Comic Review: The Avengers, Issues #195-196 – First Appearance of Taskmaster

Published: May, 1980 – June, 1980
Written by: David Michelinie
Art by: George Perez

Marvel Comics, 36 Pages

Review:

The Taskmaster is the shit! Which is why the two issues that make up his first appearance have been on my comic book bucket list for years. Recently, I tracked down affordable copies and finally gave his first little story arc a read.

Well, I wouldn’t call this great but if you like Taskmaster, this is still worth a look. Plus, it also has his origin wedged into the story, as he describes his abilities and history to the Avengers through flashbacks.

I think the thing that really stands out about this story and this era in Avengers history is the art of George Perez. In fact, since this is all about Taskmaster, I should point out the visual similarities between him and another George Perez creation, Deathstroke. He would create both of these iconic villains just a few months apart in 1980.

Anyway, the story sees the Avengers try to rescue the Wasp, who has been captured and is being experimented on in a castle. The Scott Lang Ant-Man and Hank Pym, as Yellow Jacket, infiltrate the castle and reach the Wasp. Once they are inside and have a scuffle, the Taskmaster makes his presence known with a big final page reveal.

In the second issue, the Taskmaster takes on the Avengers and nearly beats them. He also tells his origin story, explaining his unique skills that give him an advantage over all of the Avengers he’s observed in the past. However, we quickly discover his Achilles heel, at least in this story, as he doesn’t know how to defeat an Avengers teammate he’s never seen before.

The story is enjoyable and there is a lot of action. The real highlight is the George Perez art, though. Man, he really was one of my favorite artists from this era.

While these single issues aren’t cheap, due to them being a first appearance, you can read them on Comixology for just a few bucks.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: other Avengers stories circa 1980.

Comic Review: Avengers: Disassembled

Published: January 26th, 2005
Written by: Brian Michael Bendis
Art by: David Finch

Marvel Comics, 133 Pages

Review:

This is one of those iconic stories that you hear about all the time in comic book circles. However, I thought that the whole thing was pretty damn underwhelming for what it has been built up as.

The Avengers team gets ripped apart. It is due to the betrayal of one of their own. They don’t know that at first and when confronted with the idea, reject it.

However, the Scarlet Witch has basically gone batshit and blames all of her friends for killing her children that were never actually real to begin with but a psychotic projection of the Scarlet Witch’s will.

Yeah, does this story sound stupid to you? Because it definitely felt stupid to me. I thought Bendis was a big deal but everything I read by him is just as batshit as the Scarlet Witch, Wanda’s fucked up brain in this story. I’ve just never been too keen on Bendis, other than his earliest work on the Miles Morales Spider-Man stuff. His Superman stories, his current job, are also just some weird ass shit.

I don’t know, this book hurt my head. It’s only saving grace was superb art from David Finch and awesome action sequences.

Also, this leads into the big Civil War event that effected all Marvel titles, as well as the major X-Men events: The House of M and The Messiah Complex.

Avengers Disassembled has been talked about fondly for years by many. I’m just glad that this was only 133 pages.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: This leads into the massive X-Men stories The House of M and The Messiah Complex, also it has ramifications that carry over on the Avengers side of things and into the Civil War event.

Comic Review: Winter Soldier: Winter Kills – One-Shot

Published: December 27th, 2006
Written by: Ed Brubaker
Art by: Lee Weeks

Marvel Comics, 39 Pages

Review:

It’s been awhile since I’ve read anything from Marvel’s Civil War era but I though that I’d give this one-shot a chance, as I must have missed it back then. Plus, I like Winter Soldier and I like one-shots.

This takes place while the original Civil War was going on. It focuses on Winter Soldier trying to adjust to life after having been a brainwashed killer for so long. It also takes place on the first Christmas after he was freed from mind control while calling back to his last Christmas before everything went really bad for him, back in World War II with Captain America and Toro by his side.

This is short and sweet but it hit the mark for me.

You get to see the camaraderie between Bucky, Cap, Toro and Namor during the war and how important those relationships were. Then Bucky, now as the Winter Solider, is alone on Christmas, goes on a mission for Nick Fury and gets tied up in a fracas with Hydra, The Patriot, The Vision and the female Hawkeye, Kate Bishop.

Even though heroes find themselves on different sides of the Civil War divide, they come together out of respect for who Winter Soldier was and because it’s Christmas.

This isn’t as mushy as it sounds though. There is a lot of solid action and a good gritty tone while also critiquing what Christmas and America have become in the decades since Bucky was just a soldier in the 1940s.

Winter Kills is an enjoyable read and helps to build up Winter Soldier as a character. This also came out just before he took over as Captain America for awhile.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: Marvel’s Civil WarCaptain America: Civil War and the Ed Brubaker run on Captain America.

