Comic Review: Spider-Man: Life Story

Published: March 20th, 2019 – August 28th, 2019
Written by: Chip Zdarsky
Art by: Mark Bagley

Marvel Comics, 200 Pages

Review:

When I first heard about this miniseries, I was pretty stoked for it.

The concept is that it starts in the ’60s when Spider-Man debuted and it follows him over the six decades he’s existed but it does that in real time. Basically, instead of Spider-Man only aging fifteen years (or so) since his debut, this story covers his entire life span, as he ages accordingly from decade to decade.

Each of the six issues represents a decade. But that is also kind of a problem with the story too.

You see, you can’t wedge a whole decade into twenty or thirty pages of a comic. So each issue just focuses on some sort of event in Spider-Man’s life from that era.

The total package of this series is really cool and interesting but it almost feels as if each decade could’ve been a miniseries of its own and that this is a comic that could have lived on for several years. And with the team of Chip Zdarsky and Mark Bagley, it could’ve been like a Spider-Man renaissance.

But ultimately, each chapter was pretty damn good. I only thought that the last one was a bit weak but I wasn’t too keen on how it ended. I felt like Spider-Man’s fate was kind of predictable, as this was his “life story”.

The thing is, it was hard investing into the weight of the finale, when you haven’t lived through the emergence of the massive threat that they face to end the series. And that just gets back to my feeling about there needing to be more time devoted to each decade than just single issues.

However, I’m hoping that this is just a framework or a road map and that Marvel at least has some plans to expand on this story in the future. If that’s the case, I really hope it is brought to us by Zdarsky and Bagley, once again.

If not, well… this was still one of the best comic book miniseries to come out this year.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: the recent Symbiote Spider-Man miniseries by Peter David and Greg Land.

Comic Review: Symbiote Spider-Man

Published: April 10th, 2019 – August 14th, 2019
Written by: Peter David
Art by: Greg Land

Marvel Comics, 131 Pages

Review:

Man, this was a really refreshing miniseries. And at the end, it promised that there would be more to come with this symbiote era version of Spider-Man.

Granted, I don’t know exactly where this fits within the established canon or if it is just an alternate Earth but for a self-contained story, Peter David brought his A game and it really made me want to go back and read some of his classic Hulk stories.

I also enjoyed Greg Land’s art and I thought from a stylistic standpoint, the combining of Land and David created a really late ’80s to early ’90s feel for this book. While that can be good or bad, it worked well and just made this a really entertaining and exciting comic.

The story takes place in that small window of time where Spider-Man and Black Cat were a couple. It was a rocky relationship that had a lot of baggage but this story really captures the feeling of it from the days when I was just discovering Spider-Man comics.

The plot focuses on Mysterio and his attempt at trying to get a piece of Spider-Man’s symbiote suit. With the help of Black Cat, who is blackmailed, he succeeds and this leads to Mysterio becoming a host for a piece of the symbiote suit. In essence, we get a mash up of Mysterio and Venom and while that may sound cheap and gimmicky, it works out really well and man, he’s just cool as hell.

I sincerely dug this comic and honestly, I hope that Peter David gets to continue to work on this version of the Spider-Man character. Also, I’d love to see him get to tackle more stuff in modern times, as most of the writing in 2019 is nowhere near Peter David on an off day.

Rating: 8.75/10
Pairs well with: the Spider-Man: Life Story miniseries, as well as symbiote era Spider-Man comics.

Comic Review: Spider-Man: Carnage

Published: 1992
Written by: David Michelinie
Art by: Mark Bagley

Marvel Comics, 70 Pages

Review:

This three issue story arc originally appeared in The Amazing Spider-Man issues 361 through 363. And it was also one of the biggest Spider-Man storylines to come out during my middle school years when I was the most impressionable, as far as comics go.

In 1992, there were few characters as popular as Venom. However, this milestone story gave us a second symbiote, Carnage.

What made this character’s debut so important is that it changed the landscape.

