Comic Review: The Avengers, Issues #195-196 – First Appearance of Taskmaster

Published: May, 1980 – June, 1980
Written by: David Michelinie
Art by: George Perez

Marvel Comics, 36 Pages

Review:

The Taskmaster is the shit! Which is why the two issues that make up his first appearance have been on my comic book bucket list for years. Recently, I tracked down affordable copies and finally gave his first little story arc a read.

Well, I wouldn’t call this great but if you like Taskmaster, this is still worth a look. Plus, it also has his origin wedged into the story, as he describes his abilities and history to the Avengers through flashbacks.

I think the thing that really stands out about this story and this era in Avengers history is the art of George Perez. In fact, since this is all about Taskmaster, I should point out the visual similarities between him and another George Perez creation, Deathstroke. He would create both of these iconic villains just a few months apart in 1980.

Anyway, the story sees the Avengers try to rescue the Wasp, who has been captured and is being experimented on in a castle. The Scott Lang Ant-Man and Hank Pym, as Yellow Jacket, infiltrate the castle and reach the Wasp. Once they are inside and have a scuffle, the Taskmaster makes his presence known with a big final page reveal.

In the second issue, the Taskmaster takes on the Avengers and nearly beats them. He also tells his origin story, explaining his unique skills that give him an advantage over all of the Avengers he’s observed in the past. However, we quickly discover his Achilles heel, at least in this story, as he doesn’t know how to defeat an Avengers teammate he’s never seen before.

The story is enjoyable and there is a lot of action. The real highlight is the George Perez art, though. Man, he really was one of my favorite artists from this era.

While these single issues aren’t cheap, due to them being a first appearance, you can read them on Comixology for just a few bucks.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: other Avengers stories circa 1980.

Comic Review: House of M

Published: February 1st, 2006
Written by: Brian Michael Bendis
Art by: Oliver Coipel

Marvel Comics, 280 Pages

Review:

This picks up after the events that happened in Avengers: Disassembled. This story also has effects that will go on to be felt in Marvel’s Civil War event, as well as X-Men: The Messiah Complex.

So following the tragic events of Avengers: Disassembled, the Avengers and the X-Men meet to discuss the fate of the Scarlet Witch. Wolverine leads the charge pretty much calling for her death, as the potential for what she can do with her powers is too great. Other Avengers and X-Men disagree but ultimately, you get the idea that this is going to go somewhere really friggin’ dark.

After that, Wolverine wakes up in an alternate reality and is aware that he’s not where he’s supposed to be, even though all of his allies are buying into the mystical charade. Wolverine has to go against his friends, search for answers and has to convince his allies that something happened that completely changed reality.

In the end, the Scarlet Witch only leaves like ten percent of the mutants in the world with their powers intact. So Wolverine saves the day, essentially, but the Scarlet Witch with her insane powers is still a crazy bitch.

This story was a cool idea but it didn’t really move forward in a way that excited me. Granted, I wasn’t too fond of Avengers: Disassemble, which lead to this.

This is one of the big Marvel stories of the ’00s and it is certainly better than the schlock they are synonymous with now but it still pales in comparison to the great epics that came before this. Don’t get me wrong, Marvel has some events that were duds in the old days too but this book just missed the mark and frankly, it could have been longer and probably needed to be, as the pace was insanely quick.

I really enjoyed Oliver Coipel’s art, though.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: Avengers: DisassembledThe Messiah Complex, also it has ramifications that carry over into the Civil War event.

Comic Review: Dark Nights: Metal

Published: June 12th, 2018
Written by: Scott Snyder
Art by: Greg Capullo

DC Comics, 204 Pages

Review:

I didn’t read this as it came out. I also was much more frugal about how much I spent on comics at the time. I’m less frugal now, as I’m spending more time reviewing them. And to be honest, while this is $30 for the collected edition at my local comic shop, I found this on a brief Comixology sale for $5.99. So at that price, I figured I’d give it a go. If I ended up really liking it, I would’ve gone back to buy the single issues. But I didn’t really like it all that much. I’ll explain.

To start, I typically like Scott Snyder’s writing, especially in regards to anything with Batman in it. As far as Greg Capullo goes, he is one of my favorite artists of the last few decades. So seeing them reunite for this was definitely a selling point, even if what I knew about the project’s story didn’t peak my interest.

The biggest problem with Metal is the same problem with most mega events in comics, it is chock full of so many characters that the plot loses fluidity and the story seems to placate more to wedging in as many cameos as possible, as opposed to keeping the train on the rails.

