Comic Review: Thor by J. Michael Straczynski

Published: 2007-2008
Written by: J. Michael Straczynski
Art by: Olivier Coipel

Marvel Comics, 440 Pages (total)

Review:

When this was current, I had the series added to my pull box at my local comic shop. I loved the hell out of this series and thought that J. Michael Straczynski’s reboot of the Asgardian part of the larger Marvel universe truly reinvigorated the Thor title and all the characters within.

I was a bit worried in revisiting this, as I felt like maybe I wouldn’t enjoy it nearly as much and with nearly a decade and a half of extra comic book reading mileage. I thought that I’d discover it was riddled with glaring flaws and an overabundance of bad tropes, overused clichés and redundancy.

I’m happy to say that this held up exceptionally well and that it is one of the best comic book reads I’ve experienced in quite some time.

The story is exceptional and it does such a superb job in balancing all of these cool, important characters. Every major Asgardian gets their time to shine and is given their own subplots that have real meaning and tie into the larger story arc of the series. Straczynski even creates some new characters and they all bring a lot to the series and the new lives of all the other core characters.

Additionally, this is where Loki returns in the form of a woman. It gives the character a fresh start in the eyes of many Asgardians, even if she can’t be trusted due to her past. However, she wins over some key characters just enough to develop an evil masterplan alongside Doctor Doom, who is waiting in the shadows for his big reveal, after Loki manipulates her people into accepting a dangerous proposal that effects all their futures.

Beyond the great story, the art of Olivier Coipel is incredible and I don’t mean to use that word lightly. It was this series (alongside Geoff Johns Green Lantern run) and especially its art that got me to pick up comics again, after checking out for a decade.

Coipel creates beautiful compositions in every panel and his work was just on a completely different level than most of the artists at the time. His work looks like paintings and it fits the aesthetic of the Thor mythos and style. It gave these stories a more fantastical and magical look than what was common for the era.

My only gripe about this long run by Straczynski and Coipel is that it didn’t have a definitive ending. It left things open for the next creative team and I get that, as that’s how these things typically go. However, the work of these two guys was so great that I felt like they should’ve been allowed to bring it to a close.

Really, though, I just wish their run was longer.

Rating: 10/10

Comic Review: The Amazing Spider-Man – Epic Collection: Ghosts of the Past

Published: July 4th, 2019
Written by: Craig Anderson, Peter David, Tom DeFalco, Danny Fingeroth, Bob Layton, Stan Lee, Louise Simonson
Art by: Sal Buscema, Paty Cockrum, Ron Frenz, Mike Harris, Greg Larocque, Bob Layton, Bob McLeod, Mary Wilshire

Marvel Comics, 473 Pages

Review:

Being that this beefy volume was an Epic Collection, it was chock full of several story arcs. Luckily for me, most of them were really good. But then this also came out in a great era for The Amazing Spider-Man comic series.

The first big arc features Hobgoblin and it is a follow-up to Spider-Man: Origin of the Hobgoblin, which I recently reviewed and f’n loved. In fact, I think it’s the first Hobgoblin story after the arcs that were featured in that superb collection.

Beyond the Hobgoblin story, we get about a half dozen short arcs featuring a myriad of villains and other heroes. This also includes the first appearance of Silver Sable, which was a pretty neat story.

After the Hobgoblin stuff, the two that really stick out are the one where Frog-Man and Toad team-up and the Firelord story that brought in the Avengers.

The Frog-Man and Toad tale was goofy and just filler but it was also fun and engaging. However, I’ve also always liked Frog-Man, despite his ineffectiveness as a real threat to anything.

The Firelord story was cool as hell, as Spider-Man was truly tested, as the villain is a cosmic powered being and damn near invincible when facing off against a sole Earth hero. The Avengers had to get involved and it also showed Spider-Man coming pretty close to going over the edge. Knowing what I know now, it was probably due to the effects of him recently wearing the Venom suit.

