Comic Review: Secret Invasion

Published: 2008
Written by: Brian Michael Bendis
Art by: Leinil Francis Yu, Gabriele Dell’Otto (cover)

Marvel Comics, 218 Pages

Review:

Secret Invasion came out after a series of good storylines from Marvel like Civil War, The Death of Captain America and the feud between the two Avengers teams that followed Civil War. I guess this was supposed to be a good payoff for sticking through that solid run of most of Marvel’s major titles. However, this was mostly a clusterfuck that created more problems than the Marvel continuity needed.

This was ambitious, damn ambitious.

Brian Michael Bendis’ ambition really overreached, though, and this mega event became a jumping off point for me back when it was coming out. After a few issues, I dropped it an never looked back.

Since years have passed and Marvel has gotten even worse, I thought that I might enjoy this a bit more and since I never actually finished it the first time, I wanted to give it another shot.

This is just one of those ideas that sounds good on paper but once you start really fleshing it out, you know it’s not going to work. Well, Bendis should have figured that out on his own, especially since the industry considers him a legend.

The biggest problem with this mega event is that it could have worked on a smaller scale. We could’ve seen that the Skrulls had infiltrated the superhero community, replacing some heroes with themselves in disguise. It didn’t need to be so damn grandiose where nearly half the heroes were just Skrulls in hiding. The conspiracy was too big and thus, came across as really fucking dumb.

In fact, this would’ve been much better had the Skrulls just replaced a few key people and there were still less than a handful in disguise. When you expect half the heroes to be impostors, the reveals of who is who loses its impact and you’re left with a half-assed handjob from a drunk instead of great sex from a pretty hot sexual partner.

In the end, when half the characters were impostors, it poses too many questions that just break continuity and it’s way too hard for editorial to keep track of, especially editorial from this era or any after.

Someone really should’ve grabbed Bendis by the shoulders and shouted, “Scale this the fuck down!”

Rating: 4.5/10
Pairs well with: other Marvel mega events.

Comic Review: Civil War

Published: April 11th, 2007
Written by: Mark Millar
Art by: Steve McNiven

Marvel Comics, 196 Pages

Review:

I loved Civil War when I first read it over a dozen years ago. It reignited my interest in Marvel Comics and I stuck with a lot of the core stories that were born out of these events.

For those that don’t know, this pits two factions of superheroes against each other: one group led by Captain America and the other led by Iron Man. It would also go on to inspire the movie Captain America: Civil War, nine years later.

Cap’s group is against a new law that would force superheroes to give up their secret identities and become agents of the government. Iron Man agrees with the law, after a group of C-list heroes are responsible for the deaths of hundreds of children. Spider-Man, the third central character, starts the story on one side and then switches after certain events give him newfound clarity.

The story, the idea and its execution are near perfect. In fact, I’m not sure how this wasn’t a story idea before this, as it seems like a natural development for the superhero genre. Regardless, Mark Millar penned magic here and this is, hands down, one of the greatest mega events in comic book history.

Having just read two of DC’s massive Crisis events and seeing how they were massive clusterfucks, this is the complete antithesis of those and goes to show how much better Marvel is (or was) at bringing a massive group of characters together.

I also really enjoyed Steve McNiven’s art and it fit the tone well. McNiven was one of the top artists at the time and his talent was put to great use here.

My only negative takeaway is that this story should’ve been longer than seven issues. It felt like there was a lot more story to tell. But then again, there are literally dozens of Civil War tie-ins that you can read for more context and to see what other heroes were up to during this saga. From memory, a lot of them were also pretty good.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: all the other Civil War crossover tie-in trade paperbacks, as well as The Death of Captain America.

Film Review: Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019)

Also known as: Spider-Man: Homecoming 2 (informal title)
Release Date: June 26th, 2019 (Hollywood premiere)
Directed by: Jon Watts
Written by: Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers
Based on: Spider-Man by Stan Lee, Steve Ditko
Music by: Michael Giacchino
Cast: Tom Holland, Samuel L. Jackson, Zendaya, Cobie Smulders, Jon Favreau, J. B. Smoove, Martin Starr, Jacob Batalon, Marisa Tomei, Jake Gyllenhaal, Peter Billingsly, J.K. Simmons (cameo), Robert Downey Jr. (archive footage), Jeff Bridges (archive footage), Ben Mendelsohn (cameo)

Columbia Pictures, Marvel Studios, Pascal Pictures, Sony Pictures, 129 Minutes

Review:

“Don’t ever apologize for being the smartest one in the room.” – Mysterio

After Avengers: Endgame I don’t feel as invested in the Marvel Cinematic Universe as I was for the last eleven years. At this point, I feel like I don’t have to watch every movie Marvel puts out and I’m just going to see things based off of how I feel about the trailers on a film by film basis.

However, I liked the first Tom Holland starring Spider-Man film and I also like Jake Gyllenhaal and the character of Mysterio, so I wanted to give this movie a shot.

I’m glad that I did, as it exceeded any of the expectations I had for it and is a better film than its predecessor, Spider-Man: Homecoming, as well as the pretty lackluster and confusing Endgame. It’s also much, much better than Captain Marvel and is thus, the best MCU movie of 2019.

I know that Tom Holland has been criticized by some but I dig his Spider-Man. I also know that some have criticized his relationship with Tony Stark but I enjoy it, as he’s a kid that’s already dealt with a lot of loss in his life and he’s needed a father figure to look up to. Is it a bit over the top? Yeah, probably. However, it’s still believable and you can’t help but to be touched by their immense bond over the films where they shared scenes.