This wasn’t a bad idea for a story but it should have been kept fairly simple. People just kept showing up on nearly every page, though, and it becomes distracting. New twists and turns are thrown in as often as characters and this just loses its focus. It also introduces a whole horde of villains, most of whom will just be one-offs in this story anyway. But this reads more like a sketchbook than a coherent story. What I mean by that, is that this feels like Capullo trying to fit in every cool design that he wasn’t able to wedge into Spawn throughout his run on the book in the ’90s.

Another thing I didn’t like was how wordy this was. While there are good action scenes, sometimes these characters felt like they weren’t surrounded by villains but instead, were surrounded by word balloons, trying to wedge their way into the panels and asphyxiate the characters. The word balloons were the real villains of the story. At least, that should be a twist whenever this gets a sequel.

I did like how the ending looked into the future as a way to tell you what stories would be coming out from DC Comics over the following year. But, at the same time, this was disappointing to some degree, as a main reason why I picked this up was to see the introduction of DC’s “New Age of Heroes”. I always see mentions that this is where they debuted but their appearance here is limited to one panel where we see into the future.

Anyway, this at least kept my attention over the six issues, even if they felt like twelve due to the dialogue and having so much detail to drink in. I wouldn’t say that this is a waste of time and I can see where this will be a lot of people’s cup of tea. It just wasn’t my cup of tea, really. But I also don’t regret reading it simply because I liked seeing Capullo have fun and get really creative with the art and character design.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: Any other DC Comics mega event of the last decade or so.

Comic Review: Avengers: Disassembled

Published: January 26th, 2005
Written by: Brian Michael Bendis
Art by: David Finch

Marvel Comics, 133 Pages

Review:

This is one of those iconic stories that you hear about all the time in comic book circles. However, I thought that the whole thing was pretty damn underwhelming for what it has been built up as.

The Avengers team gets ripped apart. It is due to the betrayal of one of their own. They don’t know that at first and when confronted with the idea, reject it.

However, the Scarlet Witch has basically gone batshit and blames all of her friends for killing her children that were never actually real to begin with but a psychotic projection of the Scarlet Witch’s will.

Yeah, does this story sound stupid to you? Because it definitely felt stupid to me. I thought Bendis was a big deal but everything I read by him is just as batshit as the Scarlet Witch, Wanda’s fucked up brain in this story. I’ve just never been too keen on Bendis, other than his earliest work on the Miles Morales Spider-Man stuff. His Superman stories, his current job, are also just some weird ass shit.

I don’t know, this book hurt my head. It’s only saving grace was superb art from David Finch and awesome action sequences.

Also, this leads into the big Civil War event that effected all Marvel titles, as well as the major X-Men events: The House of M and The Messiah Complex.

Avengers Disassembled has been talked about fondly for years by many. I’m just glad that this was only 133 pages.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: This leads into the massive X-Men stories The House of M and The Messiah Complex, also it has ramifications that carry over on the Avengers side of things and into the Civil War event.

Comic Review: The Invincible Iron Man: Armor Wars

Also known as: Stark Wars
Published: December 10th, 1987 (start of the story arc)
Written by: Bob Layton, David Michelinie
Art by: Mark Bright, Bob Sharen

Marvel Comics, 209 Pages

Review:

Good lord, it has been an incredibly long time since I read through this classic Iron Man story arc. Probably at least twenty-five years. But as I’ve been going through all my old comics in an effort to preserve them and catalog them, I wanted to revisit this old school tale.

Armor Wars, at the time of its printing, was referred to as Stark Wars, which was probably a cheap attempt at capitalizing off of Star Wars.

The story kicks off with Tony Stark finding out that his tech secrets have been stolen. He sets off to try to correct this, learning that his secrets have been sold off to a bunch of supervillains and tech industry rivals. This sets up a situation where Tony has to go rogue, deal with the consequences of those actions and also has to battle a bunch of his famous foes, who are now more enhanced thanks to Tony’s secrets.

Ultimately, this is a very well written comic book story arc for its time. To this day, this is still considered one of the best Iron Man stories of all-time. It is certainly one of my favorites and when I was a kid, it really served to introduce me to a lot of Iron Man’s famous villains. This is where I first discovered the Crimson Dynamo, Titanium Man, the Controller and a few others. I was already a fan of Beetle from his appearances in Spider-Man stories.

This story also features the West Coast Avengers, who had one of the coolest comics in the late ’80s.

One of the biggest highlights, however, was that this has a chapter where Iron Man fights Captain America. This happened a few decades before the Civil War storyline in the comics and was the first time that I remember seeing two heroes really throw down with each other without one being controlled by some villain or being corrupted by some sort of power or force.

