Published: April 5th, 2017
Written by: John Byrne, J.M. DeMatteis, Mark Gruenwald
Art by: Mike Zeck, various
Marvel Comics, 511 Pages
I wanted to read this beefy Epic Collection of Captain America stories, as it sets up the era where Steve Rogers quit being Cap and the role was then given to the man who would later become US Agent. With that, Rogers picks up the Nomad persona and travels the country, fighting villainy.
Those events don’t happen until the collection of issues after this one but this lays all the groundwork, introduces us to the future US Agent and gives us a solid Cap and original Nomad team-up. There are also stories featuring Scourge, Wolverine, Yellow Claw, Flag-Smasher and a great story where Cap is trapped in Red Skull’s “haunted house”. We also get the debut of D-Man and some cool Frog-Man stuff.
I loved a lot of these stories when I was a kid and it was cool reading them now, as it’s been so long since I’ve read Captain America from this era. While they’re not as great as my memory made them out to be, most of the stories here were enjoyable.
I actually forgot that Cap was already sort of a nomad before becoming Nomad. I also forgot that he had a side hustle as a comic book artist, which comes off as really odd, now that I’m reminded of that as an adult. But it does add some interesting complexity to the character and kind of shows you that there’s a certain sensitivity behind his top iconic layer.
This is really good and it’s prepped me for the US Agent stint as Cap, which I also wanted to reread, as the character is finally debuting in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, as a part of the Falcon and Winter Soldier television series.
Pairs well with: other ’80s Captain America comics, especially those involving US Agent.
Published: March 20th, 2019 – August 28th, 2019
Written by: Chip Zdarsky
Art by: Mark Bagley
Marvel Comics, 200 Pages
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.
Pairs well with: the recent Symbiote Spider-Man miniseries by Peter David and Greg Land.
Published: October, 1987 – November, 1987
Written by: J.M. DeMatteis
Art by: Mike Zeck
Marvel Comics, 143 Pages
Kraven’s Last Hunt is considered to be one of the best Spider-Man story arcs ever written. I’ve gotta say that I agree with that assessment and frankly, it’s near perfect minus a few minor things that hinder it.
The art by Mike Zeck is superb though. And even if the story wasn’t as exceptional as it is, the art in this book really takes it to another level due to its grittiness.
This story came out at the end of Spider-Man’s black costume era. The fact that he’s wearing that costume in this story really adds to the tone and gives this a brooding atmosphere that it wouldn’t have had were he wearing his traditional blue and red outfit.
For Kraven fans, this is a must read, as it’s the most important story to feature the character. It also sees him get the best of Spider-Man, by burying him alive for weeks, as he takes over the mantle, becoming a “superior Spider-Man”. So really, Dan Slott through Doctor Octopus pretty much just recycled this concept with his Superior Spider-Man comic book series. But I can’t knock Slott for that, as I enjoyed the series and he definitely made it his own.
Getting back to this story, it also features the minor villain Vermin. The Vermin stuff is very important to the plot but I’ve never been a fan of the character, as he’s pretty one note and generic. Vermin’s inclusion is one of the things I wasn’t keen on in the story but they do include him in a way that makes sense and enriches the story overall. I feel like a different angle would’ve been better though, as so much time is devoted to the character that it detracts from the larger, much better story. Frankly, I just want this to be 100 percent Kraven.
This six issue arc ends in a pretty dark place but it’s almost a perfect conclusion to this rich story. And in a lot of ways, it foreshadows the darkness that is soon to come into Spider-Man’s life in the form of Venom.
Kraven’s Last Hunt absolutely deserves its praise. It’s a true high point to one of the best eras in Spider-Man lore. It’s also one of the reasons I became a lifelong fan of Marvel’s most popular hero.
Pairs well with: late ’80s Spider-Man comics, especially the David Michelinie/Todd McFarlane era on The Amazing Spider-Man.
Published: September 16th, 2009
Written by: David Hine, Fabrice Sapolsky
Art by: Carmine Di Giandomenico
Marvel Comics, 96 Pages
I like Spider-Man, I like film-noir… but I didn’t like Spider-Man Noir.
I mean, I think the character is kind of cool and the idea of him and his world is a cool idea but the execution was pretty damn lackluster and also kind of predictable and derivative.
This book is just boring and I’m not sure how that was possible with the material. There is so much that could have been done with this story but it just tries to shoehorn in 1940s versions of already established characters in ways that just don’t fit them very well.
Why couldn’t this feature an actual 1940s Spider-Man with his own cast of characters instead of forcing Peter Parker, Aunt May, Black Cat, Norman Osborne, The Vulture, Kraven and J. Jonah Jameson on us? Does this take place in a dimension where everything is still like it was in the 1940s?
So Peter is an angry kid, Aunt May is basically the same, Black Cat is a cookie cutter femme fatale, Osborne is a gangster, The Vulture looks more like Count Orlok from Nosferatu than the Vulture and Kraven the Hunter is a guy in a flashy suit with a monkey on his shoulder.
I yawned so hard that I cracked my jaw.
But on the flip side of all that, I thought the art was pretty good. It was too vibrant and colorful to truly feel noir-esque but at least I had something nice to look at since the story was putting me to sleep.
Luckily, this was only 96 pages.
Pairs well with: Dan Slott’s mediocre run on Spider-Man titles.
Published: June 1st, 1964
Written by: Stan Lee
Art by: Steve Ditko
Marvel Comics, 75 Pages
This story premiered in the first ever Amazing Spider-Man annual. Plus, it was written by Stan “The Man” Lee and drawn by the great Steve Ditko.
