Comic Review: The Amazing Spider-Man – Epic Collection: Ghosts of the Past

Published: July 4th, 2019
Written by: Craig Anderson, Peter David, Tom DeFalco, Danny Fingeroth, Bob Layton, Stan Lee, Louise Simonson
Art by: Sal Buscema, Paty Cockrum, Ron Frenz, Mike Harris, Greg Larocque, Bob Layton, Bob McLeod, Mary Wilshire

Marvel Comics, 473 Pages

Review:

Being that this beefy volume was an Epic Collection, it was chock full of several story arcs. Luckily for me, most of them were really good. But then this also came out in a great era for The Amazing Spider-Man comic series.

The first big arc features Hobgoblin and it is a follow-up to Spider-Man: Origin of the Hobgoblin, which I recently reviewed and f’n loved. In fact, I think it’s the first Hobgoblin story after the arcs that were featured in that superb collection.

Beyond the Hobgoblin story, we get about a half dozen short arcs featuring a myriad of villains and other heroes. This also includes the first appearance of Silver Sable, which was a pretty neat story.

After the Hobgoblin stuff, the two that really stick out are the one where Frog-Man and Toad team-up and the Firelord story that brought in the Avengers.

The Frog-Man and Toad tale was goofy and just filler but it was also fun and engaging. However, I’ve also always liked Frog-Man, despite his ineffectiveness as a real threat to anything.

The Firelord story was cool as hell, as Spider-Man was truly tested, as the villain is a cosmic powered being and damn near invincible when facing off against a sole Earth hero. The Avengers had to get involved and it also showed Spider-Man coming pretty close to going over the edge. Knowing what I know now, it was probably due to the effects of him recently wearing the Venom suit.

In the end, this was a cool run of issues. It takes place between Spidey getting the Venom suit and his first encounter with Venom. He switches between the classic red-and-blue suit and the safe black suit throughout this. I always found that confusing when I was a kid, as I wish he just would’ve worn the black outfit for that stretch.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: other Spider-Man stories of the ’80s and early ’90s.

Comic Review: Daredevil by Ed Brubaker & Michael Lark – Ultimate Collection, Book 1

Published: June 4th, 2020
Written by: Ed Brubaker
Art by: David Aja, Michael Lark, Tommy Lee Edwards (cover)

Marvel Comics, 304 Pages

Review:

After Brian Michael Bendis’ run on Daredevil ended in a weird spot because the guy just doesn’t know how to finish, we were treated to Ed Brubaker’s solid stint on the title.

Brubaker had his work cut out for him, considering where the character of Daredevil was when this started and because Bendis literally spent about fifty issues going back and forth on whether or not the public knew Matt Murdock was Daredevil and still didn’t give that extremely drawn out, tiresome and annoying plot a definitive end.

So Brubaker still has that bullshit to try and resolve while also having to figure out what to do with the title character being locked up in prison. Oh, and there’s the whole thing about Daredevil’s flash in the pan ex-wife that Bendis had to clunkily wedge into the mythos with romantic cringe that made me question the writer’s manhood.

Anyway, Brubaker doesn’t waste any time trying to make magic out of Bendis’ J. J. Abrams style ending.

So we start with Murdock in jail and with that, we see him have to survive while being locked up with a lot of the criminals he put there, including The Kingpin, The Owl, Bullseye, Hammerhead, Gladiator and a slew of others. We also see The Punisher get himself arrested, so that he can also go to jail in an effort to help Murdock survive in there.

On the outside, we have someone else posing as Daredevil, while Foggy Nelson and Dakota North work to get Matt out of prison. Pretty early on in the story, Foggy is murdered while visiting Matt in jail. This sets Matt off on a revenge quest within the prison walls and with that, we get one of my all-time favorite Daredevil story arcs.

Following the prison story, we see Matt go to Europe, as there are more layers to the mystery surrounding Foggy’s death. This second half of the story is pretty fucking great too and the ending wasn’t anything I expected. It also satisfied, unlike the end of Bendis’ tenure on the book.

Beyond the story, the art in this is superb. Brubaker worked with Michael Lark, who is an artist that he actually works with fairly regularly. In this series, Lark really captured the already established tone and vibe of the Marvel Knights era of the Daredevil series. Lark was probably the perfect guy to pick up this ball and run with it, as he’s done a lot of the more gritty noir-esque comics that Brubaker has written over the years.

