Comic Review: Spider-Man: The Revenge of the Sinister Six

Published: 1991-1992
Written by: Erik Larsen, Terry Kavanagh
Art by: Erik Larsen, Scott McDaniel

Marvel Comics, 165 Pages

Review:

I was really digging re-reading all the earliest Sinister Six storylines. But then I got to this one, the third of the three I wanted to re-experience and it really took the wind out of my sails.

This was a complete clusterfuck, narratively speaking.

I guess there is a big difference between the skill level of David Michelinie and Erik Larsen when it comes to writing. The two teamed up for the storyline, The Return of the Sinister Six, a year earlier in The Amazing Spider-Man. In this arc, Larsen took the reigns pretty much solo, as he had been moved to the Spider-Man title while Michelinie was still working on The Amazing Spider-Man with artist Mark Bagley. While that great duo were introducing us to Carnage, Larsen gave us this mess.

The biggest problem with this miniseries, is that it seemed like Larsen was using it as a way to feature and draw all the characters he wasn’t able to touch before this. This is a cameo bonanza in the worst way and many of these characters enter the story just for the hell of it and don’t serve much purpose to the overall narrative. It’s like Larsen just wanted to draw splash pages of the Hulk, Ghost Rider, the Fantastic Four, and a billion different villains. We also get a small and incredibly pointless cameo from Sleepwalker, one of my favorite ’90s characters.

Larsen’s art here was pretty damn solid, I have to give him that. He has a very distinct style and people either love it or hate it, similar to the style of Rob Liefeld. I have mostly liked Larsen’s style and this was interesting to see, as he did this right before jumping ship to Image Comics and his own creation, The Savage Dragon.

I do have to say that Larsen’s writing improves once he goes to Image and I’m thinking that he knew he was leaving when he took on this project and he felt that it was the only chance he would get to draw a lot of these characters.

To put it bluntly though, this story is ’90s as fuck and I don’t mean that complimentary. It’s trying really damn hard to be edgy. In fact, in the final battle all the villains are shooting machine guns like common street thugs while Spider-Man is wearing all this expensive, over the top, ’90s style tech. Hell, Spidey even gets a cyborg arm in this.

Also, the Sinister Six isn’t really even fully formed. Sandman is not on the team and is trying to get the other villains to stop Doctor Octopus. So really, this is the Sinister Five but then they bring in the giant beast Gog. So is he the sixth member now? It’s not really clear and it’s just one of many things that makes this story total chaos.

This was bad, dreadfully bad. I remembered liking it when it originally came out but I was also thirteen years-old and way more into the visual side of comics over having a coherent plot.

Rating: 4.75/10
Pairs well with: Stan Lee and Steve Ditko’s original Sinister Six story, as well as the prequel to this one, The Return of the Sinister Six. Also, anything from the Michelinie and Larsen run on The Amazing Spider-Man.

Comic Review: Spider-Man: The Return of the Sinister Six

Published: 1990
Written by: David Michelinie
Art by: Erik Larsen, Terry Austin, Mike Machlan

Marvel Comics, 141 Pages

Review:

This story arc took place in The Amazing Spider-Man issue numbers 334 through 339. It was a follow up to the original Sinister Six story that Stan Lee and Steve Ditko gave us with the first ever Amazing Spider-Man annual way back in 1964.

What’s strange to me, is that it took so long for six of Spidey’s best villains to team-up again. However, with Kraven the Hunter being dead, this version of the group replaced him with Hobgoblin. But the team is still led by Doctor Octopus and also features Electro, Mysterio, the Vulture and the Sandman. However, in a bit of a twist, Sandman has gone straight and Octopus blackmails him into joining the group.

This story also features a lot of cameos from other villains and heroes but Spider-Man ultimately faces the Sinister Six on his own and at one point, he finally fights them all at once, which he didn’t do in the first story.

While the Dave Michelinie/Todd McFarlane era of The Amazing Spider-Man is heralded as one of the best of all-time, the Dave Michelinie/Erik Larsen era is also damn good and really just continues off of what Michelinie developed with McFarlane. This came out at the height of me reading Spider-Man comics. To me, this was an event bigger than any of those Infinity things and this wasn’t really even an event.

Reading this now, I almost have a deeper appreciation for it than I did as a kid in 1990. The plot is well constructed and it has a lot of layers to it. Also, there’s a few subplots that have their own interesting narratives. There’s much more here than Peter Parker’s Royal Rumble match with his rogues and it makes this a really rich tale with good character development and real depth.

Some of the plot points, like the bizarreness of Octavius’ scheme are baffling but even the questionable stuff is amusing and just makes me yearn for the early ’90s comic book storytelling style. Twenty-nine years later, I definitely see issues I didn’t as a kid but it in no way wrecks the experience that is this great arc.

