Comic Review: X-Force – Epic Collection: Under the Gun

Published: March 22nd, 2017
Written by: Rob Liefeld, Fabian Nicieza, Todd McFarlane, various
Art by: Rob Liefeld, Greg Capullo, Todd McFarlane, Mike Mignola, Mark Pacella, Darick Robertson, Terry Shoemaker, various 

Marvel Comics, 463 Pages

Review:

Man, oh, f’n man… it’s been ages since I’ve read the Rob Liefeld era of X-Force. When I was a kid, I thought that this was the greatest new series Marvel had but I also think I was convincing myself of that, as Rob Liefeld was a hot commodity and I was also a fan of The New Mutants, which this was born out of. Besides, there was just so much hype at the time and I was at a pretty impressionable age.

Reading this now, I still found it really enjoyable and was surprised that I liked it as much as I did.

However, I also know that the story essentially came from Liefeld like bullet points and then it was handed to ace writer Fabian Nicieza, who actually wrote all the dialogue and massaged Liefeld’s notes into a usable script. After Liefeld left the series to co-found Image Comics, Nicieza stayed on as the writer and worked with other greats like Greg Capullo and Mike Mignola.

Now looking at the other side of this, creatively, the art isn’t great and even if I loved Liefeld when I was in 7th grade, I see the issues with his art much more clearly now. However, I don’t want to shit all over the guy like everyone else has done for years. I just notice the issues he has with anatomy and perspective.

It’s worth mentioning, though, that the art did improve once Liefeld stepped away, which happened about two-thirds into this collection.

As far as the story goes, I really got reinvested in this and want to keep reading it. Possibly beyond where I stopped when I was buying this month-after-month, which was about four or five years into the series.

Additionally, this also reminded me of how much I liked some of the long forgotten characters that were so cool in 1991. Characters like G.W. Bridge, Garrison Kane and the other people associated with them and Cable’s past.

Rating: 7.5/10

Comic Review: Wolverine: The Jungle Adventure

Published: 1989
Written by: Walt Simonson
Art by: Mike Mignola

Marvel Comics, 49 Pages

Review:

I have never read this comic and for that, I feel ashamed.

I love Wolverine, especially his solo adventures of this era, and The Jungle Adventure just features him and Apocalypse duking it out in the Savage Land. Well, there is a big twist to that fight but yes, Apocalypse is in this.

Also, it’s really damn cool seeing a Wolverine comic drawn by Mike Mignola, which wouldn’t have meant as much to elementary school me in 1989. However, I like looking at Mignola’s earlier work and seeing how its grown and evolved since, as he has one of the most unique and patented art styles in comics.

This is also written by Walter Simonson, who did a lot of great comics that I’ve loved for decades. Many of which I’ve returned to and re-read multiple times.

Additionally, this was one of those Marvel graphic novel one-shots. Those always had a harder edge to them, as they did things that they couldn’t do in the regular monthly comics.

All that being said, this is a near perfect storm of a lot of great things coming together in a very satisfying way.

This is a quick but engaging read. However, I still took my time with it as I wanted to absorb Mignola’s art.

In the end, this is now one of my favorite Marvel one-shot releases during their ’80s and ’90s graphic novel run. 

Rating: 8.25/10

Comic Review: Stars Wars – Omnibus: Quinlan Vos: Jedi In Darkness

Published: February 5th, 2015
Written by: Pat Mills, John Ostrander
Art by: Ramon F. Bachs, Christian Dalla Vecchia, Jan Duursema, Davide Fabbri, Guy Major
Based on: Star Wars by George Lucas

Dark Horse, Marvel Comics (reprinted), 509 Pages

Review:

Outside of the Star Wars films, Quinlan Vos is my favorite character. I first came across him during the Clone Wars era of the Dark Horse Star Wars comics between 2002 and 2005.

I guess, technically, he is in The Phantom Menace even though he is just a background character in one scene and originally, he was just some random dude that the character was later based off of. But he was set to appear in Revenge of the Sith and even got a name drop in the movie but his scene was left out of the film. Although, that scene did make it into the novelization.

This beefy collection of issues collects his earliest comic stories and I had fun reading this, as these were stories I missed, as they predate his Clone Wars tales.

While I didn’t like these as much as the Clone Wars stuff, which saw Vos infiltrate the Sith and stand alongside Count Dooku, I did enjoy these stories because it gives Vos’ backstory and shows you where he came from, who he is and also establishes his relationship with his padawan Aayla Secura.

Vos always interacted with the seedier parts of the Star Wars universe and that’s one of the things I always liked about him and his stories. In a lot of ways, he feels like Star Wars‘ version of ’80s Wolverine. He’s down to do dirt if he has to and you never really know if he’s truly a hero. Vos walks on the line and if anyone crosses him, they’re probably going to regret it.

Ultimately, this really reignited my love for this era of Star Wars in the comics and I really want to go back and read the Clone Wars stuff again. Maybe I will, in the near future.

