Comic Review: G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero – Classics, Vol. 5

Published: September 9th, 2009 (IDW reprint version)
Written by: Larry Hama
Art by: Rod Whigham
Based on: G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero by Hasbro

Marvel Comics (original printing), IDW Publishing (reprinted), 235 Pages

Review:

This was such a fun read and I powered through it pretty damn quickly for a trade paperback of its size.

This volume is also a transitional period for the G.I. Joe franchise. This is the bridge between the first generation of toys to the second. This starts with the characters and vehicles you know from the first season of the TV show but it slowly introduces characters and vehicles from the second season. This also ends with the story that sees the creation of Serpentor, the short lived Cobra leader that wrestled power away from Cobra Commander.

Other first appearances here, just to name a few from memory, are Scrap Iron, Dr. Mindbender, Airtight, Alpine, Quick Kick, Beachhead, Bazooka and Zarana.

The stories here are all pretty good. This continues to go the route of being a bigger interconnected saga than just having episodic tales, which is how I prefer the G.I. Joe comic series.

There are two big highlights to this volume, one is the aforementioned creation of Serpentor, the other is the first real team-up of Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow. They finally discover who killed their master and go to Cobra Island to seek revenge.

Volume 5 also has a lot of Dreadnok stuff and as I’ve said in earlier reviews, they are my favorite group in the G.I. Joe universe. And since Zarana shows up, at the end, we also get our first new member of the group since their debut some time before this. That only means that Monkey Wrench and Thrasher aren’t too far behind.

There was also a lot of good stuff regarding the “Fred” character in this. He becomes even more important later on. We also got to see more of Billy training with Storm Shadow.

This was a solid volume of classic G.I. Joe tales. Larry Hama was on his A game with these stories and Rod Whigham was killing it on the art side.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: Any of the original Marvel G.I. Joe and Transformers comics.

Film Review: Punisher: War Zone (2008)

Also known as: The Punisher 2, The Punisher: Welcome Back, Frank (working titles)
Release Date: December 4th, 2008 (United Arab Emirates)
Directed by: Lexi Alexander
Written by: Art Marcum, Matt Holloway, Nick Santora
Based on: The Punisher by Gerry Conway, Ross Andru, John Romita Sr.
Music by: Michael Wandmacher
Cast: Ray Stevenson, Dominic West, Julie Benz, Colin Salmon, Doug Hutchinson, Dash Mihok, Wayne Knight

Valhalla Motion Pictures, MHF Zweite Academy Film, SGF Entertainment Inc, Lionsgate Films, Marvel Studios 103 Minutes

Review:

“God be with you, Frank.” – Priest, “Sometimes I would like to get my hands on God.” – Frank Castle

Well, my memory of this film was better than what it actually is now that I’ve seen it again, ten years later.

It has a big problem and really, it’s that it’s boring. Yeah, the action stuff is pretty damn good and badass but all the filler in-between is just uninteresting and really f’n derivative.

Now I do like Stevenson as Frank Castle. I think he looks the part more than any other actor who has been in the role. However, he’s missing the charm of Thomas Jane even if he makes up for it with a much needed harder edge. I mean, I also liked Dolph Lundgren’s version of Frank Castle but that 1989 movie really wasn’t up to snuff and he didn’t even have a skull on his chest.

The only real problem with Stevenson and it’s not his fault, is that he is just very one-dimensional. But the script was written without Frank Castle feeling all that human. But I get it, even in the comics he’s typically a quiet badass that doesn’t let people into his orbit on any sort of emotional level. I just feel that the character, in a cinematic sense, should fall somewhere between Ray Stevenson and Thomas Jane. And that’s something that probably needed to be done at the script level.

Lexi Alexander did fine behind the camera from a visual standpoint and also handled the action sequences nicely. The big battle in the hotel at the end was fun to watch and that early scene where the Punisher murders the mob in their mansion was fantastic. Granted, spinning upside down from a chandelier was a bit stupid, as one of the thugs outside of his line of sight could’ve got in a head shot. Unless the mob has the accuracy of Star Wars Stormtroopers.

This movie just makes me sad though. It had the makings of something that could have been a great Punisher film but it fell flat in just about every regard outside of the action. Plus it had parkour in it, which is just a silly form of freestyle walking. I respect the athleticism but people pushing for it to be an Olympic sport need a lobotomy.

Anyway, if you just want a lot of awesome and senseless violence, this will be right up your alley. Unfortunately, you spend a lot of time waiting around for it between those high octane scenes.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: The other Punisher movies from 1989 and 2004, as well as the current TV show.

Comic Review: RoboCop vs. NixCop

Published: March, 1990 – April, 1990
Written by: Alan Grant
Art by: Lee Sullivan, Kim DeMulder, Steve White
Based on: Robocop by Edward Neumeier, Michael Miner

Marvel Comics, 46 Pages

Review:

When I was in fifth grade, I used to walk a mile or so down to the corner store in my small Florida neighborhood a few times a week to buy a slushie and some comic books. Usually my granmum would give me five bucks once or twice a week because she liked the fact that I was into comics and could easily read through a dozen per day. That corner store is where I came across Marvel’s RoboCop series, which started a few months before Robocop 2 hit theaters.

