Comic Review: Daredevil – Epic Collection: Heart of Darkness

Published: September 20th, 2017
Written by: Ann Nocenti, Mike Baron, Gerry Conway, Gregory Wright
Art by: John Romita Jr., Mark Bagley, Cam Kennedy, Rick Leonardi

Marvel Comics, 482 Pages

Review:

This covers a big chunk of the Ann Nocenti run, which ends about midway through the Daredevil – Epic Collection volume after this one.

I liked this about the same as I did the previous one, which kicked off the Nocenti era.

This collection of stories is a departure from what’s typical for the Daredevil character but I like that a lot, as it makes this era stand out with the character facing off against fantastical threats and also generally being outside of Hell’s Kitchen and New York City.

The big arc at the end of this stretch brings back Blackheart, in his second story, as well as his father, the more famous and more dangerous, Mephisto. I like the whole Daredevil vs. Mephisto thing, as it is just a cool test for the hero and there’s obvious similarities.

Overall, this was a great read and it reminds me of why I fell in love with this comic, in this era.

Rating: 9/10

Comic Review: X-Force – Epic Collection: Under the Gun

Published: March 22nd, 2017
Written by: Rob Liefeld, Fabian Nicieza, Todd McFarlane, various
Art by: Rob Liefeld, Greg Capullo, Todd McFarlane, Mike Mignola, Mark Pacella, Darick Robertson, Terry Shoemaker, various 

Marvel Comics, 463 Pages

Review:

Man, oh, f’n man… it’s been ages since I’ve read the Rob Liefeld era of X-Force. When I was a kid, I thought that this was the greatest new series Marvel had but I also think I was convincing myself of that, as Rob Liefeld was a hot commodity and I was also a fan of The New Mutants, which this was born out of. Besides, there was just so much hype at the time and I was at a pretty impressionable age.

Reading this now, I still found it really enjoyable and was surprised that I liked it as much as I did.

However, I also know that the story essentially came from Liefeld like bullet points and then it was handed to ace writer Fabian Nicieza, who actually wrote all the dialogue and massaged Liefeld’s notes into a usable script. After Liefeld left the series to co-found Image Comics, Nicieza stayed on as the writer and worked with other greats like Greg Capullo and Mike Mignola.

Now looking at the other side of this, creatively, the art isn’t great and even if I loved Liefeld when I was in 7th grade, I see the issues with his art much more clearly now. However, I don’t want to shit all over the guy like everyone else has done for years. I just notice the issues he has with anatomy and perspective.

It’s worth mentioning, though, that the art did improve once Liefeld stepped away, which happened about two-thirds into this collection.

As far as the story goes, I really got reinvested in this and want to keep reading it. Possibly beyond where I stopped when I was buying this month-after-month, which was about four or five years into the series.

Additionally, this also reminded me of how much I liked some of the long forgotten characters that were so cool in 1991. Characters like G.W. Bridge, Garrison Kane and the other people associated with them and Cable’s past.

Rating: 7.5/10

Comic Review: Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D – Masterworks, Vol. 3

Published: February 15th, 2018
Written by: Jim Steranko, Gary Friedrich, Roy Thomas, Archie Goodwin, Ernie Hart, Steve Parkhouse
Art by: Jim Steranko, Frank Springer, Herb Trimpe, Barry Windsor-Smith, Dick Ayers, Sal Buscema

Marvel Comics, 309 Pages

Review:

I started with Masterworks, Vol. 3 because it is a collection of what’s considered to be the most beloved work featuring Nick Fury, as the solo star of his own stories.

This also takes the character, puts him in S.H.I.E.L.D. and makes him a cool, hip superspy, as opposed to a military hero on the battlefields of war.

Marvel, like everyone else at the time, wanted to capitalize off of the ’60s spy craze that started with the first James Bond film, Dr. No in 1962. That movie inspired its own sequels, a slew of rip-offs, parodies, pulp novels and comics. So, instead of creating a new character, Marvel reworked one that was already pretty popular but existed in a genre that was drying up.

A lot of this is written and has art done by Jim Steranko. A lot of people worked on the issues in this collection, though, but Steranko is the guy that has always been given most of the credit for this groovy reinvention of Nick Fury.

Tapping into the ’60s era spy genre, this is trippy and colorful and it stands out in a really unique way when compared to the other Marvel titles of the time. I love the hell out of the art and the style in these comics and it’s why I’ve picked up a lot of the single issues, over the years.

I was never as captivated by the stories, as much as I was by the visuals, however. But the stuff featuring Nick Fury fighting Hydra and the multi-issue arc pitting him against the Hate-Monger were really damn enjoyable.

I never got to read all of these issues and experience the bigger picture. I’m glad that I finally did, though, as it’s really different than what was the standard ’60s Marvel fare. Plus, it’s also infinitely better than anything Marvel’s doing these days.

