though I knew this new series was starting, I didn’t seek it out. It wasn’t until someone I trusted told me that I needed to check out the first issue, as it read like classic Punisher and was a no nonsense, balls out, action packed, political thriller.

They weren’t wrong. This thing was a high octane festival of testosterone overload. While that might not appeal to some people, to fans of the Punisher comics of the late ’80s to early ’90s, this comic is a true throwback to that style and tone. Although, it is modernized, it still feels like those old comics I read when I first fell in love with the character as a scrapping young comic reader and creator.

Now this story arc is full of cameos but no one distracts from Frank Castle being his best self and even when other people (heroes and villains) try to prevent his one man war, he is too driven to be deterred.

The main antagonist here is Baron Zemo, who is one of my all-time favorites and who has been underutilized outside of Thunderbolts comics. Zemo isn’t the only villain though. We also get the Mandarin, Jigsaw and some others.

The issue that sees Jigsaw confront the Punisher while he is in a jail cell is incredible. It was the biggest high point out of several. But that’s what this story arc is, it’s a lot of high points and it’s jam packed with action and even some mystery.

World War Frank is not just solid storytelling, it is one of the most solid Frank Castle stories in years.

Rating: 9.25/10
Pairs well with: old school late ’80s to early ’90s Punisher and the recent Marvel Knights 20th anniversary event.

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: Spider-Men

Published: May 8th, 2013
Written by: Brian Michael Bendis
Art by: Sara Pichelli, Jim Cheung (covers)

Marvel Comics, 112 Pages

Review:

Say what you will about Brian Michael Bendis’ horrible run on Superman titles. I stopped picking them up a few months ago. He is a guy that comic fans like to trash and if I’m being honest, it’s justified in 2018. However, Bendis can write and Spider-Men is proof of that.

The reason I say that, even though I don’t like a lot of the man’s work, is because this story had a few moments that really hit me in the feels hard. More so than just about any comic I’ve read in recent memory.

This story sees Peter Parker get whisked away to a new dimension. There, he meets Miles Morales, the young Spider-Man that has replaced Parker after he died there. While the story is action packed and it’s friggin’ awesome seeing Miles and Peter finally meet, the story is it’s strongest when it explores the emotions of Peter and what’s happened to him and his love ones in this alternate reality.

There are sweet subtle moments between Parker and Aunt May, as well as Gwen Stacy. There is also that moment when he sees Mary Jane, who runs away and breaks down because her Peter is dead.

This also had great exchanges between Peter and just about everyone in the Ultimates universe. He’s baffled by Nick Fury’s blackness and coolness and botherd by Tony Stark’s drinking.

I also liked what Bendis did here with Mysterio, who is the reason why this event happened. Mysterio is explored and presented in a new way than just simply being a professional illusionist turned mad.

My only complaint is the motivation and actions of Peter when he first meets Miles. He was initially way too aggressive, especially when suspecting that Miles was just a kid. His actions were a bit extreme and careless and he acted a lot more rash than Peter Parker would.

But again, that’s the only real complaint.

This was solid, it was fun, it touched me on an emotional level and as much as I have always loved Peter and Miles on their own, this made me yearn for more team ups. I know that they’ve had a lot now and that I’m playing catch up and I’m sure it’ll run its course quickly but I’m still enthused about what comes after this.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: the other Miles Morales stories by Bendis.

Comic Review: House of M

Published: February 1st, 2006
Written by: Brian Michael Bendis
Art by: Oliver Coipel

Marvel Comics, 280 Pages

Review:

This picks up after the events that happened in Avengers: Disassembled. This story also has effects that will go on to be felt in Marvel’s Civil War event, as well as X-Men: The Messiah Complex.

So following the tragic events of Avengers: Disassembled, the Avengers and the X-Men meet to discuss the fate of the Scarlet Witch. Wolverine leads the charge pretty much calling for her death, as the potential for what she can do with her powers is too great. Other Avengers and X-Men disagree but ultimately, you get the idea that this is going to go somewhere really friggin’ dark.

After that, Wolverine wakes up in an alternate reality and is aware that he’s not where he’s supposed to be, even though all of his allies are buying into the mystical charade. Wolverine has to go against his friends, search for answers and has to convince his allies that something happened that completely changed reality.

In the end, the Scarlet Witch only leaves like ten percent of the mutants in the world with their powers intact. So Wolverine saves the day, essentially, but the Scarlet Witch with her insane powers is still a crazy bitch.

This story was a cool idea but it didn’t really move forward in a way that excited me. Granted, I wasn’t too fond of Avengers: Disassemble, which lead to this.

This is one of the big Marvel stories of the ’00s and it is certainly better than the schlock they are synonymous with now but it still pales in comparison to the great epics that came before this. Don’t get me wrong, Marvel has some events that were duds in the old days too but this book just missed the mark and frankly, it could have been longer and probably needed to be, as the pace was insanely quick.

I really enjoyed Oliver Coipel’s art, though.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: Avengers: DisassembledThe Messiah Complex, also it has ramifications that carry over into the Civil War event.

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: Ultimate Comics Spider-Man, Vol. 3

Published: January 30th, 2014
Written by: Brian Michael Bendis
Art by: David Marquez, Kaare Kyle Andrews

Marvel Comics, 171 Pages

Review:

The last collection in this series left you hanging, wondering what was going to happen in regards to Miles Morales being blackmailed by his Uncle Aaron into helping him take out the Scorpion and build his own criminal empire. Uncle Aaron is the famous Spidey villain the Prowler and of course, Miles is just getting his feet wet as the new Spider-Man.

This starts off with a massive bang that changes Miles’ life forever. I don’t want to spoil it but I’ll just say that up to this point, Miles has never been in a situation where the responsibilities of being Spider-Man have been more real and hit as close to home.

The rest of the book deals with a massive battle that sees Miles team up with the Ultimates, who are the Marvel Ultimate universe’s version of the Avengers. He convinces Captain America to let him join, despite his age, but this leads to him being a soldier in a violent war against Hydra. Even for Marvel and for Spider-Man, this is so unbelievable that it just doesn’t work, at all. Despite how good Miles is and where his heart is at, anyone who would send a thirteen year-old to war is an insane person. I’m looking at you Captain America, also the president of the United States in this continuity. But really, I’m looking at Brian Michael Bendis who wrote this asinine and preposterous storyline. I mean, seriously, what the fucking fuck?!

This isn’t Robin helping Batman or some New Mutants adventure, this is an all out war for America between the Ultimates, S.H.I.E.L.D. and Hydra. Professor X never sent Boom Boom to face off with Apocalypse. Batman never sent Robin into an Arkham Asylum riot without proper training.

Additionally, the big war was a massive distraction to the larger arc here, which is Miles becoming Spider-Man and finding himself in that role. This was one giant speed bump in this series but I hope that things come back down to Earth in the volume after this one.

I really liked this series, up to this point. This didn’t just jump the shark, it jumped an ocean full of sharks.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: The other early Mile Morales Spider-Man stories. Also, Spider-Men I and II and Spider-Verse.

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.