Published: February 23rd, 2017 Written by: Stan Lee Art by: Jack Kirby
Marvel Comics, 301 Pages
This stretch of issues in the classic Stan Lee/Jack Kirby run of Fantastic Four really enhances things quite a bit.
At this point, we’re about a year removed from the big arrival of Galactus and the Marvel universe has truly taken shape. Things feel less experimental and as if Lee has truly found his grove.
Additionally, Jack Kirby’s work seems to improve slightly with each volume of this classic series and that’s impressive, as the guy was damn good before he even started drawing these characters. I mean, the guy was already working on Captain America as far back as the 1940s and he started professionally drawing comics in the late ’30s.
This stretch also introduces some new villains and reworks some already classic ones like The Sandman, who now has a cool suit and feels like a legit threat on his own without the help of the other three members of the Frightful Four.
We also get the debut of Ronan the Accuser, Blastaar, Adam Warlock (going by “Him” in these earliest stories) and one of my favorite and very underutilized villains, Psycho-Man.
Plus, we also get more appearances by the Inhumans, Black Panther and Silver Surfer.
All the stories within this volume are action-packed and top notch classic Marvel stuff. Just when you think that Lee and Kirby had found their stride, they find ways to surprise you. Both men are f’n legends for a reason.
Rating: 9/10 Pairs well with: the other Marvel Masterworks collections.
Published: December 18th, 2019 Written by: Mark Gruenwald, Peter B. Gillis, Ralph Macchio Art by: Rich Buckler, Ron Wilson, Todd Nauck (cover)
Marvel Comics, 54 Pages
I had no idea that this Eternals one-shot was coming out until I saw it on the shelf at my comic shop last week. I picked it up and figured I’d give it a read without knowing much about it.
It’s a series of short stories making this an Eternals-centric anthology. The stories mostly serve to add more to the Eternals mythos, as they go deeper into the team and the Celestials’ origins while also covering the creation of the Inhumans.
The book features most of the important Eternals, as well as the Celestials, but it also makes room for the Kree, Ronan the Accuser, the Supreme Intelligence and the Inhumans themselves.
The stories are mostly written by Mark Gruenwald but we also get a story each from Peter B. Gillis and Ralph Macchio.
The art style is very Jack Kirby-esque, which gives the book the classic look that the original Kirby stories had. It really sets the tone, makes this feel like a real throwback and ultimately, taps in to the same sort of feelings one got reading those original Eternals comics in the mid-to-late ’70s.
The Eternals: Secrets From the Marvel Universe is a pretty cool comic for 2019 standards. It fits well within the already established early stories while building off of them and giving Eternals fans more meat to chew on.
Rating: 7.25/10 Pairs well with: Jack Kirby’s original run on The Eternals.
Published: 2005-2007 Written by: Dan Abnett, Keith Giffen, Andy Lanning, Simon Furman Art by: Mitch Breitweiser, Scott Kolins, Ariel Olivetti, Kev Walker, Renato Arlem, Jorge Lucas
Marvel Comics, 850 Pages
I’ve wanted to read Annihilation for a long time. The thing is, it’s absolutely f’n massive! Also, the collections for it back in the day were pretty expensive. But it was a long story that stretched over two years and across multiple titles.
I love most things that are cosmic Marvel though, so I felt that it was time to delve in. Plus, I took advantage of a big sale on Comixology and got all of them for about $16.
To start, the art is pretty stellar throughout the event. I especially loved the parts that were done by Mitch Breitweiser.
In addition to that, the writing was good when you break it apart and look at each miniseries within the crossover mega series.
But the hugeness of this kind of wears on you by the time you get closer to the end. There is just so much here and the story is organized in a way where you jump to a big four issue arc about one set of characters and then you go to the next four issue arc. Eventually, it all comes together at the end but some of the miniseries within the mega series felt inconsistent in overall quality.
This had some hiccups and lulls throughout but the end result was still enjoyable and this event had some incredible moments. Seeing Galactus defeated, captured and being farmed for energy was pretty breathtaking, shocking and a game changer for the plot and the story’s threat level.
Annihilus is one of the greatest villains in Marvel Comics history and seeing him basically be a god here was damn cool. Hell, seeing Thanos being forced to play Annihilus’ game was another epic narrative shock.