Venom was no longer Spider-Man’s deadliest foe. In Carnage, we have a psychotic serial killer in possession of an alien suit born from Venom. Therefore, it also inherited Venom’s strength. In addition to that, this symbiote has evolved due to being born on Earth, so it has better control of its mass, structure and can fire off projectile weapons made of its alien skin.

Carnage is so powerful and evil that Spider-Man had to enlist the help of Venom. Because of that, this was the turning point in Venom’s life where he no longer played the villain but he became more of an anti-hero and often times a reluctant ally to Spidey.

For a debut, this story packs a punch. Most of that is because Carnage is so damn scary. But the credit really has to go to the creative team. David Michelinie wrote another classic story and the great art of Mark Bagley gave Michelinie’s words and Carnage’s form real life. While people always talk about Todd McFarlane and Erik Larsen’s runs on The Amazing Spider-Man, Bagley was just as iconic and frankly, I like his style better than Larsen’s.

Carnage is one of the highest points in Michelinie’s long run on Spider-Man. While it’s not as impactful as Venom’s debut, it’s nearly on the same level and still, to this day, one of the greatest Spider-Man stories ever told.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: the earlier stories featuring Venom and then the later Maximum Carnage event.

Comic Review: Spider-Man: Kraven’s Last Hunt

Published: October, 1987 – November, 1987
Written by: J.M. DeMatteis
Art by: Mike Zeck

Marvel Comics, 143 Pages

Review:

Kraven’s Last Hunt is considered to be one of the best Spider-Man story arcs ever written. I’ve gotta say that I agree with that assessment and frankly, it’s near perfect minus a few minor things that hinder it.

The art by Mike Zeck is superb though. And even if the story wasn’t as exceptional as it is, the art in this book really takes it to another level due to its grittiness.

This story came out at the end of Spider-Man’s black costume era. The fact that he’s wearing that costume in this story really adds to the tone and gives this a brooding atmosphere that it wouldn’t have had were he wearing his traditional blue and red outfit.

For Kraven fans, this is a must read, as it’s the most important story to feature the character. It also sees him get the best of Spider-Man, by burying him alive for weeks, as he takes over the mantle, becoming a “superior Spider-Man”. So really, Dan Slott through Doctor Octopus pretty much just recycled this concept with his Superior Spider-Man comic book series. But I can’t knock Slott for that, as I enjoyed the series and he definitely made it his own.

Getting back to this story, it also features the minor villain Vermin. The Vermin stuff is very important to the plot but I’ve never been a fan of the character, as he’s pretty one note and generic. Vermin’s inclusion is one of the things I wasn’t keen on in the story but they do include him in a way that makes sense and enriches the story overall. I feel like a different angle would’ve been better though, as so much time is devoted to the character that it detracts from the larger, much better story. Frankly, I just want this to be 100 percent Kraven.

This six issue arc ends in a pretty dark place but it’s almost a perfect conclusion to this rich story. And in a lot of ways, it foreshadows the darkness that is soon to come into Spider-Man’s life in the form of Venom.

Kraven’s Last Hunt absolutely deserves its praise. It’s a true high point to one of the best eras in Spider-Man lore. It’s also one of the reasons I became a lifelong fan of Marvel’s most popular hero.

Rating: 9.75/10
Pairs well with: late ’80s Spider-Man comics, especially the David Michelinie/Todd McFarlane era on The Amazing Spider-Man.

Comic Review: Spider-Man: The Revenge of the Sinister Six

Published: 1991-1992
Written by: Erik Larsen, Terry Kavanagh
Art by: Erik Larsen, Scott McDaniel

Marvel Comics, 165 Pages

Review:

I was really digging re-reading all the earliest Sinister Six storylines. But then I got to this one, the third of the three I wanted to re-experience and it really took the wind out of my sails.

This was a complete clusterfuck, narratively speaking.

I guess there is a big difference between the skill level of David Michelinie and Erik Larsen when it comes to writing. The two teamed up for the storyline, The Return of the Sinister Six, a year earlier in The Amazing Spider-Man. In this arc, Larsen took the reigns pretty much solo, as he had been moved to the Spider-Man title while Michelinie was still working on The Amazing Spider-Man with artist Mark Bagley. While that great duo were introducing us to Carnage, Larsen gave us this mess.

