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.

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.

Comic Review: Spider-Man: The Sinister Six

Published: June 1st, 1964
Written by: Stan Lee
Art by: Steve Ditko

Marvel Comics, 75 Pages

Review:

This story premiered in the first ever Amazing Spider-Man annual. Plus, it was written by Stan “The Man” Lee and drawn by the great Steve Ditko.

The plot is pretty standard fair for ’60s Marvel and it sees six of Spider-Man’s toughest villains come together to form the original version of the Sinister Six. That being said, the Sinister Six have been one of my favorite villain groups of all-time and this storyline didn’t just create a supervillain team to test a single hero but it created a trend in the comic book medium that saw other heroes have to take on similar teams of multiple rogues.

I like how the plot was structured, in that Spider-Man had to run the gauntlet on the Sinister Six and fought each one individually. This is actually a great setup for the future, which would see the Sinister Six up the ante and take on Spidey all at once. However, in future battles, Spidey would get some help of his own.

This group consisted of Doctor Octopus, The Vulture, Kraven the Hunter, Electro, Mysterio and the Sandman. While the group would rotate some other villains in over the course of time, I really liked this group and how having them come together in this story made it feel like a Spider-Man themed Royal Rumble.

For a first time reader, this had to be a fun read, as it forced Spider-Man to face multiple challenges in the same story. Plus, it just looks great with the Ditko art.

This is not my favorite Sinister Six story but we wouldn’t have gotten the other ones without this happening first. Plus, it’s quintessential Stan Lee in how this all plays out.

It’s hard not to love this.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: other Stan Lee and Steve Ditko era Spider-Man comics.

Comic Review: Spider-Men

Published: May 8th, 2013
Written by: Brian Michael Bendis
Art by: Sara Pichelli, Jim Cheung (covers)

Marvel Comics, 112 Pages

Review:

Say what you will about Brian Michael Bendis’ horrible run on Superman titles. I stopped picking them up a few months ago. He is a guy that comic fans like to trash and if I’m being honest, it’s justified in 2018. However, Bendis can write and Spider-Men is proof of that.

The reason I say that, even though I don’t like a lot of the man’s work, is because this story had a few moments that really hit me in the feels hard. More so than just about any comic I’ve read in recent memory.

This story sees Peter Parker get whisked away to a new dimension. There, he meets Miles Morales, the young Spider-Man that has replaced Parker after he died there. While the story is action packed and it’s friggin’ awesome seeing Miles and Peter finally meet, the story is it’s strongest when it explores the emotions of Peter and what’s happened to him and his love ones in this alternate reality.

There are sweet subtle moments between Parker and Aunt May, as well as Gwen Stacy. There is also that moment when he sees Mary Jane, who runs away and breaks down because her Peter is dead.

This also had great exchanges between Peter and just about everyone in the Ultimates universe. He’s baffled by Nick Fury’s blackness and coolness and botherd by Tony Stark’s drinking.

I also liked what Bendis did here with Mysterio, who is the reason why this event happened. Mysterio is explored and presented in a new way than just simply being a professional illusionist turned mad.

My only complaint is the motivation and actions of Peter when he first meets Miles. He was initially way too aggressive, especially when suspecting that Miles was just a kid. His actions were a bit extreme and careless and he acted a lot more rash than Peter Parker would.

But again, that’s the only real complaint.

This was solid, it was fun, it touched me on an emotional level and as much as I have always loved Peter and Miles on their own, this made me yearn for more team ups. I know that they’ve had a lot now and that I’m playing catch up and I’m sure it’ll run its course quickly but I’m still enthused about what comes after this.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: the other Miles Morales stories by Bendis.

Comic Review: Daredevil: Guardian Devil

Published: November, 1998 – June, 1999
Written by: Kevin Smith
Art by: Joe Quesada

Marvel Comics, 180 Pages

Review:

I loved this Kevin Smith run on Daredevil back in the day when it was new. But it is shockingly twenty years old now, which makes me feel old as shit and even though it is still a pretty good story, it doesn’t resonate with me as profoundly as it did back in the day.

I guess I just don’t care about religion or mysticism anymore because I grew up and moved away from the heavy handed religious influence that stifled me in my youth. Also, decades later, I’m kind of over Kevin Smith’s commentary on Catholicism. And while Matt Murdock a.k.a. Daredevil is bound by his Catholic beliefs, it just doesn’t make for an interesting story for me anymore.

I’m going to get into major plot spoiler territory here. So turn away if you want to read this.

The religious mumbo jumbo in this is just a big illusion created by Mysterio, who is mostly a Spider-Man villain. He gives his reasoning as to why he wants to screw around with Daredevil but it’s pretty fucking meh. Apparently, Daredevil has been drugged the whole time. I’m not sure how a drug can last for days on end but I guess this explains why he found it necessary to throw a baby off of a fucking roof. Sorry, but I wanted to throw this book when that happened… way before we got an explanation to Daredevil’s bat shit behavior several issues later.