Rating: 7.75/10

Comic Review: Captain America – Epic Collection: Streets of Poison

Published: June 17th, 2015
Written by: Mark Gruenwald, D.G. Chichester, Randall Frenz, Fabian Nicieza, Dann Thomas, Roy Thomas
Art by: Larry Alexander, Mark Bagley, Ron Frenz, Don Hudson, Ron Lim, Mike Manley, Chris Marrinan, Jim Valentino, Ron Wilson

Marvel Comics, 493 Pages

Review:

I really liked the Streets of Poison storyline when I was a kid. I was also really pumped to jump right into this Epic Collection, as the previous one was pretty exceptional.

However, this didn’t read as good as it did when I was eleven years-old but lots of things don’t and that also doesn’t mean this was bad.

I like this era of Captain America and revisiting it makes me appreciate it even more, even if it’s not as perfect as I remembered it.

This kicks off with the Streets of Poison arc, which is highlighted by a fight between Red Skull and the Kingpin. I thought that this rivalry between the two villains and everything leading up to their fight was really solid. You had Crossbones trying to take out Kingpin with Bullseye trying to take out Red Skull and the two assassins having their own fight. Additionally, Captain America fights both of them as well.

My only real gripe about the story was how being exposed to drugs altered Cap’s behavior pretty immensely. It bonded with the super solider serum in his body and the only way to cure Cap was to remove his blood and fix the serum. However, Cap, being strongly anti-drug after this experience, rejected the serum and decided to move forward as a normal man and not the creation of a drug he took back in the 1940s.

Following Streets of Poison, we got the story of the Serpent Society abducting Diamondback and trying her for her crimes against the Society. King Cobra and his minions rule against Diamondback harshly but she survives her execution when Cap finds her. Diamondback’s allies within the Serpent Society leave the group as well and they start to establish themselves as a new heroic group.

There are a couple single issue stories weaved into the bigger tapestry, here. None of them were bad and they honestly just showed how solid the writing at Marvel was in this era.

Rating: 8.5/10

Comic Review: Siege

Published: November 3rd, 2010
Written by: Brian Michael Bendis
Art by: Jim Cheung, Olivier Coipel, Michael Lark

Marvel Comics, 165 Pages

Review:

I didn’t specifically want to read this big event from circa 2010 but it did tie directly to the Thor run started by J. Michael Straczynski and continued on by Kieron Gillen. So I figured that I needed to know what happened here before I get into Gillen’s stretch of issues, as this takes place during that run.

The story deals with Norman Osborn, the former Green Goblin, as the Iron Patriot and head of H.A.M.M.E.R., a new version of S.H.I.E.L.D., as he attempts to bring war to Asgard against the US president’s orders. Why Norman Osborn has any sort of power in the government has never made sense to me, no matter how hard they’ve tried to explain it and I’ve actively avoided most of that era of Marvel Comics because of that. Granted, I may read the Dark Avengers just to review it.

Anyway, Norman brings war to Asgard with his Avengers team that features villains in the roles of the famous masked heroes. Obviously, this doesn’t bode well for him and his only real trump card is The Sentry, a character I hated from the get go and was glad to see die in this.

The story is chaotic and I kind of hate that it has immense overlap with the Thor material that was so damn solid in this era.

In the end, this was a quick read and the art was at least stupendous.

Rating: 6.25/10

Comic Review: Captain America – Epic Collection: The Bloodstone Hunt

Published: April 25th, 2018
Written by: Mark Gruenwald, Kieron Dwyer
Art by: Mark Bagley, M.D. Bright, Rich Buckler, Kieron Dwyer, Ron Lim, Al Milgrom

Marvel Comics, 495 Pages

Review:

Well, this is probably the greatest string of Captain America issues that I have ever read. The first few were a bit shaky but they laid the groundwork for the start of the two primary stories, here, The Bloodstone Hunt and the Captain America portion of the Acts of Vengeance crossover and its fallout.

The Bloodstone Hunt was pretty incredible and a hell of a lot of fun. It was like an Indiana Jones story as Cap and Diamondback, now essentially his partner, raced against Baron Zemo, Batroc and their crew to try and hunt down five magic gems. It wasn’t clear why Zemo wanted them until the end, where he attempts to use them to resurrect his father, the original Zemo. However, he resurrects the powerful soul that was locked in those gems instead.

That story also features the debut of Crossbones and John Jameson (a.k.a. Man-Wolf) becoming Cap’s pilot. Sadly, we don’t get Man-Wolf action but this series of issues drops some hints that Jameson might not be able to suppress his cosmic werewolf alter ego for much longer.

After that, we get a two-issue arc that sees Cap and Crossbones fight for the first time. Man, I forgot how much I loved Crossbones in these early stories. He’s such a good sack of shit and a perfect rival for Cap. I really wish they would’ve used him better in the MCU movies, especially with Frank Grillo in that role.