Film Review: Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

Release Date: April 23rd, 2018 (Los Angeles premiere)
Directed by: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo
Written by: Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely
Based on: The Avengers by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby
Music by: Alan Silvestri
Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Chris Pratt, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Don Cheadle, Jeremy Renner, Chadwick Boseman, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Tom Holland, Benedict Cumberbatch, Danai Gurira, Letitia Wright, Dave Bautista, Zoe Saldana, Josh Brolin, Tom Hiddleston, Idris Elba, Peter Dinklage, Benedict Wong, Pom Klementieff, Karen Gillan, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Gwyneth Paltrow, Benicio del Toro, William Hurt, Cobie Smulders, Samuel L. Jackson, Ross Marquand

Marvel Studios, Walt Disney Studios, 149 Minutes

Review:

“In time, you will know what it’s like to lose. To feel so desperately that you’re right. Yet to fail all the same. Dread it. Run from it. Destiny still arrives. ” – Thanos

*There be spoilers here! But I kept it as minimal as possible.

Well, this film has been ten years in the making, as it is the culmination of everything that has happened in the Marvel Cinematic Universe since Iron Man hit theaters in May of 2008. Ten years and eighteen films later, all the carefully crafted moving parts come together to create a unified front against the greatest cinematic Marvel villain of them all, Thanos.

So cramming in all these characters is a tremendous feat. And really, I think everyone’s biggest concern was how that would work. Despite my concerns and fears, I haven’t anxiously anticipated the release of a film as strongly as this one since 2008’s The Dark Knight.

But having now seen it, I finally know whether or not the Russos succeeded in successfully conquering such a tremendous feat. So did they succeed?

To quote Stone Cold Steve Austin, “Oh… Hell… Yeaaah!!!”

The way that the Russos balanced everything was incredible. It’s as if they read a ton of major comic book crossover events in preparation for this incredible task and they sort of took their cue from them.

What I mean by that is that this film handles itself like a well written crossover mega event in the comics. It segments the heroes into different groups on different missions, all fighting for the same endgame. It’s like when a crossover is spread over four different comic titles and when you read them in a collected format, you get a story where each chapter is an issue from a different comic. Like X-Cutioner’s Song from the early ’90s was spread over Uncanny X-MenX-FactorX-Men (vol. 2) and X-Force. When you read them in chronological order (or in a collected trade paperback) each issue/title focused on a specific group that was different from the previous chapter but all the stories were part of a bigger tapestry that saw everything come together. That’s exactly how Avengers: Infinity War works, which is really cool to experience in a live action format.

So you have multiple groups here: one led by Captain America that goes to Wakanda, one lead by Iron Man that goes into space, the Guardians of the Galaxy split into two groups with one of them being led by Thor and then there is Thanos’ story and he does get a lot of time to shine. In fact, he was handled better than every Marvel Cinematic Universe villain that isn’t Loki. But who knows, Thanos may still eclipse Loki when it’s all said and done.

This was a pretty long movie but it needed to be and unlike other Marvel movies that seem to run on for too long, there wasn’t a single moment where I looked at my watch or felt antsy like I needed them to wrap it up. In fact, when I got to the end, I felt like I had finally exhaled and I couldn’t get up out of my seat, there was a lot of amazing stuff to process and I sat there with a smile, completely and utterly impressed with how this turned out.

It’s obvious that the special effects are good and some of the most impressive ever created. Marvel never disappoints in that regard.

One thing that really stood out for me much more than it ever has in any other Marvel picture was the score. This film has a very good and memorable smorgasbord of booming orchestral tunes and the Avengers theme was re-imagined in some creative ways. Alan Silvestri really came up with an incredible score that serviced not just this film but served the entire franchise well. There aren’t scores like there were through the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s but this one felt like a throwback to that superior era for movie music.

If I had to compare this to anything, it’s like if someone took the best parts of both The Lord of the Rings and the original Star Wars movies and then mixed them together and replaced those films heroes and villains with Marvel characters. It truly was incredible and I can be a snobby dick that’s hard to impress sometimes. I just wish the modern comic writers at Marvel would take their cue from these movies and write comics worthy of these characters once again. But as superheroes are dying in print, they are thriving on celluloid.

Simply for the fact that I haven’t felt like this after seeing a movie in the theater since The Dark Knight, ten years ago, I have to give this film a perfect score. Sure, it’s not the greatest movie ever made but it is a f’n clinic on how to do a massive team up movie and a film that is presented on a massive scale that doesn’t lose itself and keeps you very engaged. Granted, this film also benefits from having 18 movies before it, where all of these key characters, minus Thanos, were able to be developed in preparation for this Royal Rumble of a superhero movie.

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: Everything in the MCU before this film, as it all leads up to this one.

Comic Review: The Infinity Crusade

Published: December 17th, 2008
Written by: Jim Starlin
Art by: Ron Lim, various

Marvel Comics, 488 Pages

Review:

Well, I read through the great Infinity Gauntlet storyline and followed that up with the mediocre Infinity War sequel. Naturally, I thought that I should finish the trilogy of Infinity stories with this one: The Infinity Crusade.