And that carries over really well here in how the whole plot is structured around Peter Parker evolving beyond just being Stark’s sidekick. He has to become a man here and the whole story is a test to see if he is actually worthy of Stark’s empire, as Stark believed he was.

On top of that, it was really refreshing to have Jon Favreau return as Happy Hogan to help Peter along the way. I feel as if the Hogan/Parker dynamic can and will evolve into something just as strong as what Peter had with Tony. But it’s probably a more mature bond, as Parker doesn’t idolize Hogan like he did Stark but instead bonds with him over the two men losing a dear friend.

Adding another layer to that is the inclusion of Quentin Beck a.k.a. Mysterio, who Parker tries to envision as his new Tony Stark. Obviously, things go sideways in that regard, as Mysterio is one of Spidey’s greatest villains but the scenes between Holland and Gyllenhaal’s Mysterio are really f’n good.

I’m still not keen on the other teenagers in the film but they serve their purpose and they don’t get in the way too much. MJ also evolves nicely and even if she is sort of a millennial hipster cynic, she finally lets Peter in and shows a more endearing side to her character.

The story is well structured and it flows at a perfect pace. While they alter Mysterio’s backstory, the alteration is somewhat of an improvement, as it makes more sense in the cinematic world that this Spider-Man lives in. And what’s best about the whole thing, is the new angle makes sense and it allows for Mysterio to be more powerful than he traditionally is in the comics. He’s smarter, more cunning and has Stark’s toys at his disposal.

We also get Nick Fury and Maria Hill back but there is a twist to that. Still, it’s good to see them and I wish that Marvel would use Cobie Smulders’ Hill more than they have over the last decade.

I wasn’t initially keen on the European setting, as Spider-Man is really in his element in New York City. However, it works for the story and the final act taking place in London made up for the lack of skyscrapers and architectural scale that was missing in the earlier parts of the film.

All in all, this was an energetic, emotional and fun movie. It hit the right marks and even though this is really fresh in my mind, I’d have to say that it’s the second best Spider-Man film ever made after 2004’s Spider-Man 2.

Rating: 8.75/10
Pairs well with: all the MCU films featuring Tom Holland’s Spider-Man.

Comic Review: World War Hulk

Published: May 7th, 2008
Written by: Greg Pak
Art by: John Romita Jr.

Marvel Comics, 197 Pages

Review:

Planet Hulk is one of my favorite story arcs of the ’00s. I never read the followup, World War Hulk until now though. I think the reason behind that is because Planet Hulk was so perfect, I didn’t want to diminish its impact on me by jumping right into the next big chapter in the Hulk’s life.

That being said, I’m glad that I did finally read this as it was a lot of fun. Sure, it doesn’t live up to what Planet Hulk was but those were big shoes to fill and this is still a worthwhile followup that shows the Hulk finally make it home with a serious chip on his shoulder.

At its core, this is a revenge tale. But there are a lot of layers and a dark secret that comes out at the end that really shakes the foundation of what this era’s Hulk stands for.

You see, the Hulk is not only mad that his friends (Mr. Fantastic, Iron Man, Doctor Strange and Black Bolt) sent him away against his will, marooning him on a terribly violent planet, but now he wants revenge because his wife and unborn child were killed by what he believes was the fault of these same former friends. So the Hulk returns to Earth with his allies from Planet Hulk ready for a showdown with his old teammates in the heart of New York City.

This story is full of epic destruction and incredible action. It’s also nice seeing John Romita Jr. do the art for this, as I’ve been an avid fan of his work since I first discovered him in the pages of Daredevil in the late ’80s.

World War Hulk is full of a ton of Marvel superheroes, all trying to stop the Hulk’s war against Earth’s mightiest. While it isn’t on Planet Hulk‘s level, it’s still a worthy sequel and changes the Marvel landscape going forward.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: the story that precedes this one, the near perfect Planet Hulk.

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: Ultimate Comics Spider-Man, Vol. 4

Published: January 9th, 2014
Written by: Brian Michael Bendis
Art by: David Marquez, Sara Pichelli

Marvel Comics, 106 Pages

Review:

Like every new Spider hero of the last half decade or so, Miles Morales’ Spider-Man had to get his own Venom story. This also happened early on in the careers of the Superior Spider-Man and Spider-Gwen. It’s sort of a trend with Marvel but maybe it’s also a right of passage for Spider-Family characters that have made it beyond just being one-offs or quick cash grabs.

What sets this Venom story apart from the others like it, is that the symbiote is a giant beastly thing that doesn’t resemble the classic look and is more like a gigantic mess. I don’t like this version of Venom or its weird origin story. Also, apparently there’s a host but you don’t see him until Venom is defeated and it’s no one you’ll know.

You also get to see Gwen Stacy and Mary Jane Watson come into the story but they don’t feel like their characters, at all. I’m not sure if the Ultimate universe versions of these two ladies are supposed to be hipster sitcom characters but that’s basically all that they are. And their dialogue is atrocious.

What makes this work though, is how well this story, despite it’s cosmetic flaws, taps into Miles’ larger, personal arc. This chapter in the series has a huge effect on the character and where he goes moving forward. This is the turning point in the series, where things get serious and too real. This is that defining moment that makes or breaks a hero.

This is very Bendis. And what I mean by that is that it’s an inconsistent, mixed bag where there are glaring issues but it still has the makings of a great story.

There is only one more volume in this series and I am looking forward to it, I just hope that it ends on a great note, as I have mostly enjoyed the Miles Morales story up to this point.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: The other early Mile Morales Spider-Man stories. Also, Spider-Men I and II and Spider-Verse.