Comic Review: Fantastic Four – Masterworks, Vol. 10

Published: May 18th, 2017
Written by: Stan Lee
Art by: Jack Kirby, John Romita Sr.

Marvel Comics, 289 Pages

Review:

Here we are, at the end of the legendary 100-plus issue run on Fantastic Four by the truly dynamic duo of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. And man, they really went out with a bang, as this final volume was packed full of many of the great characters that have been in the series since its beginning.

Now Kirby exited the series with one issue left in the final story arc that he worked on but John Romita Sr. slid right in and gave us some pretty stellar art as well. But other than the final issue, collected here, this is all Kirby and Kirby really at his best.

This is also Stan Lee at his best, as he finds a way to work in so many classic characters without this turning into a convoluted mess. The only noticeable omissions from this beefy volume were Silver Surfer, Galactus and Black Panther but just about every other character that debuted in Fantastic Four, up to this point, shows up, even if it’s just a quick cameo. Most of that happens in the 100th issue.

Beyond that, this is full of good stories and we even see the brief return of the Frightful Four, one of my favorite villain groups that gets no love in modern times.

Overall, I’m glad that I read this entire run and this was a nice cap off to a great series.

Rating: 9.25/10
Pairs well with: the other Marvel Masterworks collections.

Comic Review: Fantastic Four – Masterworks, Vol. 9

Published: March 2nd, 2017
Written by: Stan Lee
Art by: Jack Kirby

Marvel Comics, 271 Pages

Review:

As much as I like how this series has grown and evolved over the first eight Masterworks collections, I liked that this volume scaled back a little bit and brought things back to basics and with that, brought back two of the Fantastic Four’s earliest villains, Doctor Doom and the Mole Man.

This also features the Inhumans and has Crystal still filling in for Sue Storm on the team but we do get to see Sue come back and get in on the action a bit.

The Skrulls also return and it feels like they’ve been MIA for too long.

Overall, this is another really great volume in a stupendous comic book series.

I keep saying that Lee and Kirby improve with each volume and that’s still true, here. By this point, they have created such a rich, large mythos in the Marvel universe, as a whole, that I think they felt confident in slowing things down a bit and bringing our heroes up against their best foes, as opposed to creating another round of new baddies.

That’s not to say that I don’t enjoy new Lee and Kirby villains, I actually love them, but I was yearning for the classic baddies to return and this definitely filled that void. In fact, this features one of my favorite Doctor Doom story arcs of all-time.

Rating: 8.75/10
Pairs well with: the other Marvel Masterworks collections.

Comic Review: Fantastic Four – Masterworks, Vol. 5

Published: August 7th, 2014
Written by: Stan Lee
Art by: Jack Kirby

Marvel Comics, 248 Pages

Review:

This right here is the volume I’ve been waiting to get to! This is the collection of the Stan Lee/Jack Kirby run on Fantastic Four where everything changes and the Marvel universe expands exponentially!

This edition of the Masterworks series covers issues 41 through 50, as well as the third annual.

Within this collection, we get a great Frightful Four story, the marriage between Mr. Fantastic and the Invisible Girl, the full debut of the Inhumans, as well as the first appearances of Silver Surfer and Galactus! There are also cameos from just about every hero and villain from the Marvel universe of the 1960s! This chapter in the saga literally has everyone and everything!

What’s even better than that, is that Stan Lee is absolutely on his A-game with these stories and scripts and Jack Kirby’s art was on-point.

If you can only ever read one Fantastic Four collection, graphic novel or trade paperback, it should be this one.

This is quintessential Fantastic Four at its finest. It’s the epitome of what was so damn great about ’60s Marvel and the work of Lee and Kirby.

Just buy it, read it, read it a dozen more times and cherish it forever.

Rating: 10+/10
Pairs well with: the other Marvel Masterworks collections.

Comic Review: Fantastic Four – Masterworks, Vol. 4

Published: June 5th, 2014
Written by: Stan Lee
Art by: Jack Kirby

Marvel Comics, 272 Pages

Review:

I’ve been blowing through these Fantastic Four – Masterworks collections pretty fast. But these represent the collaboration of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby at its best while also showcasing the earliest stages of the Marvel universe, as it was still developing, taking shape and hitting its stride.

