Comic Review: Spider-Man: Life Story

Published: March 20th, 2019 – August 28th, 2019
Written by: Chip Zdarsky
Art by: Mark Bagley

Marvel Comics, 200 Pages

Review:

When I first heard about this miniseries, I was pretty stoked for it.

The concept is that it starts in the ’60s when Spider-Man debuted and it follows him over the six decades he’s existed but it does that in real time. Basically, instead of Spider-Man only aging fifteen years (or so) since his debut, this story covers his entire life span, as he ages accordingly from decade to decade.

Each of the six issues represents a decade. But that is also kind of a problem with the story too.

You see, you can’t wedge a whole decade into twenty or thirty pages of a comic. So each issue just focuses on some sort of event in Spider-Man’s life from that era.

The total package of this series is really cool and interesting but it almost feels as if each decade could’ve been a miniseries of its own and that this is a comic that could have lived on for several years. And with the team of Chip Zdarsky and Mark Bagley, it could’ve been like a Spider-Man renaissance.

But ultimately, each chapter was pretty damn good. I only thought that the last one was a bit weak but I wasn’t too keen on how it ended. I felt like Spider-Man’s fate was kind of predictable, as this was his “life story”.

The thing is, it was hard investing into the weight of the finale, when you haven’t lived through the emergence of the massive threat that they face to end the series. And that just gets back to my feeling about there needing to be more time devoted to each decade than just single issues.

However, I’m hoping that this is just a framework or a road map and that Marvel at least has some plans to expand on this story in the future. If that’s the case, I really hope it is brought to us by Zdarsky and Bagley, once again.

If not, well… this was still one of the best comic book miniseries to come out this year.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: the recent Symbiote Spider-Man miniseries by Peter David and Greg Land.

Comic Review: Spider-Man Noir

Published: September 16th, 2009
Written by: David Hine, Fabrice Sapolsky
Art by: Carmine Di Giandomenico

Marvel Comics, 96 Pages

Review:

I like Spider-Man, I like film-noir… but I didn’t like Spider-Man Noir.

I mean, I think the character is kind of cool and the idea of him and his world is a cool idea but the execution was pretty damn lackluster and also kind of predictable and derivative.

This book is just boring and I’m not sure how that was possible with the material. There is so much that could have been done with this story but it just tries to shoehorn in 1940s versions of already established characters in ways that just don’t fit them very well.

Why couldn’t this feature an actual 1940s Spider-Man with his own cast of characters instead of forcing Peter Parker, Aunt May, Black Cat, Norman Osborne, The Vulture, Kraven and J. Jonah Jameson on us? Does this take place in a dimension where everything is still like it was in the 1940s?

So Peter is an angry kid, Aunt May is basically the same, Black Cat is a cookie cutter femme fatale, Osborne is a gangster, The Vulture looks more like Count Orlok from Nosferatu than the Vulture and Kraven the Hunter is a guy in a flashy suit with a monkey on his shoulder.

I yawned so hard that I cracked my jaw.

But on the flip side of all that, I thought the art was pretty good. It was too vibrant and colorful to truly feel noir-esque but at least I had something nice to look at since the story was putting me to sleep.

Luckily, this was only 96 pages.

Rating: 4.5/10
Pairs well with: Dan Slott’s mediocre run on Spider-Man titles.

Comic Review: Spider-Man: The Revenge of the Sinister Six

Published: 1991-1992
Written by: Erik Larsen, Terry Kavanagh
Art by: Erik Larsen, Scott McDaniel

Marvel Comics, 165 Pages

Review:

I was really digging re-reading all the earliest Sinister Six storylines. But then I got to this one, the third of the three I wanted to re-experience and it really took the wind out of my sails.

This was a complete clusterfuck, narratively speaking.

I guess there is a big difference between the skill level of David Michelinie and Erik Larsen when it comes to writing. The two teamed up for the storyline, The Return of the Sinister Six, a year earlier in The Amazing Spider-Man. In this arc, Larsen took the reigns pretty much solo, as he had been moved to the Spider-Man title while Michelinie was still working on The Amazing Spider-Man with artist Mark Bagley. While that great duo were introducing us to Carnage, Larsen gave us this mess.