Ultimately, this series was massive in size, massive in scale and was one of the most grandiose tales Marvel has ever told. If you dig the cosmic stuff, you really should give this a read.
Rating: 7.25/10 Pairs well with: other big Marvel event stuff but mostly those that spend most of their time in the cosmos.
Release Date: February 27th, 2019 (London premiere) Directed by: Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck Written by: Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck, Geneva Robertson-Dworet, Nicole Perlman, Meg LeFauve Based on:Captain Marvel by Stan Lee, Gene Colan, Carol Danvers by Roy Thomas, Gene Colan Music by: Pinar Toprak Cast: Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, Ben Mendelsohn, Djimon Hounsou, Lee Pace, Lashana Lynch, Gemma Chan, Annette Bening, Clark Gregg, Jude Law, Kelly Sue DeConnick (cameo)
Marvel Studios, Walt Disney, 124 Minutes
“You are Carol Danvers. You were the woman on that black box risking her life to do the right thing. My best friend. Who supported me as a mother and a pilot when no one else did. You were smart, and funny, and a huge pain in the ass. And you were the most powerful person I knew, way before you could shoot fire through your fists.” – Maria Rambeau
This was the first Marvel Cinematic Universe movie that I didn’t see in the theater. Frankly, it looked boring and unimaginative and it really has nothing to do with the controversies surrounding the film regardless of what side of the argument your fanboy/girl heart lies on.
Seeing it now, I wasn’t wrong.
This is a drab, mostly pretty boring film. Also, it looks cheap compared to other Marvel movies. This looks more like an episode of a CW superhero show than a film produced by Disney and Marvel. And it’s kind of underwhelming and depressing, really. Especially since this had its fair share of outer space stuff, which Marvel has handled exceedingly well with Thor: Ragnarok and both Guardians of the Galaxy outings.
I think part of the problem is that this film had too many creatives trying to steer the ship. It had two directors and five writers. Fuck, guys… just pick a team of a few people like your best movies and let them make the magic happen. Films made by committees rarely wow anyone.
In regards to Brie Larson, she is, as I’ve said in reviews of other films, a charisma vacuum. She makes charismatic actors around here give uncharismatic performances. Sam Jackson and Jude Law are typically very charismatic and fun to watch. Here, they’re about as entertaining as sleeping dogs.
Throughout this entire film, Brie was told that she’s too emotional yet she barely shows any actual emotion and just delivers her lines with a blank face in monotone. She also does this juvenile smirk all the time that just makes her look like a middle aged soccer mom thinking that she’s still youthful, cute and wishes she was still in high school so she could cozy up to the mean girls.
If this film wasn’t part of the larger MCU canon, it would have come and gone and been completely forgotten already. It’s not even bad to where people can talk for years about how much of a shitshow it was like Catwoman. But this is the future that Disney apparently wants and between this dead on arrival, boring ass film and the slapped together, clusterfuck that Avengers: Endgame was, makes me think that the MCU‘s expiration date was 2019, just a year after it celebrated it’s 10th anniversary.
Usually for a film of this caliber, I’d have a lot more to say. But there isn’t much to talk about with this one. It’s a waste of time, it carries an obvious agenda with it and like things that are trying to be political statements, it fails at conveying that message in a meaningful or genuine way.
Plus, everyone and their mother has torn this film apart already. I don’t think it’s as bad as many people do but it’s certainly a soulless, unemotional, pointless film more concerned with its place in history and trying to challenge societal ideals in the laziest way possible than it is trying to be a fun, escapist piece of entertainment.
But hey, this isn’t as bad as Joss Whedon’s Avengers: Age of Ultron, which still takes the cake as Marvel’s worst. I would put this in my bottom two or three though.
Rating: 5.5/10 Pairs well with: Everything else in the MCU, I guess.
Published: 1971-1972 Written by: Roy Thomas Art by: Neal Adams, John Buscema, Sal Buscema
Marvel Comics, 205 Pages
I never read the original Kree/Skrull War storyline but I’ve heard it referenced my entire life. But with it being free on Comixology and with my desire to read a lot of the major old school comic book milestones, I had to finally give this a read.
So if I’m being honest, this really is a mixed bag.
