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
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.
Pairs well with: other Spider-Man stories of the ’80s and early ’90s.
If you were a kid or a teen in the early ’90s, chances are that you’ve played this game either in the arcade or on the Sega Genesis, where it was ported and ported rather well.
If you haven’t played this but played the early ’90s X-Men arcade game, this is incredibly similar.
In fact, the graphics are really close, as is the game play, controls and general aesthetic.
This is a side scrolling, beat’em up game where you get to choose between four Avengers characters: Captain America, Iron Man, Hawkeye and The Vision. You also get some assistance from other Avengers throughout the game. Honestly, I wasn’t thrilled with the lineup and thought this could’ve used more playable characters but it’s still fun, regardless.
The game is also littered with a ton of villains, some minor and some major. The big bad of the game is Red Skull but he definitely forged a solid alliance with some of the Avengers greatest foes and a giant Sentinel robot.
The gameplay is straightforward but there are some different modes. Some level let you fly a vehicle or just fly around as Iron Man or Vision as you battle aircraft and flying robots.
Most of the game still relies on the standard beat’em style, which was super popular at the time.
All in all, this isn’t a bad game; it’s actually pretty cool. My only real complaint is that I wish it was a bit longer and that you had more characters to use.
Pairs well with: the X-Men arcade game, Spider-Man for Sega Genesis and Maximum Carnage.
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 one Fantastic 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.
Pairs well with: the other Marvel Masterworks collections.
Published: July 22nd, 2009
Written by: Mark Millar
Art by: Tommy Lee Edwards
Marvel Comics, 146 Pages
This comic book was cool as hell!
It sort of reads like it’s a season of Stranger Things but where the small town is haunted by Marvel villains instead of weird shit from the Upsidedown. This also came out in the decade before Stranger Things, so it was kind of ahead of the curve but like Stranger Things, knew how to tap into ’80s nostalgia in a brilliant way.
But this was also written by Mark Millar, a true master of his craft.
What’s unique and cool about this comic is that it doesn’t take place in the Marvel Universe, it takes place in our universe.
The story follows a young boy in 1985. He is having issues like any normal ’80s kid dealing with divorced parents. He bonds with his father pretty strongly though, as they both have a deep love of comic books and are experts on Marvel lore. At the same time, Marvel villains start showing up in the real world because there are no heroes here to stop them.
Overall, this was a really neat idea and for the most part, I thought it was superbly executed.
1985 is incredibly imaginative but it really worked so well because the art fit the concept and the tone. While Millar deserves credit for a great story, Tommy Lee Edwards gave it so much more life than just words on paper. And his style works better for the setting than having that sort of standard Marvel art style.
This is one of those comics that I’m happy to have discovered as an adult but wish would have been around when I was a kid. If you know a kid that loves Marvel but they’ve never read this, I think that they’ll probably love the hell out of it.
Pairs well with: the Stranger Things comics, as well as other Mark Millar stories.
Published: August 22nd, 2018 – December 19th, 2018
Written by: Matthew Rosenberg
Art by: Szymon Kudranski, Greg Smallwood (covers)
Marvel Comics, 129 Pages
It’s been a long time since I cared about the Punisher. So long in fact that even though I knew this new series was starting, I didn’t seek it out. It wasn’t until someone I trusted told me that I needed to check out the first issue, as it read like classic Punisher and was a no nonsense, balls out, action packed, political thriller.
They weren’t wrong. This thing was a high octane festival of testosterone overload. While that might not appeal to some people, to fans of the Punisher comics of the late ’80s to early ’90s, this comic is a true throwback to that style and tone. Although, it is modernized, it still feels like those old comics I read when I first fell in love with the character as a scrapping young comic reader and creator.
Now this story arc is full of cameos but no one distracts from Frank Castle being his best self and even when other people (heroes and villains) try to prevent his one man war, he is too driven to be deterred.
The main antagonist here is Baron Zemo, who is one of my all-time favorites and who has been underutilized outside of Thunderbolts comics. Zemo isn’t the only villain though. We also get the Mandarin, Jigsaw and some others.
The issue that sees Jigsaw confront the Punisher while he is in a jail cell is incredible. It was the biggest high point out of several. But that’s what this story arc is, it’s a lot of high points and it’s jam packed with action and even some mystery.