The biggest problem with this miniseries, is that it seemed like Larsen was using it as a way to feature and draw all the characters he wasn’t able to touch before this. This is a cameo bonanza in the worst way and many of these characters enter the story just for the hell of it and don’t serve much purpose to the overall narrative. It’s like Larsen just wanted to draw splash pages of the Hulk, Ghost Rider, the Fantastic Four, and a billion different villains. We also get a small and incredibly pointless cameo from Sleepwalker, one of my favorite ’90s characters.

Larsen’s art here was pretty damn solid, I have to give him that. He has a very distinct style and people either love it or hate it, similar to the style of Rob Liefeld. I have mostly liked Larsen’s style and this was interesting to see, as he did this right before jumping ship to Image Comics and his own creation, The Savage Dragon.

I do have to say that Larsen’s writing improves once he goes to Image and I’m thinking that he knew he was leaving when he took on this project and he felt that it was the only chance he would get to draw a lot of these characters.

To put it bluntly though, this story is ’90s as fuck and I don’t mean that complimentary. It’s trying really damn hard to be edgy. In fact, in the final battle all the villains are shooting machine guns like common street thugs while Spider-Man is wearing all this expensive, over the top, ’90s style tech. Hell, Spidey even gets a cyborg arm in this.

Also, the Sinister Six isn’t really even fully formed. Sandman is not on the team and is trying to get the other villains to stop Doctor Octopus. So really, this is the Sinister Five but then they bring in the giant beast Gog. So is he the sixth member now? It’s not really clear and it’s just one of many things that makes this story total chaos.

This was bad, dreadfully bad. I remembered liking it when it originally came out but I was also thirteen years-old and way more into the visual side of comics over having a coherent plot.

Rating: 4.75/10
Pairs well with: Stan Lee and Steve Ditko’s original Sinister Six story, as well as the prequel to this one, The Return of the Sinister Six. Also, anything from the Michelinie and Larsen run on The Amazing Spider-Man.

Comic Review: Spider-Man: The Return of the Sinister Six

Published: 1990
Written by: David Michelinie
Art by: Erik Larsen, Terry Austin, Mike Machlan

Marvel Comics, 141 Pages

Review:

This story arc took place in The Amazing Spider-Man issue numbers 334 through 339. It was a follow up to the original Sinister Six story that Stan Lee and Steve Ditko gave us with the first ever Amazing Spider-Man annual way back in 1964.

What’s strange to me, is that it took so long for six of Spidey’s best villains to team-up again. However, with Kraven the Hunter being dead, this version of the group replaced him with Hobgoblin. But the team is still led by Doctor Octopus and also features Electro, Mysterio, the Vulture and the Sandman. However, in a bit of a twist, Sandman has gone straight and Octopus blackmails him into joining the group.

This story also features a lot of cameos from other villains and heroes but Spider-Man ultimately faces the Sinister Six on his own and at one point, he finally fights them all at once, which he didn’t do in the first story.

While the Dave Michelinie/Todd McFarlane era of The Amazing Spider-Man is heralded as one of the best of all-time, the Dave Michelinie/Erik Larsen era is also damn good and really just continues off of what Michelinie developed with McFarlane. This came out at the height of me reading Spider-Man comics. To me, this was an event bigger than any of those Infinity things and this wasn’t really even an event.

Reading this now, I almost have a deeper appreciation for it than I did as a kid in 1990. The plot is well constructed and it has a lot of layers to it. Also, there’s a few subplots that have their own interesting narratives. There’s much more here than Peter Parker’s Royal Rumble match with his rogues and it makes this a really rich tale with good character development and real depth.

Some of the plot points, like the bizarreness of Octavius’ scheme are baffling but even the questionable stuff is amusing and just makes me yearn for the early ’90s comic book storytelling style. Twenty-nine years later, I definitely see issues I didn’t as a kid but it in no way wrecks the experience that is this great arc.

