Comic Review: The Evolutionary War

Published: 1988
Written by: Gerry Conway, Steve Englehart, Louise Simonson, Chris Claremont, Steve Gerber, Mark Gruenwald
Art by: various

Marvel Comics, 704 Pages

Review:

It has been years since I’ve read this giant crossover event that happened in the Marvel annuals over the summer of 1988. I really dug the hell out of it when I was a kid and I’ve always liked the High Evolutionary as a big villain, even though this was really his only major story.

Being that I still own the physical copies of all these issues, I figured that taking them out of their protective bags and boards and thumbing through them once again would be a fun experience.

Overall, this is one of the best large crossover events that Marvel did in the ’80s, where these things started to become the norm. I think I liked Atlantis Attacks slightly more but I’m going to revisit that one in the very near future, as well.

This is spread over eleven issues and there are two others that tie into this but aren’t a part of the main arc. However, the main arc is sort of a loose one, as the scheme of the High Evolutionary weaves in and out of these issues without most of the heroes coming into contact with one another. In fact, it isn’t until the final issue where a group of former Avengers come together and realize what’s happening and with that, they foil the High Evolutionary’s plans.

Sometimes the main arc is just very minimally wedged into a story like with The Punisher annual, which sees Frank Castle fighting drug lords in Latin America. Knowing what we know already, we see Castle fight a robot that we know is associated with the High Evolutionary and we know that the drugs being pushed by this specific cartel is tied to the High Evolutionary’s experiments.

Being that these are annuals, there are always main stories and then shorter backup stories tacked on to the end of the issues. The backup stories in these tell the origin of the High Evolutionary and recap everything he’s been involved with up to this point. These were all rather good and interesting and it shows the character as a sort of high-tech Dr. Moreau from the famous 1896 H. G. Wells sci-fi/horror novel The Island of Doctor Moreau.

In the end, this was a hell of a lot of fun to revisit. The writing and art were handled by a team of Marvel’s best creatives from the era. I dug the art a lot and it was damn consistent throughout.

Rating: 7.5/10

Comic Review: The Eternals: To Slay A God/Manifest Destiny

Published: 2008-2009
Written by: Charles Knauf, Daniel Knauf, Fred Van Lente
Art by: Daniel Acuna, Pascal Alixe, Eric Nguyen

Marvel Comics, 258 Pages (total, both volumes)

Review:

I’ve got to say, this was a pleasant surprise. Especially, because this series followed the more well-regarded Neil Gaiman run on The Eternals, which I really wasn’t a fan of, at all.

My only real issue with it was that the story seemed large enough that it probably should’ve crossed over into other comics, as it had members of just about every important Marvel team show up in this story. Plus, with a gigantic Celestial just standing around near the Golden Gate Bridge, you’d probably expect a large contingent of heroes to be there, on the defense.

Looking beyond that, Iron Man was directly involved in the story and this was during the time when he was the director of S.H.I.E.L.D., so I’m sure he had some pull with the other primary heroes of Earth, who might be a bit weary of the Celestial just camping out near a major city and massive landmark.

The story here was pretty good, though. I dug this quite a bit and it was my favorite Eternals thing outside of the original Jack Kirby run in the ’70s and The Eternals Saga massive event that took place in the pages of The Mighty Thor from 1978 to late 1980.

I feel like even if you aren’t too familiar with these somewhat obscure Marvel characters, the writers of this series did a good job of cluing the reader in to who they are. The only thing the reader might be missing is all the extra context that comes with reading the earlier comics.

This story really ups the ante in a cool way and it draws The Eternals into the mainstream more, having them exist more directly with so many of Marvel’s core characters.

I thought that the art in this series was also damn good. It really embodies that mid-’00s Marvel art style but I really enjoyed that look at the time and still do, as the ’10s came with some really questionable and downright awful artistic choices by the company.

Sadly, this run on the series didn’t last very long and that’s why I just merged both collected trade paperbacks into one review. For whatever reason, this team has never had long runs and haven’t been popular amongst fans. While I like them, it makes me wonder why they would introduce them into the Marvel Cinematic Universe when there are still so many more interesting and popular characters that they haven’t used yet.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other runs of The Eternals over the years.

