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: Carnage

Published: 1992
Written by: David Michelinie
Art by: Mark Bagley

Marvel Comics, 70 Pages

Review:

This three issue story arc originally appeared in The Amazing Spider-Man issues 361 through 363. And it was also one of the biggest Spider-Man storylines to come out during my middle school years when I was the most impressionable, as far as comics go.

In 1992, there were few characters as popular as Venom. However, this milestone story gave us a second symbiote, Carnage.

What made this character’s debut so important is that it changed the landscape.

Venom was no longer Spider-Man’s deadliest foe. In Carnage, we have a psychotic serial killer in possession of an alien suit born from Venom. Therefore, it also inherited Venom’s strength. In addition to that, this symbiote has evolved due to being born on Earth, so it has better control of its mass, structure and can fire off projectile weapons made of its alien skin.

Carnage is so powerful and evil that Spider-Man had to enlist the help of Venom. Because of that, this was the turning point in Venom’s life where he no longer played the villain but he became more of an anti-hero and often times a reluctant ally to Spidey.

For a debut, this story packs a punch. Most of that is because Carnage is so damn scary. But the credit really has to go to the creative team. David Michelinie wrote another classic story and the great art of Mark Bagley gave Michelinie’s words and Carnage’s form real life. While people always talk about Todd McFarlane and Erik Larsen’s runs on The Amazing Spider-Man, Bagley was just as iconic and frankly, I like his style better than Larsen’s.

Carnage is one of the highest points in Michelinie’s long run on Spider-Man. While it’s not as impactful as Venom’s debut, it’s nearly on the same level and still, to this day, one of the greatest Spider-Man stories ever told.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: the earlier stories featuring Venom and then the later Maximum Carnage event.

Comic Review: Web of Venom: Funeral Pyre – One-Shot

Published: July 24th, 2019
Written by: Cullen Bunn
Art by: Alberto Jiminez Albuquerque, Joshua Cassara, Declan Shalvey (cover)

Marvel Comics, 32 Pages

Review:

I’ve lost count of how many Web of Venom one-shots there have been over the last year but I’ve enjoyed all of them. They tie directly to Donny Cates’ run on Venom, which started just over a year ago, as well as his upcoming Absolute Carnage mega event.

What I liked about this one is that it featured Mania, a symbiote character that’s been missing from Marvel since the death of Flash Thomspon. She was tied to Flash while he was Venom and because of that, became a symbiote herself.

I’ve always dug Mania, so seeing her come back and be involved, in some way, with this mega event is kind of cool.

This sees Carnage, back from oblivion, as he is hunting down all the symbiote pieces on Earth. This puts Mania in his crosshairs.

Overall, this story does a good job of reestablishing Mania into the Marvel mythos and it also helps add another plot thread to the Absolute Carange event.

I thought Cullen Bunn did a good job on the writing, tying this to a much bigger tapestry. I was a fan of the art too.

Ultimately, I don’t give a shit about big comic book events anymore. However, the groundwork that’s been laid for a year, leading up to Carnage’s massive return, has been pretty damn good and at least has me interested in what’s to come over the next few months.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: the recent Donny Cates Venom series and its Web of Venom spinoffs.

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

Published: April 10th, 2019
Written by: Frank Tieri
Art by: Danilo Beyruth, Joshua Cassara (cover)

Marvel Comics, 35 Pages

Review:

I’m not really sure where the Venom series is going other than it has been working towards the return of Carnage for what I assume will be a massive Venom versus Carnage showdown.

Since last year’s Venom number 1 and the other Web of Venom one-shots, Donny Cates has mostly been at the helm and he’s done a pretty stupendous job. However, he’s seemingly left Venom behind to focus on Guardians of the Galaxy and the upcoming relaunch of Silver Surfer. That being said, this one-shot was written by Frank Tieri, who I mostly only know from his work on DC Comics’ Harley Quinn, as well as Jughead: The Hunger and a Red Sonja miniseries.

Overall, the story here was quite good. There was a bit of cheesy dialogue in one or two panels but not enough the detract from the proceedings.

Venom is nowhere to be found in this story, which is fine, but with his name in the title, I thought maybe he’d be around. In his place are Man-Wolf, a character I’ve always loved, and Misty Knight. We also get an inside look at this cult that has sprung up. The cult worships a strange god but it is really all a front for the returned Carnage, who has big plans that will most assuredly see him cross paths with Venom once again.

I liked the art and the tone of this was good.

These Web of Venom one-shots have all been pretty enjoyable and I like that they kind of feel like scenes edited out of the larger movie. They aren’t necessary to read with the regular Venom comic but they add more context than what you would get from just the primary title.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: the recent Donny Cates Venom series and its Web of Venom spinoffs.

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 – One-Shot

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.