Additionally, none of the characters really act rational in anyway. I guess, again, this is due to Daredevil being high as fuck but if I have to read six or seven issues before the explanation, I’m just going to assume that the writer doesn’t understand or know these characters. Had I been reading this as a new comic now, I would’ve quit on issue no. 1 or 2.

I’m not even really sure why I liked this story in 1999 or so, other than I thought Kevin Smith was a genius back then, I was still under the influence of religion and I thought that Dogma was Generation X’s Ben fucking Hur.

On to the positives.

I liked the art, I liked the villain lineup and I was really happy with the confrontation between Daredevil and Bullseye. Back in the early ’90s when I was hardcore into Daredevil, a big reason for that was Bullseye. I loved him just as much as Daredevil and maybe even a little bit more. He’s a complete fucking badass and underutilized by Marvel. Hell, he was completely shitted on in the 2003 Daredevil film. So when I can get some solid Bullseye shit, I’m a fan. So kudos to Smith for giving me the Bullseye I love.

Anyway, this was once a beloved book in my collection. Now I just stare at it wedged between the Frank Miller and Ann Nocenti Daredevil books on my shelf and feel like this doesn’t belong.

Rating: 5/10
Pairs well with: The Daredevil stories that followed, as well as Kevin Smith’s run on Green Arrow. I hope I don’t hate his Green Arrow story now too. I need to revisit it really soon.

Comic Review: Wolverine: Old Man Logan

Published: September 22nd, 2010
Written by: Mark Millar
Art by: Steve McNiven

Marvel Comics, 224 Pages

Review:

Old Man Logan has become one of those stories that has reached a sort of legendary status. That’s a very rare feat in the more modern era of comic books but this story, now having reached ten years of age, has had some lasting power and has gone on to influence other works. In some regard, it is Marvel’s versions of DC’s The Dark Knight Returns in that it takes a well known character and shows him in an alternate future after the world has fallen apart around him.

Granted, this is in no way a ripoff of Frank Miller’s classic Batman story. Old Man Logan is very much its own thing and what a great thing it is.

When the story starts, we discover that Logan, the former Wolverine, is living in California on a farm with his wife and two children. Times are hard and the Hulk’s inbred gang demand the rent. An old Hawkeye shows up and gives Logan a deal that he can’t refuse, which will pay him enough to keep the Hulk’s gang off of his back. The story then sees these two aged heroes travel from the West Coast to the East Coast to deliver a package. We discover that the entire United States is completely screwed up and while the now villainous Hulk controls the West Coast, other villains control other regions. The Kingpin (a different guy than Wilson Fisk) has Vegas, Dr. Doom has the Midwest and “The President” a.k.a. Red Skull has the East Coast.

I don’t want to give much more away for fear of spoiling the story.

This book has a lot of surprises and cool things thrown in. Logan is a pacifist, at this point, but what happens when he is pushed beyond his breaking point?

Old Man Logan is one of the most refreshing things Marvel has put out since the turn of the millennium. The story and the characters were so well received that Logan and Hawkeye have both made other appearances as their elderly selves.

There are very few comic books that I will say are must reads, especially out of the more modern titles. This is a must read though, whether you are a Wolverine fan or just a fan of the comic book medium in general.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: The Death of Wolverine and it also has some similarities to Frank Miller’s classic aged Batman tale, The Dark Knight Returns.

Comic Review: Spider-Gwen, Vol. 2: Weapon of Choice

Published: January 3rd, 2017
Written by: Jason Latour
Art by: Robbi Rodriguez

Marvel Comics, 112 Pages

Review:

I’ve been flying through these Spider-Gwen books but I can’t help myself because I’m in love with this series.

However, this one regressed the character of Gwen after she seemed to reach a breakthrough in regards to her emo slump after the death of Peter Parker.

When she fought Harry Osborne in the book before this one, she seemed to reach some closure. But once this chapter in the series picks up, she’s back to being Queen Emo Gwen. While I understand her emotional stress, by this point, it’s really pushing this series down into the muck and holding it back from progressing. At this point, as a reader, I’m just about over it as much as her band mates in The Mary Janes.

That being said, apart from that aspect of the story, this chapter was still quite enjoyable. However, it did seem to be less cohesive than the previous two collections. But I also felt like it had a much needed slower pace after the two volumes that preceded it.

Still, a lot does happen and there are tussles with the debuting Kraven and an amusing Mysterio story. We also get out first look at Fantastic Four characters in this universe or at least, the first time I’ve encountered them.

Frank Castle returns to his evil Punisher ways and gets much closer to ruining Gwen’s life. However, his actions work against him and his obsession is made much more apparent to his colleagues and friends.

We also get more of this universe’s evil Matt Murdock and the groundwork is set for Spider-Gwen being much more involved with the Kingpin and his organization. Really, there’s just a lot of stuff established in this volume that should lead to some solid things the series can explore going forward.

This is still a pretty good collection, even if it gets held back by Gwen’s emotions and apprehension.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: The other Spider-Gwen collections.