Comic Review: Thor by J. Michael Straczynski

Published: 2007-2008
Written by: J. Michael Straczynski
Art by: Olivier Coipel

Marvel Comics, 440 Pages (total)

Review:

When this was current, I had the series added to my pull box at my local comic shop. I loved the hell out of this series and thought that J. Michael Straczynski’s reboot of the Asgardian part of the larger Marvel universe truly reinvigorated the Thor title and all the characters within.

I was a bit worried in revisiting this, as I felt like maybe I wouldn’t enjoy it nearly as much and with nearly a decade and a half of extra comic book reading mileage. I thought that I’d discover it was riddled with glaring flaws and an overabundance of bad tropes, overused clichés and redundancy.

I’m happy to say that this held up exceptionally well and that it is one of the best comic book reads I’ve experienced in quite some time.

The story is exceptional and it does such a superb job in balancing all of these cool, important characters. Every major Asgardian gets their time to shine and is given their own subplots that have real meaning and tie into the larger story arc of the series. Straczynski even creates some new characters and they all bring a lot to the series and the new lives of all the other core characters.

Additionally, this is where Loki returns in the form of a woman. It gives the character a fresh start in the eyes of many Asgardians, even if she can’t be trusted due to her past. However, she wins over some key characters just enough to develop an evil masterplan alongside Doctor Doom, who is waiting in the shadows for his big reveal, after Loki manipulates her people into accepting a dangerous proposal that effects all their futures.

Beyond the great story, the art of Olivier Coipel is incredible and I don’t mean to use that word lightly. It was this series (alongside Geoff Johns Green Lantern run) and especially its art that got me to pick up comics again, after checking out for a decade.

Coipel creates beautiful compositions in every panel and his work was just on a completely different level than most of the artists at the time. His work looks like paintings and it fits the aesthetic of the Thor mythos and style. It gave these stories a more fantastical and magical look than what was common for the era.

My only gripe about this long run by Straczynski and Coipel is that it didn’t have a definitive ending. It left things open for the next creative team and I get that, as that’s how these things typically go. However, the work of these two guys was so great that I felt like they should’ve been allowed to bring it to a close.

Really, though, I just wish their run was longer.

Rating: 10/10

Comic Review: The New Mutants – Classics, Vol. 7

Published: November 17th, 2016
Written by: Chris Claremont
Art by: Bret Blevins, Sal Buscema, Alan Davis, Jackson Guice, Rick Leonardi, Kevin Nowlan

Marvel Comics, 229 Pages

Review:

This collection of New Mutants stories was kind of all over the place. Also, none of them really grabbed me like most of the previous arcs leading up to this point.

I guess, by now, the series had been running for quite awhile and where it once felt like it was always building towards something and had an idea of where it wanted and needed to go, most of this felt like aimless filler.

I can clearly see the series running out of steam and I guess this is why everything got reinvented and soft rebooted not too long after this and the massive Inferno crossover event, which completely changed the dynamic of the team and its mission.

Now this isn’t bad by any means, it’s just that each story feels somewhat random and they don’t support each other and the progression of a larger arc as well as previous volumes have.

I guess the highlight for me was where this focused on Magik, her power struggle with S’ym and how things were changing in the realm of Limbo. This sort of sets up things that would happen in the big Inferno story.

Apart from that, everything else was entertaining enough but none of it seemed to matter, based off of where these characters’ lives were going to go. I guess, none of this really sticks or is all that memorable.

The art in this volume was also a mixed bag. A lot of different artists contributed to this stretch of issues and honestly, that just sort of adds to none of this really being memorable or sticking.

Rating: 6.25/10

Comic Review: The New Mutants – Classics, Vol. 5

Published: September 8th, 2016
Written by: Chris Claremont
Art by: Arthur Adams, Jackson Guice, Rick Leonardi, Keith Pollard, Mary Wilshire

Marvel Comics, 269 Pages

Review:

This follows the Demon Bear Saga, the first Legion story and the short arc just after that.

This volume in The New Mutants starts with a two-part annual issues crossover with The Uncanny X-Men. The story sees the two mutant teams swept away to Asgard for some trickery and shenanigans involving Loki, the Enchantress and Hela. Frog-Thor, the Warriors Three and Surtur also make appearances.

I really dug the Asgard story, though, and I finally know how Dani Moonstar became a Valkyrie because it was always a bit of a mystery to me, as one day she wasn’t and then one day she was. I had never read these annuals, so I wasn’t sure how it all went down and why.

After that, we get a story that involves The Beyonder, as well as one that sees Magneto take over the team in place of Professor X. That is the more interesting plot thread, as it sees Emma Frost with help from one of her Hellions, convince Magneto to let her take over the New Mutants training, essentially merging them with the Hellions.

While with the Hellions, the New Mutants form some bonds with the teens they’re used to fighting. For those who have read X-Force, it’s pretty apparent which Hellions member will eventually align with the New Mutants once Cable comes in to lead them into adulthood.

