Comic Review: X-Men: Grand Design

Published: October 4th, 2017 – January 3rd, 2018
Written by: Ed Piskor
Art by: Ed Piskor

Marvel Comics, 92 Pages

Review:

X-Men lore is so massive that a series like this is actually pretty necessary for modern fans who don’t know all the details of the older X-Men stories and how things led to where the franchise is now.

X-Men: Grand Design is a fabulous series that goes through the entire history of the X-Men team.

The first Grand Design series was comprised of two 46 page comics. The second series is also broken out over two issues but this is about the original run, which covered the original X-Men team, mainly comprised of Cyclops, the original Ms. Marvel (Jean Grey), Beast, Iceman and Angel.

This comic moves very briskly, as it hits every major storyline in the comic’s original run. We see the origins of all the key players, heroes and villains. We also see how the Sentinels came to be and the formation of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, as well as all the hoopla surrounding the arrival of the Phoenix Force.

Ed Piskor did an incredible job of writing this and mapping out the story so well. Everything just flows and it is perfectly accented by his old school pulp-like artwork.

I know these stories but even I don’t remember every single chapter of X-Men history. For old fans and new fans, this really is a must own and a must read. If anything, it just tapped into nostalgia pretty strongly and it has made me want to go back and read some of the classic story arcs.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: It’s sequel X-Men: Grand Design – Second Genesis.

Comic Review: Avengers: Disassembled

Published: January 26th, 2005
Written by: Brian Michael Bendis
Art by: David Finch

Marvel Comics, 133 Pages

Review:

This is one of those iconic stories that you hear about all the time in comic book circles. However, I thought that the whole thing was pretty damn underwhelming for what it has been built up as.

The Avengers team gets ripped apart. It is due to the betrayal of one of their own. They don’t know that at first and when confronted with the idea, reject it.

However, the Scarlet Witch has basically gone batshit and blames all of her friends for killing her children that were never actually real to begin with but a psychotic projection of the Scarlet Witch’s will.

Yeah, does this story sound stupid to you? Because it definitely felt stupid to me. I thought Bendis was a big deal but everything I read by him is just as batshit as the Scarlet Witch, Wanda’s fucked up brain in this story. I’ve just never been too keen on Bendis, other than his earliest work on the Miles Morales Spider-Man stuff. His Superman stories, his current job, are also just some weird ass shit.

I don’t know, this book hurt my head. It’s only saving grace was superb art from David Finch and awesome action sequences.

Also, this leads into the big Civil War event that effected all Marvel titles, as well as the major X-Men events: The House of M and The Messiah Complex.

Avengers Disassembled has been talked about fondly for years by many. I’m just glad that this was only 133 pages.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: This leads into the massive X-Men stories The House of M and The Messiah Complex, also it has ramifications that carry over on the Avengers side of things and into the Civil War event.

Comic Review: Web of Venom: Ve’nam – One-Shot

Published: August 29th, 2018
Written by: Donny Cates
Art by: Juanan Ramirez, Ryan Stegman (cover)

Marvel Comics, 33 Pages

Review:

I have been ecstatically reading everything by Donny Cates, right now. His ongoing Venom series is one of the best things in comics in 2018, his Cosmic Ghost Rider series is f’n nuts and Death of the Inhumans actually makes me care about the Inhumans, who I’ve never really been a fan of, except for Black Bolt.

This one-shot is tied directly into Cates’ Venom series, which at current standing, just had its fifth glorious issue.

After reading this, I had to tweet about it. On Twitter, in limited characters, I summed this up with, “Web of Venom: Ve’nam #1: A Venom army, Wolverine, Nick Fury and the Vietnam War. As I read this on the toilet, I heard a loud clang. My balls had turned to brass, dropped and cracked the porcelain.”

I stand by that statement. This comic book one-shot, right here, can cure low-fucking-T. I’m serious. I had so much testosterone flowing through me after reading this that I could’ve gotten a gargoyle pregnant.

The premise is simple. Nick Fury made an elite squad of symbiote soldiers back during the Vietnam War. They got out of control. Fury enlists Wolverine to go into ‘Nam with him to bring back the rogue symbiotes. Of course, there are twists and turns and some badass MFing action!

If you are a fan of any of these characters, this isn’t something that you should miss. You owe it to yourself to buy a copy or twelve.

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: Anything Donny Cates is writing in 2018 but this should definitely be read alongside his Venom series.