Now when this is good, it’s damn good. However, the middle act of this large story feels like it gets off track before it all comes back together for the big finale, which is a space battle between two warring alien races and members of the Avengers team.
This story is at its best when both Ronan the Accuser and Annihilus are front and center. Other than that, it deals with the newer Avengers team screwing up and the original team having to come back and disband them. Ultimately, this leads to the newer Avengers redeeming themselves and it also showcases Rick Jones, a man without any powers, as a brave, courageous badass. Never mind that Ronan nearly slaps him to smithereens at one point though.
The only weak thing about this story besides the middle act, is that it was probably too drawn out. In fact, most of that middle act should have been whittled down. If that was fixed, this would have had better pacing and it would have been much, much better overall.
I really loved seeing old school Ronan and Annihilus though. Man, they’re such good villains when used correctly and not written as fodder for heroes. Most modern comic book fans probably don’t know how scary it was to see either of these guys show up, back in the day. Annihilus, especially, was a terrifying enemy.
Lastly, I have to mention that this was just great to look at. The art of Neal Adams, John Buscema and Sal Buscema was ’70s Marvel perfection.
Rating: 7.75/10 Pairs well with: other ’70s Marvel milestone events.
Published: 1980 Written by: Chris Claremont Art by: John Byrne
Marvel Comics, 200 Pages
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 PhoenixSaga 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.
Published: August 29th, 2018 – September, 26th, 2018 Written by: Mike Costa Art by: Mark Bagley, Ron Lim, Paco Diaz
Marvel Comics, 113 Pages
Venom: First Host was a really cool miniseries for me for several reasons.
To start, I love Venom and whenever he gets a story that expands his character, I’m usually always pleased. This story helped to give the character and his history more depth and further moved him along to where he no longer has to be solely attached to Spider-Man stories. This, along with Donny Cates’ current run on the regular Venom title, have made this iconic anti-hero much more interesting in 2018, thirty years after his first appearance.
Secondly, I love the creative team on this book. Mike Costa was one of my favorite G.I. Joe writers of all-time. In fact, I wish he would return to that universe, as it’s pretty much getting run through the muck, lately.
As far as the art, you’ve got Mark Bagley and Ron Lim, two guys that I was a huge fan of in the ’90s. Bagley did the art in so many books that I read and Lim did all that fantastic art in the three Infinity events in the early ’90s. I’ve also always liked Paco Diaz’s work too. So, for me, this was like an all-star team comprised of guys I liked on different projects, brought together to give me a miniseries on one of my all-time favorite characters.
The story itself is really interesting, as well. It introduces us to the Venom symbiote’s first host, a disgraced and violent Kree warrior. It also deals with a new offspring of Venom, which Brock and the symbiote treat and see as their child. So we have Brock in the young symbiote suit teaming up with a female Skrull to defeat a Kree madman with the Venom suit. It’s nuts, it’s fun and I had a blast reading this story. I’d like to see more of Venom in space, actually.
Now this may be confusing, as it is somewhat of an unexplored origin and it is happening at the same time Cates’ origin of the symbiote is also being published. But these two stories work well together and while all this new Venom backstory stuff might be overwhelming and a bit confusing, each current Venom comic works well on its own.
And frankly, between this miniseries and Cates’ stuff, I’m really excited to see the Venom movie, which is just a few days away at the time of this writing.
Rating: 7.5/10 Pairs well with:Venom: Rex and the upcoming Donny Cates Venom stuff.
Published: January 26th, 2005 Written by: Brian Michael Bendis Art by: David Finch
Marvel Comics, 133 Pages
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.
Published: February 5th, 2014 Written by: Jonathan Hickman Art by: various
Marvel Comics, 866 Pages
Since new ideas are hard to come by, Marvel decided to sort of rehash the Infinity events from the ’90s in this modern version of a story that features Thanos and every single Marvel hero that can possibly fit on a splash page.
I’m not knocking the technique, if a story is good, it’s good. All stories borrow from something else and Marvel (just like DC) likes to recycle the core elements of their big crossover events, again and again. Marvel has had two Civil War storylines, Avengers Vs. X-Men, which was practically like Civil War, and multiple versions of Secret War. Then there are massive Skrull events that seem to have happened an awful lot too.