Rating: 7.5/10

Comic Review: Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D – Masterworks, Vol. 3

Published: February 15th, 2018
Written by: Jim Steranko, Gary Friedrich, Roy Thomas, Archie Goodwin, Ernie Hart, Steve Parkhouse
Art by: Jim Steranko, Frank Springer, Herb Trimpe, Barry Windsor-Smith, Dick Ayers, Sal Buscema

Marvel Comics, 309 Pages

Review:

I started with Masterworks, Vol. 3 because it is a collection of what’s considered to be the most beloved work featuring Nick Fury, as the solo star of his own stories.

This also takes the character, puts him in S.H.I.E.L.D. and makes him a cool, hip superspy, as opposed to a military hero on the battlefields of war.

Marvel, like everyone else at the time, wanted to capitalize off of the ’60s spy craze that started with the first James Bond film, Dr. No in 1962. That movie inspired its own sequels, a slew of rip-offs, parodies, pulp novels and comics. So, instead of creating a new character, Marvel reworked one that was already pretty popular but existed in a genre that was drying up.

A lot of this is written and has art done by Jim Steranko. A lot of people worked on the issues in this collection, though, but Steranko is the guy that has always been given most of the credit for this groovy reinvention of Nick Fury.

Tapping into the ’60s era spy genre, this is trippy and colorful and it stands out in a really unique way when compared to the other Marvel titles of the time. I love the hell out of the art and the style in these comics and it’s why I’ve picked up a lot of the single issues, over the years.

I was never as captivated by the stories, as much as I was by the visuals, however. But the stuff featuring Nick Fury fighting Hydra and the multi-issue arc pitting him against the Hate-Monger were really damn enjoyable.

I never got to read all of these issues and experience the bigger picture. I’m glad that I finally did, though, as it’s really different than what was the standard ’60s Marvel fare. Plus, it’s also infinitely better than anything Marvel’s doing these days.

Rating: 7.75/10

Comic Review: Thor by Kieron Gillen

Published: April 17th, 2019
Written by: Kieron Gillen
Art by: Doug Braithwaite, Richard Elson, Niko Henrichon, Jamie McKelvie, Billy Tan, Mico Suayan (cover)

Marvel Comics, 312 Pages

Review:

This stretch of Thor follows the incredible J. Michael Straczynski run and also happens alongside the Siege event.

Sadly, I wasn’t quite ready for Straczynski to hand over the reins, as he hadn’t finished the big plot threads that he started. However, Kieron Gillen did a pretty good job picking up where Straczynski left off while also having to work around Brian Michael Bendis’ Siege.

I thought that this was consistent with Straczynski’s tone and style. Although, the latter issues and Siege stuff started to go in different directions art-wise. None of it was bad but I found some sections to have too much contrast with the rest of the book.

The early parts of this deal with Doctor Doom’s plot against Asgard and you have a pretty good fight between Thor and Doom, who is wearing The Destroyer like a mecha-suit.

After there is closure from the Doom stuff, this shows the Siege event from different perspectives and then follows the fallout from that event, which shows Asgard get wrapped up in a plot by Mephisto.

While I enjoyed this pretty thoroughly, it didn’t “wow” me on the level of the Straczynski stories. Still, it also doesn’t torpedo what Straczynski created with his new take on this small pocket of the Marvel universe.

Rating: 8/10

Comic Review: Captain America – Epic Collection: Streets of Poison

Published: June 17th, 2015
Written by: Mark Gruenwald, D.G. Chichester, Randall Frenz, Fabian Nicieza, Dann Thomas, Roy Thomas
Art by: Larry Alexander, Mark Bagley, Ron Frenz, Don Hudson, Ron Lim, Mike Manley, Chris Marrinan, Jim Valentino, Ron Wilson

Marvel Comics, 493 Pages

Review:

I really liked the Streets of Poison storyline when I was a kid. I was also really pumped to jump right into this Epic Collection, as the previous one was pretty exceptional.

However, this didn’t read as good as it did when I was eleven years-old but lots of things don’t and that also doesn’t mean this was bad.

I like this era of Captain America and revisiting it makes me appreciate it even more, even if it’s not as perfect as I remembered it.

This kicks off with the Streets of Poison arc, which is highlighted by a fight between Red Skull and the Kingpin. I thought that this rivalry between the two villains and everything leading up to their fight was really solid. You had Crossbones trying to take out Kingpin with Bullseye trying to take out Red Skull and the two assassins having their own fight. Additionally, Captain America fights both of them as well.

My only real gripe about the story was how being exposed to drugs altered Cap’s behavior pretty immensely. It bonded with the super solider serum in his body and the only way to cure Cap was to remove his blood and fix the serum. However, Cap, being strongly anti-drug after this experience, rejected the serum and decided to move forward as a normal man and not the creation of a drug he took back in the 1940s.

Following Streets of Poison, we got the story of the Serpent Society abducting Diamondback and trying her for her crimes against the Society. King Cobra and his minions rule against Diamondback harshly but she survives her execution when Cap finds her. Diamondback’s allies within the Serpent Society leave the group as well and they start to establish themselves as a new heroic group.