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: Ultimate Comics Spider-Man, Vol. 1

Published: August 15th, 2012
Written by: Brian Michael Bendis
Art by: Sara Pichelli

Marvel Comics, 143 Pages

Review:

I was somewhat put off by the idea of another Spider-Man. After the whole Clone Saga debacle in the ’90s, I was still suffering from alternate Spidey fatigue. However, I heard that the earliest Miles Morales stories were really good and that he was a worthwhile character. So I figured I would check them out because I wanted to read the two Spider-Men stories as well as the Spider-Verse stuff.

Well, I wasn’t disappointed with this book, which is a collection of Miles Morales’ first handful of issues and his origin story.

I have to say, I’ve been highly critical of a lot of Brian Michael Bendis’ work but this, right here, is Bendis at his absolute best.

I have grown tired of all these new versions of old heroes because I think a character should stand on his/her own merits. However, this is the antithesis to that, as Morales is both a solid character in his own right and really, probably the best person to fill Spidey’s shoes if someone actually needed to fill his shoes. I don’t know, this just worked for me and frankly, it was a dynamite story and I truly and deeply care about this character unlike the other modern characters that are just sort of fill-ins for already established, legendary characters.

The most important thing about this comic (and the primary thing I look for in what I read) is how it connected with me. Miles is a great kid and a very apprehensive hero. He is probably the most human Marvel creation of the last decade. He’s not one-dimensional, he’s incredibly complex and is quite unique.

There’s not a whole lot I can say about the plot, as I would rather not ruin this for anyone else interested in checking out the Miles Morales character.

This moves at a really good pace and even gives you a good battle, where Miles has to deal with a well-known supervillain from classic Spider-Man lore.

Rating: 9.75/10
Pairs well with: The other early Mile Morales Spider-Man stories. Also, Spider-Men I and II and Spider-Verse.

Comic Review: The Invincible Iron Man: Armor Wars

Also known as: Stark Wars
Published: December 10th, 1987 (start of the story arc)
Written by: Bob Layton, David Michelinie
Art by: Mark Bright, Bob Sharen

Marvel Comics, 209 Pages

Review:

Good lord, it has been an incredibly long time since I read through this classic Iron Man story arc. Probably at least twenty-five years. But as I’ve been going through all my old comics in an effort to preserve them and catalog them, I wanted to revisit this old school tale.

Armor Wars, at the time of its printing, was referred to as Stark Wars, which was probably a cheap attempt at capitalizing off of Star Wars.

The story kicks off with Tony Stark finding out that his tech secrets have been stolen. He sets off to try to correct this, learning that his secrets have been sold off to a bunch of supervillains and tech industry rivals. This sets up a situation where Tony has to go rogue, deal with the consequences of those actions and also has to battle a bunch of his famous foes, who are now more enhanced thanks to Tony’s secrets.

Ultimately, this is a very well written comic book story arc for its time. To this day, this is still considered one of the best Iron Man stories of all-time. It is certainly one of my favorites and when I was a kid, it really served to introduce me to a lot of Iron Man’s famous villains. This is where I first discovered the Crimson Dynamo, Titanium Man, the Controller and a few others. I was already a fan of Beetle from his appearances in Spider-Man stories.

This story also features the West Coast Avengers, who had one of the coolest comics in the late ’80s.

One of the biggest highlights, however, was that this has a chapter where Iron Man fights Captain America. This happened a few decades before the Civil War storyline in the comics and was the first time that I remember seeing two heroes really throw down with each other without one being controlled by some villain or being corrupted by some sort of power or force.

Apart from the Iron Man and Captain America fight, I loved the chapter that saw Tony Stark go head to head with both the Titanium Man and the Crimson Dynamo at the same time. This was just a great comic, even as a stand alone and not a chapter in a larger story arc.

This is still one of the greatest Iron Man tales ever written. I thought that the conclusion was a bit anticlimactic but it was an ending that still worked and ushered in a new era for Tony Stark and his friends.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: Other classic Iron Man story arcs: Demon In A BottleDoomquest10 Rings to Rule the World, Iron MongerThe Ghost and the Machine and The Dragon Seed Saga. Also, Armor Wars II.