I guess the main similarity between this and the ’90s Infinity events is that it features dozens upon dozens of Marvel heroes against a seemingly omnipotent Thanos. However, Thanos’ purpose is different here and there is no sign of the Infinity Gauntlet. In this story, he comes to Earth to find his long lost son Thane. Why? Because Thanos wants to murder him, as he’s done with his other offspring.
I read the large collected edition of this, which was well over 800 pages. It was massive and thick and took some time to get through. At first, it started slow and I felt like I didn’t know what was going on because I haven’t read a lot of modern Marvel stuff and there are all of these new heroes I’ve never experienced. Don’t worry, this still has every classic hero in it too. Every major player is here, as should be expected with an event like this.
Reading this, I can see where it also influenced the recent Avengers: Infinity War movie, as it has the introduction of the Black Order, who played a big part in that film.
The story also deals with a threat from the Builders, who basically want to destroy the universe because villains do those sort of things in comic books.
There are a lot of layers to the story and it can feel overwhelming and overly complicated but the core of it is very good. This event had some really awesome and powerful moments and also featured some of the most badass stuff Thor has ever done.
It also gave us Thane, a character that is more dangerous than his famous father and who looks to be a massive threat for the heroes after the conclusion of this story.
I thought the pacing was good, once the story really got going. The six Infinity issues were certainly the high point of the story where the Avengers and New Avengers issues that were part of this collection served to give more exposition to the larger narrative.
This massive collected edition is capped off by a Silver Surfer story that takes place alongside these events. The Surfer didn’t appear in the main story but he had his own tale that was worth telling, as he was on the other side of the galaxy dealing with the same events in a different way.
And I guess another really important thing about this mega event is that the art was fabulous. I loved it, every panel, every page and every issue of every comic series collected here was visual perfection. Kudos to the artists: Jim Cheung, Jerome Opena and Dustin Weaver.
Rating: 8.75/10 Pairs well with: The ’90s Infinity trilogy of events: The Infinity Gauntlet, The Infinity War and The Infinity Crusade.
Published: September 28th, 2011 Written by: Jim Starlin Art by: George Perez, Ron Lim
Marvel Comics, 256 Pages
Since the new Avengers movie is coming out very shortly and it is about Thanos and the Infinity Gauntlet, I wanted to revisit those stories in their original comic book format. This is the first of TheInfinity Trilogy, which also features The Infinity War and The Infinity Crusade.
This was the biggest Marvel mega crossover event of my most formative years. I had read Secret Wars I and II, as well as some of the major X-Men centered mega events before this but this one, at least when I was a preteen, seemed like it was legitimately for all the marbles like nothing else that came before it. Therefore, when it was revealed several years ago that the Marvel Cinematic Universe was building towards Thanos and his acquisition of the Infinity Stones, I knew that the third Avengers movie was going to be the biggest cinematic event in the history of comic book movies.
But how does the original body of work stack up now, two and a half decades later?
Well, it’s still really damn good and was a heck of a read.
The story is comprised of six beefy oversized issues. The first three serve to set up the final three, which cover the massive space battle between Thanos and everything the Marvel Universe could throw at him. The first half is a bit slow but it is necessary to understand what is happening. The fourth issue throws Earth’s heroes at Thanos, the fifth issue throws Marvel’s cosmic entities and gods at Thanos and the sixth and final issue sees Nebula acquire the Infinity Gauntlet, causing Thanos to have to reassess his place in the order of the universe.
I think that the biggest difference between this classic version and the upcoming film adaptation is that the build will be much different and it should be.
Here, Thanos is motivated by the petty idea that he can use the Gauntlet to win over the heart of Death. While it does work for the comics, it isn’t something that could really work on film, at least not with a lot more narrative work than the Marvel screenwriters will have time for if they also need to focus on wedging every cinematic hero into the film. By modern standards, Thanos’ motivation seems cheesy but I’ll buy into it because it isn’t something that I couldn’t see the character doing. He’s flawed and egomaniacal, and he would be driven to win over what he feels he cannot have.
I liked where this story went, how it challenged the heroes, how the writers worked it so that Thanos wasn’t “omnipotent” and how it all panned out in the end.
The Infinity Gauntelt is still a great Marvel mega crossover event that deserves the recognition and legendary status it has.
Rating: 8.25/10 Pairs well with: Its sequels The Infinity War and The Infinity Crusade.