In the end, this was a cool run of issues. It takes place between Spidey getting the Venom suit and his first encounter with Venom. He switches between the classic red-and-blue suit and the safe black suit throughout this. I always found that confusing when I was a kid, as I wish he just would’ve worn the black outfit for that stretch.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: other Spider-Man stories of the ’80s and early ’90s.

TV Review: Spider-Man (1994-1998)

Original Run: November 19th, 1994 – January 31st, 1998
Created by: John Semper, Bob Richardson, Avi Arad, Stan Lee
Directed by: Bob Richardson
Written by: John Semper, various
Based on: Spider-Man by Stan Lee, Steve Ditko
Music by: Kussa Mahchi, Jeremy Sweet, Shuki Levy, Joe Perry, Shuki Levy, Kussa Mahchi, Udi Harpaz
Cast: Christopher Daniel Barnes, Ed Asner, Jennifer Hale, Roscoe Lee Brown, Mark Hamill, Hank Azaria, Joseph Campanella, Martin Landau, Richard Moll, Don Stark, Dawnn Lewis, Majel Barrett, David Warner, Earl Boen

New World Entertainment Films, Genesis Entertainment, Marvel Enterprises, Fox, 65 Episodes, 23 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

After the success of the early ’90s X-Men cartoon on Fox, it was natural for the network to ask for more Marvel properties to adapt for their Saturday morning audience. The Spider-Man series was the longest running and most successful of these animated spinoffs.

While the X-Men show still stands as my favorite of these animated Marvel series, Spider-Man is a very, very close second and nearly as good.

The stories are generally well written and even if they have to take some liberties and alter the plots from the comics. This was due to time constraints and by trying to wedge in the debut of Venom really early in the series, which changes the overall timeline of events in Spider-Man’s life, greatly. Also, the showrunners probably wanted to get as many villains added into the mix, early on, so that each new episode felt fresh.

Spider-Man has a massive rogues gallery and this show utilized the core villains really damn well.

The tone of the cartoon is pretty perfect. Sure, there are cheesy and hokey bits in every episode because this is a kid’s cartoon but it does stay pretty true to the tone and style of the source material. Most importantly, it’s true to the characters and the writers obviously knew the Spider-Man mythos well.

I love this show and it’s still fun to have minimarathons of episodes. Honestly, to me, it’s one of the highlights of Disney+.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: the other animated Marvel television series from the ’90s.

Video Game Review: Spider-Man (PlayStation 4)

I bought this game way back when it came out but I didn’t actually play it until this year, as I had spent about 18 months completely immersed in Conan Exiles and The Witcher 3. Between that, I also spent a lot of time playing hundreds of retro games on my RetroPie.

I can’t say that this was worth the wait, as it’s really just mediocre.

The graphics as far as how the city looks and the smoothness of gameplay are great but the characters’ designs certainly don’t blow me away. Also, most characters don’t look like how you’d expect them to and I’m not sure why. The game sort of ignores the comic book designs and tries to go with something more “realistic” and cinematic, akin to the films. I feel like it’s trying to meet the comics and the films somewhere in the middle but it fails at that.

As far as the gameplay goes, it’s fun but it’s way too similar to the Batman: Arkham City games. Granted, I love swinging through New York City and seeing the iconic sites but after really exploring for a day or so, even that gets old.

My real issue with the game is the story. I just don’t like it and it puts a lot of emphasis on villains that aren’t all that popular to begin with like Mister Negative. While I don’t mind the character, he is the primary antagonist for the first two acts of the story. While Norman Osborn is the mayor and Otto Octavius starts out as a good guy, there are still so many great, iconic Spider-Man villains they could’ve used as a focal point. Is Mister Negative even C-list?

I also heard all this noise about how many villains were going to be in this game and after playing through it, I’m completely underwhelmed. Sure, there are many baddies but it’s the cast of villains that they went with that are the problem. Plus, there are glaring omissions that are a bit baffling.

