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.

Comic Review: Web of Venom: Venom Unleashed

Published: January 9th, 2019
Written by: Ryan Stegman
Art by: Juan Gedeon, Kyle Hotz, Ryan Stegman (cover)

Marvel Comics, 33 Pages

Review:

I’ve been really enjoying all of the Donny Cates Venom stuff between the ongoing series and the other Web of Venom one-shots. This one wasn’t written by Cates, however, but it was written by Venom artist Ryan Stegman.

Considering that Stegman knows Venom just as much as Cates, at this point, makes this a pretty interesting and unique take on the modern Venom world.

The story shows the Venom symbiote take the form of a dog in an effort to protect Eddie Brock. Recently, Venom went through some heavy shit and he can no longer communicate to Brock in the same way. He’s damaged but he still has loyalty to Brock.

Also, this continues to add more depth to the return of Carnage, who we saw working his way back into Venom’s story back in the previous Web of Venom one-shot.

Stegman got to take a break from the art, apart from the cover, but Juan Gedeon and Kyle Hotz’s art was more than satisfactory.

Overall, this was a quick, fun read and it served to enrich the current Venom mythos.

But now I’m tired of waiting for the big Carnage return. I want that sinister bastard back because when used the right way, he makes Venom stories more interesting. In the hands of Donny Cates, I’m sure we’re in for some really great issues coming up.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: the recent Donny Cates Venom series and its Web of Venom spinoffs.

Comic Review: Spider-Gwen, Vol. 5: Gwenom

Published: April 18th, 2018
Written by: Jason Latour
Art by: Robbi Rodriguez, Khary Randolph (covers)

Marvel Comics, 136 Pages

Review:

I think that I took too long of a break between reading volume 4 and volume 5 of Spider-Gwen. Reason being, this felt like the title had run out of steam. Maybe that’s because it did run out of steam by this point but it could be my own fault for lacking the enthusiasm I had for this series before I took a long break.

This just didn’t hit the right notes for me but that also probably has a lot to do with this being just another story of a Spidercharacter becoming Venom. Marvel has done this to death. Apart from the original Spider-Man titles, we got to see this with Miles Morales and Otto Octavius, both fairly recently.

I’m not saying that the Gwen Stacy version of Spider-Woman shouldn’t have a Venom story but this felt forced and like the writer was pushed into this by Marvel or because this series has now be rolling for a couple years and its hard to not become formulaic. It’s almost as if a Venom story was expected.

But just because something worked a few times, doesn’t mean that it will keep working. Also, it doesn’t mean that you can’t veer away from it and do your own thing. In fact, it’s much better to do your own thing and to explore new ideas with new characters, as opposed to rehashing some tired ass shit most Spider-fans have lived through multiple times.

I’m also just getting tired of this alternate universe. I kind of like the evil Daredevil thing but it’s also become a bit tiresome, as has this version of the Punisher and just about everyone else. It’s like the comic had some good ideas for twists on these characters but there wasn’t much else there beyond those twists.

This story arc also wedges in so many characters that it feels like a mess. I’m not even sure why some of them were there other than to have cameos galore in an effort to show how different this alternate reality is. But if you haven’t already done that by volume 5, hell, by volume 2, then maybe this series doesn’t deserve to continue.

I love Gwen Stacy and I really like this take on her character but she’s got to find a purpose for existing other than just being a cool idea and a really cool costume. And I feel like that’s all that she is now.

Rating: 5.75/10
Pairs well with: Other Spider-Gwen collections.

Comic Review: Web of Venom: Carnage Born – One-Shot

Published: November 21st, 2018
Written by: Donny Cates
Art by: Danilo Beyruth, Kyle Hotz (cover)

Marvel Comics, 32 Pages

Review:

Donny Cates has been straight fire, lately, His Venom stuff has been top notch and has given that character and his mythos new life. Cates has a way with the character that most writers in recent memory haven’t come close to. And if I’m being honest, Venom is one of my favorite characters of all-time but I was growing bored with what they’ve been doing with him for years.

Now this one-shot is the second one-shot since Cates took over Venom. This is a side story that gives a lot of context to the big return of Venom’s greatest rival, Carnage. And after everything Cates has done with Venom, so far, it’s great seeing him take on Carnage.

I really missed Carnage.

