Book Review: ‘Kirby: King of Comics’ by Mark Evanier

If you love comics and you’re not a fan of Jack Kirby, you might be an evil alien from Apokolips.

Jack Kirby was the King. While this book actually tells you the tale of how Kirby got this name and how it bothered him, it’s hard to argue that he isn’t the King, as far as the art side of comic book creation goes.

He’s a man that’s been around since the beginning of superhero comics and was instrumental in creating dozens of characters that people pay billions of dollars to see on the big screen, several decades later.

I have always loved Jack Kirby and this book is truly invaluable for fans of the man’s work.

The book is a biography but most of the pages are full of Kirby art, throughout his entire career, and this is almost more of an art book than it is a straight biography. But I love that this is really a hybrid of the two, as it’s nice to read the stories behind his creations while also getting to soak in the art associated with it on large pages.

This is a thick, over-sized book that presents Kirby’s work nicely. It feels good in your hands and I know that it is a book that I will always look through for years and years. I may even scan and blow up a lot of the art to make prints for my wall.

What I loved most about this, is it delves deep into Kirby’s life and his work and doesn’t put all of the focus on his time at Marvel and DC. There’s so much here that I wasn’t aware of and a lot of stupendous Kirby concepts and comics that I never knew existed and have never seen until now.

This is a book that all real comic book fans should own.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: other biographies of comic book greats, such as Stan Lee’s “Exclesior” and “Will Eisner: A Spirited Life”.

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.

Film Review: The Wolverine (2013)

Also known as: Wolverine 2 (working title), Wolverine: Inmortal (Spanish language title), Wolverine: Samurai (Japan)
Release Date: July 16th, 2013 (London premiere)
Directed by: James Mangold
Written by: Mark Bomback, Scott Frank
Based on: Wolverine by Chris Claremont, Frank Miller
Music by: Marco Beltrami
Cast: Hugh Jackman, Hiroyuki Sanada, Tao Okamoto, Rila Fukushima, Famke Janssen, Will Yun Lee, Svetlana Khodchenkova, Haruhiko Yamanouchi, Brian Tee, Patrick Stewart (cameo), Ian McKellan (cameo)

Marvel Entertainment, The Donners’ Company, TSG Entertainment, 20th Century Fox, 126 Minutes, 138 Minutes (Extended Edition)

Review:

“Your grandfather called me a ronin, a samurai without a master. He said I was destined to live forever, with no reason to live.” – Logan

The Wolverine did a pretty good job of making up for the mostly terrible X-Men Origins: Wolverine movie. Also, it was the film I wanted instead of Origins because when I first heard that they planned on a solo Wolverine film, I immediately hoped that they would tap into his Japan stories. I just had to wait a few more years for that, I guess.

Everything about this film is really good, except two things.

The first, is that it was drawn out a bit too much. I felt like it could have been whittled down by twenty minutes or so and had a much better flow to it.

The second, is the villains. I loved the story but the baddies were weak as hell and really uninteresting.

Viper has never been a character that’s been a big deal in the comics and I’ve never really cared about her. In this, she just never felt like a real threat. She spits acid but in a film where the hero is Wolverine, who heeled from a nuclear bomb blast in the first five minutes. So now I’m supposed to worry about him getting acid spit in his face?

The other villain is a more well-known character from the comics, the Silver Samurai. However, he isn’t really the Silver Samurai here, he’s just an old dying Japanese billionaire wearing a mecha suit. Sure, the suit is adamantium but whatever. Tear that shit open like a tin can and squash the dude’s head like a grape. And again, he’s just not the real Silver Samurai.

Getting back to Viper, she stuck out like a sore, disfigured thumb. The reason why is because her acting was abominable. Everyone else in this film gave great performances. I don’t think it’s her lack of experience in acting that’s the issue, it’s just that her poor performance is greatly contrasted by how good everyone else is in this. She would blend in to a lesser film but every scene that she is in here, is bogged down by her performance. It really hindered key moments in the film.

