Comic Review: X-Men: The Dark Phoenix Saga

Published: 1980
Written by: Chris Claremont
Art by: John Byrne

Marvel Comics, 200 Pages

Review:

Does it make me a terrible X-Men fan that I have never actually read The Dark Phoenix Saga?

I’ve tried to round up all the single issues over the years but some of them are pricey and there’s nine issues that make up this arc. But in my defense, I know the story very well, as it has been referenced a million times over throughout X-Men history. I’ve also seen various interpretations and adaptations of the plot. Granted, none of them are really accurate in regards to this, the source material.

This is free for Comixology Unlimited subscribers though, so I thought that delving into it was long overdue and that I really didn’t have an excuse anymore.

I expected this to be enjoyable but it still took me by surprise, as it was better than what I anticipated and all the years of hype I’ve experienced, didn’t diminish it in anyway.

The Dark Phoenix Saga is quintessential Chris Claremont. I can’t say that this is where he peaked but this is certainly a very elevated highpoint in his long run writing X-Men related stories.

This also came out in a time when Marvel wasn’t addicted to big crossover mega-events. This was a mega-event for its time but it wasn’t marketed or structured in the way that these things are now. It was just a good, lengthy story, limited to one already existing comic that found a way to utilize a lot of characters but in a way that balanced them all out and made them all useful to the plot.

One cool thing about this arc, is it also features the first appearances of Kitty Pryde, Emma Frost, Sebastian Shaw, the Hellfire Club and Dazzler. There’s a bunch of stuff going on within this story but it doesn’t off track and still builds towards the big battle between Jean Grey as Dark Phoenix and her X-Men family. It’s, at times, heartbreaking and tragic but it also makes you love all these people all over again in an organic, natural and emotional way. This hits emotional notes in the reader in ways that comic books never seem to come close to in 2019.

I can’t just give credit to Chris Claremont and his stupendous writing though. The art by John Byrne is absolutely superb and it is just as rich, colorful and meticulously crafted as the story its telling.

The Dark Phoenix Saga is one of the greatest Marvel stories ever told. It’s classic Marvel and truly represents what I loved about the era and how I fell in love with this creative medium in the first place.

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: other early Chris Claremont X-Men comics.

Comic Review: X-Men: Second Coming

Published: June 22nd, 2011
Written by: Craig Kyle, Christopher Yost, Matt Fraction, Zeb Wells, Mike Carey
Art by: David Finch, Terry Dodson, Ibraim Roberson, Greg Land, Mike Choi, Rachel Dodson, Sonia Oback

Marvel Comics, 360 Pages

Review:

I went into this thinking that I would like it for the most part. The events that precede it were pretty good reads. What I didn’t expect was to be blown away. But in the end, I have to say, this was one of the absolute best X-Men crossover events that I have ever experienced. Seriously, this was nothing short of superb.

More than anything, this story made me love Cable more than ever and it got me to love Hope Summers, who I would say is one of the best characters to come out of the last decade, even though she previously appeared as a baby before this in Messiah Complex.

This had a lot going on in the story but there was room for it all. Plus, all the key players were well balanced throughout and it gave most of the top characters a real purpose and mission.

There are real consequences in this story, as some key X-Men figures die. Granted, one could argue that those consequences are never real because no one truly dies in comics and the two biggest victims of this story are already alive and well, once again. But despite that, it felt like a real blow within this narrative. It didn’t lose its impact knowing that they’d eventually be back.

Second Coming carries all the doom and gloom of Messiah Complex over and it brings more doom and gloom but it ends in a way that finally sees a glimmer of “hope” appear in the darkest time of the X-Men franchise. I don’t want to spoil too much because I’d rather people give this a read.

Being that this is a crossover event, there is a mix of art styles. All of it works for me though, even if there are noticeable style shifts from chapter to chapter. Ultimately, the tone stays about the same from beginning to end.

This is a fairly long read but none of it is boring or filler. It moves at a brisk pace, keeps you engaged and makes you cheer for these heroes in a way that you haven’t since the early ’90s.

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: the stories that precede it: Avengers Disassembled, House of M and X-Men: The Messiah Complex, as well as the one this leads up to: Avengers Vs. X-Men.