What this one issue story does is it makes me realize how much the Marvel universe has needed Carnage’s presence again. He is legitimately, one of the scariest villains that Venom or Spider-Man has ever faced. He is everything Venom is but even more powerful and with the mind of a psychotic serial killer that just wants to hurt everyone and everything.

This comic serves to fill in the blanks from the last sighting of Carnage up until now, where he is given something to make him more powerful. For Carnage fans, the end of this is glorious.

As a one-shot, this does its job exceptionally well. It gives us the context we need and it gets you pumped up for the next chapter in the Venom/Carnage rivalry.

Carnage is horror and this is really a horror story more than it is a tale about superheroes and their world.

Kudos to Cates for once again bringing something truly exciting to the table.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: the recent Donny Cates Venom series and its Web of Venom spinoffs.

Film Review: Venom (2018)

Also known as: Antidote (fake working title)
Release Date: October 1st, 2018 (Regency Village Theatre premiere)
Directed by: Ruben Fleischer
Written by: Jeff Pinkner, Scott Rosenberg, Kelly Marcel
Based on: Venom by David Michelinie, Todd McFarlane
Music by: Ludwig Göransson
Cast: Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams, Riz Ahmed, Scott Haze, Reid Scott, Jenny Slate, Michelle Lee, Woody Harrelson (cameo), Ron Cephas Jones

Columbia Pictures, Marvel Entertainment, Tencent Pictures, Arad Productions, Matt Tolmach Productions, Pascal Pictures, Sony Pictures, 112 Minutes

Review:

“Eyes! Lungs! Pancreas! So many snacks, so little time!” – Venom

If I’m being completely honest, my hopes for this film weren’t too high. However, my minimal expectations were exceeded in a lot of ways.

I guess the acting prowess of Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams and Riz Ahmed can go a log way as all three were pretty damn good in this. Hardy really takes the cake though and even if his Eddie Brock differs a lot from the comic book version, I still liked this interpretation of the character. I kind off miss the blonde boxy buzz cut but that’d probably look silly in 2018… or just too f’n badass!

Anyway, this film had to create its own story, as they didn’t have Spider-Man at their disposal to tell the story the right way. Plus, even though this is put out by the same studio that owns the Spider-Man film rights, it’s not really clear if this even exists in the same universe. There are no signs to the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe; none that I saw, anyway.

I liked this film’s plot though and the way that Venom comes to be, worked for me. I wasn’t too keen on Riot being the big bad of the movie but there wasn’t a whole lot they could do being that this was a self-contained movie that doesn’t seem to bleed over into the larger Spider-Man world. Plus, this takes place in San Francisco, as opposed to New York City, which could also have been a way to distance it from Spidey (and his friends and allies), at least for now. There are other symbiotes in this that aren’t just Riot, however. But he’s the only one that actually matters to the larger story.

My one big complaint about the film is the pacing. The first half hour moves at a crawl but once things get going, it really gets going. But then it moves almost too fast. From what I understand, there was a lot of footage cut from this movie. It was initially being made to have an R rating but very late in production, they decided to go with a PG-13 rating. There are moments where it seems as if something violent was lobbed off and it created some bad, choppy edits. Also, it feels as if some key narrative moments were worked out of the plot, after the film was fully shot. Like I said, it starts at a slower pace and then speeds up very quickly and it just feels like there are some time jumps and key things missing. Maybe this can be rectified with an R rated cut or an extended edition once this hits the streaming market.

I thought that the action sequences were a mixed bag. The first big one, which sees Brock on a motorcycle trying to evade big SUVs through the late night streets of San Francisco was superbly done, even if it threw a tiny bit of cheese at you. The final battle between Venom and Riot on the launching pad wasn’t so good. I mean, I’ve seen much worse in comic book movie finales but it was just a CGI shit festival and hard to differentiate between the two aliens. Couldn’t Riot have been a different color than dark grey? In the comic books, symbiotes have lots of color variations. Also, it would have helped if Venom had his iconic emblem on his chest and back.

One thing that stood out for me was the score. Often times it was subtle and atmospheric and then in big action scenes it would become a nice punctuation to the over the top adrenaline rush. The score during the motorcycle chase was stellar and it reminded me of the blockbuster scores of the ’80s to mid-’90s.

