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.

Comic Review: The Punisher: War In Bagalia

Published: January 9th, 2019 – May 1st, 2019
Written by: Matthew Rosenberg
Art by: Szymon Kudranski, Greg Smallwood (covers)

Marvel Comics, 119 Pages

Review:

This picks up right where World War Frank left off.

Overall, this wasn’t as strong as the first Matthew Rosenberg story arc but this builds off of it in an interesting way. However, by the end of it, you’re left empty handed because Baron Zemo evades the Punisher once again.

Still, Rosenberg is doing a stupendous job on The Punisher and I hope he sticks around for some time and keeps this momentum going.

Also, this just hits the right notes for me, as it is Frank Castle, being merciless, trying his damnedest to hunt down and kill Zemo, even if his biggest rival Jigsaw keeps getting in his way.

I’m a fan of the art style by Szymon Kudranski, it’s gritty and works for the tone. However, I have seen some criticism about how he doesn’t make characters with specific physical traits pop off of the panel in ways that you can instantly recognize.

For instance, his take on Jigsaw makes it hard to tell that you’re looking at Jigsaw unless he’s shown in close up. I agree with the criticism but it doesn’t break the book for me, as it is clear who the characters are through the story. But this should be improved upon.

While this was a pretty badass arc, it falls a bit short of the previous one because it seemed to slow the narrative down and with how this ends, it leaves Frank Castle’s hunt for Baron Zemo unfinished. While I love Zemo, he’s one of my favorite villains, period, the Punisher’s apprehension or murder of him is really being dragged out much longer than it needs to be.

But maybe Rosenberg has a solid plan for the next arc. I guess I’ll have to wait and find out.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: old school late ’80s to early ’90s Punisher and the recent Marvel Knights 20th anniversary event.

Comic Review: Marvel Knights 20th

Published: November 7th, 2018 – January 30th, 2019
Written by: Donny Cates, Tini Howard, Vita Ayala, Matt Rosenberg
Art by: various

Marvel Comics, 161 Pages

Review:

When the Marvel Knights line of comics were going strong, I wasn’t paying much attention. I was aware of them but it was the late ’90s and I wasn’t reading comic books as regularly, as I was entering my twenties and didn’t do much other than party hard and sleep little.

I have since gone back and read some of the stories from that alternate Marvel universe and I’ve liked a lot of them. So when I saw that this was coming out to commemorate the 20th anniversary, I had to check it out. Plus, one of the writers is Donny Cates, whose recent work I’ve loved and it heavily features Daredevil.

The premise was kind of cool and I did enjoy this overall. Although, it was problematic in regards to its pacing. This is due to there being too many writers chiming in over the six issues. Cates looked to be credited as the top writer for each chapter but he had different collaborators with each new installment of this miniseries.

The narrative flow was a bit off, as it took too long to get the action going. Once we get to where this needed to wrap up, it felt rushed and the twist finale seemed strange, out of place and too convenient.

There’s a MacGuffin device and all they have to do in the end is hit a button and fix everything. I love Cates but that’s just lazy, outdated 1960s comic book writing. It’s like a random wizard showing up at the end and casting a “fix it” spell, making everything that happened pretty pointless.

I was still glad that I read through this miniseries, as it featured a lot of characters I love. I can’t call it underwhelming but I did have expectations that I don’t feel were met.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: old school Marvel Knights stuff and other recent works by Donny Cates.

Comic Review: Spider-Gwen, Vol. 6: Life of Gwen Stacy

Published: September 19th, 2018
Written by: Jason Latour
Art by: Robbi Rodriguez

Marvel Comics, 111 Pages

Review:

I wasn’t too enthused going into this but I’ve gotten this far and this is the last chapter in the Spider-Gwen saga.

This series started out really good, I liked it, I was engaged by it and even if I didn’t like some of the alternate dimensional weirdness I really liked this Gwen Stacy and her story.

The fifth volume really took the wind out of the series’ sails though. This went for a Venom story because you can’t have a Spider-Person comic go on for too long and not have that obligatory Venom story. Well, that story didn’t end and it carries over into this final chapter.

But then there is even more alternate dimensional weirdness. And then things get so convoluted and reality skews so much that it’s hard to follow and a massive clusterfuck. This gave me a headache and it was really tough to get through even though it was fairly short at 111 pages.

I just finished reading this and I don’t even remember what happened other than timey wimey bullshit, multiple Gwens, Gwen going to prison, cameos out the ass and more confusion.

Also, I don’t know if Robbi Rodriguez stopped giving a shit but the art is worse than it was at the beginning of the series: significantly worse. I don’t know if he was rushed, trying to experiment or was just too busy sending pictures of his asshole out to people’s Twitter timelines.

I don’t know what this was. It ended this fun voyage like the iceberg that murdered the Titanic. And frankly, I don’t give a shit about this character anymore, even though I really dug her for the first three or four volumes.

Gwen has gone on to have a new series called Ghost Spider but I don’t even want to read it, even though its done by a new creative team.

Rating: 4.25/10
Pairs well with: Other Spider-Gwen collections.