Film Review: Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

Release Date: April 23rd, 2018 (Los Angeles premiere)
Directed by: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo
Written by: Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely
Based on: The Avengers by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby
Music by: Alan Silvestri
Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Chris Pratt, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Don Cheadle, Jeremy Renner, Chadwick Boseman, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Tom Holland, Benedict Cumberbatch, Danai Gurira, Letitia Wright, Dave Bautista, Zoe Saldana, Josh Brolin, Tom Hiddleston, Idris Elba, Peter Dinklage, Benedict Wong, Pom Klementieff, Karen Gillan, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Gwyneth Paltrow, Benicio del Toro, William Hurt, Cobie Smulders, Samuel L. Jackson, Ross Marquand

Marvel Studios, Walt Disney Studios, 149 Minutes

Review:

“In time, you will know what it’s like to lose. To feel so desperately that you’re right. Yet to fail all the same. Dread it. Run from it. Destiny still arrives. ” – Thanos

*There be spoilers here! But I kept it as minimal as possible.

Well, this film has been ten years in the making, as it is the culmination of everything that has happened in the Marvel Cinematic Universe since Iron Man hit theaters in May of 2008. Ten years and eighteen films later, all the carefully crafted moving parts come together to create a unified front against the greatest cinematic Marvel villain of them all, Thanos.

So cramming in all these characters is a tremendous feat. And really, I think everyone’s biggest concern was how that would work. Despite my concerns and fears, I haven’t anxiously anticipated the release of a film as strongly as this one since 2008’s The Dark Knight.

But having now seen it, I finally know whether or not the Russos succeeded in successfully conquering such a tremendous feat. So did they succeed?

To quote Stone Cold Steve Austin, “Oh… Hell… Yeaaah!!!”

The way that the Russos balanced everything was incredible. It’s as if they read a ton of major comic book crossover events in preparation for this incredible task and they sort of took their cue from them.

What I mean by that is that this film handles itself like a well written crossover mega event in the comics. It segments the heroes into different groups on different missions, all fighting for the same endgame. It’s like when a crossover is spread over four different comic titles and when you read them in a collected format, you get a story where each chapter is an issue from a different comic. Like X-Cutioner’s Song from the early ’90s was spread over Uncanny X-MenX-FactorX-Men (vol. 2) and X-Force. When you read them in chronological order (or in a collected trade paperback) each issue/title focused on a specific group that was different from the previous chapter but all the stories were part of a bigger tapestry that saw everything come together. That’s exactly how Avengers: Infinity War works, which is really cool to experience in a live action format.

So you have multiple groups here: one led by Captain America that goes to Wakanda, one lead by Iron Man that goes into space, the Guardians of the Galaxy split into two groups with one of them being led by Thor and then there is Thanos’ story and he does get a lot of time to shine. In fact, he was handled better than every Marvel Cinematic Universe villain that isn’t Loki. But who knows, Thanos may still eclipse Loki when it’s all said and done.

This was a pretty long movie but it needed to be and unlike other Marvel movies that seem to run on for too long, there wasn’t a single moment where I looked at my watch or felt antsy like I needed them to wrap it up. In fact, when I got to the end, I felt like I had finally exhaled and I couldn’t get up out of my seat, there was a lot of amazing stuff to process and I sat there with a smile, completely and utterly impressed with how this turned out.

It’s obvious that the special effects are good and some of the most impressive ever created. Marvel never disappoints in that regard.

One thing that really stood out for me much more than it ever has in any other Marvel picture was the score. This film has a very good and memorable smorgasbord of booming orchestral tunes and the Avengers theme was re-imagined in some creative ways. Alan Silvestri really came up with an incredible score that serviced not just this film but served the entire franchise well. There aren’t scores like there were through the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s but this one felt like a throwback to that superior era for movie music.

If I had to compare this to anything, it’s like if someone took the best parts of both The Lord of the Rings and the original Star Wars movies and then mixed them together and replaced those films heroes and villains with Marvel characters. It truly was incredible and I can be a snobby dick that’s hard to impress sometimes. I just wish the modern comic writers at Marvel would take their cue from these movies and write comics worthy of these characters once again. But as superheroes are dying in print, they are thriving on celluloid.

Simply for the fact that I haven’t felt like this after seeing a movie in the theater since The Dark Knight, ten years ago, I have to give this film a perfect score. Sure, it’s not the greatest movie ever made but it is a f’n clinic on how to do a massive team up movie and a film that is presented on a massive scale that doesn’t lose itself and keeps you very engaged. Granted, this film also benefits from having 18 movies before it, where all of these key characters, minus Thanos, were able to be developed in preparation for this Royal Rumble of a superhero movie.

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: Everything in the MCU before this film, as it all leads up to this one.