Comic Review: G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero – Classics, Vol. 2

Published: March 4th, 2009 (IDW reprint version)
Written by: Larry Hama, Steven Grant
Art by: Geof Isherwood, Mike Vosburg
Based on: G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero by Hasbro

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

Review:

While I liked the first volume of these collected editions, this is where the style of Larry Hama’s classic era G.I. Joe legacy really kicks things into high gear.

The main takeaway from this is that it starts to get away from episodic feeling single issues and becomes a more fluid larger story arc. This is where the saga really begins to grow and how it evolves into something more solid than the awesome Sunbow/Marvel cartoon series.

This is also where Destro and Major Bludd come into the franchise. Both characters are great in this and have more depth than their cartoon counterparts. Bludd was just sort of a loud, crass, on field commander that was quick to retreat in the cartoons. Here, he is a bit of a badass and his distaste for Destro is very apparent.

Also, we get our first glimpse into the passionate relationship between Destro and the Baroness and how it creates problems for the Baroness and her relationship with Cobra Commander and her place in his organization.

We also get two characters I loved from the comics: Dr. Venom and Scar-face. Neither of them had toys or appeared in the cartoon but they were cool, dynamic characters in the comic series with more character development than most characters got in the television show.

There is also a significant amount of time for Snake Eyes to shine here. He appears in the first collected edition but was mostly just there to look cool. Here, we really get to know him and see how he is probably the most vital single member of the G.I. Joe team.

Another thing about this series of issues, is that you witness death for the first time in the G.I. Joe franchise. Unlike the cartoon, many characters don’t survive in the comics. It goes to show that no one is actually safe and that this take on the franchise has more gravitas and the weight of these characters’ actions can have mortal consequences.

All in all, this is a really good installment in the classic G.I. Joe comics run. This is where the series found its footing and started taking real risks.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: Any of the original Marvel G.I. Joe and Transformers comics.

Comic Review: Winter Soldier: Winter Kills – One-Shot

Published: December 27th, 2006
Written by: Ed Brubaker
Art by: Lee Weeks

Marvel Comics, 39 Pages

Review:

It’s been awhile since I’ve read anything from Marvel’s Civil War era but I though that I’d give this one-shot a chance, as I must have missed it back then. Plus, I like Winter Soldier and I like one-shots.

This takes place while the original Civil War was going on. It focuses on Winter Soldier trying to adjust to life after having been a brainwashed killer for so long. It also takes place on the first Christmas after he was freed from mind control while calling back to his last Christmas before everything went really bad for him, back in World War II with Captain America and Toro by his side.

This is short and sweet but it hit the mark for me.

You get to see the camaraderie between Bucky, Cap, Toro and Namor during the war and how important those relationships were. Then Bucky, now as the Winter Solider, is alone on Christmas, goes on a mission for Nick Fury and gets tied up in a fracas with Hydra, The Patriot, The Vision and the female Hawkeye, Kate Bishop.

Even though heroes find themselves on different sides of the Civil War divide, they come together out of respect for who Winter Soldier was and because it’s Christmas.

This isn’t as mushy as it sounds though. There is a lot of solid action and a good gritty tone while also critiquing what Christmas and America have become in the decades since Bucky was just a soldier in the 1940s.

Winter Kills is an enjoyable read and helps to build up Winter Soldier as a character. This also came out just before he took over as Captain America for awhile.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: Marvel’s Civil WarCaptain America: Civil War and the Ed Brubaker run on Captain America.

Comic Review: Superior Spider-Man, Vol. 4: Necessary Evil

Published: January 15th, 2014
Written by: Dan Slott
Art by: Giuseppe Camuncoli, Ryan Stegman

Marvel Comics, 115 Pages

Review:

This is the fourth out of six collected volumes of Dan Slott’s controversial Superior Spider-Man series. This was my least favorite installment but it was still enjoyable.

Necessary Evil felt more like filler and it didn’t do much to advance any of the larger story arcs other than some of the stuff in Spidey’s personal life.

For instance, the company he works for gets shut down and he gets his doctorate. Other than that, the plot thread with the various Goblin villains was, more or less, at a stand still here, even though you were reminded about it a few times.

The biggest positive was seeing Spider-Man 2099 going back in time, once again. However, this was his first interaction with Otto Octavius as Spider-Man, so things went awry and we got a decent fight. Eventually, they have to work together and their story was good for the first three issues in this volume.