I get that you might not want to do a full fledged Hobgoblin or Venom story but the game could’ve introduced their normal selves, as both had interesting backstories that tie back to either Peter Parker’s personal life or the lives of his friends and allies.

Beyond that, Mary Jane is just kind of Plain Jane and she’s not even a model or actress. Instead, they made her an investigative reporter and her character is basically just ginger Lois Lane. Mary Jane is nothing like Lois Lane and this creative choice was just strange.

Speaking of MJ, I hate when this game makes you play as her or pre-Spider-Man Miles Morales. I bought this to be Spider-Man. Not his no superpowers having peeps. And there are just too many of these stupid side character sneaking missions.

Complaints aside, this is still a decent game that laid some groundwork to build off of. I’ll probably check out the sequel, if it’s ever made. I’ll also probably play the Miles Morales spinoff when it’s not still full-price.

The thing is, this could’ve been something great had they made it more loyal to the source material and not used a scrub that casual fans won’t know as the big bad for the first two-thirds of the game. Can you imagine if they made a Batman game and the main villain was someone like The Clock King?

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: its Miles Morales spinoff game, as well as other recent Marvel games and old Spider-Man games.

Comic Review: Spider-Man: Origin of the Hobgoblin

Published: May 18th, 2017
Written by: Tom DeFalco, Bill Mantlo, Roger Stern
Art by: Ron Frenz, Al Milgrom, John Romita Sr., John Romita Jr., Marie Severin, Mike Zeck

Marvel Comics, 266 Pages

Review:

One thing that’s been pretty consistent with Spider-Man comics over the years is that there have been great origin stories for the title hero’s major villains. 

Origin of the Hobgoblin may seriously take the cake, though, as this is a beefy collection and by the end of it, it’s still not clear who the Hobgoblin is, even though the first few chapters make it obvious and because I read the big reveal years ago.

This collects his first ten or so appearances and even then, his ability to trick and dupe Spider-Man is so damn good that his true identity remains unknown to the hero.

Hobgoblin has always been one of my favorite villains and this just made me love him more and it’s easy to see why he became so popular throughout the ’80s until Venom came along and stole everyone’s thunder for a solid decade.

In this collection, we meet a guy that is pure evil, calculated, smart and able to stay several steps ahead of Spider-Man and his rivals on the crime side of things like The Kingpin. And while Hobgoblin may appear as if he’s simply ripping off Norman Osborn’s Green Goblin persona, which he most definitely is, he also takes the gimmick and improves upon it. Hobgoblin is born out of stealing another man’s legacy but with that, he builds his own, unique identity and he’s still a very different man behind the mask.

The best thing about this collection of issues is the writing. It’s just so damn good and makes me wish that modern mainstream comics could muster up just a tenth of this creativity. The plot is well-structured, layered, unpredictable and not even a wee bit derivative or redundant.

While the year is still young, this is the best comic book that I’ve read so far in 2021. 

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: other Spider-Man comics of the ’80s, specifically stories involving the Hobgoblin.

Comic Review: Spider-Man/Red Sonja

Published: 2007
Written by: Michael Avon Oeming
Art by: Mel Rubi, Michael Turner (covers)
Based on: Red Sonya by Robert E. Howard, Red Sonja by Roy Thomas and Barry Windsor-Smith

Marvel Comics, Dynamite Entertainment, 144 Pages

Review:

Man, I really wanted to like this but it left me mostly, underwhelmed and baffled.

A long time ago, back when Marvel had the full-time publishing rights to Red Sonja, they did a one-off story about Mary Jane being possessed by Sonja and then had her team-up with her boyfriend, Spider-Man.

This longer, five-part miniseries is just a rehash of that story, as opposed to having Spidey actually team-up with the real Sonja in the flesh.

Still, it’s not the worst idea for bringing these characters together but doing it a second time seems lazy and uninspiring. But then, so does the rest of this story.

Red Sonja’s villain Kulan Gath shows up in modern day New York City to create havoc because that’s what villains do. He then uses Venom to try and take out Sonja and Spidey but ultimately, he steals the Venom symbiote for himself because this story is already cookie cutter as shit and aiming low seems to be what they were going for.

