Comic Review: The Amazing Spider-Man – Epic Collection: Cosmic Adventures

Published: July 31st, 2014
Written by: Gerry Conway, Stan Lee, David Michelinie
Art by: Sal Buscema, Steve Ditko, Colleen Doran, Gil Kane, Erik Larsen, Todd McFarlane, Alex Saviuk

Marvel Comics, 501 Pages

Review:

When I was a kid and probably because I was a kid, nothing seemed cooler than Spider-Man getting cosmic powers. Basically, seeing him become a hero more akin to Superman was a neat idea and it felt like it upped the ante, as it also brought with it, bigger and badder villains than his typical foes.

However, this also happened during the Acts of Vengeance crossover event, which saw Marvel villains switch which heroes they would fight, thinking that taking on different heroes would give them a tactical advantage and catch the good guys off guard.

So with that, Spider-Man got to tie up with tougher foes anyway. However, these foes were the ones caught off guard by Spidey’s new cosmic abilities, which evolved from issue-to-issue and also surprised Spidey.

One thing that this short era of Spider-Man did was it shook up the series and made it kind of fresh. But sometimes, that isn’t the best thing to do. Especially, if something isn’t broken and Spider-Man comics in the late ’80s weren’t broken.

Reading this now, this saga is really a mixed bag. Some single issues collected within are entertaining while others just seem like they’re just not hitting the typical Spider-Man beats.

Still, this was cool to experience a second time, over three decades later. It’s not my favorite era of Spider-Man comics but it’s strange and different enough that long-standing Spidey fans who haven’t read it, might want to check it out.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: other Spider-Man stories of the ’80s and early ’90s.

Documentary Review: Marvel 75 Years: From Pulp to Pop! (2014)

Release Date: November 4th, 2014
Music by: Lauren Pardini, Daniel Sternbaum
Cast: Axel Alonso, Hayley Atwell, Gerry Conway, Louis D’Esposito, Alan Fine, Seth Green, Clark Gregg, Jimmy Kimmel, Stan Lee, Ralph Macchio, Todd McFarlane, Patton Oswalt, Nicole Perlman, Joe Quesada, Peter Sanderson, Jim Shooter, Kevin Smith, Jim Starlin, Emily VanCamp, Len Wein, Ming-Na Wen

ABC Studios, Disney, Marvel, 42 Minutes

Review:

I recently reviewed a short, made-for-TV documentary on Disney+ called Assembling a Universe. That one was a piece on how Disney and Marvel assembled a movie franchise based off of Marvel’s rich treasure trove of characters and stories.

This short documentary is kind of more of the same but it focuses mostly on the comic books themselves and how Marvel grew into what it is today.

Like the previous documentary, which came out earlier in the same year, this one is really just a marketing tool to try and get people to go see their movies. It’s made by Disney, Marvel and ABC, all of whom are essentially the same company, so this is made to sort of pimp themselves out.

Ultimately, this is an autobiographical puff piece. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t things of value in it. It’s informative and gives you a good amount of info to start with for those interested in Marvel’s history but there are much better documentaries, books and magazine articles on the subject.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: Assembling a Universe and Empire of Dreams.

Comic Review: Hulk: Visionaries – Peter David, Vol. 1

Published: November 12th, 2015
Written by: Peter David
Art by: Todd McFarlane, John Ridgeway

Marvel Comics, 215 Pages

Review:

I was never a big fan of Hulk as a character. At least not until I was older and read Planet Hulk. That epic story gave me a love and respect for the character that I hadn’t had before and in a lot of ways, it made me want to go back and check out some of the character’s more critically acclaimed runs.

Well, the one run that is always talked about with a lot of admiration is Peter David’s, which saw the talented writer work on The Incredible Hulk for 100 issues, a pretty incredible feat.

Now I have read some of David’s stories over the years and he was the Hulk writer when I started really collecting comics. So I have some of his issues in my collection. But I didn’t want to just thumb through those, I wanted to start at the beginning of David’s run, which also kicked off with the debut of Grey Hulk and the visual allure of a young Todd McFarlane’s art before he would go on to illustrate his own epic run on The Amazing Spider-Man.

I’m glad I read this. While it didn’t blow my socks off, it was a good, solid, energetic story that set the stage for a lot of avenues for Peter David to explore.

I like the Grey Hulk and he was the Hulk that was at the forefront when I first started spending my allowance on comic books at my local Starvin’ Marvin convenience store. I thought he was cooler, more interesting and now that I’ve read this, I was right.

Now I can’t say that I’m in love with this series or David’s run but I do want to delve into the second volume and see where it takes me. I’m not sure where McFarlane jumps off but I hope he stuck around at least for another collected volume or two because I really like his look for the Hulk, Leader and Doc Samson.

I can’t give the whole Peter David run a real assessment off of just this but it starts out strong and did inspire me to keep going down this rabbit hole.

As for now, I see something that could potentially be on the cusp of greatness.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: the rest of Peter David’s Hulk run.

Comic Review: X-Men: The Fall of the Mutants

Published: 1988
Written by: Chris Claremont, Peter David, Louise Simonson, Steve Englehart, Mark Gruenwald, Ann Nocenti
Art by: Marc Silvestri, Todd McFarlane, Bret Blevins, June Brigman, Kerry Gammill, Jon Bogdanove, Kieron Dwyer, Keith Pollard, John Romita Jr., Walt Simonson

Marvel Comics, 803 Pages

Review:

This was a story so big that it was collected into two massive volumes. But I figured I’d read both and give the whole thing a single review, as one body of work.