Following that, we get the Acts of Vengeance stuff, which sees Cap have to fight Namor, his ally, as well as The Controller and Crossbones, again. There are also side plots about The Hellfire Club being raided and Magneto kidnapping and burying Red Skull alive in a tomb due to his ties to the Nazis, which a young Magneto and his family were victims of.

There’s just so much in this volume and all of it is damn good, once the story gets rolling.

Mark Gruenwald might be the best Captain America writer of them all. Additionally, the art throughout this stretch was superb. I still remember buying a lot of these single issues off of the racks, many of which I still own, and I remember loving back in 1989. I’m glad to say that this aged exceptionally well.

Rating: 10/10

Comic Review: The Black Widow: The Coldest War

Published: 1992
Written by: Gerry Conway
Art by: George Freeman

Marvel Comics, 66 Pages

Review:

This was one of those old school magazine-sized graphic novels that Marvel used to do when they were still really f’n cool. I also think it’s the first solo Black Widow story that I’ve ever reviewed here. But it’s also a really good one to start with.

The Coldest War is written by comic book legend Gerry Conway and like a lot of his other work, it’s action packed, face paced and when it isn’t, it provides you with some solid dialogue and character building.

At this point, fans knew Black Widow well but I feel like this was a real turning point for the character and really allowed her to stand on her own, as she faces adversity, has doubts about herself and stares a hole into her past but then eventually learns to move forward, trust her instincts and kick ass.

I liked the story, here, a lot. However, I wasn’t keen on the art. It’s a strange style, even for a more experimental Marvel graphic novel. I think my real gripe with it is that Black Widow is one of the most sexually attractive women in the Marvel universe but this art style made her look like Conan O’Brien.

All in all, though, I was able to look past that and enjoy the adventure and watch her work out her personal issues.

Rating: 7.5/10

Comic Review: X-Factor – Epic Collection: Genesis & Apocalypse

Published: March 1st, 2017
Written by: John Byrne, Chris Claremont, Tom DeFalco, Bob Harras, Bob Layton, Louise Simonson, Roger Stern
Art by: John Buscema, John Byrne, Jackson Guice, Bob Layton, Rick Leonardi, Paul Neary, Keith Pollard, Terry Shoemaker, Marc Silvestri

Marvel Comics, 457 Pages

Review:

This is a collection of the lead up to the original X-Factor run, as well as the first nine issues of the series, along with an Iron Man and a Spider-Man story that tie into it.

Since I’ve never read this stuff, I wanted to check it out, as X-Factor was one of my favorite series when it was near the end of this team’s run, before the Havok-led team took over and forever became the squad that most people think about when they think about X-Factor.

I’ve got to say that I was underwhelmed by this first stretch of issues and it doesn’t really find its footing. While Apocalypse’s debut appears here, it was also underwhelming considering how iconic he becomes. I assume that his stories after the original one are better because when I started picking up the series, as a kid, when the issues where in the fifties, I thought Apocalypse was cool and intimidating as hell.

This is interesting as it shows you the earliest stories involving Cameron Hodge before he revealed himself to be an anti-mutant Hitler-like dictator behind the events of the massive X-Tinction Agenda crossover event. Also, it gives you the last days of Angel before Apocalypse turns him into the tortured Archangel. I believe that story comes in the next volume.

The story was clunky and I think that’s because these early X-Factor appearances were spread over multiple comics with multiple writers. Its like Marvel was trying to force the team on everyone and with that, it makes the tone inconsistent and the overall narrative disjointed.

I did enjoy the art, though. I always dug ’80s Marvel’s common style and it’s a big reason as to why I really jumped into these comics back then.

This earliest X-Factor collection didn’t do much for me but it also didn’t dissuade me from wanting to read later editions, as I remember how solid this series was a few years after this debut.

Rating: 5.5/10

Comic Review: Wolverine/Nick Fury: Scorpio Rising

Published: 1994
Written by: Howard Chaykin
Art by: Shawn McManus

Marvel Comics, 49 Pages

Review:

This graphic novel release in 1994 brought an end to the trilogy of stories that saw Wolverine and Nick Fury team up.

Fans started referring to it as The Scorpio Trilogy and I’m not sure if Marvel ever officially adopted that name. The reason it’s called that, though, is that the two bookends of this trilogy feature the character Scorpio, who has close, personal ties to Nick Fury.

Oddly enough, I think the middle story, which doesn’t feature Scorpio, is definitely the best of the trio.

With that, I’d say that this was my least favorite but I still liked it for the reasons why you should like a comic with Wolverine, Nick Fury and a style that’s not made for younger comic book readers.

This, like its two predecessors, has a much harder edge to it than a standard monthly Marvel comic and that’s one of the things that made me gravitate towards these one-off graphic novel releases.

Overall, this did a decent job of bringing the Scorpio stuff to a close and altering the character in a meaningful way. And while I wasn’t into the art in this chapter, this was still a short and action-packed tale that fits well with the other two Wolverine/Nick Fury team-ups.

Rating: 5.75/10