Comic Review: The Punisher: World War Frank

Published: August 22nd, 2018 – December 19th, 2018
Written by: Matthew Rosenberg
Art by: Szymon Kudranski, Greg Smallwood (covers)

Marvel Comics, 129 Pages

Review:

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.

Rating: 9.25/10
Pairs well with: old school late ’80s to early ’90s Punisher and the recent Marvel Knights 20th anniversary event.

Comic Review: Spider-Gwen, Vol. 5: Gwenom

Published: April 18th, 2018
Written by: Jason Latour
Art by: Robbi Rodriguez, Khary Randolph (covers)

Marvel Comics, 136 Pages

Review:

I think that I took too long of a break between reading volume 4 and volume 5 of Spider-Gwen. Reason being, this felt like the title had run out of steam. Maybe that’s because it did run out of steam by this point but it could be my own fault for lacking the enthusiasm I had for this series before I took a long break.

This just didn’t hit the right notes for me but that also probably has a lot to do with this being just another story of a Spidercharacter becoming Venom. Marvel has done this to death. Apart from the original Spider-Man titles, we got to see this with Miles Morales and Otto Octavius, both fairly recently.

I’m not saying that the Gwen Stacy version of Spider-Woman shouldn’t have a Venom story but this felt forced and like the writer was pushed into this by Marvel or because this series has now be rolling for a couple years and its hard to not become formulaic. It’s almost as if a Venom story was expected.

But just because something worked a few times, doesn’t mean that it will keep working. Also, it doesn’t mean that you can’t veer away from it and do your own thing. In fact, it’s much better to do your own thing and to explore new ideas with new characters, as opposed to rehashing some tired ass shit most Spider-fans have lived through multiple times.

I’m also just getting tired of this alternate universe. I kind of like the evil Daredevil thing but it’s also become a bit tiresome, as has this version of the Punisher and just about everyone else. It’s like the comic had some good ideas for twists on these characters but there wasn’t much else there beyond those twists.

This story arc also wedges in so many characters that it feels like a mess. I’m not even sure why some of them were there other than to have cameos galore in an effort to show how different this alternate reality is. But if you haven’t already done that by volume 5, hell, by volume 2, then maybe this series doesn’t deserve to continue.

I love Gwen Stacy and I really like this take on her character but she’s got to find a purpose for existing other than just being a cool idea and a really cool costume. And I feel like that’s all that she is now.

Rating: 5.75/10
Pairs well with: Other Spider-Gwen collections.

Comic Review: Cosmic Ghost Rider: Baby Thanos Must Die

Published: July 4th, 2018 – November 14th, 2018
Written by: Donny Cates
Art by: Dylan Burnett

Marvel Comics, 112 Pages

Review:

As of late, Donny Cates has been on a level that most writers in the comic book industry aren’t even close to. Everything the guy writes is stellar and man, I hope his level of creativity maintains going into the future because I’m really excited about his Guardians of the Galaxy run starting in early 2019. And that Guardians team will also feature Cosmic Ghost Rider.

Out of all of Cates’ recent stuff, this series is my favorite overall, even though it was really just a five issue miniseries to help lead into the relaunch of Guardians of the Galaxy. But it also served as a bridge from Cates’ run on Thanos.

For those who don’t know, Cosmic Ghost Rider is Frank Castle a.k.a. The Punisher. So how did he become this bizarre mashup of a character? Well, the Punisher became a Ghost Rider and after that, was given cosmic powers by Galactus. So everyone’s favorite murderous vigilante from Marvel is basically the Punisher with Ghost Rider and Silver Surfer powers. He’s also a lot older and pretty insane.

The premise of this sees Castle try something no one else has. He goes back in time to murder Thanos as a baby. Thus, freeing the cosmos of all the death and suffering that Thanos, the Mad Titan, can unleash on the universe in the future. However, once Frank Castle confronts the baby, he can’t pull the trigger and instead, takes baby Thanos with him in an effort to raise him better. Of course, all that baby Thanos experiences while gallivanting around with Castle is lots of violence and death.

So did Cosmic Ghost Rider actually create Thanos? This explores that and throws a lot of other curveballs at you.

Plus, you get lots of cameos and crazy situations in this strange pocket of the Marvel universe. And yes, somewhere, the Punsiher still exists in his normal form because this Frank is Frank from a future timeline.

This miniseries was hands down one of the most fun comic books that I’ve read in quite awhile. It’s also badass and feels like a real throwback to ’90s “extreme” culture. It reads more like a balls to the wall indie comic I would’ve read in my teen years than anything Marvel would typically put out.

Dylan Burnett’s artwork is also enchanting and I spent a lot of time really soaking in the art of this series. Plus, I didn’t just buy a copy of each of the five issues, I also picked up a lot of the variants, as this series had great covers throughout its entire run.

I loved Cosmic Ghost Rider. It delivered in a time when so few comics from the two major companies are worth reading.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: other recent Donny Cates stuff like Death of the InhumansVenom and his Thanos stories before this.