This story arc is covered in the first two issues of that series. It’s not officially called RoboCop vs. NixCop. Issue #1 was called Kombat Zone and issue #2 was called Murphy’s Law. Even though they were single issues, they form a two issue arc pitting RoboCop against the new deadly NixCops from OCP’s rival corporation NixCo.

Marvel’s RoboCop was a violent and very action packed series, which is what I loved about it at 11 years-old. It also seemed to be in a dirtier, grittier Detroit from the films and it had more advanced technology like hoverbikes and floating trash droids. Detroit in the comics felt more like the Los Angeles in Blade Runner than the Detroit of RoboCop. But that was kind of cool and I don’t think I really noticed it back in 1990.

This was really fun to revisit for me because I hadn’t read this in well over twenty years but I did read these issues a lot in the early ’90s. I thought the villainous NixCops were cool and I liked the idea of an evil RoboCop that was closer to the actual RoboCop than the ED-209s or Cain from RoboCop 2. I also liked how OCP had a rival company that was worse than they were.

While this is far from a great comic, it is still very good and better than I thought it would be. I guess I had good taste at 11.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: the other Marvel RoboCop stories after this, as well as DC Comics Cops series (based off of the sci-fi cartoon and not the reality series).

Comic Review: X-Men: Grand Design

Published: October 4th, 2017 – January 3rd, 2018
Written by: Ed Piskor
Art by: Ed Piskor

Marvel Comics, 92 Pages

Review:

X-Men lore is so massive that a series like this is actually pretty necessary for modern fans who don’t know all the details of the older X-Men stories and how things led to where the franchise is now.

X-Men: Grand Design is a fabulous series that goes through the entire history of the X-Men team.

The first Grand Design series was comprised of two 46 page comics. The second series is also broken out over two issues but this is about the original run, which covered the original X-Men team, mainly comprised of Cyclops, the original Ms. Marvel (Jean Grey), Beast, Iceman and Angel.

This comic moves very briskly, as it hits every major storyline in the comic’s original run. We see the origins of all the key players, heroes and villains. We also see how the Sentinels came to be and the formation of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, as well as all the hoopla surrounding the arrival of the Phoenix Force.

Ed Piskor did an incredible job of writing this and mapping out the story so well. Everything just flows and it is perfectly accented by his old school pulp-like artwork.

I know these stories but even I don’t remember every single chapter of X-Men history. For old fans and new fans, this really is a must own and a must read. If anything, it just tapped into nostalgia pretty strongly and it has made me want to go back and read some of the classic story arcs.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: It’s sequel X-Men: Grand Design – Second Genesis.

Comic Review: House of M

Published: February 1st, 2006
Written by: Brian Michael Bendis
Art by: Oliver Coipel

Marvel Comics, 280 Pages

Review:

This picks up after the events that happened in Avengers: Disassembled. This story also has effects that will go on to be felt in Marvel’s Civil War event, as well as X-Men: The Messiah Complex.

So following the tragic events of Avengers: Disassembled, the Avengers and the X-Men meet to discuss the fate of the Scarlet Witch. Wolverine leads the charge pretty much calling for her death, as the potential for what she can do with her powers is too great. Other Avengers and X-Men disagree but ultimately, you get the idea that this is going to go somewhere really friggin’ dark.

After that, Wolverine wakes up in an alternate reality and is aware that he’s not where he’s supposed to be, even though all of his allies are buying into the mystical charade. Wolverine has to go against his friends, search for answers and has to convince his allies that something happened that completely changed reality.

In the end, the Scarlet Witch only leaves like ten percent of the mutants in the world with their powers intact. So Wolverine saves the day, essentially, but the Scarlet Witch with her insane powers is still a crazy bitch.

This story was a cool idea but it didn’t really move forward in a way that excited me. Granted, I wasn’t too fond of Avengers: Disassemble, which lead to this.

This is one of the big Marvel stories of the ’00s and it is certainly better than the schlock they are synonymous with now but it still pales in comparison to the great epics that came before this. Don’t get me wrong, Marvel has some events that were duds in the old days too but this book just missed the mark and frankly, it could have been longer and probably needed to be, as the pace was insanely quick.

I really enjoyed Oliver Coipel’s art, though.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: Avengers: DisassembledThe Messiah Complex, also it has ramifications that carry over into the Civil War event.

Film Review: Venom (2018)

Also known as: Antidote (fake working title)
Release Date: October 1st, 2018 (Regency Village Theatre premiere)
Directed by: Ruben Fleischer
Written by: Jeff Pinkner, Scott Rosenberg, Kelly Marcel
Based on: Venom by David Michelinie, Todd McFarlane
Music by: Ludwig Göransson
Cast: Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams, Riz Ahmed, Scott Haze, Reid Scott, Jenny Slate, Michelle Lee, Woody Harrelson (cameo), Ron Cephas Jones

Columbia Pictures, Marvel Entertainment, Tencent Pictures, Arad Productions, Matt Tolmach Productions, Pascal Pictures, Sony Pictures, 112 Minutes

Review:

“Eyes! Lungs! Pancreas! So many snacks, so little time!” – Venom

If I’m being completely honest, my hopes for this film weren’t too high. However, my minimal expectations were exceeded in a lot of ways.