We also get suped up magical versions of well-known Spidey villains because why wouldn’t we?

I don’t know, more often than not, crossovers like this are really bad and half-assed schlock made to grab a buck from multiple fan bases. I guess this one didn’t strive to be anything different.

I mostly liked the interior art though and the covers were solid.

Rating: 4.25/10
Pairs well with: other Red Sonja crossovers or stories that put her in modern times.

Comic Review: Secret Invasion

Published: 2008
Written by: Brian Michael Bendis
Art by: Leinil Francis Yu, Gabriele Dell’Otto (cover)

Marvel Comics, 218 Pages

Review:

Secret Invasion came out after a series of good storylines from Marvel like Civil War, The Death of Captain America and the feud between the two Avengers teams that followed Civil War. I guess this was supposed to be a good payoff for sticking through that solid run of most of Marvel’s major titles. However, this was mostly a clusterfuck that created more problems than the Marvel continuity needed.

This was ambitious, damn ambitious.

Brian Michael Bendis’ ambition really overreached, though, and this mega event became a jumping off point for me back when it was coming out. After a few issues, I dropped it an never looked back.

Since years have passed and Marvel has gotten even worse, I thought that I might enjoy this a bit more and since I never actually finished it the first time, I wanted to give it another shot.

This is just one of those ideas that sounds good on paper but once you start really fleshing it out, you know it’s not going to work. Well, Bendis should have figured that out on his own, especially since the industry considers him a legend.

The biggest problem with this mega event is that it could have worked on a smaller scale. We could’ve seen that the Skrulls had infiltrated the superhero community, replacing some heroes with themselves in disguise. It didn’t need to be so damn grandiose where nearly half the heroes were just Skrulls in hiding. The conspiracy was too big and thus, came across as really fucking dumb.

In fact, this would’ve been much better had the Skrulls just replaced a few key people and there were still less than a handful in disguise. When you expect half the heroes to be impostors, the reveals of who is who loses its impact and you’re left with a half-assed handjob from a drunk instead of great sex from a pretty hot sexual partner.

In the end, when half the characters were impostors, it poses too many questions that just break continuity and it’s way too hard for editorial to keep track of, especially editorial from this era or any after.

Someone really should’ve grabbed Bendis by the shoulders and shouted, “Scale this the fuck down!”

Rating: 4.5/10
Pairs well with: other Marvel mega events.

Video Game Review: The Amazing Spider-Man (Gameboy)

The Amazing Spider-Man was the game that made me want to get a Gameboy for Christmas the year it came out.

I was really hardcore into Spidey at the time and having the ability to play a Spider-Man game was something that excited the hell out of my eleven year-old brain.

This beat the superior Genesis game by a few years but it was still a really fun game for the time even if it was pretty hard due to wonky controls, poor mechanics and really simplistic graphics and level design.

I think the thing that captivated me the most, at the time, was that it had a good amount of enemies from Spider-Man’s deep rogues gallery.

This featured Mysterio, Hobgoblin, Scorpion, Rhino, Doctor Octopus and Venom, who was new at the time and the favorite comic book character for most boys circa 1990. There are also Lizard cameos throughout the game. Well, I’m assuming it’s either Lizard or people he infected with his condition, as he/they appear at every manhole in the game.

Sadly, the game hasn’t held up well. I don’t think that it was necessarily great for its time either but being that I was such a hardcore web-head, I excused the game’s flaws and just tried to immerse myself into the role of Spider-Man.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: its sequel, as well as the Spider-Man game for the Sega Genesis and the Maximum Carnage game for multiple consoles.

