Comic Review: Captain America – Epic Collection: The Captain

Published: August 11th, 2021
Written by: Mark Gruenwald, Bob Layton, David Michelinie
Art by: Mark Bright, John Byrne, Kieron Dwyer, Tom Morgan

Marvel Comics, 499 Pages

Review:

The Epic Collection volume that preceded this one, laid the ground work for Steve Rogers being replaced as Captain America by John Walker, who would later become US Agent.

This volume is where Rogers goes away, Walker steps in and the series becomes really interesting, as it splits its time between the former Captain and his story, as well as the new Captain and the challenges he faces trying to fill the shoes of a man that will always be greater than him.

I enjoyed that this series kind of had a split personality for this run but it was all still tied to the core of the Captain America symbol and what it means for those who represent it and those in power who exploit it.

Where the preceding volume felt a bit “kiddie” in how it was written, the series turns pretty serious and really steps up to the plate when peeling back the layers of John Walker, Steve Rogers, both their sidekicks, the U.S. government’s involvement in all of this, as well as some important deaths and losses.

This really goes deep into the John Walker character and even though he’s been a prick up to this point and does some very dark shit, here, these issues humanize him, his situation and how he comes to the realization that even though he’s the best choice for the role of Captain America on paper, he’s still missing that x-factor that made Steve Rogers the Captain America.

The writing in this stretch of issues really went to another level, which I think was important in conveying the weight of this story. This also had real gravitas and minor characters that initially don’t seem to matter too much, mean a lot to you when certain things transpire, which I won’t spoil.

All in all, I really enjoyed the hell out of this and it’s far superior to Disney’s loose adaptation of it in The Flacon and the Winter Solider.

Rating: 8/10

Comic Review: Moon Knight – Epic Collection, Vol. 3: Final Rest

Published: December 19th, 2018
Written by: Doug Moench, Steven Grant, Tony Isabella, Alan Zelenetz
Art by: Bill Sienkiewicz, Kevin Nowlan, Joe Brozowski, Bo Hampton

Marvel Comics, 486 Pages

Review:

Well, I’ve gotta say that as much as I’ve loved the other early Moon Knight – Epic Collections that I’ve read, this one most definitely takes the cake! In fact, it’s pretty f’n perfect, even if it features issues with different creative teams.

It kicks off with Doug Moench writing and Bill Sienkiewicz doing the art. They had lead me through the series through pretty much its entirety up to this point. However, just a few issues in, creative teams shift and then later, shift again.

Regardless of that, the tone of the stories and the art remained pretty damn consistent. And this just reminded me of the level of quality control and consistency that Marvel used to have, which they are sorely lacking today.

This kicks off with a really awesome story featuring Stained Glass Scarlet, who has become a character I really like after reading just her first two appearances.

We then get the even better debut story of Black Spectre, which became my favorite Moon Knight story up to this point in the original series’ run. Frankly, it’s one that will be really hard to top.

After that, we get a lot of stories that continue to develop the character of Moon Knight and his inner battle with his multiple personalities. I’d say my favorite story arc of the lot is the werewolf one, though. And man, I loved the art style used for the werewolf, as it reminded me of The Howling, which probably inspired the design, as that film came out just a few years before this was originally published.

There’s also appearances by the X-Men, the Fantastic Four, Doctor Strange and Moon Knight’s first encounter with The Kingpin.

This was just an incredible stretch of issues and while I own some, I may actually seek out the single issues and complete this run.

Rating: 10/10

Comic Review: Daredevil: Return of the King

Published: November 6th, 2014
Written by: Ed Brubaker
Art by: Michael Lark, David Aja, Marko Djurdevic (cover)

Marvel Comics, 142 Pages

Review:

Daredevil: Return of the King was a fitting end to the Ed Brubaker run on the series, as well as what was the Marvel Knights run, which saw the comics released under that banner come with more grit, more realism and more adult storylines and themes.

With this story arc, Daredevil returns to the classic “Legacy” numbering, as it ends at issue 500 and then another creative team takes the series over following that impressive milestone.

This kicks off by bringing The Kingpin back into the story. He’s been gone awhile but the way he’s brought back is fucking dark but really cool. This event also changes him and he decides to work with Daredevil in an effort to finally take down The Hand and a very deadly threat to them both: Lady Bullseye.

This also wraps up some of the core storylines that started during the Brian Michael Bendis era and then rolled over into Brubaker’s. By the end of this, the series sort of has a clean slate to go forward in a new way for the next creative team.

For those who read my earlier reviews in this series, you know that I initially liked Bendis’ run but then it felt aimless and sort of got annoying. Brubaker stepped in and really cleaned up Bendis’ mess in a way that worked and sort of reset the series.

This story arc is a culmination of everything that came before it and it’s also an all out war. Honestly, once you get to the end, it feels like you need to let out a very big breath because we’ve reached a definitive conclusion to over 100-plus issues of pretty intense events.

Frankly, this was a prefect ending to a hell of a run. Granted, Daredevil keeps moving forward beyond this but had the series ended, I would’ve been more than satisfied. What a great arc with real meaning and purpose.

Rating: 10/10

Comic Review: The Amazing Spider-Man – Epic Collection: Cosmic Adventures

Published: July 31st, 2014
Written by: Gerry Conway, Stan Lee, David Michelinie
Art by: Sal Buscema, Steve Ditko, Colleen Doran, Gil Kane, Erik Larsen, Todd McFarlane, Alex Saviuk

Marvel Comics, 501 Pages

Review:

When I was a kid and probably because I was a kid, nothing seemed cooler than Spider-Man getting cosmic powers. Basically, seeing him become a hero more akin to Superman was a neat idea and it felt like it upped the ante, as it also brought with it, bigger and badder villains than his typical foes.

However, this also happened during the Acts of Vengeance crossover event, which saw Marvel villains switch which heroes they would fight, thinking that taking on different heroes would give them a tactical advantage and catch the good guys off guard.

So with that, Spider-Man got to tie up with tougher foes anyway. However, these foes were the ones caught off guard by Spidey’s new cosmic abilities, which evolved from issue-to-issue and also surprised Spidey.

One thing that this short era of Spider-Man did was it shook up the series and made it kind of fresh. But sometimes, that isn’t the best thing to do. Especially, if something isn’t broken and Spider-Man comics in the late ’80s weren’t broken.

Reading this now, this saga is really a mixed bag. Some single issues collected within are entertaining while others just seem like they’re just not hitting the typical Spider-Man beats.

Still, this was cool to experience a second time, over three decades later. It’s not my favorite era of Spider-Man comics but it’s strange and different enough that long-standing Spidey fans who haven’t read it, might want to check it out.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: other Spider-Man stories of the ’80s and early ’90s.

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.