Overall, this is a damn good collection and the Asgard and Hellion stories are two of the best arcs I’ve read thus far in the series.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: other New Mutants comics, as well as the other X-Men related titles from the ’80s.

Vids I Dig 700: The Critical Drinker: Marvel Phase 4 – Who Cares?

Comic Review: The Eternals: To Slay A God/Manifest Destiny

Published: 2008-2009
Written by: Charles Knauf, Daniel Knauf, Fred Van Lente
Art by: Daniel Acuna, Pascal Alixe, Eric Nguyen

Marvel Comics, 258 Pages (total, both volumes)

Review:

I’ve got to say, this was a pleasant surprise. Especially, because this series followed the more well-regarded Neil Gaiman run on The Eternals, which I really wasn’t a fan of, at all.

My only real issue with it was that the story seemed large enough that it probably should’ve crossed over into other comics, as it had members of just about every important Marvel team show up in this story. Plus, with a gigantic Celestial just standing around near the Golden Gate Bridge, you’d probably expect a large contingent of heroes to be there, on the defense.

Looking beyond that, Iron Man was directly involved in the story and this was during the time when he was the director of S.H.I.E.L.D., so I’m sure he had some pull with the other primary heroes of Earth, who might be a bit weary of the Celestial just camping out near a major city and massive landmark.

The story here was pretty good, though. I dug this quite a bit and it was my favorite Eternals thing outside of the original Jack Kirby run in the ’70s and The Eternals Saga massive event that took place in the pages of The Mighty Thor from 1978 to late 1980.

I feel like even if you aren’t too familiar with these somewhat obscure Marvel characters, the writers of this series did a good job of cluing the reader in to who they are. The only thing the reader might be missing is all the extra context that comes with reading the earlier comics.

This story really ups the ante in a cool way and it draws The Eternals into the mainstream more, having them exist more directly with so many of Marvel’s core characters.

I thought that the art in this series was also damn good. It really embodies that mid-’00s Marvel art style but I really enjoyed that look at the time and still do, as the ’10s came with some really questionable and downright awful artistic choices by the company.

Sadly, this run on the series didn’t last very long and that’s why I just merged both collected trade paperbacks into one review. For whatever reason, this team has never had long runs and haven’t been popular amongst fans. While I like them, it makes me wonder why they would introduce them into the Marvel Cinematic Universe when there are still so many more interesting and popular characters that they haven’t used yet.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other runs of The Eternals over the years.

Comic Review: Marvel 1602

Published: February 10th, 2010
Written by: Neil Gaiman
Art by: Andy Kubert, Scott McKowen (covers)

Marvel Comics, 246 Pages

Review:

This started out as a really cool story and I enjoyed it a lot from the get go. However, it did lose steam after a few issues and wrapped up pretty weakly. I also thought the big reveal/twist was fairly predictable and that this didn’t live up to the high hopes I had for it and the past work of Neil Gaiman.

Still, it piqued my interest enough to make me want to check out some of the other stories that take place in this odd, alternative version of the Marvel universe.

I liked the setting and I really liked most of the character designs. I did, however, feel like too many characters and subplots were forced in for the sake of trying to make this a big deal, big event. A lot of the extra fluff was unnecessary and narratively cumbersome.

I don’t know if that was an issue with Gaiman’s writing or Marvel instructing him to throw in every major old school character. I feel like all the extra characters could’ve been saved for their own interesting spinoffs of this.

Beyond the rickety story, I thought that Andy Kubert’s art was pretty damn impressive. Artistically, this is one of my favorite things that he’s done and the style he used here fit with the story really well.

Also, the covers by Scott McKowen are some of my favorite from this comic’s era. They’re actually framed poster worthy and while staring at them, I thought about seeing if I could buy some.

In the end, Marvel 1602 was a fun experiment and it captivated me early on. But it was too dragged out and overloaded and with that, became more of a chore to read in the back half.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: other Marvel alternative timeline stories, as well as other comics written by Neil Gaiman.

Comic Review: Captain America – Epic Collection: Justice Is Served

Published: April 5th, 2017
Written by: John Byrne, J.M. DeMatteis, Mark Gruenwald
Art by: Mike Zeck, various

Marvel Comics, 511 Pages

Review:

I wanted to read this beefy Epic Collection of Captain America stories, as it sets up the era where Steve Rogers quit being Cap and the role was then given to the man who would later become US Agent. With that, Rogers picks up the Nomad persona and travels the country, fighting villainy.

Those events don’t happen until the collection of issues after this one but this lays all the groundwork, introduces us to the future US Agent and gives us a solid Cap and original Nomad team-up. There are also stories featuring Scourge, Wolverine, Yellow Claw, Flag-Smasher and a great story where Cap is trapped in Red Skull’s “haunted house”. We also get the debut of D-Man and some cool Frog-Man stuff.

