Comic Review: Marvel’s What If? (2018 Minieries)

Published: October 3rd, 2018 – October 31st, 2018
Written by: various
Art by: various

Marvel Comics, 136 Pages

Review:

Marvel has had several different runs with their What If? title. I have always been a fan of it, as it gives us new and different takes on Marvel characters. Usually, they show what happens if characters made different choices or if a major event had a different outcome. I couldn’t read enough of these when I was a kid and in a lot of ways, when I first came into comics, it was What If? that pinpointed the moments throughout Marvel history that were the most pivotal.

This 2018 miniseries was only six issues and all of them were unfortunately released over just five weeks. I wish they would make this an ongoing series again or at least spread them out more.

Like the X-Men: Black miniseries, which also came out weekly over October, this had different creative teams with each issue and it showed.

The six stories in this series were What If Flash Thompson Became Spider-Man?What If X-Men? (not a clearly defined title), What If Peter Parker Became the Punisher?What If Marvel Comics Went Metal with Ghost Rider?, What if Thor Was Raised by Frost Giants? and What If Magik Became Sorcerer Supreme?

Out of the six titles, the only ones I really enjoyed were the Magik and Punisher ones. Thor and Flash Thompson were okay but the X-Men one was a mess and the Ghost Rider one was one of the worst comics I’ve read in several years. I mean, it was beyond atrocious and getting through it was a hell of a chore.

Marvel could rectify their problems with this series, if they don’t rush them next time. If this was a regular monthly series like it was at its peak, the stories would probably have more time devoted to them.

Some of the art even felt rushed and half assed.

Ultimately, I liked a few issues but I can’t really recommend the series over all.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: old school What If? comics, many of which have been re-released for $1 under the True Believers imprint.

Comic Review: Ultimate Comics Spider-Man, Vol. 3

Published: January 30th, 2014
Written by: Brian Michael Bendis
Art by: David Marquez, Kaare Kyle Andrews

Marvel Comics, 171 Pages

Review:

The last collection in this series left you hanging, wondering what was going to happen in regards to Miles Morales being blackmailed by his Uncle Aaron into helping him take out the Scorpion and build his own criminal empire. Uncle Aaron is the famous Spidey villain the Prowler and of course, Miles is just getting his feet wet as the new Spider-Man.

This starts off with a massive bang that changes Miles’ life forever. I don’t want to spoil it but I’ll just say that up to this point, Miles has never been in a situation where the responsibilities of being Spider-Man have been more real and hit as close to home.

The rest of the book deals with a massive battle that sees Miles team up with the Ultimates, who are the Marvel Ultimate universe’s version of the Avengers. He convinces Captain America to let him join, despite his age, but this leads to him being a soldier in a violent war against Hydra. Even for Marvel and for Spider-Man, this is so unbelievable that it just doesn’t work, at all. Despite how good Miles is and where his heart is at, anyone who would send a thirteen year-old to war is an insane person. I’m looking at you Captain America, also the president of the United States in this continuity. But really, I’m looking at Brian Michael Bendis who wrote this asinine and preposterous storyline. I mean, seriously, what the fucking fuck?!

This isn’t Robin helping Batman or some New Mutants adventure, this is an all out war for America between the Ultimates, S.H.I.E.L.D. and Hydra. Professor X never sent Boom Boom to face off with Apocalypse. Batman never sent Robin into an Arkham Asylum riot without proper training.

Additionally, the big war was a massive distraction to the larger arc here, which is Miles becoming Spider-Man and finding himself in that role. This was one giant speed bump in this series but I hope that things come back down to Earth in the volume after this one.

I really liked this series, up to this point. This didn’t just jump the shark, it jumped an ocean full of sharks.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: The other early Mile Morales Spider-Man stories. Also, Spider-Men I and II and Spider-Verse.

Comic Review: Superior Spider-Man, Vol. 6: Goblin Nation

Published: April 30th, 2015
Written by: Dan Slott, Christos N. Gage
Art by: Giuseppe Camuncoli, Javier Rodriguez

Marvel Comics, 172 Pages

Review:

Well, it’s been a heck of a ride but here we are, at the sixth and final collection of Dan Slott’s Superior Spider-Man series.

For those who aren’t aware, Doctor Octopus has taken over the body of Peter Parker and taken over the mantle of Spider-Man with the idea that he can be the “Superior” Spider-Man. It’s a weird premise and initially I thought it was stupid but as I have read on in this series, I’m impressed by it. Some collections have been good, some have been average but overall the series has worked for me and it’s sad seeing it come to an end but you can’t let stories this controversial and ridiculous go on for too long.

This immediately starts with a bang, as it is quickly revealed that the Green Goblin knows that Otto Octavius is Spider-Man. This then spirals into a war between the Goblin and Superior Spidey. However, the Goblin has more intelligence, an army and a very important hostage. Ock-Spidey has, well… himself.