Venom is far from perfect but it’s got a lot more going for it than against it. Most importantly, it has my favorite mid-credits scene out of any of these comic book movies. It was chilling, generated the right kind of emotion in me and it made me want the follow up now, as opposed to three years down the road. If you’ve read the earliest Venom stories back when they were new, you’ll probably feel the same sense of awe when you get to this moment at the end of the film.

While this might not be as good as most of the movies in the MCU, it is more fun than most of them and to me, that’s really important.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: the harder edged Marvel movies as of late: Logan, the Deadpool films and I’m assuming the upcoming New Mutants movie.

Comic Review: Venom: First Host

Published: August 29th, 2018 – September, 26th, 2018
Written by: Mike Costa
Art by: Mark Bagley, Ron Lim, Paco Diaz

Marvel Comics, 113 Pages

Review:

Venom: First Host was a really cool miniseries for me for several reasons.

To start, I love Venom and whenever he gets a story that expands his character, I’m usually always pleased. This story helped to give the character and his history more depth and further moved him along to where he no longer has to be solely attached to Spider-Man stories. This, along with Donny Cates’ current run on the regular Venom title, have made this iconic anti-hero much more interesting in 2018, thirty years after his first appearance.

Secondly, I love the creative team on this book. Mike Costa was one of my favorite G.I. Joe writers of all-time. In fact, I wish he would return to that universe, as it’s pretty much getting run through the muck, lately.

As far as the art, you’ve got Mark Bagley and Ron Lim, two guys that I was a huge fan of in the ’90s. Bagley did the art in so many books that I read and Lim did all that fantastic art in the three Infinity events in the early ’90s. I’ve also always liked Paco Diaz’s work too. So, for me, this was like an all-star team comprised of guys I liked on different projects, brought together to give me a miniseries on one of my all-time favorite characters.

The story itself is really interesting, as well. It introduces us to the Venom symbiote’s first host, a disgraced and violent Kree warrior. It also deals with a new offspring of Venom, which Brock and the symbiote treat and see as their child. So we have Brock in the young symbiote suit teaming up with a female Skrull to defeat a Kree madman with the Venom suit. It’s nuts, it’s fun and I had a blast reading this story. I’d like to see more of Venom in space, actually.

Now this may be confusing, as it is somewhat of an unexplored origin and it is happening at the same time Cates’ origin of the symbiote is also being published. But these two stories work well together and while all this new Venom backstory stuff might be overwhelming and a bit confusing, each current Venom comic works well on its own.

And frankly, between this miniseries and Cates’ stuff, I’m really excited to see the Venom movie, which is just a few days away at the time of this writing.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: Venom: Rex and the upcoming Donny Cates Venom stuff.

Comic Review: Ultimate Comics Spider-Man, Vol. 4

Published: January 9th, 2014
Written by: Brian Michael Bendis
Art by: David Marquez, Sara Pichelli

Marvel Comics, 106 Pages

Review:

Like every new Spider hero of the last half decade or so, Miles Morales’ Spider-Man had to get his own Venom story. This also happened early on in the careers of the Superior Spider-Man and Spider-Gwen. It’s sort of a trend with Marvel but maybe it’s also a right of passage for Spider-Family characters that have made it beyond just being one-offs or quick cash grabs.

What sets this Venom story apart from the others like it, is that the symbiote is a giant beastly thing that doesn’t resemble the classic look and is more like a gigantic mess. I don’t like this version of Venom or its weird origin story. Also, apparently there’s a host but you don’t see him until Venom is defeated and it’s no one you’ll know.

You also get to see Gwen Stacy and Mary Jane Watson come into the story but they don’t feel like their characters, at all. I’m not sure if the Ultimate universe versions of these two ladies are supposed to be hipster sitcom characters but that’s basically all that they are. And their dialogue is atrocious.

What makes this work though, is how well this story, despite it’s cosmetic flaws, taps into Miles’ larger, personal arc. This chapter in the series has a huge effect on the character and where he goes moving forward. This is the turning point in the series, where things get serious and too real. This is that defining moment that makes or breaks a hero.

This is very Bendis. And what I mean by that is that it’s an inconsistent, mixed bag where there are glaring issues but it still has the makings of a great story.

There is only one more volume in this series and I am looking forward to it, I just hope that it ends on a great note, as I have mostly enjoyed the Miles Morales story up to this point.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: The other early Mile Morales Spider-Man stories. Also, Spider-Men I and II and Spider-Verse.