Comic Review: X-Men/Alpha Flight (1998 Series)

Published: 1998
Written by: John Cassaday, Ben Raab
Art by: John Cassaday, Liquid! (cover)

Marvel Comics, 64 Pages

Review:

I wasn’t expecting much from this two-issue story arc but I was pleasantly surprised by how fun this was.

I love the X-Men and I love Alpha Flight. I especially love when they come together.

In this story we see the X-Men get captured by Baron Strucker and Hydra. Alpha Flight then goes in to save them.

I didn’t realize that this was a 1998 story when I first read it, as the version on Comixology listed it as 2016. So at first I thought it was a cool throwback because it had a very ’90s art style.

This is also the second X-Men/Alpha Flight team up mini-miniseries. I have read and owned the first one for years now. I don’t remember how good that one was but if it’s on par with this, that’d be great.

For a short story that didn’t have much room to breathe, this was a good, fun comic that reminded me why I loved these two teams back in the ’80s and ’90s.

Alpha Flight needs more love, people.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other ’90s X-Men and Alpha Flight stories.

Comic Review: Miles Morales: The Ultimate Spider-Man, Vol. 2: Revelations

Published: June 10th, 2015
Written by: Brian Michael Bendis
Art by: Dave Marquez

Marvel Comics, 145 Pages

Review:

This picked up right where the previous volume left off, which was good as volume one ended on a cliffhanger and didn’t closeout the story arc of Miles Morales and Peter Parker against the Green Goblin.

However, that arc does actually end in the first third of this collection and then we go right into two smaller arcs, which makes this volume less cohesive and consistent than the previous one.

This is still really good, however, it just felt like it wrapped up the Goblin stuff pretty abruptly and then the other two stories felt rushed due to how drawn out the Goblin plot was.

Miles finds himself in some serious trouble here, as his girlfriend is not who she seems. Also, his father returns with secrets that redefine Miles’ world.

Overall, this is a great collection of issues that develop Miles’ character and give him a lot more drama to contend with. This is where he really has to start growing up in an effort to become a man and a true hero.

That being said, it’s not the most entertaining chapter in Miles’ long story but it is maybe the most important.

Ultimately, this is still a good, fun read and I’m still on board with Miles’ journey.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: The other early Mile Morales Spider-Man stories. Also, Spider-Men I and II and Spider-Verse.

Comic Review: Miles Morales: The Ultimate Spider-Man, Vol. 1: Revival

Published: November 5th, 2014
Written by: Brian Michael Bendis
Art by: Dave Marquez, Mark Bagley, Mark Brooks, Stuart Immonen, David Laufente

Marvel Comics, 130 Pages

Review:

Since I really dug Brian Michael Bendis’ first run on the Miles Morales version of Spider-Man, I really wanted to jump into this. Also, there was some open ended stuff after the first Spider-Men event that I was curious at seeing play out. Although, that stuff isn’t quite addressed yet.

This starts off with Miles and all of Peter’s loved ones having a wake for him. It’s a really good single issue that sets the tone, especially since we discover that there is a version of Peter Parker alive in this universe now.

Miles comes into conflict with Peter Parker once again but this version of Parker isn’t the same one he met in Spider-Men and his appearance is a mystery weaved through the story, which definitely motivated me to read through this pretty quickly.

We don’t get a lot of answers here, as I’m assuming that those will come in volume two, the second half of this run for Miles.

But this also leads to the first confrontation between Miles and a mysteriously resurrected Norman Osborn. Also, this universe’s version of the Green Goblin is very different.

I don’t want to spoil too much of the plot, as the Miles stories are typically a fun read with this one being no different. I have been critical about Bendis’ work as of late but his creation of the Miles Morales character and his work on these short runs show that he still had something worthwhile to offer just a few years ago.

I can’t say the same for his work at DC, which started this past summer.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: The other early Mile Morales Spider-Man stories. Also, Spider-Men I and II and Spider-Verse.

Comic Review: Spider-Gwen, Vol. 5: Gwenom

Published: April 18th, 2018
Written by: Jason Latour
Art by: Robbi Rodriguez, Khary Randolph (covers)

Marvel Comics, 136 Pages

Review:

I think that I took too long of a break between reading volume 4 and volume 5 of Spider-Gwen. Reason being, this felt like the title had run out of steam. Maybe that’s because it did run out of steam by this point but it could be my own fault for lacking the enthusiasm I had for this series before I took a long break.