Frankly, Dan Slott closed this series out with a bang. I’m not a huge fan of his writing and have mostly disliked a large portion of his ten year Spider-Man run. But this was some really solid storytelling, utilized all the core characters well and brought things to a close in a pretty powerful way. The final two issues of this series were exceptionally well written and tapped into those feelings I got, as a kid, reading the classic Spider-Man stories I loved.

Ultimately, Peter Parker gets his body back. Explaining the how or why would spoil the effect of seeing this unfold on paper and I don’t want to take that away from anyone that wants to read this. But it was nice seeing Slott give some space at the end to allow the real Parker to try and fix the damage that Octavius did to his life as both Peter and Spidey.

Slott isn’t the best writer when it comes to plotting a single issue but between this and his recent conclusion to The Amazing Spider-Man (with issue 800), he has shown that he can be a great storyteller over the long-term. He has a big idea, he strings you along and then he can deliver a satisfactory conclusion that usually makes up for whatever hiccups you experienced along the way.

This was a great book and this series, despite my strong reservations about the premise, was one of the best Spider-Man experiences I’ve had in a really long time.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: Other Superior Spider-Man collections and any of Dan Slott’s other Spider-Man titles.

Comic Review: Superior Spider-Man, Vol. 5: The Superior Venom

Published: July 17th, 2014
Written by: Dan Slott, Christos N. Gage
Art by: Humberto Ramos, Javier Rodriquez

Marvel Comics, 158 Pages

Review:

After the previous volume of Superior Spider-Man, which was mostly slow moving filler, we are rewarded with this action fest.

In this story, Otto-Spidey meets the Venom symbiote for the first time. This is during the era where Flash Thompson had the alien suit. After a scuffle, the Superior Spider-Man becomes the symbiote’s new host and shit goes crazy in his personal and superhero life. This all leads to Venom-Octavius taking on the Avengers in the streets of New York.

The Venom-centric storyline is the highlight of this collection but the two one issue stories that follow are also pretty good, especially the final one which was a story from an annual that saw Dr. Octo-Spider take on Ghost Rider baddie, Blackout.

The Blackout story was important simply because Aunt May is in mortal danger and she ends up witnessing Superior Spider-Man commit a truly heinous act.

Another big takeaway from this is that even though Spidey-pus already dealt with the Avengers once before, this is his first time dealing with Tony Stark, who is probably going to discover that this is not the Spider-Man that they all know and love.

Also, the ghost Peter Parker returns here, after being banished from his own physical brain by Octavius.

Between ghost Parker and Iron Man’s meddling into things, it’s obvious that shit is about to hit the fan and that Octavius’ hijacking of Parker’s body is going to be exposed. So where will it go? Well, the next collection is the big conclusion.

This volume did a good job of building off of the previous ones while serving to setup the final chapter.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: Other Superior Spider-Man collections and any of Dan Slott’s other Spider-Man titles.

Comic Review: The Superior Spider-Man, Vol. 2: A Troubled Mind

Published: December 5th, 2013
Written by: Dan Slott
Art by: Humberto Ramos, Ryan Stegman, Marcos Martin (cover)

Marvel Comics, 115 Pages

Review:

I’m digging this series much more than I thought I would. And this volume is where something happens that really reaches through Octavius’ ego and actually starts to move him towards being genuinely more heroic. I love redemption stories and this is just that, albeit told over twenty-plus comics and collected into five volumes.

But don’t get it twisted, Otto Octavius as Spider-Man is still dastardly and evil, for the most part. You just start to see the cracks showing. Now that he is in the role of Spider-Man, it is starting to effect him when he experiences what it’s like to save someone as opposed to being a menace to the world.

Dan Slott really sort of found his footing in this volume and I hope the quality continues to improve beyond this or at the very least, remains consistent.

I also like that Cardiac had a major part to play in this string of issues. I have always really liked Cardiac since he debuted in The Amazing Spider-Man during Erik Larsen’s run in the early ’90s. He started as a villain but quickly became an anti-hero because he was fighting for something, even if his methods weren’t morally sound. He is one of those characters that could be great, given the right story, but has mostly been underutilized since his debut a quarter of a century ago (damn, that makes me feel old).

We also see the Goblin King, the next gen Hobgoblin and a few other villains that show up. One highlight of the book is seeing the Superior Spider-Man face off against the Avengers, who are weary about Spider-Man and his recent behavior. However, Slott did make the Avengers pretty fascist in this story and it didn’t seem in line with who Captain America is.

Still, this is a really good book overall and it’s got me pumped up for the follow ups.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: Other Superior Spider-Man collections and any of Dan Slott’s other Spider-Man titles.

