Published: March 2nd, 2017 Written by: Stan Lee Art by: Jack Kirby
Marvel Comics, 270 Pages
I’m now eight volumes deep into the original Stan Lee and Jack Kirby run on the Fantastic Four series and it still hasn’t lost steam!
I loved this collection of issues and it even had a story that featured the Fantastic Four alongside Daredevil, Spider-Man and Thor!
Beyond that, it gave us the debut of my second favorite Fantastic Four villain (after Doctor Doom) and that’s Annihilus.
We also see Sue leave the team due to being pregnant. With that we get the Inhumans’ Crystal taking her place as the fourth member. I’ve read some issues with this team and I always really liked Crystal being added to the mix, as her and Johnny Storm’s relationship was one of my favorites from the early era of Marvel.
Additionally, we get stories with the Silver Surfer, Psycho-Man, The Mad Thinker, The Wizard and Galactus’ big return.
I love seeing what this series has grown into and how it’s evolved over this long, storied run by Lee and Kirby. Frankly, it just keeps getting better and what happened in this series really shaped what happened in the larger Marvel universe.
The stories were enjoyable, the writing was fun and as always, Kirby’s art was simply amazing.
Rating: 9/10 Pairs well with: the other Marvel Masterworks collections.
Published: February, 1979 Written by: Roy Thomas Art by: John Buscema, Ernie Chan, Glynis Wein Based on:Conan the Barbarian by Robert E. Howard
Marvel Comics, 37 Pages
I finally collected all four issues of What If? that feature Conan the Barbarian. So I figured that I’d read them all and review them. In fact, I’ve had plans to review all of the What If? comics in my collection, as some of them are great alternative takes on the heroes and villains we all love.
This is the first story to feature Conan and it’s probably the most well-known of the four. Also, it is penned by regular Conan the Barbarian comic writer Roy Thomas.
The question posed by this issue of What If? is an intriguing one, especially for the time when it came out. While Conan has been to the modern world several times since the 1970s, this was the first of those stories.
Now I can’t call it the best of those stories, as I am digging the absolute hell out of the Savage Avengers title that started last year but this took a typical “fish out of water” story and just made it more badass and cooler than they typically are.
This also features a very brief cameo by Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson but unfortunately, we don’t get to see Conan and Spider-Man tussle.
The story sees magic from Conan’s time send him to 1970s New York City, a time of rampant crime and a Times Square filled with grindhouse theaters, lots of drugs and affordable sex services. Being that Marvel likes to sell comics to kids, we don’t get to see Conan partake in any of these awesome activities.
What we do see, is Conan not knowing how to adapt to this strange land and quickly finding himself a wanted man because half naked dudes swinging swords in New York City was really frowned upon, even in the ’70s.
He also meets a cool chick that is way too trusting and they do “Conan and lady” thangs.
Ultimately, he arrives back home by the end of the issue and it left me wanting more. I get that What If? is a series of one-shots, essentially, but this really could’ve worked and been better as a multi-issue story.
In the end, it was a solid read and I liked seeing Roy Thomas’ take on Conan in the then-modern world.
Rating: 7.25/10 Pairs well with: the three other What If? comics featuring Conan.
Published: April 17th, 2019 Written by: Donny Cates, Nick Spencer Art by: Niko Henrichon, Frazer Irving, Szymon Kudranski, Rod Reis, Gabriel Hernandez Walta, Mike Del Mundo (cover)
Marvel Comics, 341 Pages
This collection of Donny Cates’ Doctor Strange run started off with a bang but then it did what most Donny Cates comics do, it went too big, too fast and became a bloated, over-the-top spectacle. But he’s even admitted that everything he writes needs to be big and epic. He’s also pointed out that he’s always trying to top the last thing he wrote.
The problem with that is that he can tell pretty good human stories with a lot of emotion that gets the reader invested. But then he Michael Bay the fucks out of everything and then has to wedge in a large amount of characters because if it’s a Cates’ story, he’s gotta blow up the universe.