This one kicks off with the second Fantastic Four annual and then collects issues 31 through 40.

I’ve always wanted to read the second annual and man, it did not disappoint. It actually tells the origin of Doctor Doom, as well as showing him meet Rama-Tut a.k.a. Kang the Conqueror for the first time. I knew enough of what was in this massive 72-page issue but I never got to read it until now.

Beyond that, this gives us more Namor, the return of the Mole Man, as well as a great Skrull story. Probably my two favorite things come in the second half though, which sees the debut of the villainous Frightful Four, as well as the first time that the Fantastic Four meet Daredevil, which is a great story on its own.

This was a real high point for me in the overall grander Fantastic Four mythos. A lot of cool stuff happens and this just keeps building up the Marvel universe in a great way.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: the other Marvel Masterworks collections.

Comic Review: Fantastic Four – Masterworks, Vol. 2

Published: June 24th, 2009
Written by: Stan Lee
Art by: Jack Kirby, Dick Ayers

Marvel Comics, 298 Pages

Review:

While this isn’t the peak of the Stan Lee and Jack Kirby 100-issue run on the Fantastic Four, they really start to slide into their grove here, as the larger Marvel universe has expanded and this is the first collection that sees the Fantastic Four meet other heroes.

In this volume, we get to see them meet the Hulk, Spider-Man, Ant-Man and Wasp for the first time in Fantastic Four titles. The Hulk issue is particularly important, as it is the first time that Stan Lee created heroes crossed over in Marvel continuity.

In addition to that, we get more stories featuring Namor, Doctor Doom, the Puppet Master, as well as new villains like the Super Skrull, the Impossible Man, Molecule Man, the Mad Thinker and Rama-Tut, who would later become Kang the Conqueror, one of Marvel’s greatest and most powerful baddies.

This is simply a fun and entertaining read. As hokey as the earliest Stan Lee era stuff can be, it’s just enjoyable as hell and pretty endearing. He was one of the greatest creatives in the comic book medium and it’s really apparent here, as he travels in a lot of different directions, from issue-to-issue and covers a lot of ground, laying the foundation for the Marvel comic book universe, as a whole.

Incorporating the heroes of other titles into this, really sets the stage for the broader continuity. We also get to see a Watcher for the first time, which kind of propels things forward in the cosmic realm for future Marvel stories.

Where the first ten issues felt kind of random and like they were trying to find their way, these ten issues (plus an annual) seem to be building towards something. While I’m not sure if Stan Lee already had Galactus in mind, the man has definitely cleared the path for that massive introduction, which wouldn’t happen for another two years.

I also have to give props to Jack Kirby, who had an incredibly consistent art style his entire career but definitely looks as if he found his grove with these characters and their world. 

Rating: 8.75/10
Pairs well with: the other Marvel Masterworks collections.

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.

Comic Review: Fantastic Four – Masterworks, Vol. 1

Published: February 25th, 2009
Written by: Stan Lee
Art by: Jack Kirby, various

Marvel Comics, 265 Pages

Review:

I’ve really wanted to go back and read the earliest collaborations between Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. So since I noticed that a lot of the Marvel Masterworks stuff is free for Comixology Unlimited subscribers, I decided to start with the oldest comic, the Fantastic Four.

Man, this was a really cool comic to read. In the past, I had read the first Namor issue and the first appearance of Doctor Doom but reading these early stories, complete and in sequence was a real treat.

Marvel was very different in the very beginning. While the company had existed under different names before this, this was their first attempt at doing superheroes. And Stan Lee took the bull by the horns and just wrote the comic he wanted, thinking he was soon to be fired.

Luckily, this was a hit. Reading the first issue now, I can see why. I mean, there were superhero comics before Stan Lee wrote this but this was very different than what people were familiar with in the forms of Batman, Superman, Captain America and Wonder Woman.

This comic was about a team and not just a team, a team that is pretty much family. It also gave us characters with bizarre and refreshing powers. Sure, the Human Torch existed in another form in the 1940s but this team, as a complete unit, had a lot of unique tools.