Comic Review: The Unbelievable Gwenpool, Vol. 1: Believe It

Published: November 29th, 2016
Written by: Christopher Hastings
Art by: Gurihiru

Marvel Comics, 152 Pages

Review:

In a time when Marvel books haven’t been very good, I wasn’t anticipating enjoying this. In fact, I put off reading it for awhile, as it seemed to be just another aimless attempt at gender swapping a character and also a soulless attempt at trying to piggyback off of the success of the Spider-Gwen series. I assumed, as I’m sure many people have, that this was yet another version of Gwen Stacy pushed into the role of a popular Marvel hero. Well, it isn’t. Sure, the name and the look are obviously trying to capitalize off of the contemporary Gwen Stacy shtick but this character is actually a girl named Gwen Poole and she is from the real world… our real world.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy Spider-Gwen for the most part and have reviewed all of the books, as they’ve been released. She is a better example of Marvel taking a character of the opposite sex and pushing her into a role that was originally a male’s. But since I have always adored Gwen Stacy, I thought the idea of her having powers was badass. Plus, the art and her costume design was incredible.

Gwenpool, on the other hand, and let’s be honest, looks hokey and cheesy and like it’s more of a manga than an American comic book. While I like some manga, I’ve never been a massive fan of the style. But it works here because it truly fits the tone of what Gwenpool is.

Point blank, this is one of the funniest comics I have ever read. Marvel’s humor in the modern era just doesn’t work for me, as it is full of Millennial dialogue, randomness and absurdity. Maybe being a Gen-Xer means that I’m now in an older demographic than the people that comics are written for but from what I can tell, most comics are still sold to Gen-Xers. And maybe this is why these Millennial styled books sit on shelves and most people don’t want them.

Gwenpool sets itself apart in that it is goofy but it really feels like it’s taking its stylistic and narrative cues from the manga style its art seems to be an homage to.

Sillyness aside, this is a well written story arc for any genre. I love that the origin of the character is just dismissed and this thing just gets going. What we do know is that Gwen Poole is from the real world, like our real world. She knows everything about everyone in the Marvel universe, as she is an avid comic book fan from our reality.

This story sees her forced into working for the villain M.O.D.O.K. She also has run-ins with other famous Marvel characters: Doctor Strange, the modern female Thor, the modern Ms. Marvel, Black Cat and Howard the Duck. She also receives some combat training from the villain Batroc.

This was just an enjoyable and a refreshing experience and I shouldn’t have slept on it. But now that I’ve given it an honest chance, I’m certainly going to pick up volume 2 at some point.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: Other Gwenpool releases and Spider-Gwen for some obvious similarities.

Comic Review: Infinity

Published: February 5th, 2014
Written by: Jonathan Hickman
Art by: various

Marvel Comics, 866 Pages

Review:

Since new ideas are hard to come by, Marvel decided to sort of rehash the Infinity events from the ’90s in this modern version of a story that features Thanos and every single Marvel hero that can possibly fit on a splash page.

I’m not knocking the technique, if a story is good, it’s good. All stories borrow from something else and Marvel (just like DC) likes to recycle the core elements of their big crossover events, again and again. Marvel has had two Civil War storylines, Avengers Vs. X-Men, which was practically like Civil War, and multiple versions of Secret War. Then there are massive Skrull events that seem to have happened an awful lot too.

I guess the main similarity between this and the ’90s Infinity events is that it features dozens upon dozens of Marvel heroes against a seemingly omnipotent Thanos. However, Thanos’ purpose is different here and there is no sign of the Infinity Gauntlet. In this story, he comes to Earth to find his long lost son Thane. Why? Because Thanos wants to murder him, as he’s done with his other offspring.

I read the large collected edition of this, which was well over 800 pages. It was massive and thick and took some time to get through. At first, it started slow and I felt like I didn’t know what was going on because I haven’t read a lot of modern Marvel stuff and there are all of these new heroes I’ve never experienced. Don’t worry, this still has every classic hero in it too. Every major player is here, as should be expected with an event like this.

Reading this, I can see where it also influenced the recent Avengers: Infinity War movie, as it has the introduction of the Black Order, who played a big part in that film.

The story also deals with a threat from the Builders, who basically want to destroy the universe because villains do those sort of things in comic books.

There are a lot of layers to the story and it can feel overwhelming and overly complicated but the core of it is very good. This event had some really awesome and powerful moments and also featured some of the most badass stuff Thor has ever done.

It also gave us Thane, a character that is more dangerous than his famous father and who looks to be a massive threat for the heroes after the conclusion of this story.

I thought the pacing was good, once the story really got going. The six Infinity issues were certainly the high point of the story where the Avengers and New Avengers issues that were part of this collection served to give more exposition to the larger narrative.

This massive collected edition is capped off by a Silver Surfer story that takes place alongside these events. The Surfer didn’t appear in the main story but he had his own tale that was worth telling, as he was on the other side of the galaxy dealing with the same events in a different way.

And I guess another really important thing about this mega event is that the art was fabulous. I loved it, every panel, every page and every issue of every comic series collected here was visual perfection. Kudos to the artists: Jim Cheung, Jerome Opena and Dustin Weaver.

Rating: 8.75/10
Pairs well with: The ’90s Infinity trilogy of events: The Infinity GauntletThe Infinity War and The Infinity Crusade.