There are a couple single issue stories weaved into the bigger tapestry, here. None of them were bad and they honestly just showed how solid the writing at Marvel was in this era.

Rating: 8.5/10

Comic Review: Star Wars: Visionaries

Published: 2005
Written by: various
Art by: various
Based on: Star Wars by George Lucas

Dark Horse, Marvel Comics (reprinted), 134 Pages

Review:

I bought this and read it way back in 2005. Back then, I liked parts of it but other than the Darth Maul resurrection story and the General Grievous origin story, I didn’t remember anything else.

Reading this again, for the first time in over a decade and a half, I can see why only those two stories stuck with me out of this anthology of ten tales.

The stories were crafted by some of the creatives that worked on Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith. So with that, the results were a mixed bag and I think we’re really supposed to look at these as “what ifs”. Although, the Darth Maul story and his new look did inspire the character’s canonical return in the Clone Wars television series.

I’d consider that Darth Maul story to be the most important one featured in this because it legitimately inspired his resurrection and hatred for Obi-Wan Kenobi.

I also really enjoyed the Grievous story, which showed him on his home planet in his natural form before he had to be rebuilt as a four-armed cyborg warrior. Since reading this, originally, I’ve always wished that we’d get to see more of Grievous’ backstory in other mediums. His story and his people are pretty interesting.

Apart from that, everything else in this is a creative misfire. None of it is bad but it all just comes across as fan fiction and honestly, that’s what this whole collection of stories is. 

Rating: 6/10

Comic Review: Siege

Published: November 3rd, 2010
Written by: Brian Michael Bendis
Art by: Jim Cheung, Olivier Coipel, Michael Lark

Marvel Comics, 165 Pages

Review:

I didn’t specifically want to read this big event from circa 2010 but it did tie directly to the Thor run started by J. Michael Straczynski and continued on by Kieron Gillen. So I figured that I needed to know what happened here before I get into Gillen’s stretch of issues, as this takes place during that run.

The story deals with Norman Osborn, the former Green Goblin, as the Iron Patriot and head of H.A.M.M.E.R., a new version of S.H.I.E.L.D., as he attempts to bring war to Asgard against the US president’s orders. Why Norman Osborn has any sort of power in the government has never made sense to me, no matter how hard they’ve tried to explain it and I’ve actively avoided most of that era of Marvel Comics because of that. Granted, I may read the Dark Avengers just to review it.

Anyway, Norman brings war to Asgard with his Avengers team that features villains in the roles of the famous masked heroes. Obviously, this doesn’t bode well for him and his only real trump card is The Sentry, a character I hated from the get go and was glad to see die in this.

The story is chaotic and I kind of hate that it has immense overlap with the Thor material that was so damn solid in this era.

In the end, this was a quick read and the art was at least stupendous.

Rating: 6.25/10

Comic Review: Captain America – Epic Collection: The Bloodstone Hunt

Published: April 25th, 2018
Written by: Mark Gruenwald, Kieron Dwyer
Art by: Mark Bagley, M.D. Bright, Rich Buckler, Kieron Dwyer, Ron Lim, Al Milgrom

Marvel Comics, 495 Pages

Review:

Well, this is probably the greatest string of Captain America issues that I have ever read. The first few were a bit shaky but they laid the groundwork for the start of the two primary stories, here, The Bloodstone Hunt and the Captain America portion of the Acts of Vengeance crossover and its fallout.

The Bloodstone Hunt was pretty incredible and a hell of a lot of fun. It was like an Indiana Jones story as Cap and Diamondback, now essentially his partner, raced against Baron Zemo, Batroc and their crew to try and hunt down five magic gems. It wasn’t clear why Zemo wanted them until the end, where he attempts to use them to resurrect his father, the original Zemo. However, he resurrects the powerful soul that was locked in those gems instead.

That story also features the debut of Crossbones and John Jameson (a.k.a. Man-Wolf) becoming Cap’s pilot. Sadly, we don’t get Man-Wolf action but this series of issues drops some hints that Jameson might not be able to suppress his cosmic werewolf alter ego for much longer.

After that, we get a two-issue arc that sees Cap and Crossbones fight for the first time. Man, I forgot how much I loved Crossbones in these early stories. He’s such a good sack of shit and a perfect rival for Cap. I really wish they would’ve used him better in the MCU movies, especially with Frank Grillo in that role.

Following that, we get the Acts of Vengeance stuff, which sees Cap have to fight Namor, his ally, as well as The Controller and Crossbones, again. There are also side plots about The Hellfire Club being raided and Magneto kidnapping and burying Red Skull alive in a tomb due to his ties to the Nazis, which a young Magneto and his family were victims of.

There’s just so much in this volume and all of it is damn good, once the story gets rolling.

Mark Gruenwald might be the best Captain America writer of them all. Additionally, the art throughout this stretch was superb. I still remember buying a lot of these single issues off of the racks, many of which I still own, and I remember loving back in 1989. I’m glad to say that this aged exceptionally well.

Rating: 10/10