Big, over-the-top spectacles aren’t necessarily a bad thing but when it’s done as much as Cates does it, he becomes a one trick pony that negatively impacts the better sides of his creative work. The spectacle ends up overshadowing the real story and you sort of get lost in it all. And after a while, it becomes ineffective, as you expect everything to reach ludicrous spreed.
When I first started reading Cates’ work, I enjoyed the grandiose-ness. However, it didn’t take long to realize that larger-than-life Armageddon scenarios were his modus operandi. And with that, he has to keep trying to top what he did before. Everything just gets bigger, faster, crazier and the next thing you know, you’re reading the Marvel Comics version of Fast & Furious 14 where it’s just stunts, speed, CGI, action, yelling and then the end credits after characters refer to each other as “family” 97 times between explosions.
I think that this formula has worked so well for Cates that he’s kind of stuck doing it now. While this Doctor Strange stuff came out before his more recent work, I might have had a very different take on it had I read it when it was current.
The problem though, is this kind of shows me where that formula started. Well, at least with his more prominent Marvel work.
As I stated in the beginning, this started out really strong and I was invested. But then everything went ape shit crazy and then it was over. It may have read better if Cates stuck around and actually wrote about the fallout from this story. But I guess he had to move on to the next thing and give us more mega-event level chaos.
This initially created a foundation for something truly great. After the first story arc, however, it immediately went to a Hell-on-Earth scenario with two dozen characters involved. Whatever emotional investment I had, disappeared, as I kept reading and it never quite circled back around to the great character work and found a way to use that within the chaotic spectacle that followed.
Rating: 6.25/10 Pairs well with: other Donny Cates comics by Marvel.
Published: February 1st, 2017 Written by: Brian Michael Bendis Art by: Jim Cheung, Oliver Coipel, David Marquez, Marko Djurdjevic (cover)
Marvel Comics, 317 Pages
Man, this was bewilderingly bad.
Historically, I’ve been pretty 50/50 on Brian Michael Bendis’ writing but man, it’s like when he did this, he already knew he was leaving Marvel. It also reads like he was given orders to use certain characters and he was begrudgingly forced to work them in. Granted, he’s also created some of the terrible modern characters.
While I’ve been well aware of the criticism that the Captain Marvel character gets in modern times, I always liked her when she was Ms. Marvel. But this new, short-haired, suddenly pushed into a leadership role Carol Danvers is not even the same character, remotely.
Based off of how she’s written here, as a self-righteous, fascist, tyrant bitch, I totally see why fans can’t stand her. If this story is an accurate portrayal of how she is post-2015 or so, I have no interest in following her character unless she’s actually made into a permanent villain. But even then, there are so many better villains I’d rather read about.
And I’m not really sure how I’m supposed to interpret her character. Is she supposed to be psychotic, god-powered, tyrannical piece of shit? Or am I supposed to empathize with her point-of-view?
What made the first Civil War so great was that you could emphasize and relate to both points-of-view and it made for a compelling read. Civil War II just made me hate Carol and every character that so easily sided with her. These characters aren’t heroes, as their actions in this story crossed the line into villainy.
Whatever. Fuck this comic. Fuck Bendis. Fuck post-2015 Marvel. But at least the art was really good.
Rating: 4/10 Pairs well with: all the other Civil War II crossover tie-in trade paperbacks.
Published: August 7th, 2014 Written by: Stan Lee Art by: Jack Kirby
Marvel Comics, 248 Pages
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 oneFantastic 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.
Published: July 11th, 2007 Written by: Tom DeFalco, J.M. DeMatteis, Terry Kavanagh, David Michelinie Art by: Mark Bagley, Sal Buscema, Ron Lim, Tom Lyle, Alex Saviuk
Marvel Comics, 335 Pages
This big crossover event started right around the time that I was mentally checking out on comics, as I had moved, gotten older and was more concerned about high school girls and trying to woo them with my heart-melting charm.
I’ve read some of the issues within the larger arc but I never sat down and read the whole thing in its fourteen issue entirety. That being said, this was kind of tough to get through.
