Comic Review: Venom: First Host

Published: August 29th, 2018 – September, 26th, 2018
Written by: Mike Costa
Art by: Mark Bagley, Ron Lim, Paco Diaz

Marvel Comics, 113 Pages


Venom: First Host was a really cool miniseries for me for several reasons.

To start, I love Venom and whenever he gets a story that expands his character, I’m usually always pleased. This story helped to give the character and his history more depth and further moved him along to where he no longer has to be solely attached to Spider-Man stories. This, along with Donny Cates’ current run on the regular Venom title, have made this iconic anti-hero much more interesting in 2018, thirty years after his first appearance.

Secondly, I love the creative team on this book. Mike Costa was one of my favorite G.I. Joe writers of all-time. In fact, I wish he would return to that universe, as it’s pretty much getting run through the muck, lately.

As far as the art, you’ve got Mark Bagley and Ron Lim, two guys that I was a huge fan of in the ’90s. Bagley did the art in so many books that I read and Lim did all that fantastic art in the three Infinity events in the early ’90s. I’ve also always liked Paco Diaz’s work too. So, for me, this was like an all-star team comprised of guys I liked on different projects, brought together to give me a miniseries on one of my all-time favorite characters.

The story itself is really interesting, as well. It introduces us to the Venom symbiote’s first host, a disgraced and violent Kree warrior. It also deals with a new offspring of Venom, which Brock and the symbiote treat and see as their child. So we have Brock in the young symbiote suit teaming up with a female Skrull to defeat a Kree madman with the Venom suit. It’s nuts, it’s fun and I had a blast reading this story. I’d like to see more of Venom in space, actually.

Now this may be confusing, as it is somewhat of an unexplored origin and it is happening at the same time Cates’ origin of the symbiote is also being published. But these two stories work well together and while all this new Venom backstory stuff might be overwhelming and a bit confusing, each current Venom comic works well on its own.

And frankly, between this miniseries and Cates’ stuff, I’m really excited to see the Venom movie, which is just a few days away at the time of this writing.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: Venom: Rex and the upcoming Donny Cates Venom stuff.

Comic Review: G.I. Joe: Snake Eyes, Agent of Cobra

Published: August 25th, 2015
Written by: Mike Costa
Art by: Paolo Villanelli
Based on: G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero by Hasbro

IDW Publishing, 120 Pages


I can’t stress enough how much I didn’t like the fourth phase of the IDW G.I. Joe run titled The Fall of G.I. Joe. This story takes place alongside it and focuses on a different group of players in the G.I. Joe and Cobra organizations, so I was hoping that it would be better. Also, it was written by Mike Costa, who penned some really good G.I. Joe stories for IDW. At the very least, I anticipated this being better than The Fall of G.I. Joe. So was it?

Well, it starts with a jailbreak that sees G.I. Joe agent Snake Eyes rescuing Cobra’s weapons dealer Destro. It’s a strange twist, especially since Snake Eyes hasn’t been seen for quite some time leading up to this. In any event, it was great having him back and getting a ninja-centric storyline, which the G.I. Joe books had been lacking since Target: Snake Eyes, which came out more than two years before this. Also, I love Destro.

The story also serves to carry on the plot threads from The Cobra Files series. It picks up with the characters from those books: Chameleon, Ronin and Billy, the original Cobra Commander’s son. Also, it allows Storm Shadow to catch up with Snake Eyes to work out their personal differences following the events of Target: Snake Eyes.

Costa did a good job with this book and I’m pretty sure it was his farewell, as G.I. Joe went into a drastic new direction after this where it was crossed over with a bunch of other Hasbro properties and almost got a sort of anime visual style.

Snake Eyes, Agent of Cobra isn’t Costa’s best work on G.I. Joe but it was a satisfying chapter in Costa’s long history working on the property.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: The story runs alongside The Fall of G.I. Joe but that story arc was terrible. This picks up after the events of Target: Snake Eyes.

Comic Review: Venom Inc.

Published: May 22nd, 2018
Written by: Dan Slott
Art by: Mike Costa, Ryan Stegman, Gerardo Sandova

Marvel Comics, 160 Pages


Man, I have heard a lot of good things about Dan Slott’s run on The Amazing Spider-Man. So I figured that I’d read the stuff from over his last year or so, as his run is coming to an end with issue number 800. That comes out a few days after I am writing this. Granted, it’ll probably already be out by the time I post this, as I have ten or fifteen comic reviews currently in my queue to be scheduled and posted.