Also at the time, I was a hardcore Erik Larsen fan. I first discovered his art on this title. While I always preferred McFarlane, through the eyes of an eleven year-old, Larsen was a comic art superstar. I loved how he drew Spidey and his iconic villains and I think it still looks great. While I respect Larsen and McFarlane for forming Image and coming out with their own comics, there’s that part of me that wished that they both would’ve stuck around and worked on Spider-Man books a bit longer, as I was just so in love with what they were doing at the time and wasn’t ready to let them hand it off to someone else. But then, Mark Bagley did do a fine job, as well.

All these years later, this was fun to pick up again. I was a little worried that I’d think it’d suck now but it brought me back to where I was, reading it for the first time in 1990. Sometimes picking up old comics is like opening a time capsule. With this one, I was happy to find that it was even better than I remembered it.

And now I can’t wait to revisit its sequel, The Revenge of the Sinister Six.

Rating: 9.25/10
Pairs well with: Stan Lee and Steve Ditko’s original Sinister Six story, as well as the sequel to this one, The Revenge of the Sinister Six. Also, anything from the Michelinie and Larsen run on The Amazing Spider-Man.

Comic Review: Spider-Man: The Sinister Six

Published: June 1st, 1964
Written by: Stan Lee
Art by: Steve Ditko

Marvel Comics, 75 Pages

Review:

This story premiered in the first ever Amazing Spider-Man annual. Plus, it was written by Stan “The Man” Lee and drawn by the great Steve Ditko.

The plot is pretty standard fair for ’60s Marvel and it sees six of Spider-Man’s toughest villains come together to form the original version of the Sinister Six. That being said, the Sinister Six have been one of my favorite villain groups of all-time and this storyline didn’t just create a supervillain team to test a single hero but it created a trend in the comic book medium that saw other heroes have to take on similar teams of multiple rogues.

I like how the plot was structured, in that Spider-Man had to run the gauntlet on the Sinister Six and fought each one individually. This is actually a great setup for the future, which would see the Sinister Six up the ante and take on Spidey all at once. However, in future battles, Spidey would get some help of his own.

This group consisted of Doctor Octopus, The Vulture, Kraven the Hunter, Electro, Mysterio and the Sandman. While the group would rotate some other villains in over the course of time, I really liked this group and how having them come together in this story made it feel like a Spider-Man themed Royal Rumble.

For a first time reader, this had to be a fun read, as it forced Spider-Man to face multiple challenges in the same story. Plus, it just looks great with the Ditko art.

This is not my favorite Sinister Six story but we wouldn’t have gotten the other ones without this happening first. Plus, it’s quintessential Stan Lee in how this all plays out.

It’s hard not to love this.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: other Stan Lee and Steve Ditko era Spider-Man comics.

Comic Review: The Superior Spider-Man, Vol. 1: My Own Worst Enemy

Published: November 14th, 2013
Written by: Dan Slott
Art by: Giuseppe Camuncoli, Ryan Stegman

Marvel Comics, 117 Pages

Review:

When I heard about this series before it came out, it sounded like a terrible idea and it seemed that my sentiment was also the majority’s. However, as the series rolled on, people really started talking it up and now it is considered by many to be a high point in the decade long run of Dan Slott on Spider-Man titles. So I figured that I’d give it a shot.

The reason why this was so controversial was because Otto Octavius a.k.a. Doctor Octopus put his mind into Peter Parker’s body and hijacked his life becoming Spider-Man and Peter Parker. Yeah, it sounds terrible on the surface and comes off as a cheap trick to try and deliberately stir up controversy for publicity’s sake. And really, that’s probably exactly what it was.

Controversial moments in comics usually turn out poor results in the long run or at least on the creative side. This is a rare example of it actually working and leading into a narrative and creative direction that fans liked. In fact, this series has since ended but fans are clamoring to see the Superior Spider-Man return in some form, especially after his involvement in the recent milestone issue The Amazing Spider-Man number 800.

I don’t know why this works, as it just seems weird and unbelievable even for comic books. But somehow, you know that this is a redemption story for Otto Octavius, even if his actions to put this in motion were rather heinous. His goal is to be the “superior” Spider-Man and also the superior Peter Parker. He wants to be the best version of both personas that he can possibly be.

Otto alters how Spider-Man operates in a way that is more efficient and he also strives to better Parker’s personal life by going back to school to get his PhD.

Another interesting part of the story is that Peter still exists as a ghost that is attached to Otto but Otto is still unaware of Parker’s presence and his constant commentary on how Otto is messing up his life and reputation.

I know that the premise may sound stupid or off-putting for old school Spider-Man fans but man, this really is a good read and I feel as if it is only going to get better as it finds its stride.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: Other Superior Spider-Man collections and any of Dan Slott’s other Spider-Man titles.