If you are a fan of Daredevil and haven’t read this story, you probably should. It’s one of my favorites of all-time and this Ultimate Collection joined both halves together in one volume. Although, you can also find the two stories as two separate trade paperbacks under the title The Devil, Inside and Out (Vol. 1 and 2).

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

Comic Review: The Lethal Foes of Spider-Man

Published: 1993
Written by: Danny Fingeroth
Art by: Scott McDaniel

Marvel Comics, 97 Pages

Review:

I recently revisited and reviewed one of my favorite miniseries in my youth, The Deadly Foes of Spider-Man. I was pretty impressed by it and so I wanted to read its sequel, which I missed when I was a kid.

Unfortunately, this one is a much weaker miniseries.

I think the biggest reason for that was because this one was just overloaded with characters, the villains weren’t really unified at any point and it was more like a Royal Rumble than a story about Spider-Man having to overcome a team of enemies with the objective of defeating the hero through shear numbers.

This picks up some of the plot threads from the previous story but honestly, everything seemed pretty much resolved already. Adding on to those stories didn’t really generate anything meaningful or that interesting.

I really liked the Sinister Syndicate team from Deadly Foes but only half of them returned and then we had other villains kind of randomly thrown in.

The story wasn’t necessarily hard to follow but it was a mess.

I’m not sure what went wrong but trying to do too much for the sake of simply upping the ante isn’t really a good approach.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: The Deadly Foes of Spider-Man and The Superior Foes of Spider-Man.

Video Game Review: The Punisher (NES)

This is a terrible game and it’s always been a terrible game.

That doesn’t mean that I didn’t play the hell out of it when I was a kid because frankly, I loved Marvel Comics and this was the closest thing to the arcade game Operation Wolf that I owned on a home console.

Sadly, like most early Marvel games for the Nintendo Entertainment System, this just sucked. I tried to convince myself otherwise but the controls were dog shit and the game was hard as fuck, especially on the tedious boss fights.

The big problem with the difficulty is that it becomes impossible to dodge all the gunfire, missiles and grenades lobbed at you. You become quickly overwhelmed as the game advances and the opportunities to gain some extra life are too far and few between.

The graphics are also shit and this looks like a game that was rushed or just designed pretty half-assed.

Additionally, the villain roster was pretty generic, except for Jigsaw and The Kingpin. The reason for this could also be because the regular Punisher comic book series was still only a few years old when this was made. That doesn’t mean that they couldn’t have used other street level villains from the larger Marvel universe like Hammerhead, Tombstone, The Owl, Bullseye, Boomerang, Taskmaster, Crossbones, Typhoid Mary, Mister Fear, The Rose, The Gladiator, etc.

Hell, what’s with the fucking android boss? They could’ve designed it to look like a Doombot or mini-Sentinel.

I know, I know… I’m asking too much for a basic bitch 1990 Marvel game.

Rating: 4/10
Pairs well with: other 8-bit side scrolling shooters or other terrible 8-bit Marvel games.

TV Review: Spider-Man (1994-1998)

Original Run: November 19th, 1994 – January 31st, 1998
Created by: John Semper, Bob Richardson, Avi Arad, Stan Lee
Directed by: Bob Richardson
Written by: John Semper, various
Based on: Spider-Man by Stan Lee, Steve Ditko
Music by: Kussa Mahchi, Jeremy Sweet, Shuki Levy, Joe Perry, Shuki Levy, Kussa Mahchi, Udi Harpaz
Cast: Christopher Daniel Barnes, Ed Asner, Jennifer Hale, Roscoe Lee Brown, Mark Hamill, Hank Azaria, Joseph Campanella, Martin Landau, Richard Moll, Don Stark, Dawnn Lewis, Majel Barrett, David Warner, Earl Boen

New World Entertainment Films, Genesis Entertainment, Marvel Enterprises, Fox, 65 Episodes, 23 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

After the success of the early ’90s X-Men cartoon on Fox, it was natural for the network to ask for more Marvel properties to adapt for their Saturday morning audience. The Spider-Man series was the longest running and most successful of these animated spinoffs.