So after reading Venomverse, I also wanted more modern Eddie Brock as Venom stories. So, this was a great spot to pick up from, as I approach the end of Slott’s run.

This story was spread over The Amazing Spider-Man issue numbers 792 and 793, as well as Venom numbers 159 and 160, and The Amazing Spider-Man: Venomc Inc. Alpha and Omega books.

For starters, this was an exciting read. I loved it.

I don’t know much about Flash Thompson’s story over the last ten years but obviously a lot has happened to the once bully. I also really like Mania, who is a female hero with a Venom-like symbiote. Granted, her symbiote is stolen from her in the beginning of this story and that is used to setup the formation of a Venom-like gang and then the team up of Spidey, Venom, Flash Thompson as Anti-Venom, Black Cat and Mania without her alien suit.

Really, I kind of just wish this team stayed a team after this story. Maybe I’ll be surprised as I delve deeper into Slott’s stories after this, which eventually culminate into the debut of his most popular villain, the Red Goblin. By the way, the Red Goblin has serious ties to Spidey and Venom.

The art in this story arc was really good. It was split between the three guys working on the three different titles that combined to make this crossover. However, Mike Costa, whose work I loved in IDW’s G.I. Joe titles did a great job and I liked seeing him tackle another franchise that I love.

If you are a Venom fan or just love symbiote Spider-Man stories, this won’t disappoint.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: Any of the great Eddie Brock Venom stories. But for more recent stuff, the new Venom series and the Venomverse story arc.

Comic Review: G.I. Joe: The Cobra Files, Vol. 2

Published: March 5th, 2014
Written by: Mike Costa
Art by: Werther Dell’edera, Antonio Fuso
Based on: G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero by Hasbro

IDW Publishing, 104 Pages


I really liked everything about the stories surrounding Flint’s group of Joes after the events of Cobra Civil War and Cobra Command. This is sadly, the last of those stories, as this is where the group disbands due to Flint feeling like they have evolved in a way that doesn’t make them different than the enemy.

There are some big twists in the story, which keeps it really engaging. Some swerves you see coming but are still a hard pill to swallow when you’ve been following these characters for what is the equivalent of roughly twenty single issues between this series and its predecessor, G.I. Joe: Cobra.

Initially, this started out a bit slow but once things got moving, they really got friggin’ moving!

I loved this story arc and it was a great sendoff to one of my favorite splinter groups within IDW’s G.I. Joe run. It was also a great sendoff for Mike Costa, who would leave the G.I. Joe franchise at the end of this third IDW phase of titles.

Everything that Costa had written in regards to the character of Chameleon really comes full circle here. I wasn’t a big fan of the character in the beginning but she becomes something great in this story.

This also features the Night Creepers, once again, and brings Firefly back into the plot, as he has been working with Tomax all along despite Tomax’s sort of imprisonment within the Vegas G.I. Joe HQ.

Hands down, this turned into one of my favorite G.I. Joe stories. It sucks that some beloved characters met their demise but this is why IDW was really damn good at producing adult G.I. Joe stories. Granted, IDW goes off the rails not too long after this third phase of titles.

Mike Costa, I tip my proverbial hat to you, as you created new Joe stories for me to love and cherish till the end of time. Costa, along with the excellent work of Chuck Dixon, was able to keep G.I. Joe fun and exciting but in a way that shows respect to the fans that grew up with these characters, who are now adults that can’t seem to put these stories down.

Rating: 9.25/10
Pairs well with: The two stories that happen alongside this one: G.I. Joe: Special Missions, Vol. 2 and G.I. Joe, Vol. 2: Threat Matrix.

Comic Review: G.I. Joe: The Cobra Files, Vol. 1

Published: September 17th, 2013
Written by: Mike Costa
Art by: Antonio Fuso
Based on: G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero by Hasbro

IDW Publishing, 104 Pages


This is the start of a new series but really, it is just a pick up of IDW’s G.I. Joe: Cobra series. In that series, at least after the events of the Cobra Civil War and Cobra Command, the Joe team was splintered into smaller groups. G.I. Joe: Cobra started following a team led by Flint that also featured Tomax, a Cobra member who the Joes were using for intel. Although, Tomax obviously can’t be trusted, even if he does provide good info on the Cobra terrorists. When this book starts, Flint and his team are still in Las Vegas where their secret headquarters is inside of a massive casino.

This picks up the plot threads from their previous stories and brings back the son of the original Cobra Commander, who has been in a coma since the Joes first brought him into their base.