These earliest issues are also interesting as you can see Stan Lee and Jack Kirby trying out things and modifying them as they go, as they hadn’t quite figured what this was. But as the series rolls on and as they released other superhero titles, things just came together like they never had with superhero comics before this.

It is these ten issues here that are the real genesis of what Marvel would become.

I love that this was way over the top and often times hokey. It showed two of the greatest creators in the history of the medium trying to develop a solid formula for visual storytelling. Plus, this has so much heart in it that it’s hard to not grin from ear to ear while reading it.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: other Marvel Masterworks collections.

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.

Film Review: Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019)

Also known as: Spider-Man: Homecoming 2 (informal title)
Release Date: June 26th, 2019 (Hollywood premiere)
Directed by: Jon Watts
Written by: Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers
Based on: Spider-Man by Stan Lee, Steve Ditko
Music by: Michael Giacchino
Cast: Tom Holland, Samuel L. Jackson, Zendaya, Cobie Smulders, Jon Favreau, J. B. Smoove, Martin Starr, Jacob Batalon, Marisa Tomei, Jake Gyllenhaal, Peter Billingsly, J.K. Simmons (cameo), Robert Downey Jr. (archive footage), Jeff Bridges (archive footage), Ben Mendelsohn (cameo)

Columbia Pictures, Marvel Studios, Pascal Pictures, Sony Pictures, 129 Minutes

Review:

“Don’t ever apologize for being the smartest one in the room.” – Mysterio

After Avengers: Endgame I don’t feel as invested in the Marvel Cinematic Universe as I was for the last eleven years. At this point, I feel like I don’t have to watch every movie Marvel puts out and I’m just going to see things based off of how I feel about the trailers on a film by film basis.

However, I liked the first Tom Holland starring Spider-Man film and I also like Jake Gyllenhaal and the character of Mysterio, so I wanted to give this movie a shot.

I’m glad that I did, as it exceeded any of the expectations I had for it and is a better film than its predecessor, Spider-Man: Homecoming, as well as the pretty lackluster and confusing Endgame. It’s also much, much better than Captain Marvel and is thus, the best MCU movie of 2019.

I know that Tom Holland has been criticized by some but I dig his Spider-Man. I also know that some have criticized his relationship with Tony Stark but I enjoy it, as he’s a kid that’s already dealt with a lot of loss in his life and he’s needed a father figure to look up to. Is it a bit over the top? Yeah, probably. However, it’s still believable and you can’t help but to be touched by their immense bond over the films where they shared scenes.

And that carries over really well here in how the whole plot is structured around Peter Parker evolving beyond just being Stark’s sidekick. He has to become a man here and the whole story is a test to see if he is actually worthy of Stark’s empire, as Stark believed he was.

On top of that, it was really refreshing to have Jon Favreau return as Happy Hogan to help Peter along the way. I feel as if the Hogan/Parker dynamic can and will evolve into something just as strong as what Peter had with Tony. But it’s probably a more mature bond, as Parker doesn’t idolize Hogan like he did Stark but instead bonds with him over the two men losing a dear friend.

Adding another layer to that is the inclusion of Quentin Beck a.k.a. Mysterio, who Parker tries to envision as his new Tony Stark. Obviously, things go sideways in that regard, as Mysterio is one of Spidey’s greatest villains but the scenes between Holland and Gyllenhaal’s Mysterio are really f’n good.

I’m still not keen on the other teenagers in the film but they serve their purpose and they don’t get in the way too much. MJ also evolves nicely and even if she is sort of a millennial hipster cynic, she finally lets Peter in and shows a more endearing side to her character.

The story is well structured and it flows at a perfect pace. While they alter Mysterio’s backstory, the alteration is somewhat of an improvement, as it makes more sense in the cinematic world that this Spider-Man lives in. And what’s best about the whole thing, is the new angle makes sense and it allows for Mysterio to be more powerful than he traditionally is in the comics. He’s smarter, more cunning and has Stark’s toys at his disposal.

We also get Nick Fury and Maria Hill back but there is a twist to that. Still, it’s good to see them and I wish that Marvel would use Cobie Smulders’ Hill more than they have over the last decade.