Maximum Carnage truly embodies that old adage about there being too many chefs in the kitchen. With this, that saying doesn’t just apply to having too many writers but it also applies to this being overloaded with characters that no one cares about.
Carnage returns and with that he forms his own supervillain group. It’s kind of like the Sinister Six but it’s made up of new and D-list level villains like Shriek, Doppelganger, Carrion and Demogoblin. Apart from Carnage, all these villains suck and frankly, after reading this, they had such an adverse effect on the coolness of Carnage that I don’t really have the same opinion of him. This made him lose his luster. Granted, Marvel also fucks him over, after this, by introducing a bunch of symbiote Carnage babies.
Spider-Man is pretty much in over his head but he re-teams with Venom in an effort to stop Carnage and they also get help from Black Cat, Cloak & Dagger and a slew of other heroes that pop in and out. Morbius even shows up just to remind you that in the ’90s he was batshit crazy. We also get an appearance from Nightwatch, who was a ’90s Marvel character that blatantly ripped off Spawn just to piss off Todd McFarlane for becoming a self-made millionaire after leaving the company. They showed him!
Anyway, this is a clunky story without a real clear point to it other than Carnage is bad and he does terrible shit. This didn’t need to be fourteen issues long but Marvel was trying to bank on Carnage’s popularity. I’m sure it made money for them, at the time, but the story didn’t do much to help the Spider-Man mythos in any sort of long-term way. In fact, when people bring up Maximum Carnage nowadays, it is in reference to the old 16-bit video game and not the comic book story it was tied to.
This story featured good writers and good artists but it felt sloppily put together and like all the creative parties just kind of rushed it out or phoned it in. Some of the art, surprisingly, is actually hard on the eyes but I think that’s more to do with the colors than the illustrations. Also, I read this digitally and sometimes that can really fuck up the color of older comics.
I had some high hopes for this because I really felt like I missed out on it years ago. However, comics shouldn’t feel like doing chores. I didn’t really want to finish this but I did in order to review it, as it is considered an iconic story by many.
Rating: 4.5/10 Pairs well with: other mid-’90s Spider-Man comics and Marvel crossover events.
Also known as: 3 (trailer title) Release Date: April 3rd, 2007 (Uruguay) Directed by: Sam Raimi Written by: Sam Raimi, Ivan Raimi, Alvin Sargent Based on:Spider-Man by Stan Lee, Steve Ditko Music by: Christopher Young Cast: Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, Rosemary Harris, Thomas Haden Church, Topher Grace, Bryce Dallas Howard, J.K. Simmons, Bill Nunn, Elizabeth Banks, Ted Raimi, Bruce Campbell, Dylan Baker, Elya Baskin, James Cromwell, Willem Dafoe (cameo), Cliff Robertson (cameo), Joe Manganiello (cameo)
Marvel Entertainment, Laura Ziskin Productions, Columbia Pictures, 139 Minutes, 137 Minutes (Editor’s Cut)
“Whatever comes our way, whatever battle we have raging inside us, we always have a choice. My friend Harry taught me that. He chose to be the best of himself. It’s the choices that make us who we are, and we can always choose to do what’s right.” – Peter Parker
While this wasn’t as bad as I remembered, there are still some things that are very off about this picture.
Starting with a positive, I do like the visual tone of this film the best out of the trilogy. It abandoned that overly copper, sunset look the other ones had and most of the film takes place at night or in normal daylight.
However, the improvements in the visual look are overshadowed by the film’s very shoddy CGI effects. It’s kind of baffling but this is the worst looking film of the three when it comes to digital effects. I’m not sure if the studio cut some corners or were rushed but most action heavy CGI sequences looked like a video game. It was distracting and pulled you out of the magic.
I think it’s possible that they overextended themselves in trying to include both Venom and The Sandman, as it’s damn near impossible to create those characters, in all their glory, without the use of CGI. In fact, their battles in the film needed to be larger than life spectacles.
Now the problem isn’t the use of either villain but it’s the use of both of them at the same time. Plus, Harry Osborn also becomes the new Green Goblin.