But that may have not been the best approach, as this crossover doesn’t really crossover in a way that makes one big story. This is more like an anthology of events that were going on in all the different X-books at the same time. And weirdly, this isn’t collected in chronological order but as separate stories without much overlap or characters meeting.

This big event also has some short stories focused on Hulk, Captain America, Daredevil, Black Widow and the Fantastic Four. In those tales, it shows what they’re up to during the events of what is happening in some of the X-books.

The Fall of the Mutants takes place between Mutant Massacre and Inferno. It is also the last of the ’80s X-Men crossovers that I hadn’t read in its entirety.

Out of all the tales here, I thought the X-Factor one was probably the best as it concludes the Apocalypse and Angel storyline, as it introduces Archangel for the first time. Also, the X-Factor arc showcases Cameron Hodge turning on the team, revealing his true agenda to set up what would eventually be the superb crossover event X-Tinction Agenda.

The New Mutants part was the weirdest but it also featured Hodge’s heel turn and kind of sets things in motion for X-Tinction Agenda and Inferno. This is also where the New Mutants dump Magneto as their teacher and return to the ways of Charles Xavier.

Ultimately, this was kind of a mess when read as one body of work. But it does do a proper job of bridging the gap from Mutant Massacre and the next two big events to follow.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: other major X-Men crossover events from the ’80s and ’90s.

Vids I Dig 098: Comic Tropes: Rare ‘G.I. Joe’ Comics

From Comic Tropes’ YouTube description: This video is part of Cobra Convergence, a yearly event where content creators focus on G.I. Joe and their enemy, Cobra. This year, I take a look at some fairly uncommon comics. A European version of G.I. Joe that takes on a splinter sect of Cobra and is tied to the Marvel superhero universe; a G.I. Joe book illustrated by Todd McFarlane that Marvel decided to completely redo by another artist; and the origins of G.I. Joe’s Russian counterparts, the Oktober Guard.

Comic Review: Batman: Year Two

Published: 1987
Written by: Mike W. Barr
Art by: Alfredo Alcala, Alan Davis, Todd McFarlane, Paul Neary

DC Comics, 169 Pages

Review:

I’ve heard great things about Batman: Year Two. Surprisingly, I’ve never read it even though it came out in the time when I was just starting out reading superhero comics, specifically Batman titles.

Plus, seeing that this was written by Mike W. Barr is pretty exciting, as I read Camelot 3000 a few months back and loved it.

This story starts off with a bang. However, it gets away from itself after the first issue or so.

It explores Batman’s motivations and what he is willing to do in the name of justice. The story actually sees him team up with Joe Chill, the guy who murdered his parents, and Batman does brandish a gun in this. Eventually, he becomes the Batman we all know and love but his journey here was weird and it seemed kind of forced and shocking just to be shocking.

I guess this is a sort of sequel to Frank Miller’s Year One but it doesn’t seem to fit well with it.

I liked the Reaper character and his weird way of passing the torch to Gotham’s new hero but honestly, this was kind of a mess and Batman, despite this being early in his career, didn’t feel true to the character. I guess that’s kind of the point but it didn’t gel for me.

That being said, this is still worth a read and it has resonated with a lot of people. Also, it’s really cool seeing early art from Todd McFarlane, before his epic Spider-Man run.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: Batman: Year One and other late ’80s Batman tales.

TV Review: The Comic Book Greats: Episode 6 – How to Create a Comic Book (1992)

Released: 1992
Created by: Stan Lee
Directed by: Rick Stawinski
Music by: Rick Stawinski, Rob Stawinski
Cast: Stan Lee (host), Todd McFarlane, Rob Liefeld, Whilce Portacio, Jim Lee

Excelsior Productions, Stabur Home Video, 47 Minutes

Review:

Well, being that this came out in the second year of this home video series, a lot had changed since the first time we saw Todd McFarlane and Rob Liefeld in the first two episodes. By 1992, the two (and five others) had left Marvel and formed Image Comics. If you weren’t aware of the then new imprint, McFarlane mentions Image almost every five minutes in this video.

But it was cool to see these guys still come together with Stan Lee, the father of Marvel Comics. Granted, Stan Lee is barely in this episode as he is just there to kick it off and then pass it over to Todd and Rob. He also comes back to close out the show once other Image Comics founders Jim Lee and Whilce Portacio show up for short cameos.

When this video series was actually something new, this was the first one that I bought. At the time, I was making my own comics with friends, we had our own little imprint and were selling comics to kids at school and around South Florida. In fact, we were featured in the newspaper at the time for the buzz we created.

The reason I mention to above story is because my friends and I were inspired by Image and specifically the guys featured in this video. So when they all came together to teach aspiring comic book creators on how they actually create their own comics, this was something I had to own.

Even though times and methods have changed, Todd and Rob are pretty good teachers and a lot of what they teach here isn’t outdated and is still useful knowledge for this artistic medium.

This is one of the top episodes of the series because it goes beyond interviews and sketching and gets down to the nitty gritty. It gives real insight into the craft. Plus, in 1992, these were the best guys to use for a video like this.

This episode has aged well. Most of it is still relevant. My only complaint is this shouldn’t have been one 47 minute episode, it should have branched out into its own series where the Image guys actually go on to teach more than just the basics. It felt rushed and incomplete and more time and context would have been fantastic.

This is still worth a watch though, whether you want tips on how to make better comics or if you are just a fan of these creators.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: other episodes in The Comic Book Greats video series.