Comic Review: Annihilation

Published: 2005-2007
Written by: Dan Abnett, Keith Giffen, Andy Lanning, Simon Furman
Art by: Mitch Breitweiser, Scott Kolins, Ariel Olivetti, Kev Walker, Renato Arlem, Jorge Lucas

Marvel Comics, 850 Pages

Review:

I’ve wanted to read Annihilation for a long time. The thing is, it’s absolutely f’n massive! Also, the collections for it back in the day were pretty expensive. But it was a long story that stretched over two years and across multiple titles.

I love most things that are cosmic Marvel though, so I felt that it was time to delve in. Plus, I took advantage of a big sale on Comixology and got all of them for about $16.

To start, the art is pretty stellar throughout the event. I especially loved the parts that were done by Mitch Breitweiser.

In addition to that, the writing was good when you break it apart and look at each miniseries within the crossover mega series.

But the hugeness of this kind of wears on you by the time you get closer to the end. There is just so much here and the story is organized in a way where you jump to a big four issue arc about one set of characters and then you go to the next four issue arc. Eventually, it all comes together at the end but some of the miniseries within the mega series felt inconsistent in overall quality.

This had some hiccups and lulls throughout but the end result was still enjoyable and this event had some incredible moments. Seeing Galactus defeated, captured and being farmed for energy was pretty breathtaking, shocking and a game changer for the plot and the story’s threat level.

Annihilus is one of the greatest villains in Marvel Comics history and seeing him basically be a god here was damn cool. Hell, seeing Thanos being forced to play Annihilus’ game was another epic narrative shock.

Ultimately, this series was massive in size, massive in scale and was one of the most grandiose tales Marvel has ever told. If you dig the cosmic stuff, you really should give this a read.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: other big Marvel event stuff but mostly those that spend most of their time in the cosmos.

Comic Review: Planet Hulk

Published: April 2nd, 2008
Written by: Greg Pak
Art by: Gary Frank, Aaron Lopresti, Takeshi Miyazawa, Carlo Pagulayan

Marvel Comics, 401 Pages

Review:

I read The Incredible Hulk comics as a kid. But I wasn’t really a Hulk fan until Planet Hulk came into my hands in 2008. By the time I got to the end of it, I realized that I had just experienced one of the absolute best comic book stories of that decade.

A lot of the story would go on to be used in the film Thor: Ragnarok because a live action adaptation of the story wasn’t possible with all the issues regarding which studio owns the controlling rights over the character. But I loved what they did use in that Thor film between Hulk being a gladiator and the inclusion of Korg, as well as some other minor details.

It had been awhile since I read this story though and I thought that I needed to see how it has held up.

Well, this is still absolutely incredible. It is, most definitely, my favorite Hulk story of all-time. But I also probably enjoy it for the fact that it has some sword and sorcery elements to it and really just feels like Hulk the Barbarian.

Greg Pak did a stupendous job writing this though. For something so lengthy and beefy, the whole thing is engaging, there aren’t any dull moments and each issue builds off of the ones before them. This is what comic book writing should be. This has perfect pacing, every panel matters and it hits you right in the feels just when it needs to.

Planet Hulk had multiple artists work on it, which is common when a story arc is this long. But what’s great about it was that the style was consistent and you don’t immediately notice that it’s different. It all just fits together very cohesively. Sometimes different artists have styles that can conflict and be almost jarring when reading a collection. This does not suffer from that at all.

After jumping back into this 11 years later, I really want to read the followup World War Hulk now, which I missed back in 2008.

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: World War Hulk and the Peter David run on The Incredible Hulk.

Comic Review: X-Men: The Dark Phoenix Saga

Published: 1980
Written by: Chris Claremont
Art by: John Byrne

Marvel Comics, 200 Pages

Review:

Does it make me a terrible X-Men fan that I have never actually read The Dark Phoenix Saga?

I’ve tried to round up all the single issues over the years but some of them are pricey and there’s nine issues that make up this arc. But in my defense, I know the story very well, as it has been referenced a million times over throughout X-Men history. I’ve also seen various interpretations and adaptations of the plot. Granted, none of them are really accurate in regards to this, the source material.