World War Frank is not just solid storytelling, it is one of the most solid Frank Castle stories in years.
Pairs well with: old school late ’80s to early ’90s Punisher and the recent Marvel Knights 20th anniversary event.
Also known as: Iron Man Three (original title), Caged Heat (fake working title)
Release Date: April 12th, 2013 (Munich premiere)
Directed by: Shane Black
Written by: Drew Pearce, Shane Black
Based on: Iron Man by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, Don Heck, Jack Kirby
Music by: Brian Tyler
Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Don Cheadle, Gwyneth Paltrow, Guy Pearce, Rebecca Hall, Stephanie Szostak, James Badge Dale, Jon Favreau, Ben Kingsley, Paul Bettany (voice), Ty Simpkins, William Sadler, Miguel Ferrer, Dale Dickey, Corey Hawkins, Mark Ruffalo (cameo), Bill Maher (cameo), Joan Rivers (cameo), Chris Gethard (uncredited)
Marvel Studios, Walt Disney, 130 Minutes
“A true story about fortune cookies. They look Chinese. They sound… Chinese. But they’re actually an American invention. Which is why they’re hollow, full of lies, and leave a bad taste in the mouth.” – The Mandarin
Iron Man 3 is the third and final Iron Man movie. Granted, one could make the argument that Captain America: Civil War is also Iron Man 4. And he does continue to appear in other films that are a part of the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe. But this is the last true solo Iron Man picture.
This is also the first film in the Iron Man pocket of the MCU to not be directed by Jon Favreau. Although, he does still appear on screen as his character Happy Hogan. He would also appear after this film too.
This chapter mostly deals with Tony Stark having to deal with his past demons and facing the consequences of certain decisions he made long before he was Iron Man. Also, it deals with anxiety and PTSD, brought on by Tony’s involvement in the big battle at the end of The Avengers. It takes these things pretty seriously and doesn’t pussyfoot around them. Tony Stark is very troubled and even though he’s matured and grown as a person, the past is still there to haunt him and stand in his way where he needs to move forward.
Sure, Tony’s personality and snarky sense of humor is still very present but you now start to see it as more of a defense mechanism against his own fears and insecurities. You also get to see him come out of his shell and embrace those he truly cares for: Pepper Potts, Happy Hogan and the young kid that becomes his sidekick in this film. Tony’s personal defense is let down and he stops trying to be the coolest guy in the room and shows the world that he’s a human being and not just some super powerful godlike figure.
This is the most personal Iron Man story and it succeeds because it doesn’t show Tony bullshitting his way through every situation. For one, he can’t bullshit his way out of this. Two, he’s exhausted and emotional like he never has been before. Three, the stakes have never been higher and he’s never been challenged to the core like he is here.
The film is pretty well written in regards to Tony Stark the character.
Some of the other writing is a bit shaky, especially in regards to the handling of the villain, The Mandarin. However, even though I was originally annoyed by how this part of the movie played out, it really doesn’t matter to the bigger scheme of the picture’s narrative.
A real threat existed, regardless. That threat had to be neutralized. But being a big fan of the comic and awaiting the eventual arrival of the Mandarin on the big screen, it was a real disappointment when the character’s true identity was revealed.
Granted, I still loved Ben Kingsley’s performance on both sides of the Mandarin’s coin. His comedic charm makes up for the shocking twist to some degree. And in retrospect, I enjoy it much more, five years removed from my first time seeing this movie.
I generally like Guy Pearce and was excited to see him in this but as the villain, he was pretty vanilla. He had a cool backstory and they tried to humanize him but it ultimately didn’t work out and he wasn’t as tragic of a figure as he could have been.
Another positive though, is that we get to see Tony Stark duke it out with bad guys without the advantages of having his full armor suit. I liked this approach, it showed Tony as truly heroic and not a guy hiding behind his gadgets. It showed his intelligence, his creativity and his ability to persevere when the deck is stacked against him.
Iron Man 3 is a better movie than what a lot of its detractors would have you think and when this came out, the naysayers took to the Internet in droves. I think it also plays better know within the context of the larger MCU.
Pairs well with: Iron Man, Iron Man 2, The Avengers, Captain America: Civil War.