Comic Review: X-Cutioner’s Song

Published: 1992-1993
Written by: Scott Lobdell, Fabian Nicieza, Peter David
Art by: Brandon Peterson, Andy Kubert, Jae Lee, Greg Capullo

Marvel Comics, 336 Pages

Review:

This was one of my favorite big crossover events when I was really just getting deep into comics. This blew my middle school mind at the time and it had a lot of influence over my creative output in the comic book medium.

I was worried that revisiting this story would be a big disappointment. A lot of the stuff from this era that I reread now, usually lets me down, as my palate is more discriminatory than it was at thirteen years-old.

I’m happy to say that this was still pretty f’n solid!

In fact, I think it is slightly better than X-Tinction Agenda, which I used to place ahead of this one.

What I really liked about it, is that it features three of my absolute favorite villains: Apocalypse, Mister Sinister and Stryfe. They are all well balanced and they aren’t here to come together in an effort to finally take out the X-Men, X-Factor and X-Force (formerly the New Mutants). Each one of these baddies has their own purpose and agenda within the story and it all just comes together in a really cool way that even sees the X-Men have to turn to Apocalypse in order to stop Stryfe’s chaos.

This is the best big story to come after the epic Chris Claremont run on X-Men. But if I’m being honest and this certainly isn’t a dig at the legendary Claremont, whose work I love, X-Cutioner’s Song was really refreshing and it showed that new blood could liven things up. Granted, Peter David didn’t hang around too long, Scott Lobdell and Fabian Nicieza also moved on to other things, but this was a weirdly perfect storm considering all the changes happening on Marvel’s X-books following Claremont’s departure and many of the top creatives leaving for the newly formed Image Comics.

The art is also top notch, but Brandon Peterson, Andy Kubert, Jae Lee and Greg Capullo are all fantastic and three of those men have become somewhat legendary in their own right.

X-Cutioner’s Song is well crafted, well balanced and it should be a primer on how to write massive crossovers featuring dozens of characters all competing for their moment.

Rating: 9.25/10
Pairs well with: previous big X-Men crossover events like X-Tinction Agenda, Muir Island Saga, Inferno and Fall of the Mutants.

Comic Review: The Incredible Hulk: Last Call

Published: June 5th, 2019
Written by: Peter David
Art by: Dale Keown

Marvel Comics, 33 Pages

Review:

I’ve never been a massive fan of The Incredible Hulk, except for the Peter David and Dale Keown era. It was the era that I read when I really started getting into superhero comics beyond just Batman, Spider-Man and X-Men titles.

This one-shot is the first of several that Marvel is doing, which feature the reunification of some of the most iconic creative teams on the books where their work was most beloved.

What I really dug about Last Call was that it channels a lot of the material from the David/Keown era. The story is about Banner on a suicide hotline, talking to a girl that Betty Ross knew. Banner is suicidal but there is a part of him that doesn’t want to follow through, as he’s trying to find some resolution for his soul and all the trauma he’s endured due to the chaos he feels responsible for. Unlike Mister Miracle, there is enough historical context to understand why the Hulk is in this state of mind.

Ultimately, he finds some peace within the 33 pages of this short story. The girl on the other end of the phone helps him get some clarity and a brief scuffle with Mr. Hyde also helps him put it all into perspective.

Despite the subject matter, this doesn’t come off as a depressing read, by the end. It gives you hope for the Hulk and the tortured Banner that feels as if he has no control over the green man’s rage.

As far as the art goes. I enjoyed seeing Keown return to the Hulk but this does look rushed and I feel like it was, as this one-shot had four different inkers on the book. It lacks the great detail that Keown was known for on The Incredible Hulk and Pitt but it still hits its mark in the right way. I just wish that these guys had more time to give us something more refined.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: the classic Peter David and Dale Keown run on The Incredible Hulk, as well as the current title, The Immortal Hulk by Al Ewing.

Comic Review: Red Sonja Vs. Thulsa Doom

Published: November 1st, 2006
Written by: Peter David, Luke Lieberman
Art by: Will Conrad
Based on: characters by Robert E. Howard, Roy Thomas, Barry Windsor-Smith

Dynamite Entertainment, 129 Pages

Review:

Since both Red Sonja and Conan have had new comics series start over the last few months, I’ve been in a barbarian kind of mood. I especially love the characters that have come from or evolved out of the original stories of Robert E. Howard.

While the comic book version of Red Sonja was created by Roy Thomas and Barry Windsor-Smith, she is partially based on Howard’s Red Sonya of Rogatino and has often times fought alongside Howard’s most famous hero, Conan the Barbarian.

In this story, we don’t see Red Sonja alongside Conan but we do get to see her face off with one of Conan’s villains, Thulsa Doom. And what I love about this version of Doom, is that he sometimes takes on the appearance of the James Earl Jones version of the character from the 1982 Conan movie but also disguises himself as a tall, brutish man. Yes, he also still transforms into a giant snake.

This story was written by Peter David and Luke Lieberman. David was one of my favorite writers a decade and a half before this when he was working on one of the greatest runs on The Incredible Hulk and also wrote some of my favorite X-Factor stories.

Here, David does a superb job of bringing these characters together in a way that was pretty unique and creative. It’s easy to just make one character good, one character bad and then pit them against each other. David did a solid job of making Doom use his guile to get the upper hand over Sonja when her guard was down.