Getting to the positives, there are more of those.

The story is great and I do love how it develops and evolves. It could have used better pacing but once you get to Japan, things really pick up and there is just a bit in the middle that could have been edited down because I didn’t need as much attention given to the romance story as this film felt it needed.

All of the action sequences are executed superbly, most of the CGI is pretty good and Hugh Jackman proved that he is perfect as this character, even if hardcore fans still complain that he’s too tall.

I also really enjoyed Rila Fukushima’s Yukio. She kind of made a good sidekick in the movie and I wish she had carried over into Logan, even though it was set well into the future.

James Mangold did a fine job resurrecting this franchise. This was a good first outing for him with the character, which only helped to make his Logan pretty close to a comic book movie masterpiece.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: all the other films starring Hugh Jackman as Wolverine.

Comic Review: Mr. & Mrs. X, Vol. 1

Published: July 25th, 2018 – November 21st, 2018
Written by: Kelly Thompson
Art by: Oscar Bazaldua, Terry Dodson (covers)

Marvel Comics, 136 Pages

Review:

I didn’t have much urge to read this, as all the X-Men books over the last few years have been terrible. It’s sad but one of my favorite parts of the Marvel universe has not produced anything I’ve cared about, outside of Old Man Logan, in serveral years.

Also, I’m not a big fan of Gambit or Rogue, even though they were front and center in the era where I read X-Men titles like a church lady reads that King James book.

However, a few people whose opinions I respect said that the first issue was a nice departure from the humdrum world of the modern X-Men and that the story was pretty fun. Fun?! “Fun”, they say?!

Well, their assessment was correct, as I thoroughly enjoyed the issue so much that I added this title to my pull list.

Now, five issues deep, I have reached the end of the first story arc, which is being collected into the first trade paperback. That won’t be out for several months but since I’ve read this, I’m reviewing it now, while it’s fresh in my memory.

I have always been a sucker for the cosmic side of the Marvel universe and this is two mutant honeymooners on a cosmic adventure. The sum of all the parts equaled something enjoyable.

I liked the story and I even liked the Deadpool cameo despite being really over the character. We also got to see the Starjammers in action and there was some good Shi’ar Empire stuff.

This brought me back to the place I was at when I was first reading cosmic X-Men tales.

Mr. & Mrs. X hit all the right notes for me, the art was pretty good and I even enjoyed the humor in this. I also thought that Gambit and Rogue were written better than they have been in quite some time.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: current X-Men stuff but this is better than that, as well as the recent Rogue & Gambit miniseries.

TV Review: The Comic Book Greats: Episode 1 – Spotlight on Todd McFarlane (1991)

Released: 1991
Created by: Stan Lee
Directed by: Rick Stawinski
Music by: Rick Stawinski, Rob Stawinski
Cast: Stan Lee (host), Todd McFarlane

Excelsior Productions, Stabur Home Video, 1 Episodes, 50 Minutes

Review:

I didn’t have all of these VHS tapes when I was a kid but I did have a lot of them. Luckily for me, and all of you, these are on YouTube. I’ve wanted to revisit these for ages but I haven’t had a working VCR since the Bush II administration.

I was going to review the series as a whole. However, after watching the first episode, which featured Stan Lee interviewing Todd McFarlane, I felt that each episode probably deserves its own review.

This was great to see, twenty-seven years later, as I’m no longer twelve and I had a much greater appreciation of this now than I did back then.

First of all, it was fantastic seeing Stan Lee, still with some youthful vigor, interviewing Todd McFarlane and discussing art techniques and the history of the business, as well as Todd’s career.

It’s pretty clear that Todd would have been a great teacher, as he shows the how and why he employs the techniques he does. For those wanting to get into drawing comics, this is a pretty valuable tool and I’m assuming the other episodes in this series are too. That’s actually why I bought a half dozen of these back in the early ’90s.