This story mostly follows Chameleon, an ex-Cobra agent that worked directly under Tomax. She has to deal with her hatred of him while also doing her job and trying to repent for the sins of her Cobra affiliation. She also takes command of an important mission here.

The first part of the book deals with the apprehension of former Cobra agent Copperhead. Things do not go as smoothly as they should and Chameleon has to deal with her own issues with that. Flint is there to try and help her and Tomax is there to try and taunt her with his very presence.

Another big part of this story is the introduction of the Night Creepers. Some people may remeber them from the ’80s toyline, comics and cartoon. They were a secret ninja group within Cobra that were extremely covert, used evil ninja trickery and wore really cool outfits. They look different in their IDW incarnation but the spirit of what they are is still there. They’re just more modern, realistic and a bit less hokey than the original source material was.

While this book had some good plot developments and featured both Copperhead and the Night Creepers, it was a bit bland. The final battle in this story arc was exciting and cool. It featured the Night Creepers infiltrating the Pentagon with nuclear torpedoes shot from the Potomac River. But regardless of the action that capped off the final issue in this collection, this book mainly serves the purpose of character development. That’s fine though, as I like most of the characters involved in this story.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: The G.I. Joe: Cobra series by IDW, which this story picks up from. Also, the two stories that happen alongside this one: G.I. Joe: Special Missions, Vol. 1 and G.I. Joe, Vol. 1: Homefront.

Comic Review: G.I. Joe: Cobra, Vol. 3: Oktober Guard

Published: April 17th, 2013
Written by: Mike Costa
Art by: Werther Dell’edera, Antonio Fuso
Based on: G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero by Hasbro

IDW Publishing, 128 Pages


G.I. Joe: Cobra, Vol. 3: Oktober Guard is a direct pickup of the plot thread that started in G.I. Joe: Cobra, Vol. 2: Son of the Snake.

This follows Flint’s team of Joes, operating out of a casino in Las Vegas with the assistance of Tomax, a former major player in Cobra. This also follows Major Bludd’s story and the aftermath of his part in the Cobra Command crossover event. Additionally, this also happens at the same time as the events in G.I. Joe: Deep Terror and G.I. Joe: Snake Eyes & Storm Shadow, Vol. 1.

This is written by Chuck Dixon, the greatest G.I. Joe writer that isn’t the legendary Larry Hama. This is also one of my favorite smaller scale Dixon stories. It’s about a small group of characters and isn’t forced to wedge in every Joe and Cobra character like the mega events Cobra Civil War and Cobra Command.

The primary thing of importance here is that this story arc introduces the IDW G.I. Joe universe to the Oktober Guard, who were pretty prevalent during the Cold War G.I. Joe stories of the 1980s. In the old days, they were the Soviet Union’s version of G.I. Joe. In the IDW universe, they are a Russian group that exists in secret and are more like mercenaries than a government agency.

This book also serves to further develop Flint, Lady Jaye, Chameleon, Ronin and Major Bludd. Ultimately, this leads to Major Bludd becoming the leader of Oktober Guard. While that’s a bit of a spoiler, the way in which it happens is pretty cool.

I really liked this story, it continues a great track record of Chuck Dixon’s G.I. Joe tenure and IDW’s handling of the property during this era. Sadly, IDW would lose touch later on but at this point, G.I. Joe is still solid.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: G.I. Joe: Cobra, Vol. 2: Son of the Snake (the story before it) and G.I. Joe: The Cobra Files, Vol. 1 and 2 (which follows it).

Comic Review: G.I. Joe: Cobra, Vol. 2: Son of the Snake

Published: January 22nd, 2013
Written by: Mike Costa
Art by: Antonio Fuso
Based on: G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero by Hasbro

IDW Publishing, 104 Pages


After reading through the massive Cobra Civil War event and its sequel Cobra Command, I wanted to see what was next in IDW’s G.I. Joe run. That brought me to Son of the Snake, which is one of the next story arcs after those much bigger books.

This tale happens alongside G.I. Joe: Deep Terror and G.I. Joe: Snake Eyes & Storm Shadow, Vol. 1. I have already read and reviewed Deep Terror.

The G.I. Joe team is broken up into different fragments. This story follows Flint’s group, who are hiding in a casino owned by their new ally and ex-Cobra member, Tomax. Tomax, who escaped a coup gone wrong, reveals to the Joes that the original Cobra Commander had a son and that Cobra is unaware of him. Flint’s team then makes it their mission to find the original Commander’s son in hopes that he has any sort of information that can help them hurt Cobra.