This picture suffers across the board because trying to wedge in three villains just didn’t work from a narrative standpoint and it forced the effects artists to focus their efforts into multiple effects heavy characters.
Now the film did a superb job with The Sandman’s story and if this movie just focused on him, it could’ve actually been incredible. The Sandman gets thrown to the side at multiple points throughout the movie though, as they then have to rush through Venom’s origin in the most half-assed way possible. Then they have to deal with Harry and his Goblin thing, Peter and Mary Jane’s relationship issues, introducing Gwen Stacy and even having Peter turn into an emo douche because I guess that’s what the Venom symbiote does in the movie universe.
The narrative is disjointed as hell but where it’s good, it’s great. But every time you really get into a portion of the story, it shifts gears or throws something stupid at you. The misfires and shifts are pretty maddening, especially when there are things in the film that work and come across as spectacular. It’s like you can see the real love for these characters rise up like cream to the top but then the filmmakers stir the coffee again. By the third act, they just keep throwing hot coffee in your face.
In a nutshell, this is a clusterfuck but it’s a clusterfuck that has greatness in it. I still like the movie despite its massive flaws and for fans of Harry Osborn, his journey comes to a beautiful end. With it, the film hits you right in the feels, as you feel the pain that Peter and Mary Jane share over the loss of their dear friend and how wrecked their own relationship has become.
The film does leave you with some hope but the ending is still kind of a downer. Granted, they planned a followup (or three) to this film but those movies never happened.
In the end, this movie was a weird end to the film series. I know it wasn’t intended to be the send off for these characters but it left the film series in a strange, uncertain place. I would’ve liked to have seen this cast get to make at least one more picture but that ship has sailed.
Maybe a comic book sequel could work but with the comic industry being in the shitter, waiting to be flushed, that’s probably wishful thinking. Plus, they’ve already rebooted the film series twice since this came out.
Rating: 7.5/10 Pairs well with: the other two films in this mostly great series.
While not all licensed property video games are created equal, most in the 8-bit era were terrible. While this isn’t as good as DuckTales or the ’89 Batman game, it is actually better than most games like it. It certainly blows that Nintendo X-Men game out of the water! It’s also a lot less frustrating than the Silver Surfer game, which gave me an ulcer and a permanent lifelong migraine when I was eleven years-old.
This Spider-Man game is fairly okay but it pales in comparison to the 16-bit games like the first Genesis Spider-Man title and the much beloved Maximum Carnage.
Still, this brings together the Sinister Six and lets you fight through them all in an effort to stop their nefarious plan.
This version of the villain group consists of Doctor Octopus, Hobgoblin, The Vulture, The Sandman, Electro and Mysterio. All of them are regular Sinister Six members so I was pretty happy with the lineup, as we didn’t get stuck with some schmo like Carrion, Boomerang, Tarantula, Vermin or Shocker.
As far as design goes, the levels are pretty basic and a bit tedious to work through. Granted, the game certainly isn’t unbeatable and you can get through it with enough practice or if you’re just an 8-bit platform master.
The biggest thing working against you though, isn’t the level design and overabundance of enemies and projectiles, it’s the clunky, shitty mechanics. Spidey is a bitch to control and the physics are terrible.
When it comes to boss battles, most of them seem pretty hard the first time but once you figure out the enemy’s pattern, they aren’t too hard to beat. I actually thought the final boss, Doctor Octopus, was one of the easiest in the game.
Overall, this is both fun and frustrating. For those who grew up in this game’s era and who loved the Sinister Six story arcs in the comics, you’ll most likely enjoy this. Even if it overwhelms you about midway through, it’s not a hard game to adjust to and eventually conquer.
Rating: 6/10 Pairs well with: other side scrolling 8-bit era action games based on comic books characters.