Comic Review: Eternals by Neil Gaiman

Published: June 18th, 2008
Written by: Neil Gaiman
Art by: John Romita Jr.

Marvel Comics, 231 Pages

Review:

The thought of reading an Eternals comic written by Neil Gaiman was an exciting one. I loved the original Jack Kirby series, as well as the second big Eternals story that saw them appear in the pages of The Mighty Thor for over a year.

Sadly, this was an underwhelming disappointment.

What sucks even more about this is that the art was done by John Romita Jr., one of my favorite artists, whose work I fell in love with when I discovered him during Ann Nocenti’s Daredevil run.

The big problem with this story is that it’s just really boring. It features many of the core Eternals characters, brings in the Celestials and the Deviants, while also featuring Iron Man, Yellowjacket and Wasp. Still, it’s drab and reading this was a slog.

I really wanted to like it. It seemed like a potential perfect storm of awesomeness. It just left me feeling bored and empty.

It’s hard to peg why this didn’t work but maybe Gaiman was resting on his laurels. While I mostly liked the Romita art, it also felt like it was unfinished. Maybe the coloring was the issue but for whatever reason, nothing truly popped off of the page.

Frankly, this was a weak effort and a really forgettable comic regardless of the names attached to it.

Rating: 5/10
Pairs well with: other earlier Eternals stories, primarily those by Jack Kirby and their early crossover with Thor.

Comic Review: Civil War II

Published: February 1st, 2017
Written by: Brian Michael Bendis
Art by: Jim Cheung, Oliver Coipel, David Marquez, Marko Djurdjevic (cover)

Marvel Comics, 317 Pages

Review:

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.

Comic Review: The Eternals: Secrets From the Marvel Universe – One-Shot

Published: December 18th, 2019
Written by: Mark Gruenwald, Peter B. Gillis, Ralph Macchio
Art by: Rich Buckler, Ron Wilson, Todd Nauck (cover)

Marvel Comics, 54 Pages

Review:

I had no idea that this Eternals one-shot was coming out until I saw it on the shelf at my comic shop last week. I picked it up and figured I’d give it a read without knowing much about it.

It’s a series of short stories making this an Eternals-centric anthology. The stories mostly serve to add more to the Eternals mythos, as they go deeper into the team and the Celestials’ origins while also covering the creation of the Inhumans.

The book features most of the important Eternals, as well as the Celestials, but it also makes room for the Kree, Ronan the Accuser, the Supreme Intelligence and the Inhumans themselves.

The stories are mostly written by Mark Gruenwald but we also get a story each from Peter B. Gillis and Ralph Macchio.

The art style is very Jack Kirby-esque, which gives the book the classic look that the original Kirby stories had. It really sets the tone, makes this feel like a real throwback and ultimately, taps in to the same sort of feelings one got reading those original Eternals comics in the mid-to-late ’70s.

The Eternals: Secrets From the Marvel Universe is a pretty cool comic for 2019 standards. It fits well within the already established early stories while building off of them and giving Eternals fans more meat to chew on.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: Jack Kirby’s original run on The Eternals.

Comic Review: Doom: The Emperor Returns

Published: 2001-2002
Written by: Chuck Dixon
Art by: Leonardo Manco

Marvel Comics, 67 Pages

Review:

I dug the hell out of this miniseries when I read it over a dozen years ago. Because of that, I wanted to revisit it.

I typically love Chuck Dixon’s writing and as interesting as this story is, the greatness of Dixon is eclipsed here by the stupendous art of Leonardo Manco.

This book looks absolutely dynamite! While I might not be huge on Manco’s design for Doom’s mask in this story, everything else looks great. I especially liked the look of Doctor Octopus and the evil Celestial character.

Now the story is a bit batshit. It’s shows Doom rise to power on a planet of his own design. Even though he achieves control over his domain, as he’s always wanted, he does grow somewhat bored with his position. He feels empty and incomplete. It sort of harkens back to the David Michelinie Emperor Doom storyline from 1987.

While all this is going on, Franklin Richards is a part of the story and things seem strange. By the end, Doom’s empire crumbles but he is also brought back into the real realm. It’s kind of complicated to explain but I don’t want to ruin the story for those interested in checking it out.