Video Game Review: Spider-Man (Sega Genesis)

Also known as: Spider-Man vs. The Kingpin

Review:

Spider-Man, the 1991 game, is what pushed me towards getting a Sega Genesis over a Super Nintendo for Christmas when I was in 7th grade. I was reading Spider-Man comics daily, at the time. Who can blame me though, as the artists during that era were Todd McFarlane and Erik Larsen? To say that I was a massive fan is a massive understatement.

When I finally got my tiny mitts on this game, I was not disappointed and playing it became an obsession because it was super fun but it was also really hard. But it wasn’t unbeatable hard. It was the kind of hard that you had to work at to overcome. Eventually, I beat the game and when I did, I felt a sense of real accomplishment that I hadn’t felt since the original Legend of Zelda.

For 1991, the graphics were sick, the gameplay was incredible and the mechanics were really cool, as I had been relegated to simpler 8-bit titles before this.

The game also featured a good group of classic Spider-Man villains and Venom, who was still actually new at the time. The villain lineup was almost like a Sinister Six lineup. You had Doctor Octopus, the Lizard, Electro and the Sandman with Hobgoblin and Venom replacing some of the traditional Sinister Six members (Kraven, the Green Goblin, Mysterio and the Vulture were rotated in and out in the comics). You also had the big boss of the game, Wilson Fisk himself, the Kingpin.

Some of the boss battles were easy, some were hard but each one required a different strategy, almost like what would become more common place in video games of the future. You didn’t just try and jump on some character’s head a bunch of times or throw a fireball, you had to figure out each battle like a puzzle. However, even figuring things out didn’t guarantee victory, as you needed to also rely on timing and your skill.

I replayed through Spider-Man recently and even though I got to the end and got my ass kicked by the Kingpin, it was still a lot of fun.

I know that a plethora of Genesis titles are considered classics ahead of this. However, this was why I chose the Genesis platform and it continues to be my favorite game put out for that console.

Rating: 9.25/10
Pairs well with: Other old school Spider-Man games: Maximum Carnage, the original Gameboy game and the two games released on the original PlayStation.

Film Review: The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014)

Release Date: March 31st, 2014 (Tokyo premiere)
Directed by: Marc Webb
Written by: Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci, Jeff Pinkler, James Vanderbilt
Based on: The Amazing Spider-Man by Stan Lee, Steve Ditko
Music by: Hans Zimmer, The Magnificent Six
Cast: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Jamie Foxx, Dane DeHaan, Campbell Scott, Embeth Davidtz, Colm Feore, Paul Giamatti, Sally Field, Felicity Jones, B.J. Novak, Denis Leary, Chris Cooper

Marvel Entertainment, Arad Productions, Inc., Matt Tolmach Productions, Columbia Pictures, 142 Minutes

the_amazing_spiderman_2Review:

Man, where do I begin with this film? To start, it was pretty awful overall. Granted, I wasn’t a fan of the first one and I didn’t expect much from this outing but despite a few things I liked, the vast majority of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 was complete shit.

Every male actor in this film was horrible. Andrew Garfield is not all that likeable and I can’t relate to him like I did to the previous Spider-Man, Tobey Maguire. Garfield just can’t sell the “nerdy photographer” shtick all that well and most of the time he is borderline emo (I am ignoring Maguire’s fall into emo madness in Spider-Man 3 because I pretend that that film doesn’t exist).

Speaking of emo, Dane DeHaan’s Harry Osborn was atrocious. He was an emo girl’s wet dream, whining and crawling on the ground and whining some more with his burnout lizard-looking face and Dashboard Confessional haircut. I never felt threatened by this dime store wuss and his attempts at being bad ass were laughable when they weren’t just irritating. His look as Green Goblin was just goofy and ridiculous. I felt like I was watching some waify angsty morally conflicted rich kid at Comic-Con trying to dress up as Sting in Dune but doing a bad job at it.

Jamie Foxx as Max Dillon a.k.a. Electro was probably the worst performance of his illustrious career since Booty Call. The character was also unlikable and so one-dimensional that almost every piece of dialogue that was written for him was completely predictable. He may have been the stupidest smart person in the history of cinema.

Then there was Paul Giamatti as the dude who becomes Rhino, talking in the worst Russian accent I have ever heard while just being completely idiotic. I typically love Giamatti, but in this film, I felt embarrassed for him.

Weirdly, all the females in the movie were pretty good. Emma Stone was great, adorable and mesmerizing, as always, Sally Field was fantastic and Felicity Jones was good with the limited role she had. But even the strong female presences couldn’t save this pile of insipid juvenile crap.

As far as the plot goes, there was so much nonsensical bullshit that it became a complete clusterfuck and the plot was just secondary and didn’t matter all that much. The whole film was a cookie cutter superhero love story with a predictable outcome mixed in with over-the-top CGI orgasmfests that offered nothing new or captivating.

And why was it so friggin’ long?

On a positive note, it wasn’t as dull and boring as the first film in the series.