This is action packed and badass, through and through. The final showdown between Sonja and Doom is pretty satisfying and it leaves things open for Doom to slither back into her life, somewhere down the road.

Will Conrad’s art was enjoyable. I love his style and it fits the narrative tone very well.

I also liked a lot of the covers for this series. It had a lot of variants, which is typical of Dynamite Entertainment, but for the most part, they were all stunning to look at.

Red Sonja Vs. Thulsa Doom is a damn entertaining book for fans of the sword and sorcery genre, especially the fans of Robert E. Howard.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other Red Sonja comics from Dynamite Entertainment.

Comic Review: IDW 20/20 – Star Trek: The Next Generation

Published: January 20th, 2019
Written by: Peter David
Art by: J.K. Woodward
Based on: Star Trek by Gene Roddenberry

IDW Publishing, 36 Pages

Review:

It’s hard to believe that IDW Publishing has been around for twenty years already. In that time, they have published comic books for just about every franchise you can think of. While they’ve had some of their own in-house creations, it’s the intellectual properties that they’ve managed that has been their real bread and butter.

To celebrate their 20th anniversary, they are doing this IDW 20/20 event, which sees many of the IPs they publish getting one-shots that either rewind or fast forward the clock 20 years. The first to come out is this one-shot for Star Trek: The Next Generation.

This one-shot goes back twenty years before The Next Generation television series and shows us an early career mission for Captain Picard. It’s pretty interesting, as it also shows how Picard and his long-time friend, Dr. Beverly Crusher, first met.

What’s really cool about this is that it is written by Peter David, one of the best comic book writers of the last few decades. I’ve always enjoyed David’s work, so seeing him take on the iconic character of Jean-Luc Picard was pretty neat.

Overall, the story was enjoyable and it showed a younger, much more flawed version of Picard. While it’s nice seeing him in a different light, before he evolves into the great leader he becomes, it felt kind of odd, as it comes off as a bit uncharacteristic. I get that he’s younger and probably more of a hot head but certain decisions, despite taking his age into account, seemed very un-Picard-like.

The only thing I wasn’t really a fan of was the art, which was also odd as I’ve liked the work of J.K. Woodward in the past. This comic does that thing that most comics of large IPs do, which is it takes existing reference photos of live action characters and either runs them through a filter or traces them. Here, we are given an art style that looks pretty, as it looks hand painted, but it is so perfect that it looks like PhotoShop filters or just paint enhanced photos. It’s just not a style I’m fond of and everyone from IDW to Marvel is guilty of it. I don’t want to come off as harsh on Woodward but it feels like maybe he was rushed on this project and had to wedge it in between his regular jobs.

In the end, this wasn’t memorable but it was a decent way to kill twenty minutes. I think a story like this could work but it should be something with more depth than you can get out of a one-shot.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: other IDW Star Trek comics.

Comic Review: Spider-Man – Back In Black

Published on: February 27th, 2008
Written by: J. Michael Straczynski, Peter David
Art by: Ron Garney, Todd Nauck, Ron Cliquet, Colleen Doran

Marvel Comics, 336 Pages

Review:

This was a pretty good trade paperback and a pretty bad one, all at the same time. Let me explain.

Spider-Man’s Aunt May is hit by a sniper’s bullet meant for Spidey. The reason Spidey is being hunted is because a few months prior during the major Marvel event Civil War, Spider-Man publicly revealed his secret identity. Since then, he and his family have been in danger and the bullet hitting Aunt May is a culmination of that.

Spider-Man then falls to the dark side more or less, returns to wearing his black costume and thus brings the ruckus to the criminal underworld in an effort to discover who was behind the hit.

On his hunt, Spider-Man throws his personal code and morals out the window and basically becomes the Punisher with Spidey powers. Ultimately, his hunt leads him to the Kingpin, which results in an epic beat down of the Kingpin in front of his fellow inmates in prison.

That part of the plot was awesome but it was over pretty quickly. The tone was perfect, dark side Spidey was compelling and if you have ever been a fan of the character, it wasn’t hard to connect to his grief, emotion and quest for vengeance. Then the other 60 percent of the book ruined it.

For the remainder of Back In Black, Spider-Man acted like his old self while wearing black – cracking jokes, generally being a good lighthearted buddy to his friends. It was just odd how his behavior was, as the story was tied into his quest for vengeance and his total lack of anything other than hardcore justice.

Spidey spends the rest of the book helping Sandman clear his dad from a crime he didn’t commit. This leads to Spidey getting tied up with some new villainous chick made out of spiders, who just wants to get knocked up. It was a very poor rehash of that shitty 90s film Species. Frankly, this was all pointless and unnecessary to the overall tale and point of the Back In Black concept.

The trade paperback then ends with a story called Sandman: Year One, which is moderately interesting but has nothing to do with Back In Black and actually features Spider-Man in his red and blue outfit and not even in the black one. But whatever, the more random stories that Marvel throws in this thing, the more they can charge for it.

Additionally, throughout this book, Aunt May is in critical condition in the hospital. They follow this plot thread but then never reveal if she recovers or not.

If you ever do pick this thing up, read the first five chapters Back In Black 1-5, skip out on the rest of the book and save yourself some time. Unless you want to know why Betty Brant is afraid of toilets.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: Other Spider-Man stories from the Straczynski era.