Chuck Dixon crafted a well thought out and interesting tale that peeled back some layers on the Doom character and his motivations while staying true to the great stories before this.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: Doom by the same creative team, as well as the Emperor Doom graphic novel.

Comic Review: Uncanny X-Force, Vol. 3 & 4: The Dark Angel Saga – Books I & II

Published: May 23rd, 2012 (Vol. 3), August 15th, 2012 (Vol. 4)
Written by: Rick Remender
Art by: Rich Elson, Billy Tan, Mark Brooks, Scot Eaton, Andrew Currie, Andrew Hennessy, Jerome Opena, Robbi Rodriguez, Dean White

Marvel Comics, 274 Pages (total)

Review:

This is the big story arc where this highly regarded comic series really came together for me. I was patient, I liked the build of the two volumes before this and I was happy to discover that this was going somewhere solid.

The Dark Angel Saga is broken out into two volumes but I’m reviewing it as one body of work because that’s the best way to talk about it and because these Uncanny X-Force TPBs are too short.

Overall, the story reminds me of the late ’80s/early ’90s X-Men crossover events. This is actually smaller in scale and didn’t crossover with multiple books but it just had that feel, as the story itself is pretty grandiose. And frankly, I’m surprised it was contained in just one comic.

Rick Remender had a vision for this title and this is where that truly becomes clear.

This is a team made up of several characters I love, as well as Fantomex, who I didn’t know before this but have grown to like over the course of this comic.

The focus of the story is on the continued inner turmoil of Angel/Archangel. Now that Apocalypse is dead, his body and mind are slipping into darkness, as he is supposed to evolve into the next Apocalypse.

The story also takes us into the dimension from the Age of Apocalypse epic. Our X-Force team finds allies in the X-Men team of that dimension, which adds some really cool subplots to the story, as characters are reunited and some are very different than their regular versions.

The Dark Angel Saga is well choreographed and written, balancing a ton of characters, introducing new ones but still giving us something pretty focused that tells its story well and isn’t bogged down by a large ensemble and the problems that come with that.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: the rest of Rick Remender’s Uncanny X-Force run.

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: X-Men ’92

Published: 2016-2017
Written by: Chad Bowers, Chris Sims
Art by: Mirati Firmansyah, Coby Hamscher, David Nakayama (cover)
Based on: the X-Men animated series by Fox Kids

Marvel Comics, 240 Pages

Review:

If you were a kid in the ’90s, you probably watched the X-Men cartoon that used to be on Fox on Saturday mornings. It was solid, did a pretty good job of adapting some of the comic book’s big storylines and introduced a lot of non-comic reading kids to the X-Men franchise.

It ended after a few seasons and never really had a proper follow up. Well, that is until recently, as the show moved into the medium it was born out of: comic books.

Maybe this took its cues from DC Comics and how they came out with Batman ’66, a comic book series that revisited the 1960s Adam West Batman TV series. But one can’t deny that Batman ’66 was a cool comic, a great idea and with that, should have inspired other comic books that continued the stories of comic book characters as they were presented in other mediums. Hell, I’m still waiting for that Batman ’89 comic that was once teased and then had those teases retracted.

But this is about X-Men ’92, which was a decent follow up to the animated series.

Overall, this was a fun read but it didn’t wow me in the same way that Batman ’66 did. Where that Batman comic felt tonally right and as if it was a true continuation of the series, X-Men ’92 throws some weird curveballs and also tries to force in way too many characters just for the sake of the creators trying to give you the animated series’ versions of these characters.

Maybe they knew this series would be short lived and therefore, they wanted to wedge in every character they could but it really becomes too much to process in the second half of this series. Also, I wasn’t a fan of devoting so much time to a Dracula/vampire story. None of that was central to the core of the cartoon and it shouldn’t have been central to the core of this comic.

Also, this feels like it is just borrowing the visual style of the TV show but it doesn’t seem to understand the tone or the spirit of it.

It’s still entertaining for fans of the source material but I wouldn’t call it a must read or all that necessary. Die hards should check it out but I can see why this didn’t make it a year where Batman ’66 has still been hanging on for quite awhile with a long running series and several crossovers.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: the animated series it’s based on, as well as ’90s X-Men comics and various spinoffs.