This is free for Comixology Unlimited subscribers though, so I thought that delving into it was long overdue and that I really didn’t have an excuse anymore.

I expected this to be enjoyable but it still took me by surprise, as it was better than what I anticipated and all the years of hype I’ve experienced, didn’t diminish it in anyway.

The Dark Phoenix Saga is quintessential Chris Claremont. I can’t say that this is where he peaked but this is certainly a very elevated highpoint in his long run writing X-Men related stories.

This also came out in a time when Marvel wasn’t addicted to big crossover mega-events. This was a mega-event for its time but it wasn’t marketed or structured in the way that these things are now. It was just a good, lengthy story, limited to one already existing comic that found a way to utilize a lot of characters but in a way that balanced them all out and made them all useful to the plot.

One cool thing about this arc, is it also features the first appearances of Kitty Pryde, Emma Frost, Sebastian Shaw, the Hellfire Club and Dazzler. There’s a bunch of stuff going on within this story but it doesn’t off track and still builds towards the big battle between Jean Grey as Dark Phoenix and her X-Men family. It’s, at times, heartbreaking and tragic but it also makes you love all these people all over again in an organic, natural and emotional way. This hits emotional notes in the reader in ways that comic books never seem to come close to in 2019.

I can’t just give credit to Chris Claremont and his stupendous writing though. The art by John Byrne is absolutely superb and it is just as rich, colorful and meticulously crafted as the story its telling.

The Dark Phoenix Saga is one of the greatest Marvel stories ever told. It’s classic Marvel and truly represents what I loved about the era and how I fell in love with this creative medium in the first place.

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: other early Chris Claremont X-Men comics.

Comic Review: The Defenders: The Best Defense

Published: December 5th, 2018 – December 19th, 2018
Written by: Chip Zdarsky, Al Ewing, Gerry Duggan, Jason Latour
Art by: various

Marvel Comics, 164 Pages

Review:

I was really excited for this crossover miniseries when I first saw it announced. Plus, Chip Zdarsky and Al Ewing have been writing some great comics over the last year. However, this was really a bit of a dud.

It wasn’t bad but it also wasn’t good. It sort of fits in a weird limbo and frankly, I wasn’t crazy about the format of it, as once the four heroes do come together, it’s just in the final issue of this five issue series.

You see, each of the four heroes got their own single issue and then the fifth part was the big finale. While this wouldn’t be so bad, the story just wasn’t very exciting and thus, didn’t really keep me engaged.

Al Ewing’s work on The Immortal Hulk is top notch stuff and I’ve loved Zdarsky’s runs on Marvel 2-In-One and The Spectacular Spider-Man. I hate to say it but it feels like they either dialed it in here or that they’ve been stretched thin with their other projects. However, Gerry Duggan and Jason Latour also wrote this and maybe it just falls flat because there were too many voices and not a lot of planning behind this.

This is a strange release, as it doesn’t really tie into anything else or anything that’s going on in larger pop culture. I’ve always liked Defenders books though. This one just doesn’t cut the mustard.

And man, I really wanted this to be good because I loved the superhero team and the creative team.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: recent runs on Hulk and Doctor Strange. Also, the upcoming Invaders title, which will heavily feature Namor.

Comic Review: Infinity

Published: February 5th, 2014
Written by: Jonathan Hickman
Art by: various

Marvel Comics, 866 Pages

Review:

Since new ideas are hard to come by, Marvel decided to sort of rehash the Infinity events from the ’90s in this modern version of a story that features Thanos and every single Marvel hero that can possibly fit on a splash page.

I’m not knocking the technique, if a story is good, it’s good. All stories borrow from something else and Marvel (just like DC) likes to recycle the core elements of their big crossover events, again and again. Marvel has had two Civil War storylines, Avengers Vs. X-Men, which was practically like Civil War, and multiple versions of Secret War. Then there are massive Skrull events that seem to have happened an awful lot too.