The biggest problem with this miniseries, is that it seemed like Larsen was using it as a way to feature and draw all the characters he wasn’t able to touch before this. This is a cameo bonanza in the worst way and many of these characters enter the story just for the hell of it and don’t serve much purpose to the overall narrative. It’s like Larsen just wanted to draw splash pages of the Hulk, Ghost Rider, the Fantastic Four, and a billion different villains. We also get a small and incredibly pointless cameo from Sleepwalker, one of my favorite ’90s characters.

Larsen’s art here was pretty damn solid, I have to give him that. He has a very distinct style and people either love it or hate it, similar to the style of Rob Liefeld. I have mostly liked Larsen’s style and this was interesting to see, as he did this right before jumping ship to Image Comics and his own creation, The Savage Dragon.

I do have to say that Larsen’s writing improves once he goes to Image and I’m thinking that he knew he was leaving when he took on this project and he felt that it was the only chance he would get to draw a lot of these characters.

To put it bluntly though, this story is ’90s as fuck and I don’t mean that complimentary. It’s trying really damn hard to be edgy. In fact, in the final battle all the villains are shooting machine guns like common street thugs while Spider-Man is wearing all this expensive, over the top, ’90s style tech. Hell, Spidey even gets a cyborg arm in this.

Also, the Sinister Six isn’t really even fully formed. Sandman is not on the team and is trying to get the other villains to stop Doctor Octopus. So really, this is the Sinister Five but then they bring in the giant beast Gog. So is he the sixth member now? It’s not really clear and it’s just one of many things that makes this story total chaos.

This was bad, dreadfully bad. I remembered liking it when it originally came out but I was also thirteen years-old and way more into the visual side of comics over having a coherent plot.

Rating: 4.75/10
Pairs well with: Stan Lee and Steve Ditko’s original Sinister Six story, as well as the prequel to this one, The Return of the Sinister Six. Also, anything from the Michelinie and Larsen run on The Amazing Spider-Man.

Film Review: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)

Release Date: December 6th, 2018 (Singapore sneak preview)
Directed by: Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, Rodney Rothman
Written by: Phil Lord, Rodney Rothman
Based on: Spider-Man by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, Miles Morales by Brian Michael Bendis and Sara Pichelli
Music by: Daniel Pemberton
Cast: Shameik Moore, Jake Johnson, Hailee Steinfeld, Mahershala Ali, Brian Tyree Henry, Lily Tomlin, Luna Lauren Velez, John Mulaney, Kimiko Glenn, Nicolas Cage, Liev Schreiber, Chris Pine, Lake Bell, Marvin Jones III, Stan Lee (cameo), Cliff Robertson (archive recording), Oscar Issac (cameo), Donald Glover (cameo)

Columbia Pictures, Sony Pictures Animation, Marvel Entertainment, Arad Productions, Lord Miller Productions, Pascal Pictures, Sony Pictures Releasing, 117 Minutes, 143 Minutes (Alt Universe Cut)

Review:

“That person who helps others simply because it should or must be done, and because it is the right thing to do, is indeed without a doubt, a real superhero.” – Stan Lee

I intended to see this in the theater but the holidays are really busy for me and I didn’t get around to it or any other movies around that time. I heard great things about this movie though, so I rented it as soon as it was available.

Full disclosure, I’m not a huge fan of animated films. At least I haven’t been in my adult life. I still love a lot of the old cartoons and anime I watched as a kid but due to the overwhelming positive fan response to this and my love of Miles Morales, I wanted to give this a chance.

Overall, it’s a mighty fine motion picture and the best Spider-Man movie since Spider-Man 2.

I thought that the CGI animation was really well done. I prefer traditional animation and have never found CGI animation to be that interesting but this shows how great this animation style can be when pushed to the max and utilized for its strengths while being meticulously crafted with heart.

