Comic Review: The Amazing Spider-Man – Epic Collection: Ghosts of the Past

Published: July 4th, 2019
Written by: Craig Anderson, Peter David, Tom DeFalco, Danny Fingeroth, Bob Layton, Stan Lee, Louise Simonson
Art by: Sal Buscema, Paty Cockrum, Ron Frenz, Mike Harris, Greg Larocque, Bob Layton, Bob McLeod, Mary Wilshire

Marvel Comics, 473 Pages

Review:

Being that this beefy volume was an Epic Collection, it was chock full of several story arcs. Luckily for me, most of them were really good. But then this also came out in a great era for The Amazing Spider-Man comic series.

The first big arc features Hobgoblin and it is a follow-up to Spider-Man: Origin of the Hobgoblin, which I recently reviewed and f’n loved. In fact, I think it’s the first Hobgoblin story after the arcs that were featured in that superb collection.

Beyond the Hobgoblin story, we get about a half dozen short arcs featuring a myriad of villains and other heroes. This also includes the first appearance of Silver Sable, which was a pretty neat story.

After the Hobgoblin stuff, the two that really stick out are the one where Frog-Man and Toad team-up and the Firelord story that brought in the Avengers.

The Frog-Man and Toad tale was goofy and just filler but it was also fun and engaging. However, I’ve also always liked Frog-Man, despite his ineffectiveness as a real threat to anything.

The Firelord story was cool as hell, as Spider-Man was truly tested, as the villain is a cosmic powered being and damn near invincible when facing off against a sole Earth hero. The Avengers had to get involved and it also showed Spider-Man coming pretty close to going over the edge. Knowing what I know now, it was probably due to the effects of him recently wearing the Venom suit.

In the end, this was a cool run of issues. It takes place between Spidey getting the Venom suit and his first encounter with Venom. He switches between the classic red-and-blue suit and the safe black suit throughout this. I always found that confusing when I was a kid, as I wish he just would’ve worn the black outfit for that stretch.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: other Spider-Man stories of the ’80s and early ’90s.

Film Review: Spider-Man 2 (2004)

Also known as: Spider-Man: No More, Spider-Man 2: Lives, The Amazing Spider-Man (working title), Spider-Man 2.1 (recut version)
Release Date: June 25th, 2004 (Lithuania)
Directed by: Sam Raimi
Written by: Alvin Sargent, Alfred Gough, Miles Millar, Michael Chabon
Based on: Spider-Man by Stan Lee, Steve Ditko
Music by: Danny Elfman
Cast: Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, Rosemary Harris, Alfred Molina, Donna Murphy, J.K. Simmons, Bill Nunn, Elizabeth Banks, Ted Raimi, Bruce Campbell, Dylan Baker, Daniel Gillies, Vanessa Ferlito, Elya Baskin, Hal Sparks, Joel McHale, Emily Deschanel, Joey Diaz, Chloe Dykstra, John Landis (cameo), Willem Dafoe (cameo), Cliff Robertson (cameo), Phil LaMarr (uncredited), Peyton List (uncredited)

Marvel Entertainment, Laura Ziskin Productions, Columbia Pictures, 127 Minutes, 135 Minutes (extended cut)

Review:

“We need a hero, couragous sacrificing people, setting examples for all of us. Everybody loves a hero, people line up for ’em, cheer for them, scream their names, and years later tell how they stood in the rain for hours just to get a glimpse of the one who told them to HOLD ON a second longer. I believe theres a hero in all of us, that keeps us honest, gives us strength, makes us noble. And finally gets us to die with pride. Even though sometimes we have to be steady and give up the thing we want most, even our dreams.” – May Parker

I always thought of Spider-Man 2 as the superior film between the first two. However, having revisited them for the first time in over a decade, I think they break even. And that’s a good thing, as the first was a wee bit better than I remembered and this one was just about the same.

I like the story and the stakes in the first one better but this film has what I consider to be one of the greatest moments in superhero film history, if not the greatest.

That moment comes at the end of the train battle where Spider-Man exposes himself to the people on the train while he is risking his own life to save them from a horrible death. Those people, in a very powerful moment, stand up for Spidey and vow to protect his identity. Shit gets me misty… every fucking time.

The rest of the film is pretty great too and while I get bored with there being a lot of romance in superhero films, Sam Raimi did a stupendous job with these pictures, as he truly captures the emotions and the heartbreak of the characters, showing both sides of the equation equally and fairly.

A lot of the credit also has to go to Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst, who played these roles greatly while also having incredible chemistry. Sure, their story gets a bit fucked up in the third film but I’ll review that one in about a week.

Another thing I like about the film is how Raimi foreshadows things to come. Spider-Man is exposed to the public, which sort of foreshadows his identity becoming known to his love Mary Jane and his best friend Harry Osborn, who has vowed to get revenge on Spider-Man for the accidental death of his father.