I guess the main similarity between this and the ’90s Infinity events is that it features dozens upon dozens of Marvel heroes against a seemingly omnipotent Thanos. However, Thanos’ purpose is different here and there is no sign of the Infinity Gauntlet. In this story, he comes to Earth to find his long lost son Thane. Why? Because Thanos wants to murder him, as he’s done with his other offspring.

I read the large collected edition of this, which was well over 800 pages. It was massive and thick and took some time to get through. At first, it started slow and I felt like I didn’t know what was going on because I haven’t read a lot of modern Marvel stuff and there are all of these new heroes I’ve never experienced. Don’t worry, this still has every classic hero in it too. Every major player is here, as should be expected with an event like this.

Reading this, I can see where it also influenced the recent Avengers: Infinity War movie, as it has the introduction of the Black Order, who played a big part in that film.

The story also deals with a threat from the Builders, who basically want to destroy the universe because villains do those sort of things in comic books.

There are a lot of layers to the story and it can feel overwhelming and overly complicated but the core of it is very good. This event had some really awesome and powerful moments and also featured some of the most badass stuff Thor has ever done.

It also gave us Thane, a character that is more dangerous than his famous father and who looks to be a massive threat for the heroes after the conclusion of this story.

I thought the pacing was good, once the story really got going. The six Infinity issues were certainly the high point of the story where the Avengers and New Avengers issues that were part of this collection served to give more exposition to the larger narrative.

This massive collected edition is capped off by a Silver Surfer story that takes place alongside these events. The Surfer didn’t appear in the main story but he had his own tale that was worth telling, as he was on the other side of the galaxy dealing with the same events in a different way.

And I guess another really important thing about this mega event is that the art was fabulous. I loved it, every panel, every page and every issue of every comic series collected here was visual perfection. Kudos to the artists: Jim Cheung, Jerome Opena and Dustin Weaver.

Rating: 8.75/10
Pairs well with: The ’90s Infinity trilogy of events: The Infinity GauntletThe Infinity War and The Infinity Crusade.

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.

Comic Review: The Infinity War

Published: April 5th, 2006
Written by: Jim Starlin
Art by: Ron Lim

Marvel Comics, 400 Pages

Review:

I just finished up The Infinity Gauntlet mega crossover event, so naturally I wanted to jump right into The Infinity War. Plus, the next Avengers movie centers around these storylines, so I wanted to revisit them, as I haven’t read them since they were fairly current back in the early ’90s.

Like its predecessor, this tale is jam packed with more Marvel heroes and villains than can reasonably fit onto one page. There are more characters in this story than the previous one and everyone is present and accounted for, unlike the first Infinity story, which saw half of the heroes (and the universe’s population) removed from existence.

Sadly, this is not as good as its predecessor. The Infinity Gauntlet was very talkie in the first half and then just broke off into three giant comic book issues of straight up action. The Infinity War has some action but it is minuscule when compared to the previous saga.

Also, Magus was a cool idea for a villain but he didn’t even come close to having the presence and intensity of Thanos. Also, Thanos is pretty much neutered in this story and is more of a hero than a villain. I get that he is in someway atoning for his actions when he had possession of the Infinity Gauntlet but it seems like it is way too soon for him to be working with the heroes of the Marvel universe, even if the situation called for it. There certainly should have been more push back from the heroes.

Ultimately, the story was boring. It was a lot of talking… A. LOT. Hell, this story was mostly just talking and talking and more talking. The overall plot was dragged down by an extreme overabundance of dialogue.

I remember really liking all the stuff tied into this event more than the event itself. In the broader universe, Marvel characters were forced to face their evil doppelgängers. I’ll have to re-read some of the single issues I have that are spunoff from this main story arc.

I feel like this book was more of a gimmick than an attempt to really continue the Infinity saga in a way that was actually meaningful. Most of the book felt like it was just full of splash pages with as many characters as possible crammed into a large room, trying to dodge their speech balloons.

This was still a mostly fun read but it was a weak followup to the far superior Infinity Gauntlet.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: The other parts of the trilogy: The Infinity Gauntlet and The Infinity Crusade.