Apart from the Iron Man and Captain America fight, I loved the chapter that saw Tony Stark go head to head with both the Titanium Man and the Crimson Dynamo at the same time. This was just a great comic, even as a stand alone and not a chapter in a larger story arc.

This is still one of the greatest Iron Man tales ever written. I thought that the conclusion was a bit anticlimactic but it was an ending that still worked and ushered in a new era for Tony Stark and his friends.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: Other classic Iron Man story arcs: Demon In A BottleDoomquest10 Rings to Rule the World, Iron MongerThe Ghost and the Machine and The Dragon Seed Saga. Also, Armor Wars II.

Comic Review: The Infinity Crusade

Published: December 17th, 2008
Written by: Jim Starlin
Art by: Ron Lim, various

Marvel Comics, 488 Pages

Review:

Well, I read through the great Infinity Gauntlet storyline and followed that up with the mediocre Infinity War sequel. Naturally, I thought that I should finish the trilogy of Infinity stories with this one: The Infinity Crusade.

However, I wasn’t a fan of Magus and his whole shtick from the previous chapter in this large saga. The reason why I’m pointing that out here is because the setup is essentially the same. Where Magus was the physical embodiment of Adam Warlock’s evil side, the big threat in this story is the physical embodiment of Adam Warlock’s good side. I admit, I rolled my eyes when I was reminded that this was the setup to this story.

Frankly, I thought the plot was lame and what was even lamer was the McGuffin. No longer was the focus on the Infinity Gauntlet, now the focus was on this “Goddess” character and her Cosmic Egg. Basically, she just sits around in her giant cosmic egg using religion to brainwash a large group of heroes to be her holy army. So this is like Civil War but with religion and a giant friggin’ egg.

It also doesn’t help that there is virtually no action, this is overly talkie and just boring. Well, to be fair, the fifth issue in the six issue arc was just straight up action. But outside of that, there wasn’t anything exciting other than a few brief physical spats and some cosmic magic battles, the biggest of which featured psychically projected heads shooting laser beams at the “Goddess”.

Plus, the story suffers from being spread over several different titles. So when I read the collected edition of the main comic, there is key stuff missing from it, as it happened in another issue of a different title altogether. I get that this is how crossover events work but the two previous Infinity sagas kept the main story in the main title and the other comics just had tie-in subplots.

This whole mega event is just proof that Marvel was milking the Infinity thing way too hard. The Infinity War was just okay and then this was a disaster. Neither of them came as close to the greatness that was The Infinity Gauntlet.

Rating: 4.5/10
Pairs well with: Its prequels The Infinity Gauntlet and The Infinity War.

Comic Review: The Infinity War

Published: April 5th, 2006
Written by: Jim Starlin
Art by: Ron Lim

Marvel Comics, 400 Pages

Review:

I just finished up The Infinity Gauntlet mega crossover event, so naturally I wanted to jump right into The Infinity War. Plus, the next Avengers movie centers around these storylines, so I wanted to revisit them, as I haven’t read them since they were fairly current back in the early ’90s.

Like its predecessor, this tale is jam packed with more Marvel heroes and villains than can reasonably fit onto one page. There are more characters in this story than the previous one and everyone is present and accounted for, unlike the first Infinity story, which saw half of the heroes (and the universe’s population) removed from existence.

Sadly, this is not as good as its predecessor. The Infinity Gauntlet was very talkie in the first half and then just broke off into three giant comic book issues of straight up action. The Infinity War has some action but it is minuscule when compared to the previous saga.

Also, Magus was a cool idea for a villain but he didn’t even come close to having the presence and intensity of Thanos. Also, Thanos is pretty much neutered in this story and is more of a hero than a villain. I get that he is in someway atoning for his actions when he had possession of the Infinity Gauntlet but it seems like it is way too soon for him to be working with the heroes of the Marvel universe, even if the situation called for it. There certainly should have been more push back from the heroes.

Ultimately, the story was boring. It was a lot of talking… A. LOT. Hell, this story was mostly just talking and talking and more talking. The overall plot was dragged down by an extreme overabundance of dialogue.

I remember really liking all the stuff tied into this event more than the event itself. In the broader universe, Marvel characters were forced to face their evil doppelgängers. I’ll have to re-read some of the single issues I have that are spunoff from this main story arc.

I feel like this book was more of a gimmick than an attempt to really continue the Infinity saga in a way that was actually meaningful. Most of the book felt like it was just full of splash pages with as many characters as possible crammed into a large room, trying to dodge their speech balloons.

This was still a mostly fun read but it was a weak followup to the far superior Infinity Gauntlet.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: The other parts of the trilogy: The Infinity Gauntlet and The Infinity Crusade.