I guess the acting prowess of Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams and Riz Ahmed can go a log way as all three were pretty damn good in this. Hardy really takes the cake though and even if his Eddie Brock differs a lot from the comic book version, I still liked this interpretation of the character. I kind off miss the blonde boxy buzz cut but that’d probably look silly in 2018… or just too f’n badass!

Anyway, this film had to create its own story, as they didn’t have Spider-Man at their disposal to tell the story the right way. Plus, even though this is put out by the same studio that owns the Spider-Man film rights, it’s not really clear if this even exists in the same universe. There are no signs to the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe; none that I saw, anyway.

I liked this film’s plot though and the way that Venom comes to be, worked for me. I wasn’t too keen on Riot being the big bad of the movie but there wasn’t a whole lot they could do being that this was a self-contained movie that doesn’t seem to bleed over into the larger Spider-Man world. Plus, this takes place in San Francisco, as opposed to New York City, which could also have been a way to distance it from Spidey (and his friends and allies), at least for now. There are other symbiotes in this that aren’t just Riot, however. But he’s the only one that actually matters to the larger story.

My one big complaint about the film is the pacing. The first half hour moves at a crawl but once things get going, it really gets going. But then it moves almost too fast. From what I understand, there was a lot of footage cut from this movie. It was initially being made to have an R rating but very late in production, they decided to go with a PG-13 rating. There are moments where it seems as if something violent was lobbed off and it created some bad, choppy edits. Also, it feels as if some key narrative moments were worked out of the plot, after the film was fully shot. Like I said, it starts at a slower pace and then speeds up very quickly and it just feels like there are some time jumps and key things missing. Maybe this can be rectified with an R rated cut or an extended edition once this hits the streaming market.

I thought that the action sequences were a mixed bag. The first big one, which sees Brock on a motorcycle trying to evade big SUVs through the late night streets of San Francisco was superbly done, even if it threw a tiny bit of cheese at you. The final battle between Venom and Riot on the launching pad wasn’t so good. I mean, I’ve seen much worse in comic book movie finales but it was just a CGI shit festival and hard to differentiate between the two aliens. Couldn’t Riot have been a different color than dark grey? In the comic books, symbiotes have lots of color variations. Also, it would have helped if Venom had his iconic emblem on his chest and back.

One thing that stood out for me was the score. Often times it was subtle and atmospheric and then in big action scenes it would become a nice punctuation to the over the top adrenaline rush. The score during the motorcycle chase was stellar and it reminded me of the blockbuster scores of the ’80s to mid-’90s.

Venom is far from perfect but it’s got a lot more going for it than against it. Most importantly, it has my favorite mid-credits scene out of any of these comic book movies. It was chilling, generated the right kind of emotion in me and it made me want the follow up now, as opposed to three years down the road. If you’ve read the earliest Venom stories back when they were new, you’ll probably feel the same sense of awe when you get to this moment at the end of the film.

While this might not be as good as most of the movies in the MCU, it is more fun than most of them and to me, that’s really important.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: the harder edged Marvel movies as of late: Logan, the Deadpool films and I’m assuming the upcoming New Mutants movie.

Comic Review: Hulk: Gray

Published: June 15th, 2011
Written by: Jeph Loeb
Art by: Tim Sale

Marvel Comics, 137 Pages

Review:

Being a big fan of Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale’s work at DC Comics, especially on their iconic Batman stuff, I was pretty enthused about checking out their similar work for Marvel.

This is the first of their four color themed stories I read. The other three are Spider-Man: BlueCaptain America: White and Daredevil: Yellow. I’m not sure if the others also exist as re-imaginings of origin stories but I plan to read through them all shortly.

But that’s what Hulk: Gray is. It’s a Hulk origin story as told from the point-of-view of Bruce Banner to a friend, sitting in as a sort of therapist.

I’ve never been a huge Hulk fan but I think any fan of comics knows his origin story well. I really didn’t need to read another version of it just as I don’t need to ever read or see another version of Batman’s origin.

Still, I did enjoy this take on it.

But what stood out the most about this was the art by Tim Sale. Sale has a unique retro pulp type of flair with his art style and it jumps off of the page. The use of color (and lack thereof) was damn good. As simple as some of Sale’s art can be, he has a real talent for conveying emotion and I have always loved how he draws faces. He uses the Hulk’s eyes a lot in this and he says a lot with very little.

I also like that a classic version of the Iron Man armor shows up to do battle. It is a throwback to the earliest days of Marvel and seeing these two characters throw down in Sale’s art style was a real treat.

But in all honesty, this was pretty dry and it just didn’t hit the mark for me like it should have. It certainly isn’t an iconic body of work like The Long Halloween, which is still Loeb and Sale’s magnum opus, as far as I’m concerned.

However, this was still worth indulging in and it was a fairly quick read.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: The other color themed books that Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale did for Marvel.