The final two issues dealt with more personal stuff for Spidey.

This wasn’t a complete waste of time and it needed to slow things down for a handful of issues anyway, as this series was thundering forward at breakneck speed since it started.

The most important thing, is that I’m still on board and looking forward to the next volume, which pits Doc Ock Spidey against Venom.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: Other Superior Spider-Man collections and any of Dan Slott’s other Spider-Man titles.

Comic Review: G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero – Classics, Vol. 1

Published: December 31st, 2008 (IDW reprint version)
Written by: Larry Hama, Steven Grant, Herb Trimpe
Art by: Don Perlin, Herb Trimpe, Mike Vosburg
Based on: G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero by Hasbro

Marvel Comics (original printing), IDW Publishing (reprinted), 238 Pages

Review:

This is the first in a series of collected volumes that are reprints of the original Marvel Comics run on the G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero franchise. These are the tales that started it all and introduced people to these characters from one of the best-selling toy lines of all-time.

This series is written by Larry Hama, the man who really is the original author of G.I. Joe and who established everything that people have come to know about the franchise and its characters. While he didn’t work on the popular cartoon, it was Hama who developed the characters’ personas and who set the tone and style of the series.

G.I. Joe was originally developed by Hama to be a series for Marvel that followed the son of Nick Fury, a team of commandos and their war against Hydra. Marvel rejected the idea but when Hasbro came knocking, looking for a comic book series to tie into their toy line, Hama resurrected his idea and retrofitted the commandos into the G.I. Joe team and Cobra became the replacement for Hydra.

This volume collects issues 1 through 10. At this point, G.I. Joe hadn’t evolved into a saga like it would become. These earliest issues were more like the cartoon, one-off stories that stood on their own without having to really read the stuff before or after. As the series rolled on, story arcs got longer, the mythos expanded and most issues were connected to a larger narrative.

While I prefer the series when it gets broader and tells larger tales, these early issues are still great.

However, there is one real highlight with this and it is the two-parter that introduces us to the October Guard (or Oktober Guard, as it would later be spelled). They are the Soviet equivalent to the G.I. Joe team and while things start out rocky between the two groups, they look past Cold War drama and work together to fight Cobra. Other than this quick two-parter though, everything else was single issue stories.

I do like that the earliest stuff uses Stalker a lot, as he is one of my favorite G.I. Joe characters. The Joe team is pretty small here though, as is Cobra. In fact, the only named members of Cobra in these first ten issues are Cobra Commander (who is not a coward like in the cartoon) and the Baroness.

These earliest stories were fun to relive but the series gets better as it finds its footing, establishes some new ideas and new characters and evolves away from simple, one issue storytelling.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: Any of the original Marvel G.I. Joe and Transformers comics.

Comic Review: The Superior Spider-Man, Vol. 3: No Escape

Published: November 20th, 2013
Written by: Dan Slott, Christos N. Gage
Art by: Humberto Ramos, Giuseppe Camuncoli

Marvel Comics, 139 Pages

Review:

I have been surprised by this series. I wasn’t too keen on the premise and I thought it was way too bizarre to work and was just a shitty attempt at shocking audiences, creating controversy and attempting a cash grab. I mean, it was exactly that but the story, once you move past the absurdity of it, is pretty damn good.

Also, each volume I read is a bit better than the previous one. This gets right into some action and is actually two stories collected into one volume: each story being solid, action packed and fun.

I love this character and how it is such a drastic departure from the Peter Parker Spider-Man. He is a super intelligent vigilante that blackmails the mayor (J. Jonah Jameson, mind you) into supporting his cause publicly and financially (on the city’s dime).

The first story sees Spider-Man take on the Spider Slayer, Vulture, Boomerang and Scorpion on the island prison, the Raft. Obviously, he succeeds but then forces the mayor to give him the Raft to use as his headquarters for his technological war on crime. Spider-Man also gets help from the Lizard in this story.

Then we see Spidey using his tech, giant mecha and foot soldiers in a successful effort at destroying the Kingpin’s stronghold. This brings the new Hobgoblin back into the story, as well as the Green Goblin/Goblin King. Spidey’s weird behavior and blatant fascism brings the modern version of the Wraith into the picture as well. There is even an appearance by Menace, who was a Goblin character that Dan Slott created early in his Spider-Man run.