Film Review: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)

Release Date: December 6th, 2018 (Singapore sneak preview)
Directed by: Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, Rodney Rothman
Written by: Phil Lord, Rodney Rothman
Based on: Spider-Man by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, Miles Morales by Brian Michael Bendis and Sara Pichelli
Music by: Daniel Pemberton
Cast: Shameik Moore, Jake Johnson, Hailee Steinfeld, Mahershala Ali, Brian Tyree Henry, Lily Tomlin, Luna Lauren Velez, John Mulaney, Kimiko Glenn, Nicolas Cage, Liev Schreiber, Chris Pine, Lake Bell, Marvin Jones III, Stan Lee (cameo), Cliff Robertson (archive recording), Oscar Issac (cameo), Donald Glover (cameo)

Columbia Pictures, Sony Pictures Animation, Marvel Entertainment, Arad Productions, Lord Miller Productions, Pascal Pictures, Sony Pictures Releasing, 117 Minutes, 143 Minutes (Alt Universe Cut)

Review:

“That person who helps others simply because it should or must be done, and because it is the right thing to do, is indeed without a doubt, a real superhero.” – Stan Lee

I intended to see this in the theater but the holidays are really busy for me and I didn’t get around to it or any other movies around that time. I heard great things about this movie though, so I rented it as soon as it was available.

Full disclosure, I’m not a huge fan of animated films. At least I haven’t been in my adult life. I still love a lot of the old cartoons and anime I watched as a kid but due to the overwhelming positive fan response to this and my love of Miles Morales, I wanted to give this a chance.

Overall, it’s a mighty fine motion picture and the best Spider-Man movie since Spider-Man 2.

I thought that the CGI animation was really well done. I prefer traditional animation and have never found CGI animation to be that interesting but this shows how great this animation style can be when pushed to the max and utilized for its strengths while being meticulously crafted with heart.

The story doesn’t really follow the comics but how many comic book film adaptations do? Still, it was engaging, it captured who Miles is and it examined a lot of different aspects of heroism. I absolutely love how it presented and handled the life of an aged Peter Parker. And ultimately, the bond between Miles, Peter, Gwen Stacy and the other heroes was strong and everything human and emotional felt natural.

I was really excited to see Spider-Gwen and Spider-Ham, especially. I loved Gwen’s earliest stories and I’ve been a Spider-Ham junkie since childhood.

This also features a lot of villains and even does a gender bending twist to Doctor Octopus that worked for me.

I think that this movie definitely did exactly what it set out to do which was to launch Miles Morales into the minds of normal moviegoers and kids that don’t pick up the comics while incorporating a nice array of other Spider-heroes in a fun and unique way. It also humanizes the vilest villain and makes this a more emotional and touching movie than most of the live action Spider-Man adaptations.

I’m definitely excited for the multiple sequels and spinoffs that Sony seems to have planned for the very near future.

Rating: 8.75/10
Pairs well with: I’d assume, the future sequels and spinoffs. As well as Miles Morales Spider-Man comics.

Comic Review: Spider-Man: Blue

Published: July 27th, 2011
Written by: Jeph Loeb
Art by: Tim Sale

Marvel Comics, 137 Pages

Review:

Other than the Hulk one, I’ve really loved the color themed series of titles that Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale did for Marvel. This is the last of the four that I have read and am now reviewing.

Spider-Man: Blue was damn good. It really captured the spirit of classic Spidey and even though it had a good amount of action and superhero fun, the focal point of this story was Peter Parker’s love for Gwen Stacy but also his blossoming love for his eventual wife, Mary Jane Watson.

This throws a good array of villains at the hero and all of them serve more than a superficial purpose. Kraven the Hunter is the big bad by the end of the story and his threat and how it grows throughout the pages of this miniseries flows really well with the narrative surrounding Peter Parker’s personal life.

Loeb and Sale are just a spectacular team and their talents are on full display here. While I still prefer their Batman work, all of which are real classics in the medium, these Marvel books are some of the best works to come out of the publisher in the last decade or so.

These stories understand the characters, their motivations and the art style makes them feel like you are going back to yesteryear.

Spider-Man: Blue is a fine read and it may even hit you in the feels.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: The other color themed books that Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale did for Marvel.