While the X-Men show still stands as my favorite of these animated Marvel series, Spider-Man is a very, very close second and nearly as good.

The stories are generally well written and even if they have to take some liberties and alter the plots from the comics. This was due to time constraints and by trying to wedge in the debut of Venom really early in the series, which changes the overall timeline of events in Spider-Man’s life, greatly. Also, the showrunners probably wanted to get as many villains added into the mix, early on, so that each new episode felt fresh.

Spider-Man has a massive rogues gallery and this show utilized the core villains really damn well.

The tone of the cartoon is pretty perfect. Sure, there are cheesy and hokey bits in every episode because this is a kid’s cartoon but it does stay pretty true to the tone and style of the source material. Most importantly, it’s true to the characters and the writers obviously knew the Spider-Man mythos well.

I love this show and it’s still fun to have minimarathons of episodes. Honestly, to me, it’s one of the highlights of Disney+.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: the other animated Marvel television series from the ’90s.

Comic Review: The Deadly Foes of Spider-Man

Published: 1991
Written by: Danny Fingeroth
Art by: Al Milgrom

Marvel Comics, 103 Pages

Review:

I loved this series when it came out in 1991. My sixth grade friends and I couldn’t stop talking about it and we all thought the idea of the Sinister Syndicate was pretty cool, as they were a sort of B-level Sinister Six full of Spider-Man villains that usually don’t get as much airplay as the A-level baddies.

I wasn’t sure what to expect, reading this thirty years later, but I have to say that I was more than pleasantly surprised. This was a great story with a ton of twists, turns and backstabbery. The villains could barely get along enough to pull off one heist, so seeing them all play against one another was entertaining as hell. Each villain had their own objective and pretty quickly, those solo objectives created real friction.

This also has a few subplots that worked great.

To start, the deceased Ringer’s girlfriend is a part of the gang, as a getaway driver. However, she has revenge plans of her own and it’s neat seeing them unfold, as she sort of plays a classic femme fatale.

Also, The Kingpin gets involved and starts pulling some strings for his own reason. He adds to the chaos in a great way and plays everyone like pawns. Well, that is until a certain character surprisingly outwits him.

I liked the subplot about The Shocker too. He’s not officially in the Sinister Syndicate but he weaves in and out of the story while dealing with his overwhelming fear of Spider-Man, The Scourge and The Punisher.

Danny Fingeroth wrote a really cool, very layered and well executed story. Al Milgrom complimented that with beautiful art.

After revisiting this and loving it so much, I think I’m going to delve into its sequel soon, The Lethal Foes of Spider-Man. That one, I haven’t actually read.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: The Lethal Foes of Spider-Man and The Superior Foes of Spider-Man.

Comic Review: Wolverine and The Punisher: Damaging Evidence

Published: 1993
Written by: Carl Potts
Art by: Gary Erskine

Marvel Comics, 70 Pages

Review:

This comic was really weird but also kind of cool. It’s certainly a product of the early ’90s and with that, taps into some comic book tropes that seemed cool when I was twelve but come off as really dated and hokey, as an adult nearly thirty years later.

Which young kid in 1993 didn’t want to read a Wolverine and Punisher team up story, though? Especially, with the possibility that the two legendary badasses would actually duke it out, as the cover implies?

The real villain of this story is the Kingpin but he is working on creating a cyborg soldier with the ability to destroy the Punisher. The cyborg also has personal beef with the Punisher and is glad to do his part in trying to put him down.

Wolverine kind of just stumbles into the story and at first, he’s focused on taking down the Punisher for something heinous he believes the Punisher did. There are some plot twists and turns and nothing is exactly what it seems.

This comes to a crescendo with some badass fights and the two heroes coming together in the end. While it’s not a great read, it’s still fun and entertaining.

Also, the art style is sort of unique and not what you’d typically see from Marvel in this era. I feel like it was trying to tap into a grittier, indie style but it still works for the tone of the story.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: all the other Punisher miniseries, one-shots and graphic novels from the late ’80s and early ’90s.

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. And it didn’t give us any sort of closure to some of Bendis’ more batty experiments with the character.

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: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: the other Daredevil comics from his Marvel Knights run.