However, I wasn’t a fan of Magus and his whole shtick from the previous chapter in this large saga. The reason why I’m pointing that out here is because the setup is essentially the same. Where Magus was the physical embodiment of Adam Warlock’s evil side, the big threat in this story is the physical embodiment of Adam Warlock’s good side. I admit, I rolled my eyes when I was reminded that this was the setup to this story.

Frankly, I thought the plot was lame and what was even lamer was the McGuffin. No longer was the focus on the Infinity Gauntlet, now the focus was on this “Goddess” character and her Cosmic Egg. Basically, she just sits around in her giant cosmic egg using religion to brainwash a large group of heroes to be her holy army. So this is like Civil War but with religion and a giant friggin’ egg.

It also doesn’t help that there is virtually no action, this is overly talkie and just boring. Well, to be fair, the fifth issue in the six issue arc was just straight up action. But outside of that, there wasn’t anything exciting other than a few brief physical spats and some cosmic magic battles, the biggest of which featured psychically projected heads shooting laser beams at the “Goddess”.

Plus, the story suffers from being spread over several different titles. So when I read the collected edition of the main comic, there is key stuff missing from it, as it happened in another issue of a different title altogether. I get that this is how crossover events work but the two previous Infinity sagas kept the main story in the main title and the other comics just had tie-in subplots.

This whole mega event is just proof that Marvel was milking the Infinity thing way too hard. The Infinity War was just okay and then this was a disaster. Neither of them came as close to the greatness that was The Infinity Gauntlet.

Rating: 4.5/10
Pairs well with: Its prequels The Infinity Gauntlet and The Infinity War.

Ranking All the Films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe Thus Far

With the release of Avengers: Infinity War this upcoming Friday, we are on the verge of experiencing the culmination of ten years of hard work on the part of the studios, filmmakers, writers and actors involved with this massive franchise.

We are currently at the tail end of the third phase of films, appropriately called Phase 3. We have had close to twenty films already: solo movies, team-up movies and a mixture of different genres and styles all coalescing up to this point.

Having already experienced dozens of hours of entertainment since 2008’s Iron Man, I thought that it was a good time to rank all of the films that have led up to this point.

It also helps that I just revisited all of these movies in an attempt to prepare myself for Avengers: Infinity War.

So without further ado, the list!

1. Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
2. Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 (2017)
3. Captain America: The Winter Solider (2014)
4. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
5. Iron Man (2008)
6. Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
7. Iron Man 3 (2013)
8. Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)
9. The Black Panther (2018)
10. Doctor Strange (2016)
11. The Avengers (2012)
12. Thor (2011)
13. Iron Man 2 (2010)
14. Captain America: Civil War (2016)
15. Ant-Man (2015)
16. Thor: The Dark World (2013)
17. The Incredible Hulk (2008)
18. Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

Comic Review: The Infinity War

Published: April 5th, 2006
Written by: Jim Starlin
Art by: Ron Lim

Marvel Comics, 400 Pages

Review:

I just finished up The Infinity Gauntlet mega crossover event, so naturally I wanted to jump right into The Infinity War. Plus, the next Avengers movie centers around these storylines, so I wanted to revisit them, as I haven’t read them since they were fairly current back in the early ’90s.

Like its predecessor, this tale is jam packed with more Marvel heroes and villains than can reasonably fit onto one page. There are more characters in this story than the previous one and everyone is present and accounted for, unlike the first Infinity story, which saw half of the heroes (and the universe’s population) removed from existence.

Sadly, this is not as good as its predecessor. The Infinity Gauntlet was very talkie in the first half and then just broke off into three giant comic book issues of straight up action. The Infinity War has some action but it is minuscule when compared to the previous saga.

Also, Magus was a cool idea for a villain but he didn’t even come close to having the presence and intensity of Thanos. Also, Thanos is pretty much neutered in this story and is more of a hero than a villain. I get that he is in someway atoning for his actions when he had possession of the Infinity Gauntlet but it seems like it is way too soon for him to be working with the heroes of the Marvel universe, even if the situation called for it. There certainly should have been more push back from the heroes.

Ultimately, the story was boring. It was a lot of talking… A. LOT. Hell, this story was mostly just talking and talking and more talking. The overall plot was dragged down by an extreme overabundance of dialogue.

I remember really liking all the stuff tied into this event more than the event itself. In the broader universe, Marvel characters were forced to face their evil doppelgängers. I’ll have to re-read some of the single issues I have that are spunoff from this main story arc.

I feel like this book was more of a gimmick than an attempt to really continue the Infinity saga in a way that was actually meaningful. Most of the book felt like it was just full of splash pages with as many characters as possible crammed into a large room, trying to dodge their speech balloons.

This was still a mostly fun read but it was a weak followup to the far superior Infinity Gauntlet.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: The other parts of the trilogy: The Infinity Gauntlet and The Infinity Crusade.