The story doesn’t really follow the comics but how many comic book film adaptations do? Still, it was engaging, it captured who Miles is and it examined a lot of different aspects of heroism. I absolutely love how it presented and handled the life of an aged Peter Parker. And ultimately, the bond between Miles, Peter, Gwen Stacy and the other heroes was strong and everything human and emotional felt natural.

I was really excited to see Spider-Gwen and Spider-Ham, especially. I loved Gwen’s earliest stories and I’ve been a Spider-Ham junkie since childhood.

This also features a lot of villains and even does a gender bending twist to Doctor Octopus that worked for me.

I think that this movie definitely did exactly what it set out to do which was to launch Miles Morales into the minds of normal moviegoers and kids that don’t pick up the comics while incorporating a nice array of other Spider-heroes in a fun and unique way. It also humanizes the vilest villain and makes this a more emotional and touching movie than most of the live action Spider-Man adaptations.

I’m definitely excited for the multiple sequels and spinoffs that Sony seems to have planned for the very near future.

Rating: 8.75/10
Pairs well with: I’d assume, the future sequels and spinoffs. As well as Miles Morales Spider-Man comics.

Comic Review: Spider-Man: The Return of the Sinister Six

Published: 1990
Written by: David Michelinie
Art by: Erik Larsen, Terry Austin, Mike Machlan

Marvel Comics, 141 Pages

Review:

This story arc took place in The Amazing Spider-Man issue numbers 334 through 339. It was a follow up to the original Sinister Six story that Stan Lee and Steve Ditko gave us with the first ever Amazing Spider-Man annual way back in 1964.

What’s strange to me, is that it took so long for six of Spidey’s best villains to team-up again. However, with Kraven the Hunter being dead, this version of the group replaced him with Hobgoblin. But the team is still led by Doctor Octopus and also features Electro, Mysterio, the Vulture and the Sandman. However, in a bit of a twist, Sandman has gone straight and Octopus blackmails him into joining the group.

This story also features a lot of cameos from other villains and heroes but Spider-Man ultimately faces the Sinister Six on his own and at one point, he finally fights them all at once, which he didn’t do in the first story.

While the Dave Michelinie/Todd McFarlane era of The Amazing Spider-Man is heralded as one of the best of all-time, the Dave Michelinie/Erik Larsen era is also damn good and really just continues off of what Michelinie developed with McFarlane. This came out at the height of me reading Spider-Man comics. To me, this was an event bigger than any of those Infinity things and this wasn’t really even an event.

Reading this now, I almost have a deeper appreciation for it than I did as a kid in 1990. The plot is well constructed and it has a lot of layers to it. Also, there’s a few subplots that have their own interesting narratives. There’s much more here than Peter Parker’s Royal Rumble match with his rogues and it makes this a really rich tale with good character development and real depth.

Some of the plot points, like the bizarreness of Octavius’ scheme are baffling but even the questionable stuff is amusing and just makes me yearn for the early ’90s comic book storytelling style. Twenty-nine years later, I definitely see issues I didn’t as a kid but it in no way wrecks the experience that is this great arc.

Also at the time, I was a hardcore Erik Larsen fan. I first discovered his art on this title. While I always preferred McFarlane, through the eyes of an eleven year-old, Larsen was a comic art superstar. I loved how he drew Spidey and his iconic villains and I think it still looks great. While I respect Larsen and McFarlane for forming Image and coming out with their own comics, there’s that part of me that wished that they both would’ve stuck around and worked on Spider-Man books a bit longer, as I was just so in love with what they were doing at the time and wasn’t ready to let them hand it off to someone else. But then, Mark Bagley did do a fine job, as well.

All these years later, this was fun to pick up again. I was a little worried that I’d think it’d suck now but it brought me back to where I was, reading it for the first time in 1990. Sometimes picking up old comics is like opening a time capsule. With this one, I was happy to find that it was even better than I remembered it.

And now I can’t wait to revisit its sequel, The Revenge of the Sinister Six.

Rating: 9.25/10
Pairs well with: Stan Lee and Steve Ditko’s original Sinister Six story, as well as the sequel to this one, The Revenge of the Sinister Six. Also, anything from the Michelinie and Larsen run on The Amazing Spider-Man.