I wasn’t initially keen on the European setting, as Spider-Man is really in his element in New York City. However, it works for the story and the final act taking place in London made up for the lack of skyscrapers and architectural scale that was missing in the earlier parts of the film.

All in all, this was an energetic, emotional and fun movie. It hit the right marks and even though this is really fresh in my mind, I’d have to say that it’s the second best Spider-Man film ever made after 2004’s Spider-Man 2.

Rating: 8.75/10
Pairs well with: all the MCU films featuring Tom Holland’s Spider-Man.

Film Review: Captain Marvel (2019)

Release Date: February 27th, 2019 (London premiere)
Directed by: Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck
Written by: Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck, Geneva Robertson-Dworet, Nicole Perlman, Meg LeFauve
Based on: Captain Marvel by Stan Lee, Gene Colan, Carol Danvers by Roy Thomas, Gene Colan
Music by: Pinar Toprak
Cast: Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, Ben Mendelsohn, Djimon Hounsou, Lee Pace, Lashana Lynch, Gemma Chan, Annette Bening, Clark Gregg, Jude Law, Kelly Sue DeConnick (cameo)

Marvel Studios, Walt Disney, 124 Minutes

Review:

“You are Carol Danvers. You were the woman on that black box risking her life to do the right thing. My best friend. Who supported me as a mother and a pilot when no one else did. You were smart, and funny, and a huge pain in the ass. And you were the most powerful person I knew, way before you could shoot fire through your fists.” – Maria Rambeau

This was the first Marvel Cinematic Universe movie that I didn’t see in the theater. Frankly, it looked boring and unimaginative and it really has nothing to do with the controversies surrounding the film regardless of what side of the argument your fanboy/girl heart lies on.

Seeing it now, I wasn’t wrong.

This is a drab, mostly pretty boring film. Also, it looks cheap compared to other Marvel movies. This looks more like an episode of a CW superhero show than a film produced by Disney and Marvel. And it’s kind of underwhelming and depressing, really. Especially since this had its fair share of outer space stuff, which Marvel has handled exceedingly well with Thor: Ragnarok and both Guardians of the Galaxy outings.

I think part of the problem is that this film had too many creatives trying to steer the ship. It had two directors and five writers. Fuck, guys… just pick a team of a few people like your best movies and let them make the magic happen. Films made by committees rarely wow anyone.

In regards to Brie Larson, she is, as I’ve said in reviews of other films, a charisma vacuum. She makes charismatic actors around here give uncharismatic performances. Sam Jackson and Jude Law are typically very charismatic and fun to watch. Here, they’re about as entertaining as sleeping dogs.

Throughout this entire film, Brie was told that she’s too emotional yet she barely shows any actual emotion and just delivers her lines with a blank face in monotone. She also does this juvenile smirk all the time that just makes her look like a middle aged soccer mom thinking that she’s still youthful, cute and wishes she was still in high school so she could cozy up to the mean girls.

If this film wasn’t part of the larger MCU canon, it would have come and gone and been completely forgotten already. It’s not even bad to where people can talk for years about how much of a shitshow it was like Catwoman. But this is the future that Disney apparently wants and between this dead on arrival, boring ass film and the slapped together, clusterfuck that Avengers: Endgame was, makes me think that the MCU‘s expiration date was 2019, just a year after it celebrated it’s 10th anniversary.

Usually for a film of this caliber, I’d have a lot more to say. But there isn’t much to talk about with this one. It’s a waste of time, it carries an obvious agenda with it and like things that are trying to be political statements, it fails at conveying that message in a meaningful or genuine way.

Plus, everyone and their mother has torn this film apart already. I don’t think it’s as bad as many people do but it’s certainly a soulless, unemotional, pointless film more concerned with its place in history and trying to challenge societal ideals in the laziest way possible than it is trying to be a fun, escapist piece of entertainment.

But hey, this isn’t as bad as Joss Whedon’s Avengers: Age of Ultron, which still takes the cake as Marvel’s worst. I would put this in my bottom two or three though.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: Everything else in the MCU, I guess.