I’m digging this series a lot more than I thought I would. After finishing this, the last free volume on Comixology, I had to buy the remaining three collections in order to finish this series.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: Other Superior Spider-Man collections and any of Dan Slott’s other Spider-Man titles.

Comic Review: X-Men: X-Tinction Agenda

Published: November, 1990 – January, 1991
Written by: Chris Claremont, Louise Simonson
Art by: Jim Lee, Marc Silvestri, Rob Liefeld, Jon Bogdanove, Rick Leonardi, Guang Yap

Marvel Comics, 299 Pages

Review:

I have wanted a collected version of this story for decades. I have a lot of the single issues but have always been missing a few and haven’t had much luck being able to complete the set over the years (mainly because of the highly sought after New Mutants issues). Plus, the trade paperback version was out of print for a really long time and good copies of it got pretty expensive. But, I was able to get this off of a sale on Comixology for around $5. I think the regular price, even for digital, was a whopping $25 or so.

Anyway, I’m glad that I got this version because it has a whole four issue prologue to the actual X-Tinction Agenda event. The first third of this book is a four issue story arc that happened in The Uncanny X-Men a few years before X-Tinction Agenda and it helps set the stage nicely. Plus, that story was heavy on using Wolverine and Rogue, which are two great characters from that era. You even get some Carol Danvers Ms. Marvel before anyone even really cared about the character.

The main part of this story deals with the X-Men, X-Force and the New Mutants returning to Genosha where mutant genocide is taking place. The villain of the story is Cameron Hodge, considered long dead since Archangel decapitated him with his wings several years earlier. Hodge is such a good villain and frankly, this is my favorite version of the character and the one I experienced first. He hasn’t had the staying power of Magneto, Apocalypse or Mister Sinister but he is, by far, one of the most formidable adversaries any X-team has ever faced.

This has been one of the all-time classic tales in X-Men lore. It was a huge event when I was a kid. And it may not be talked about as much in modern times but this was really where I jumped on to all the other X-books outside of the standard X-Men title. It also set the stage for a lot of major changes to all the books and teams going into the ’90s.

I could talk about the art and the artists that worked on this crossover event but just look at the credits I posted above. Look at those names. This book sells itself just on the merits of that talent level. Add the fact that this is written by both Chris Claremont and Louise Simonson is also pretty f’n incredible.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: Other major X-Men related events of the era: X-Cutioner’s Song, Mutant Massacre, Fall of the Mutants, Muir Island Saga, etc.

Comic Review: The Superior Spider-Man, Vol. 2: A Troubled Mind

Published: December 5th, 2013
Written by: Dan Slott
Art by: Humberto Ramos, Ryan Stegman, Marcos Martin (cover)

Marvel Comics, 115 Pages

Review:

I’m digging this series much more than I thought I would. And this volume is where something happens that really reaches through Octavius’ ego and actually starts to move him towards being genuinely more heroic. I love redemption stories and this is just that, albeit told over twenty-plus comics and collected into five volumes.

But don’t get it twisted, Otto Octavius as Spider-Man is still dastardly and evil, for the most part. You just start to see the cracks showing. Now that he is in the role of Spider-Man, it is starting to effect him when he experiences what it’s like to save someone as opposed to being a menace to the world.

Dan Slott really sort of found his footing in this volume and I hope the quality continues to improve beyond this or at the very least, remains consistent.

I also like that Cardiac had a major part to play in this string of issues. I have always really liked Cardiac since he debuted in The Amazing Spider-Man during Erik Larsen’s run in the early ’90s. He started as a villain but quickly became an anti-hero because he was fighting for something, even if his methods weren’t morally sound. He is one of those characters that could be great, given the right story, but has mostly been underutilized since his debut a quarter of a century ago (damn, that makes me feel old).

We also see the Goblin King, the next gen Hobgoblin and a few other villains that show up. One highlight of the book is seeing the Superior Spider-Man face off against the Avengers, who are weary about Spider-Man and his recent behavior. However, Slott did make the Avengers pretty fascist in this story and it didn’t seem in line with who Captain America is.

Still, this is a really good book overall and it’s got me pumped up for the follow ups.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: Other Superior Spider-Man collections and any of Dan Slott’s other Spider-Man titles.