This just didn’t hit the right notes for me but that also probably has a lot to do with this being just another story of a Spidercharacter becoming Venom. Marvel has done this to death. Apart from the original Spider-Man titles, we got to see this with Miles Morales and Otto Octavius, both fairly recently.

I’m not saying that the Gwen Stacy version of Spider-Woman shouldn’t have a Venom story but this felt forced and like the writer was pushed into this by Marvel or because this series has now be rolling for a couple years and its hard to not become formulaic. It’s almost as if a Venom story was expected.

But just because something worked a few times, doesn’t mean that it will keep working. Also, it doesn’t mean that you can’t veer away from it and do your own thing. In fact, it’s much better to do your own thing and to explore new ideas with new characters, as opposed to rehashing some tired ass shit most Spider-fans have lived through multiple times.

I’m also just getting tired of this alternate universe. I kind of like the evil Daredevil thing but it’s also become a bit tiresome, as has this version of the Punisher and just about everyone else. It’s like the comic had some good ideas for twists on these characters but there wasn’t much else there beyond those twists.

This story arc also wedges in so many characters that it feels like a mess. I’m not even sure why some of them were there other than to have cameos galore in an effort to show how different this alternate reality is. But if you haven’t already done that by volume 5, hell, by volume 2, then maybe this series doesn’t deserve to continue.

I love Gwen Stacy and I really like this take on her character but she’s got to find a purpose for existing other than just being a cool idea and a really cool costume. And I feel like that’s all that she is now.

Rating: 5.75/10
Pairs well with: Other Spider-Gwen collections.

TV Review: X-Men: Pryde of the X-Men (1989)

Original Run: 1989 (first-run syndication, 1 episode)
Created by: Lee Gunther, Margaret Loesch
Directed by: Ray Lee
Written by: Larry Parr
Based on: The Uncanny X-Men by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby
Music by: Robert J. Walsh
Cast: Michael Bell, Earl Boen, Andi Chapman, Pat Fraley, Ron Gans, Dan Gilvezan, Alan Oppenheimer, Patrick Pinney, Neil Ross, Susan Silo, Kath Soucie, John Stephenson, Alexandra Stoddart, Frank Welker, Stan Lee (narrator)

Marvel Productions, New World Television, Toei Animation, Baker and Taylor Entertainment, Metrolight Studios, Disney-ABC Domestic Television, 1 Episode, 22 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

Pryde of the X-Men was a pilot for a proposed X-Men animated series in the late ’80s. As far as I know, only one episode was ever produced.

The episode appeared on television in 1989 but I never got to see it until the VHS was available to rent in my local video store.

While the failure of this pilot eventually led to the development of the spectacular X-Men: The Animated Series in 1992, it’s hard to say which version of an X-Men cartoon would have been better because this pilot was damn good.

Also, the great X-Men arcade game from the ’90s was modeled after this cartoon and not the better known 1992 one.

I loved the style of this, as it was very similar to the early seasons of G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero and Transformers. All three of these shows were made by Marvel and Toei. The animation is basically done in the same style and this show even uses some of the same voice talent that were featured in G.I. Joe and Transformers.

This show, at least this one episode, is centered around the arrival of Kitty Pryde to the X-Mansion. The X-Men team here consists of Professor X, Cyclops, Wolverine, Storm, Nightcrawler, Colossus and Dazzler. Lockheed, the dragon, is introduced in this too.

The episode also features the villains Magneto, Emma Frost, Juggernaut, Pyro and the Blob.

Pryde of the X-Men hits all the right notes and is a really cool experience if you grew up in the ’80s and ’90s and had a love for X-Men and the other Marvel/Toei animated shows. Man, I really wish this would’ve at least gotten a full season run because this setup was well done and left me wanting more.

I’m glad that we got the 1992 animated series but this could have been good and maybe even great. We’ll never know but this show certainly started off on the right foot.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: X-Men: The Animated Series, as well as G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero and Transformers.