All in all, I liked hearing Todd and Stan share stories of the comic industry. Watching them shoot the shit for an hour was a lot of fun.

McFarlane is one of the all-time greats and what makes this even more interesting, is that it came out when he was transitioning away from Marvel and Spider-Man and just gearing up to establish Image Comics and his greatest creation, Spawn.

I really enjoyed this episode and I hope the others live up to the precedent set with this first one.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: other episodes in The Comic Book Greats video series.

Comic Review: Daredevil, Issues #254-256

Published: May, 1988 – July, 1988
Written by: Ann Nocenti
Art by: John Romita Jr., Al Williamson

Marvel Comics, 70 Pages

Review:

Everyone loves Frank Miller’s run on Daredevil. However, when I discovered the character, Miller had already moved on. It didn’t matter though, because I loved the stories so much that I picked this up nearly every month.

I came into this during the long Ann Nocenti run. I didn’t have the appreciation for it, at the time. I just liked Daredevil and everything that came with it.

Now, as a cultured adult, I understand what I love most about this era.

First, it’s Nocenti’s writing. She did some great things with all the key characters and really built off of what Frank Miller did before her. If I can be so bold, I think she improved upon it greatly and her run on the title is my favorite out of all the creators who have touched this character.

Second, the artwork of John Romita Jr. is incredible. I have always loved his style and he was the perfect artist for Nocenti’s Daredevil.

The three issues I’m reviewing here are pretty important, as this is the first appearance, origin and story arc for one of the best Daredevil villains, Typhoid Mary.

In recent years, I feel like Mary hasn’t been utilized well. Going back in time, reading this, and seeing how she was in the beginning was refreshing. I’ve always loved the character, more so than Elektra, and felt like she was a good foil with a romantic twist for the hero.

Here, she is just so sinister and the Romita art gives her so much life. She’s never looked cooler or more badass than she did when Romita was drawing her.

Overall, the story is also really good. I love how she comes into the plot, how the Kingpin brings her into the fold and how it all plays out, as she is on a mission to destroy Matt Murdock once and for all. And she doesn’t even want the money, she just thinks that ruining his life would be fun.

The story is dark, satisfying and a great example of how the team of Nocenti and Romita were one of the best in the late ’80s.

Once I start filling in some holes in my Daredevil collection, I’ll do more reviews of Nocenti stories.

Rating: 9.25/10
Pairs well with: anything from the great Ann Nocenti run on Daredevil.

Comic Review: Old Man Logan: King of Nothing

Published: September 26th, 2018 – October 31st, 2018
Written by: Ed Brisson
Art by: Ibraim Roberson, Andrea Sorrentino (covers)

Marvel Comics, 79 Pages

Review:

This is it! This is the last story arc in the ongoing Old Man Logan series! After this, we get the Dead Man Logan miniseries, which will most likely be the final exit of this character, as the youthful Wolverine has finally returned to Marvel just a month ago.

This three issue arc pits Logan against Maestro, an evil version of the Hulk from an alternate timeline in the future. This is not their first meeting but it does end up being their last. Well, one would assume with how this plays out.

Logan comes across this backwoods town and discovers that the people are controlled by fear, as Maestro has made it his tiny kingdom. Logan works to try and free the people from this mad and seemingly unstoppable tyrant.

One thing I wasn’t satisfied with, however, was that they have spent all this time building Maestro up as incredibly powerful but once Logan takes him out, it felt relatively easy. Can Wolverine decapitate a Hulk? I mean, even if he gets a boost from a drug that helps him, is Maestro not basically indestructible? That’s a real question because I’m not sure if that was established elsewhere.

Regardless of the conclusion being a let down, this is a solid story overall. Brisson is writing some good shit and the art of Ibraim Roberson really enhances the tone of the narrative. I also love the Andrea Sorrentino covers but everything he touches is gold, in my opinion.

While this ends the Old Man Logan title, it’s not the end of his story. Dead Man Logan starts now.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: Other Old Man Logan stories.