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: House of M

Published: February 1st, 2006
Written by: Brian Michael Bendis
Art by: Oliver Coipel

Marvel Comics, 280 Pages

Review:

This picks up after the events that happened in Avengers: Disassembled. This story also has effects that will go on to be felt in Marvel’s Civil War event, as well as X-Men: The Messiah Complex.

So following the tragic events of Avengers: Disassembled, the Avengers and the X-Men meet to discuss the fate of the Scarlet Witch. Wolverine leads the charge pretty much calling for her death, as the potential for what she can do with her powers is too great. Other Avengers and X-Men disagree but ultimately, you get the idea that this is going to go somewhere really friggin’ dark.

After that, Wolverine wakes up in an alternate reality and is aware that he’s not where he’s supposed to be, even though all of his allies are buying into the mystical charade. Wolverine has to go against his friends, search for answers and has to convince his allies that something happened that completely changed reality.

In the end, the Scarlet Witch only leaves like ten percent of the mutants in the world with their powers intact. So Wolverine saves the day, essentially, but the Scarlet Witch with her insane powers is still a crazy bitch.

This story was a cool idea but it didn’t really move forward in a way that excited me. Granted, I wasn’t too fond of Avengers: Disassemble, which lead to this.

This is one of the big Marvel stories of the ’00s and it is certainly better than the schlock they are synonymous with now but it still pales in comparison to the great epics that came before this. Don’t get me wrong, Marvel has some events that were duds in the old days too but this book just missed the mark and frankly, it could have been longer and probably needed to be, as the pace was insanely quick.

I really enjoyed Oliver Coipel’s art, though.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: Avengers: DisassembledThe Messiah Complex, also it has ramifications that carry over into the Civil War event.

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: Venomverse

Published: January 9th, 2018
Written by: Cullen Bunn
Art by: Iban Coello

Marvel Comics, 128 Pages

Review:

In preparation for the new Venom series that recently started, I wanted to check out some of the more modern Venom stories out there. Venomverse came highly recommended from a guy at one of my comic book shops. I figured that I’d give it a read, as the premise sounded interesting.

In a nutshell, after stomping a mudhole in Jack O’Lantern’s bum, Venom is zapped away to a different dimension where all the Marvel characters have symbiotes. So what you get is Venomized versions of Captain America, Doctor Strange, Wolverine, Deadpool, Mary Jane Watson, Black Panther, Rocket Raccoon and everyone else in-between. They are fighting a war against the Poisons, who are tiny aliens that absorb the symbiote heroes and villains into their own bodies and become perfect killing machines: the apex predators of the universe. Doctor Strange has been pulling all symbiote heroes and villains into the “Venomverse” dimension in an effort to turn the tide in the war.

Man, if you are a fan of Venom, this is just a really cool and fun book to read. Seriously, I absolutely loved this. I mean, Rocket Raccoon with a Venom symbiote? C’mon, man! All this thing needed was Spider-Ham and Howard the Duck in it too.

The story is really good but I barely even cared about the setup because any reason to have a Marvel Universe full of Venoms is just an awesome time. These stories don’t work so well in the regular Marvel dimension but in this Venomverse pocket of existence, things just seem to flow naturally. Plus, the Poisons were just a really cool idea and added something more to the story than just having a symbiote war for the sake of having a symbiote war.

Granted, I felt that this ended a bit anticlimactically but you also get a post credits scene just like the Marvel movies, which I thought was a neat twist. And that ending sets up the potential for the Poisons to expand into other universes and dimensions.

This was just a damn good book and pretty refreshing and entertaining, as Marvel has produced a lot of duds lately.

Rating: 9.75/10
Pairs well with: Any of the great Eddie Brock Venom stories. But for more recent stuff, the new Venom series and the Venom, Inc. story arc from recent issues of The Amazing Spider-Man.

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.

Comic Review: The Infinity Crusade

Published: December 17th, 2008
Written by: Jim Starlin
Art by: Ron Lim, various

Marvel Comics, 488 Pages

Review:

Well, I read through the great Infinity Gauntlet storyline and followed that up with the mediocre Infinity War sequel. Naturally, I thought that I should finish the trilogy of Infinity stories with this one: The Infinity Crusade.

However, I wasn’t a fan of Magus and his whole shtick from the previous chapter in this large saga. The reason why I’m pointing that out here is because the setup is essentially the same. Where Magus was the physical embodiment of Adam Warlock’s evil side, the big threat in this story is the physical embodiment of Adam Warlock’s good side. I admit, I rolled my eyes when I was reminded that this was the setup to this story.

Frankly, I thought the plot was lame and what was even lamer was the McGuffin. No longer was the focus on the Infinity Gauntlet, now the focus was on this “Goddess” character and her Cosmic Egg. Basically, she just sits around in her giant cosmic egg using religion to brainwash a large group of heroes to be her holy army. So this is like Civil War but with religion and a giant friggin’ egg.

It also doesn’t help that there is virtually no action, this is overly talkie and just boring. Well, to be fair, the fifth issue in the six issue arc was just straight up action. But outside of that, there wasn’t anything exciting other than a few brief physical spats and some cosmic magic battles, the biggest of which featured psychically projected heads shooting laser beams at the “Goddess”.

Plus, the story suffers from being spread over several different titles. So when I read the collected edition of the main comic, there is key stuff missing from it, as it happened in another issue of a different title altogether. I get that this is how crossover events work but the two previous Infinity sagas kept the main story in the main title and the other comics just had tie-in subplots.

This whole mega event is just proof that Marvel was milking the Infinity thing way too hard. The Infinity War was just okay and then this was a disaster. Neither of them came as close to the greatness that was The Infinity Gauntlet.

Rating: 4.5/10
Pairs well with: Its prequels The Infinity Gauntlet and The Infinity War.

Ranking All the Films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe Thus Far

With the release of Avengers: Infinity War this upcoming Friday, we are on the verge of experiencing the culmination of ten years of hard work on the part of the studios, filmmakers, writers and actors involved with this massive franchise.

We are currently at the tail end of the third phase of films, appropriately called Phase 3. We have had close to twenty films already: solo movies, team-up movies and a mixture of different genres and styles all coalescing up to this point.

Having already experienced dozens of hours of entertainment since 2008’s Iron Man, I thought that it was a good time to rank all of the films that have led up to this point.

It also helps that I just revisited all of these movies in an attempt to prepare myself for Avengers: Infinity War.

So without further ado, the list!

1. Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
2. Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 (2017)
3. Captain America: The Winter Solider (2014)
4. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
5. Iron Man (2008)
6. Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
7. Iron Man 3 (2013)
8. Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)
9. The Black Panther (2018)
10. Doctor Strange (2016)
11. The Avengers (2012)
12. Thor (2011)
13. Iron Man 2 (2010)
14. Captain America: Civil War (2016)
15. Ant-Man (2015)
16. Thor: The Dark World (2013)
17. The Incredible Hulk (2008)
18. Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)