Comic Review: Spider-Man: The Sinister Six

Published: June 1st, 1964
Written by: Stan Lee
Art by: Steve Ditko

Marvel Comics, 75 Pages

Review:

This story premiered in the first ever Amazing Spider-Man annual. Plus, it was written by Stan “The Man” Lee and drawn by the great Steve Ditko.

The plot is pretty standard fair for ’60s Marvel and it sees six of Spider-Man’s toughest villains come together to form the original version of the Sinister Six. That being said, the Sinister Six have been one of my favorite villain groups of all-time and this storyline didn’t just create a supervillain team to test a single hero but it created a trend in the comic book medium that saw other heroes have to take on similar teams of multiple rogues.

I like how the plot was structured, in that Spider-Man had to run the gauntlet on the Sinister Six and fought each one individually. This is actually a great setup for the future, which would see the Sinister Six up the ante and take on Spidey all at once. However, in future battles, Spidey would get some help of his own.

This group consisted of Doctor Octopus, The Vulture, Kraven the Hunter, Electro, Mysterio and the Sandman. While the group would rotate some other villains in over the course of time, I really liked this group and how having them come together in this story made it feel like a Spider-Man themed Royal Rumble.

For a first time reader, this had to be a fun read, as it forced Spider-Man to face multiple challenges in the same story. Plus, it just looks great with the Ditko art.

This is not my favorite Sinister Six story but we wouldn’t have gotten the other ones without this happening first. Plus, it’s quintessential Stan Lee in how this all plays out.

It’s hard not to love this.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: other Stan Lee and Steve Ditko era Spider-Man comics.

Comic Review: X-Men: The Dark Phoenix Saga

Published: 1980
Written by: Chris Claremont
Art by: John Byrne

Marvel Comics, 200 Pages

Review:

Does it make me a terrible X-Men fan that I have never actually read The Dark Phoenix Saga?

I’ve tried to round up all the single issues over the years but some of them are pricey and there’s nine issues that make up this arc. But in my defense, I know the story very well, as it has been referenced a million times over throughout X-Men history. I’ve also seen various interpretations and adaptations of the plot. Granted, none of them are really accurate in regards to this, the source material.

This is free for Comixology Unlimited subscribers though, so I thought that delving into it was long overdue and that I really didn’t have an excuse anymore.

I expected this to be enjoyable but it still took me by surprise, as it was better than what I anticipated and all the years of hype I’ve experienced, didn’t diminish it in anyway.

The Dark Phoenix Saga is quintessential Chris Claremont. I can’t say that this is where he peaked but this is certainly a very elevated highpoint in his long run writing X-Men related stories.

This also came out in a time when Marvel wasn’t addicted to big crossover mega-events. This was a mega-event for its time but it wasn’t marketed or structured in the way that these things are now. It was just a good, lengthy story, limited to one already existing comic that found a way to utilize a lot of characters but in a way that balanced them all out and made them all useful to the plot.

One cool thing about this arc, is it also features the first appearances of Kitty Pryde, Emma Frost, Sebastian Shaw, the Hellfire Club and Dazzler. There’s a bunch of stuff going on within this story but it doesn’t off track and still builds towards the big battle between Jean Grey as Dark Phoenix and her X-Men family. It’s, at times, heartbreaking and tragic but it also makes you love all these people all over again in an organic, natural and emotional way. This hits emotional notes in the reader in ways that comic books never seem to come close to in 2019.

I can’t just give credit to Chris Claremont and his stupendous writing though. The art by John Byrne is absolutely superb and it is just as rich, colorful and meticulously crafted as the story its telling.

The Dark Phoenix Saga is one of the greatest Marvel stories ever told. It’s classic Marvel and truly represents what I loved about the era and how I fell in love with this creative medium in the first place.

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: other early Chris Claremont X-Men comics.

TV Review: The Comic Book Greats: Episode 10 – Spotlight on Jim Lee (1992)

Released: 1992
Created by: Stan Lee
Directed by: Rick Stawinski
Music by: Rick Stawinski, Rob Stawinski
Cast: Stan Lee (host), Jim Lee

Excelsior Productions, Stabur Home Video, 51 Minutes

Review:

Well, I think I have found my favorite installment of The Comic Book Greats video series!

This episode was stupendous and Jim Lee was such a treat to see on this show. He has a great rapport with Stan Lee and he does an fantastic job of talking the audience through his method for creating comic book art that it works even for the most inexperienced layman.

Jim Lee, as I also said about Todd McFarlane, would be a great teacher. He is thorough in his lessons here and covers a lot of ground in a limited amount of time.

I also liked the interview segment of this episode a lot, as Jim Lee gets very personal about his life up to the point when this was recorded and it’s just an interesting story, as comic books weren’t where he originally intended to end up, career-wise.