It also foreshadows stories to come after this film by including Dr. Curt Connors, the man who would become The Lizard, as well as J. Jonah Jameson’s son, who would become Man-Wolf. Granted, Raimi never got to explore these characters more, as Spider-Man 4 and the films following it were eventually cancelled after the third movie misfired pretty hard.

It also felt like the groundwork was being laid for a Sinister Six story, which would become a focal point of The Amazing Spider-Man films that followed but that series was also cancelled in favor of another reboot that brought Spidey into Disney’s Marvel Cinematic Universe via Captain America: Civil War and his own solo films and guest appearances that followed.

Anyway, getting back on the topic of this film, my only real criticisms of it are the same as the previous one and that’s the visual style of it and how it looks overly copper. Granted, that feels like it is less of a problem here and the visual aesthetic was a bit more fine tuned and natural looking.

Apart from that, I just don’t like Dr. Octopus as much as I liked the Green Goblin. Both characters had weird designs and outfits in these movies but with the films being so good, you quickly look passed that. But Octopus feels kind of generic and uninspiring. While I like Alfred Molina in the role, I felt like he needed more meat to chew on and a much better look. In the end, however, you do really sympathize with him when he realizes what he’s done and decides to undo his work in an effort to save New York City and redeem himself in the eyes of Peter Parker, a kid he likes and respects.

Wrapping up two movies, this picture has an absolutely perfect ending. If the series ended here, it probably would’ve been remembered even more fondly but we did get that third film that derailed everything and it sort of left a stink on top of the series. Plus, after this, it would’ve felt almost criminal not to continue on.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: the other two films in this mostly great series.

Comic Review: Web of Venom: Cult of Carnage – One-Shot

Published: April 10th, 2019
Written by: Frank Tieri
Art by: Danilo Beyruth, Joshua Cassara (cover)

Marvel Comics, 35 Pages

Review:

I’m not really sure where the Venom series is going other than it has been working towards the return of Carnage for what I assume will be a massive Venom versus Carnage showdown.

Since last year’s Venom number 1 and the other Web of Venom one-shots, Donny Cates has mostly been at the helm and he’s done a pretty stupendous job. However, he’s seemingly left Venom behind to focus on Guardians of the Galaxy and the upcoming relaunch of Silver Surfer. That being said, this one-shot was written by Frank Tieri, who I mostly only know from his work on DC Comics’ Harley Quinn, as well as Jughead: The Hunger and a Red Sonja miniseries.

Overall, the story here was quite good. There was a bit of cheesy dialogue in one or two panels but not enough the detract from the proceedings.

Venom is nowhere to be found in this story, which is fine, but with his name in the title, I thought maybe he’d be around. In his place are Man-Wolf, a character I’ve always loved, and Misty Knight. We also get an inside look at this cult that has sprung up. The cult worships a strange god but it is really all a front for the returned Carnage, who has big plans that will most assuredly see him cross paths with Venom once again.

I liked the art and the tone of this was good.

These Web of Venom one-shots have all been pretty enjoyable and I like that they kind of feel like scenes edited out of the larger movie. They aren’t necessary to read with the regular Venom comic but they add more context than what you would get from just the primary title.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: the recent Donny Cates Venom series and its Web of Venom spinoffs.

Comic Review: Marvel Premiere Featuring Man-Wolf

Published: December, 1978 – February, 1979
Written by: David Anthony Kraft
Art by: George Perez, Frank Giacoia, Ricardo Villamonte

Marvel Comics, 38 Pages

Review:

I’ve been picking up old issues of Marvel Premiere lately. Mainly, because this anthology series predates the era where I first started reading comics and because Marvel’s ’70s fantasy stuff is pretty rad.

This Man-Wolf story was released over two issues, starting in the month I was born. Also, the Man-Wolf character is pretty damn cool when used in the right sort of story. This is definitely one of those stories, as this is where he becomes the super powerful Stargod.

The thing that really sold this for me though, was the George Perez art. His style has always resonated with me and his art was one of the factors that really got me into comics. When I first started drawing, I mimicked Perez a lot.

I think the thing that makes this a pretty cool story though, is the fantasy setting. Man-Wolf ends up in a weird place and becomes a god to a crew of barbarian type heroes. When you see him unleash his raw power, it’s absolutely ridiculous.

On the other hand, he was almost too powerful for this story and when the big showdown with the baddies happens, it felt a bit lazy in how easy it was for him to basically just turn into a friggin’ magic bomb. But I’m not complaining because the badassness of it is stronger than how convenient it was. Plus, it works for the narrative, as this was more about Man-Wolf becoming Stargod than fighting generic fantasy villains.

This was a really cool story to pick up. I think it would have been better though, if it was spread out over four issues and gave us a bit more depth and character development for Man-Wolf’s allies.

But comics are supposed to be fun escapism and that’s exactly what this is.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other Man-Wolf stories from the era, most notably the issues that feature him in another Marvel anthology series, Creatures On the Loose.