This story serves to develop the characters of Lady Jaye, Chameleon, Ronin, Firefly and Tomax a bit more. It also shows things in a state of flux, as G.I. Joe is splintered and lacking resources while Cobra is having its own internal problems.

This isn’t a great or exciting story but it is similar to Deep Terror in how it gives readers a break from the massive Cobra Civil War and Cobra Command mega-events. The break was needed and it was, at this point, necessary to spend more intimate time with certain characters. This story develops those characters well and helps to enrich the IDW G.I. Joe universe.

For long time G.I. Joe fans, this is a pretty good and engaging read. I like these smaller stories that deal with smaller groups even if the “all out war” events are incredibly fun spectacles.

Son of the Snake is well written, I liked the art and it had a harsh edge to it.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with:  G.I. Joe: Deep Terror and G.I. Joe: Snake Eyes & Storm Shadow, Vol. 1., the two stories that happen alongside this one.

Comic Review: G.I. Joe: Cobra Command

Published: June 4th, 2013
Written by: Chuck Dixon, Mike Costa
Art by: Alex Cal, Beni Lobel, S.L. Gallant, Will Rosado, Antonio Fuso
Based on: G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero by Hasbro

IDW Publishing, 328 Pages


After reading the fantastic Cobra – The Last Laugh and the damn good Cobra Civil War collections, I had to pick up this sequel to those. The three sagas sort of work well as a trilogy: the first one is about the death of Cobra Commander, the second is about finding his replacement and this story is about the new Commander’s first campaign.

This also feels like a fresh start, as things are different after the Cobra Civil War and the new Commander decides to bring Cobra out into the open. No longer are they publicly perceived as conspiracy theory boogeymen, they are now the biggest threat to freedom and liberty in the entire world.

Cobra invades a small country in Southeast Asia. It’s a very smart and strategic invasion, as the country has no real allies and is sort of on its own on the world stage. There is a deeper meaning, as to why they chose this country, but it isn’t fully revealed until the end of this book when you get to the chapter that covers the new Commander’s origin.

This is a well written and well drawn saga by the IDW staff. I’m loving the work of Chuck Dixon and Mike Costa and they are the best creative team writing G.I. Joe comics since the original Larry Hama era in the ’80s and ’90s.

The story sees the Joes go to blows with Cobra in Nanzhao, the country under siege. It also follows Snake Eyes as he confronts Storm Shadow and the Arashikage in a jungle temple. There is even a side story about Major Bludd and Tomax working together in an effort to create a coup within Cobra, as neither are happy with Krake as the new Cobra Commander.

For fans of classic G.I. Joe, there is a lot to love about this story. My only real complaint about IDW’s run on G.I. Joe is that I’m not a fan of how they write Zartan and up to this point, the Dreadnoks are non existent. I want me some damn Dreadnoks!

Rating: 9.25/10
Pairs well with: The two sagas that precede it: Cobra – The Last Laugh and Cobra Civil War. This is the final part of a trilogy of major events around the Cobra Civil War.

Comic Review: G.I. Joe: Cobra Civil War – Compendium

Published: April 16th, 2013
Written by: Chuck Dixon, Mike Costa
Art by: Javier Saltares, Will Rosado, Ron Adrian, Robert Atkins, Agustin Padilla, Alberto Muriel, Casey Maloney, Antonio Fuso, Chee, Werther Dell edera
Based on: G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero by Hasbro

IDW Publishing, 564 Pages


After reading the incredible saga Cobra – The Last Laugh, I had no choice but to have to jump right into this even larger saga.

This story is friggin’ massive. I got the compendium version that collects every issue from every title that pertains to this story and then organizes them chronologically. Compared to Cobra – The Last Laugh, this book is twice as big, coming in at nearly 600 pages.

The premise itself is a spoiler to Cobra – The Last Laugh, so if you want to read that book first, you might not want to continue reading this review beyond this paragraph.

This massive compendium is about finding the replacement for the murdered Cobra Commander, who was killed by Chuckles. Cobra decides to hold a contest. Whoever is able to cause the most crippling damage to G.I. Joe will be selected to be the new Cobra Commander. So the Baroness, Tomax, Major Bludd and several others compete to murder as many G.I. Joes as possible while also trying to destroy their infrastructure.

The story follows all of these Cobra agents and their individual plots. It also puts a big emphasis on Snake Eyes, who plays a major part in this series.