I loved a lot of these stories when I was a kid and it was cool reading them now, as it’s been so long since I’ve read Captain America from this era. While they’re not as great as my memory made them out to be, most of the stories here were enjoyable.

I actually forgot that Cap was already sort of a nomad before becoming Nomad. I also forgot that he had a side hustle as a comic book artist, which comes off as really odd, now that I’m reminded of that as an adult. But it does add some interesting complexity to the character and kind of shows you that there’s a certain sensitivity behind his top iconic layer.

This is really good and it’s prepped me for the US Agent stint as Cap, which I also wanted to reread, as the character is finally debuting in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, as a part of the Falcon and Winter Soldier television series.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: other ’80s Captain America comics, especially those involving US Agent.

Comic Review: Punisher/Captain America: Blood & Glory

Published: 1992
Written by: D.G. Chichester, Margaret Clark
Art by: Klaus Janson

Marvel Comics, 148 Pages

Review:

This was just incredibly badass! It made me yearn for the days of Marvel Comics when I was still an impressionable, young middle schooler.

This was originally released as three 48ish page square bound trade paperbacks. The Punisher had several books released this way that were mostly one-off stories. This one, however, was so epic and awesome it took three books to contain it. I’m actually going to review more of these one-off style bigger comics in the coming weeks or months.

In this, we get to see Punisher and Captain America come together, after the Punisher was sent to assassinate Cap. Cap fakes his death, Nick Fury is involved in that and Cap is sent to stop the real threat, alongside the man who was sent to put him down.

This is a great political thriller with intrigue and cool twists. Tonally, it reminds me a lot of the Winter Soldier movie but it’s even more badass and much more “adult” than a typical Marvel comic, even in 1992.

I also like that Klaus Janson was the artist on this, as the book looks stupendous and he’s one of my favorite artists of the era. His version of Punisher and Cap have always been pretty high up on my list. He also illustrates action so well and there are some phenomenal action sequences in this book. The big action-packed finale where Punisher and Cap fight helicopters is just f’n awesome!

This is just a badass miniseries, period.

Damn, I typed “badass” a lot in this one.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: other Punisher comics of the late ’80s and early ’90s.

Comic Review: Fantastic Four – Masterworks, Vol. 8

Published: March 2nd, 2017
Written by: Stan Lee
Art by: Jack Kirby

Marvel Comics, 270 Pages

Review:

I’m now eight volumes deep into the original Stan Lee and Jack Kirby run on the Fantastic Four series and it still hasn’t lost steam!

I loved this collection of issues and it even had a story that featured the Fantastic Four alongside Daredevil, Spider-Man and Thor!

Beyond that, it gave us the debut of my second favorite Fantastic Four villain (after Doctor Doom) and that’s Annihilus.

We also see Sue leave the team due to being pregnant. With that we get the Inhumans’ Crystal taking her place as the fourth member. I’ve read some issues with this team and I always really liked Crystal being added to the mix, as her and Johnny Storm’s relationship was one of my favorites from the early era of Marvel.

Additionally, we get stories with the Silver Surfer, Psycho-Man, The Mad Thinker, The Wizard and Galactus’ big return.

I love seeing what this series has grown into and how it’s evolved over this long, storied run by Lee and Kirby. Frankly, it just keeps getting better and what happened in this series really shaped what happened in the larger Marvel universe.

The stories were enjoyable, the writing was fun and as always, Kirby’s art was simply amazing.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: the other Marvel Masterworks collections.

Comic Review: What If Thor Battled Conan?

Published: June, 1983
Written by: Alan Zelenetz
Art by: Ron Wilson
Based on: Conan the Barbarian by Robert E. Howard

Marvel Comics, 37 Pages

Review:

I’m planning to review many of the classic What If? stories but in doing so, I wanted to start with the ones featuring Conan first. This is the second of the four Conan stories.

While Conan briefly crossed over with Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson in his first What If? tale, it was just a small cameo by Spider-Man and his future wife and the characters didn’t actually interact. This story, however, is the first time that Conan actually has fisticuffs with an iconic Marvel character.

The comic also features Conan villain Thoth-Amon, a brief appearance by Loki and a strange, bonkers appearance by Crom, who shows that he just doesn’t have time for Thor’s shit.

The comic’s title is somewhat misleading, as Thor and Conan do actually battle but it’s pretty short and they start working together to try and figure out how to get Thor back home, as he’s trapped in Conan’s realm and time.

The setup for this is pretty basic. Thor follows Loki into a cave and ends up in a different time and place. Part of me was kind of hoping to see Loki team up with Thoth-Amon but that didn’t happen.

Overall, this was a pretty cool read but the scene with Thor meeting Crom felt really out of place, strange and as if the writer didn’t really know much about Conan lore. Crom isn’t like Odin, just chilling on a throne for anyone to confront and chat with.

This isn’t my favorite of the Conan What If? stories but none of them are bad and they’re all amusing and entertaining in their own unique way.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: the three other What If? comics featuring Conan.