The plot is pretty standard fair for ’60s Marvel and it sees six of Spider-Man’s toughest villains come together to form the original version of the Sinister Six. That being said, the Sinister Six have been one of my favorite villain groups of all-time and this storyline didn’t just create a supervillain team to test a single hero but it created a trend in the comic book medium that saw other heroes have to take on similar teams of multiple rogues.
I like how the plot was structured, in that Spider-Man had to run the gauntlet on the Sinister Six and fought each one individually. This is actually a great setup for the future, which would see the Sinister Six up the ante and take on Spidey all at once. However, in future battles, Spidey would get some help of his own.
This group consisted of Doctor Octopus, The Vulture, Kraven the Hunter, Electro, Mysterio and the Sandman. While the group would rotate some other villains in over the course of time, I really liked this group and how having them come together in this story made it feel like a Spider-Man themed Royal Rumble.
For a first time reader, this had to be a fun read, as it forced Spider-Man to face multiple challenges in the same story. Plus, it just looks great with the Ditko art.
This is not my favorite Sinister Six story but we wouldn’t have gotten the other ones without this happening first. Plus, it’s quintessential Stan Lee in how this all plays out.
It’s hard not to love this.
Pairs well with: other Stan Lee and Steve Ditko era Spider-Man comics.
Published: July 27th, 2011
Written by: Jeph Loeb
Art by: Tim Sale
Marvel Comics, 137 Pages
Other than the Hulk one, I’ve really loved the color themed series of titles that Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale did for Marvel. This is the last of the four that I have read and am now reviewing.
Spider-Man: Blue was damn good. It really captured the spirit of classic Spidey and even though it had a good amount of action and superhero fun, the focal point of this story was Peter Parker’s love for Gwen Stacy but also his blossoming love for his eventual wife, Mary Jane Watson.
This throws a good array of villains at the hero and all of them serve more than a superficial purpose. Kraven the Hunter is the big bad by the end of the story and his threat and how it grows throughout the pages of this miniseries flows really well with the narrative surrounding Peter Parker’s personal life.
Loeb and Sale are just a spectacular team and their talents are on full display here. While I still prefer their Batman work, all of which are real classics in the medium, these Marvel books are some of the best works to come out of the publisher in the last decade or so.
These stories understand the characters, their motivations and the art style makes them feel like you are going back to yesteryear.
Spider-Man: Blue is a fine read and it may even hit you in the feels.
Pairs well with: The other color themed books that Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale did for Marvel.
Published: June 13th, 2018
Written by: Ed Brisson
Art by: Francesco Manna, Mike Deodato Jr.
Marvel Comics, 46 Pages
Logan the Hunted takes place over Old Man Logan issues 41 and 42.
This story was short and sweet but it was also pretty friggin’ badass.
Why is this badass?
Well, you have Wolverine dumped into the Savage Land with Kraven the Hunter tracking him down for a real mano a mano showdown. They fight, they encounter dinosaurs, saber-toothed tigers and some other twists and turns along the way.
Logan is dealing with the fact that his regenerative healing has slowed down immensely and his body’s ability to repair itself is greatly reduced. In fact, in this story, he has one adamantium claw and one bone claw, as his hand was recently cut off and grew back in its natural state. It’s just really f’n cool seeing him use both versions of his claws at the same time.
There isn’t much plot here, other than just having a reason to throw these two warriors at each other for a savage brawl in the Savage Land. But that’s perfectly fine. We don’t need a story just to see two real heavyweights throwdown.
Their fight was fun to watch, their dialogue exchanges were good and really, this just whets the palate enough to satisfy anyone wanting some higher testosterone levels in their Marvel comic books. The Old Man Logan series is one of Marvel’s best right now because it feels like a throwback to those old ’80s Wolverine solo stories.
Plus, Logan is old as shit, just like his real old school fans that enjoyed him at the height of his awesomeness.
I don’t care that the real Wolverine is coming back; Old Man Logan is my Wolverine now.
Pairs well with: Other story arcs in the ongoing Old Man Logan series.
Published: January 3rd, 2017
Written by: Jason Latour
Art by: Robbi Rodriguez
Marvel Comics, 112 Pages
I’ve been flying through these Spider-Gwen books but I can’t help myself because I’m in love with this series.
However, this one regressed the character of Gwen after she seemed to reach a breakthrough in regards to her emo slump after the death of Peter Parker.
When she fought Harry Osborne in the book before this one, she seemed to reach some closure. But once this chapter in the series picks up, she’s back to being Queen Emo Gwen. While I understand her emotional stress, by this point, it’s really pushing this series down into the muck and holding it back from progressing. At this point, as a reader, I’m just about over it as much as her band mates in The Mary Janes.
That being said, apart from that aspect of the story, this chapter was still quite enjoyable. However, it did seem to be less cohesive than the previous two collections. But I also felt like it had a much needed slower pace after the two volumes that preceded it.
Still, a lot does happen and there are tussles with the debuting Kraven and an amusing Mysterio story. We also get out first look at Fantastic Four characters in this universe or at least, the first time I’ve encountered them.
Frank Castle returns to his evil Punisher ways and gets much closer to ruining Gwen’s life. However, his actions work against him and his obsession is made much more apparent to his colleagues and friends.
We also get more of this universe’s evil Matt Murdock and the groundwork is set for Spider-Gwen being much more involved with the Kingpin and his organization. Really, there’s just a lot of stuff established in this volume that should lead to some solid things the series can explore going forward.
This is still a pretty good collection, even if it gets held back by Gwen’s emotions and apprehension.
Pairs well with: The other Spider-Gwen collections.