Also known as: Spider-Man: No More, Spider-Man 2: Lives, The Amazing Spider-Man (working title), Spider-Man 2.1 (recut version) Release Date: June 25th, 2004 (Lithuania) Directed by: Sam Raimi Written by: Alvin Sargent, Alfred Gough, Miles Millar, Michael Chabon Based on:Spider-Man by Stan Lee, Steve Ditko Music by: Danny Elfman Cast: Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, Rosemary Harris, Alfred Molina, Donna Murphy, J.K. Simmons, Bill Nunn, Elizabeth Banks, Ted Raimi, Bruce Campbell, Dylan Baker, Daniel Gillies, Vanessa Ferlito, Elya Baskin, Hal Sparks, Joel McHale, Emily Deschanel, Joey Diaz, Chloe Dykstra, John Landis (cameo), Willem Dafoe (cameo), Cliff Robertson (cameo), Phil LaMarr (uncredited), Peyton List (uncredited)
Marvel Entertainment, Laura Ziskin Productions, Columbia Pictures, 127 Minutes, 135 Minutes (extended cut)
“We need a hero, couragous sacrificing people, setting examples for all of us. Everybody loves a hero, people line up for ’em, cheer for them, scream their names, and years later tell how they stood in the rain for hours just to get a glimpse of the one who told them to HOLD ON a second longer. I believe theres a hero in all of us, that keeps us honest, gives us strength, makes us noble. And finally gets us to die with pride. Even though sometimes we have to be steady and give up the thing we want most, even our dreams.” – May Parker
I always thought of Spider-Man 2 as the superior film between the first two. However, having revisited them for the first time in over a decade, I think they break even. And that’s a good thing, as the first was a wee bit better than I remembered and this one was just about the same.
I like the story and the stakes in the first one better but this film has what I consider to be one of the greatest moments in superhero film history, if not the greatest.
That moment comes at the end of the train battle where Spider-Man exposes himself to the people on the train while he is risking his own life to save them from a horrible death. Those people, in a very powerful moment, stand up for Spidey and vow to protect his identity. Shit gets me misty… every fucking time.
The rest of the film is pretty great too and while I get bored with there being a lot of romance in superhero films, Sam Raimi did a stupendous job with these pictures, as he truly captures the emotions and the heartbreak of the characters, showing both sides of the equation equally and fairly.
A lot of the credit also has to go to Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst, who played these roles greatly while also having incredible chemistry. Sure, their story gets a bit fucked up in the third film but I’ll review that one in about a week.
Another thing I like about the film is how Raimi foreshadows things to come. Spider-Man is exposed to the public, which sort of foreshadows his identity becoming known to his love Mary Jane and his best friend Harry Osborn, who has vowed to get revenge on Spider-Man for the accidental death of his father.
It also foreshadows stories to come after this film by including Dr. Curt Connors, the man who would become The Lizard, as well as J. Jonah Jameson’s son, who would become Man-Wolf. Granted, Raimi never got to explore these characters more, as Spider-Man 4 and the films following it were eventually cancelled after the third movie misfired pretty hard.
It also felt like the groundwork was being laid for a Sinister Six story, which would become a focal point of The Amazing Spider-Man films that followed but that series was also cancelled in favor of another reboot that brought Spidey into Disney’s Marvel Cinematic Universe via Captain America: Civil War and his own solo films and guest appearances that followed.
Anyway, getting back on the topic of this film, my only real criticisms of it are the same as the previous one and that’s the visual style of it and how it looks overly copper. Granted, that feels like it is less of a problem here and the visual aesthetic was a bit more fine tuned and natural looking.
Apart from that, I just don’t like Dr. Octopus as much as I liked the Green Goblin. Both characters had weird designs and outfits in these movies but with the films being so good, you quickly look passed that. But Octopus feels kind of generic and uninspiring. While I like Alfred Molina in the role, I felt like he needed more meat to chew on and a much better look. In the end, however, you do really sympathize with him when he realizes what he’s done and decides to undo his work in an effort to save New York City and redeem himself in the eyes of Peter Parker, a kid he likes and respects.
Wrapping up two movies, this picture has an absolutely perfect ending. If the series ended here, it probably would’ve been remembered even more fondly but we did get that third film that derailed everything and it sort of left a stink on top of the series. Plus, after this, it would’ve felt almost criminal not to continue on.
Rating: 9/10 Pairs well with: the other two films in this mostly great series.