Also at the time, I was a hardcore Erik Larsen fan. I first discovered his art on this title. While I always preferred McFarlane, through the eyes of an eleven year-old, Larsen was a comic art superstar. I loved how he drew Spidey and his iconic villains and I think it still looks great. While I respect Larsen and McFarlane for forming Image and coming out with their own comics, there’s that part of me that wished that they both would’ve stuck around and worked on Spider-Man books a bit longer, as I was just so in love with what they were doing at the time and wasn’t ready to let them hand it off to someone else. But then, Mark Bagley did do a fine job, as well.

All these years later, this was fun to pick up again. I was a little worried that I’d think it’d suck now but it brought me back to where I was, reading it for the first time in 1990. Sometimes picking up old comics is like opening a time capsule. With this one, I was happy to find that it was even better than I remembered it.

And now I can’t wait to revisit its sequel, The Revenge of the Sinister Six.

Rating: 9.25/10
Pairs well with: Stan Lee and Steve Ditko’s original Sinister Six story, as well as the sequel to this one, The Revenge of the Sinister Six. Also, anything from the Michelinie and Larsen run on The Amazing Spider-Man.

Comic Review: Spider-Man: The Sinister Six

Published: June 1st, 1964
Written by: Stan Lee
Art by: Steve Ditko

Marvel Comics, 75 Pages

Review:

This story premiered in the first ever Amazing Spider-Man annual. Plus, it was written by Stan “The Man” Lee and drawn by the great Steve Ditko.

The plot is pretty standard fair for ’60s Marvel and it sees six of Spider-Man’s toughest villains come together to form the original version of the Sinister Six. That being said, the Sinister Six have been one of my favorite villain groups of all-time and this storyline didn’t just create a supervillain team to test a single hero but it created a trend in the comic book medium that saw other heroes have to take on similar teams of multiple rogues.

I like how the plot was structured, in that Spider-Man had to run the gauntlet on the Sinister Six and fought each one individually. This is actually a great setup for the future, which would see the Sinister Six up the ante and take on Spidey all at once. However, in future battles, Spidey would get some help of his own.

This group consisted of Doctor Octopus, The Vulture, Kraven the Hunter, Electro, Mysterio and the Sandman. While the group would rotate some other villains in over the course of time, I really liked this group and how having them come together in this story made it feel like a Spider-Man themed Royal Rumble.

For a first time reader, this had to be a fun read, as it forced Spider-Man to face multiple challenges in the same story. Plus, it just looks great with the Ditko art.

This is not my favorite Sinister Six story but we wouldn’t have gotten the other ones without this happening first. Plus, it’s quintessential Stan Lee in how this all plays out.

It’s hard not to love this.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: other Stan Lee and Steve Ditko era Spider-Man comics.

Comic Review: Spider-Man: Blue

Published: July 27th, 2011
Written by: Jeph Loeb
Art by: Tim Sale

Marvel Comics, 137 Pages

Review:

Other than the Hulk one, I’ve really loved the color themed series of titles that Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale did for Marvel. This is the last of the four that I have read and am now reviewing.

Spider-Man: Blue was damn good. It really captured the spirit of classic Spidey and even though it had a good amount of action and superhero fun, the focal point of this story was Peter Parker’s love for Gwen Stacy but also his blossoming love for his eventual wife, Mary Jane Watson.

This throws a good array of villains at the hero and all of them serve more than a superficial purpose. Kraven the Hunter is the big bad by the end of the story and his threat and how it grows throughout the pages of this miniseries flows really well with the narrative surrounding Peter Parker’s personal life.

Loeb and Sale are just a spectacular team and their talents are on full display here. While I still prefer their Batman work, all of which are real classics in the medium, these Marvel books are some of the best works to come out of the publisher in the last decade or so.

These stories understand the characters, their motivations and the art style makes them feel like you are going back to yesteryear.

Spider-Man: Blue is a fine read and it may even hit you in the feels.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: The other color themed books that Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale did for Marvel.

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.