This tale comes with some good twists, as there are characters that are moles or that sabotage other operations for their own personal gain. It is really chaotic but that also works against the book in a way too.

The biggest negative is that the story sometimes feels disorganized but this is also a collection of three different comic titles that crossover to tell the story. But when you do get to the end, I feel like the winner to Cobra’s contest was supposed to be a big surprise but it didn’t come off as a shocker because the character was barely in the story and not developed in any way. He’s sort of like the old Cobra Commander, just some unknown guy in a mask. Which I guess is fine but they had the chance to do something really different and this whole big event just lead to hitting the reset button while killing off a lot of characters. IDW has never been afraid of taking risks since they took over G.I. Joe but they kept all the core members alive and gave us 600 pages that, while wonderful, didn’t seem to have the gravitas and weight that the story sort of guaranteed by the nature of its subject matter and epic scale.

The writing was decent and the art was beautiful. The book looks absolutely incredible and made for a very fun read for this longtime G.I. Joe fan. Although, I really missed Destro not being a part of the competition, as he was locked away throughout the story.

The real highlight for me though, was the Baroness stuff. She was entertaining and intriguing; plus, she’s always been one of my favorite characters in the franchise. The Snake Eyes side of things were fun too but I never really got the showdown I had hoped would take place between him and Storm Shadow. I also liked how much time they devoted to Major Bludd with this story, as he sort of gets brushed to the side in favor of other Cobra officers. He’s always been a pretty one-dimensional baddie but we get to know him quite a bit here.

Cobra Civil War was a heck of a major event and a pretty ambitious one at that. IDW did a good job of bringing this all together and making it work really well. I prefer Cobra – The Last Laugh but this was a much larger story that stretched to every corner of the G.I. Joe universe and felt like it was worthy of standing alongside the G.I. Joe I grew up with thirty years ago.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: Other IDW G.I. Joe releases but Cobra – The Last Laugh should be read before this and Cobra Command should be read after, as the three big events sort of work as a trilogy.

Comic Review: G.I. Joe: Cobra – The Last Laugh

Published: January 9th, 2013
Written by: Christos Gage, Mike Costa
Art by: Antonio Fuso, S.L. Gallant, Chee
Based on: G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero by Hasbro

IDW Publishing, 368 Pages


This is the story that serves as a setup for the massive Cobra Civil War mega event that IDW Publishing did to shake things up in their G.I. Joe universe. It works as the first part of a trilogy of big stories with Cobra Civil War and Cobra Command. I have all three collections now, so I am reading them in order.

This story is smaller in scale than a typical G.I. Joe tale, as it really just features one Joe primarily: Chuckles. This is Chuckles time to shine, as he’s mostly been an afterthought character over the years. This taps into his modus operandi, where he is a great secret agent that is able to blend in with any situation and complete his mission. Here, he infiltrates Cobra but it isn’t that simple. This story has many twists and turns and leads to a pretty incredible and surprising end.

Chuckles is pushed to his moral limit several times. In order to not blow his cover, he has to commit several incredibly horrible acts. He is focused on the job at hand and anyone else with a conscience probably wouldn’t be able to do the heinous things he does. But these things do take a toll 0n him and he questions his actions. But his decisions, regardless of what he’s trying to accomplish, make it really hard to like or relate to him. But that’s also kind of the point. These aren’t the cartoon G.I. Joe stories that many of us grew up with. This is something much darker and realistic. And really, it shows you just how evil Cobra truly is.

The book also focuses on the twins, Tomax and Xamot. It gives their origin story, shows their relationship over the years and how things have changed since Chuckles came into their lives. We also spend some quality time with the Baroness and get to meet Cobra Commander, after he had been held back in an effort to make his reveal mean something.

We also meet new characters that were created for this story. They have their own interesting personalities and backstory and each contributes greatly to this story arc.

To be frank, this is the best G.I. Joe story I have ever read that wasn’t written by the maestro, Larry Hama. This book goes to darker places than one would ever expect from G.I. Joe but it works surprisingly well and doesn’t just feel like some run of the mill “gritty reboot”.

This is written by people who grew up with G.I. Joe and who are now writing it for others who also grew up with the franchise. Except now they are writing it for that same audience, who are all at least in their 30s.

Cobra – The Last Laugh is phenomenal. And I must now immediately jump into its followup, the massive and nearly 600 page Cobra Civil War – Compendium.

Rating: 9.75/10
Pairs well with: IDW Publishing’s Cobra Civil War and Cobra Command.