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: Daredevil by Bendis and Maleev – Ultimate Collection, Book 3

Published: October 17th, 2013
Written by: Brian Michael Bendis
Art by: Alex Maleev

Marvel Comics, 450 Pages

Review:

This is the final installment of the Ultimate Collection releases of Brian Michael Bendis’ run on Daredevil. Each of these three beefy collections forms a pretty solid trilogy that actually exceeded my expectations and reminded me of how good Bendis was when he cared, which he hasn’t for a very long time.

This is my least favorite of the three volumes and that’s mainly because it felt like it lost some steam.

The first half of this book is made up of two different stories that are self-contained and don’t really move forward the larger arc that Bendis had been working on for a few years by this point. The second half of this book then picks up those more important major plot threads but then doesn’t do much with them and leaves things even more unresolved by the end.

In fact, this has a time jump at the end that kind of just further fucked up Daredevil’s life and didn’t resolve anything that Bendis brought into the character’s story. It was some weak ass J. J. Abrams shit that tainted the entire run and not just this final book.

That’s not to say there wasn’t good stuff in this, there was. But had I been reading this run in real time, watching Daredevil struggle with the world possibly knowing his identity and seeing that dragged on for fucking years, I would’ve quit reading this.

That whole plot about people finding out Matt Murdock is Daredevil and then just seeing that life altering reveal kicked around like a goddamned hacky sack was enraging as hell. You, as the reader, were never sure what anyone actually thought about the reveal, as Bendis couldn’t commit to the story and deal with it in any sort of clear way. It was lazy and fucking dumb. It lacked finality, stakes and real consequences. Honestly, by the end, it didn’t really matter and the book was then handed off to another creative team to either resolve the issue or ignore it.

One thing that was noticeably better this time around was Alex Maleev’s art. Yes, I liked it previously but in my review of the last book in this series, I pointed out some of the issues I had with it. In this volume, those problems seemed to be fixed or a lot less apparent.

Overall, there’s a whole hell of a lot that I liked about Bendis’ Daredevil run but his finale left me annoyed and scratching my head like everything J. J. Abrams has ever started and not truly finished.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: the other Daredevil comics from his Marvel Knights run.

Comic Review: Daredevil by Bendis and Maleev – Ultimate Collection, Book 2

Published: September 15th, 2010
Written by: Brian Michael Bendis
Art by: Alex Maleev

Marvel Comics, 461 Pages

Review:

This long stretch of Daredevil issues should’ve actually been better than the ones in the first volume, as shit got real dark, things were more action packed and this went to places I didn’t expect.

The reason why I can’t rate it as high as the previous one is because of the awful romantic subplot that actually sees Daredevil get married for a short time.

I hated this plot, the new love interest and thought that it detracted from a much better story about the shifting power in the New York City criminal structure and Daredevil dealing with that while also trying to work around the public knowing his identity.

The romance plot was just too much added into an already very layered and rich story. Plus, that stuff was poorly written and I don’t want to be that guy but I don’t think that Brian Michael Bendis understands romantic interaction above a college aged level.

That being said, Bendis’ writing is great outside of the romantic shit.

Also, I love Alex Maleev’s style and tone in regards to Bendis’ story. They come together rather nicely, even if it appears as if Maleev is tracing some characters and doing digital tricks. This was originally made at the turn of the millennium and artists were experimenting with a lot of new technology at the time. Frankly, I know he used Photoshop filters because I recognize them. Still, the end result works and I’m just a traditionalist that likes things done the old school way. This is why I also don’t like Pixar movies or that style of animation.

Out of all the different story arcs collected here, I think I like the one that features The Owl the best. I liked seeing him truly unhinged and trying to wedge himself into The Kingpin’s spot as crime boss. After that, I really loved the section with Typhoid Mary, as she’s one of my favorite Daredevil villains and doesn’t get enough love, in my opinion. She also looked great in this run, even if I still prefer her original look, as drawn by John Romita Jr. back in the late ’80s.

I love the hell out of Bendis’ run on this series and it truly rivals the great runs by Frank Miller and Ann Nocenti, who still takes the cake for me.

Remove the romantic, juvenile love shit in this story and this would’ve been a perfect Daredevil collection.

Rating: 9.25/10
Pairs well with: the other Daredevil comics from his Marvel Knights run.

Comic Review: Daredevil by Bendis and Maleev – Ultimate Collection, Book 1

Published: June 23rd, 2010
Written by: Brian Michael Bendis
Art by: Alex Maleev

Marvel Comics, 411 Pages

Review:

Following the Guardian Devil and Parts of a Hole storylines, Brian Michael Bendis began his Daredevil run. While I had read much of this twenty or so years ago, I had forgotten just how good it was and that Bendis was once an exceptional comic book writer when he still obviously had the passion burning inside of himself.

This big collection of multiple story arcs didn’t have any weak parts to it.

The first story dealt with a young kid going through some serious trauma after witnessing a fight between his father and Daredevil, which left his father dead. While Daredevil was a minor character in his own story, something I tend to hate, I excused it here, as the four issue arc was so solid and brought a lot of emotion into the series to kickoff Bendis’ run. Plus, it featured Ben Urich as the main character and I’ve always loved that guy.

Following that, we get a few arcs that are really connected as one larger narrative. We see the Kingpin get taken out by a new guy in his organization’s ranks. This new guy tries to take Kingpin’s spot but ultimately pays a price for it courtesy of Vanessa Fisk, Kingpin’s wife, who has been absent for years.

Additionally, this wannabe Kingpin discovers Daredevil’s identity and with that, the world soon finds out. Matt Murdock with several of his allies has to try and fix this problem, convincing the world, somehow, that Murdock is not the masked vigilante.

All in all, this beefy volume is packed full of absolute greatness. Add in Alex Maleev’s incredible art and you’ve got one of the best Daredevil collections ever printed: a near perfect masterpiece.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: the other Daredevil comics from his Marvel Knights run.

Comic Review: Fantastic Four – Masterworks, Vol. 8

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

Marvel Comics, 270 Pages

Review:

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.

Comic Review: What If Conan the Barbarian Walked the Earth TODAY?

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

Review:

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.

Comic Review: Doctor Strange by Donny Cates

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

Review:

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.