Lee would go on to be one of the most prolific creators in the history of the comic book industry. Seeing him so young and this early in his career is a real treat for anyone that’s a fan of the medium.

Jim’s got a great personality, a real love for what he does and he still does all these years later. This is why I watch his YouTube channel where he live streams periodically and talks to his fans as he works on new art.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: other episodes in The Comic Book Greats video series.

Comic Review: X-Men: Second Coming

Published: June 22nd, 2011
Written by: Craig Kyle, Christopher Yost, Matt Fraction, Zeb Wells, Mike Carey
Art by: David Finch, Terry Dodson, Ibraim Roberson, Greg Land, Mike Choi, Rachel Dodson, Sonia Oback

Marvel Comics, 360 Pages

Review:

I went into this thinking that I would like it for the most part. The events that precede it were pretty good reads. What I didn’t expect was to be blown away. But in the end, I have to say, this was one of the absolute best X-Men crossover events that I have ever experienced. Seriously, this was nothing short of superb.

More than anything, this story made me love Cable more than ever and it got me to love Hope Summers, who I would say is one of the best characters to come out of the last decade, even though she previously appeared as a baby before this in Messiah Complex.

This had a lot going on in the story but there was room for it all. Plus, all the key players were well balanced throughout and it gave most of the top characters a real purpose and mission.

There are real consequences in this story, as some key X-Men figures die. Granted, one could argue that those consequences are never real because no one truly dies in comics and the two biggest victims of this story are already alive and well, once again. But despite that, it felt like a real blow within this narrative. It didn’t lose its impact knowing that they’d eventually be back.

Second Coming carries all the doom and gloom of Messiah Complex over and it brings more doom and gloom but it ends in a way that finally sees a glimmer of “hope” appear in the darkest time of the X-Men franchise. I don’t want to spoil too much because I’d rather people give this a read.

Being that this is a crossover event, there is a mix of art styles. All of it works for me though, even if there are noticeable style shifts from chapter to chapter. Ultimately, the tone stays about the same from beginning to end.

This is a fairly long read but none of it is boring or filler. It moves at a brisk pace, keeps you engaged and makes you cheer for these heroes in a way that you haven’t since the early ’90s.

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: the stories that precede it: Avengers Disassembled, House of M and X-Men: The Messiah Complex, as well as the one this leads up to: Avengers Vs. X-Men.

Comic Review: New Mutants: Back to School – The Complete Collection

Published: 2003-2004 (originally published)
Written by: Chris Claremont, Nunzio DeFilippis, Christina Weir
Art by: various

Marvel Comics, 350 Pages

Review:

The New Mutants was one of my first loves in comic books. I discovered it at a pretty early age and loved it, along with the Chris Claremont era of the X-Men. So I wanted to check out this series from 2003-2004. I had put it off for a long time but with it being free for Comixology Unlimited members, I finally decided to give it a read.

All this did was disappoint me though. And man, it was a really long read at 350 pages. This collection covers the whole run of the relaunched series, plus some other comics that tie into the story.

This focuses on the formation of a new team of mutant youngsters, as opposed to bringing the original team back together. The cover was severely misleading as I wanted to read the adventures of that team. All the characters on the cover don’t even come together until the last issue in this collection and even then, it’s way too late and doesn’t do much to salvage the complete boredom I felt for everything before it.

10-20 percent of this giant collection features actual action. The rest of it is just talking and talking and talking and talking. And even with 80-90 percent of this being dialogue, I don’t really care about any of these characters and there is no emotional weight to anything that happens between the covers.

Even if you are a hardcore New Mutants fan, you can ignore this completely and not miss anything. If you are a Dani Moonstar fan, I guess you might want to read it, simply for the fact that she is a big part of this slow, boring story.

Rating: 3.5/10
Pairs well with: more modern X-Men and New Mutants comics.

Comic Review: X-Men/Alpha Flight (1998 Series)

Published: 1998
Written by: John Cassaday, Ben Raab
Art by: John Cassaday, Liquid! (cover)

Marvel Comics, 64 Pages

Review:

I wasn’t expecting much from this two-issue story arc but I was pleasantly surprised by how fun this was.

I love the X-Men and I love Alpha Flight. I especially love when they come together.

In this story we see the X-Men get captured by Baron Strucker and Hydra. Alpha Flight then goes in to save them.

I didn’t realize that this was a 1998 story when I first read it, as the version on Comixology listed it as 2016. So at first I thought it was a cool throwback because it had a very ’90s art style.

This is also the second X-Men/Alpha Flight team up mini-miniseries. I have read and owned the first one for years now. I don’t remember how good that one was but if it’s on par with this, that’d be great.

For a short story that didn’t have much room to breathe, this was a good, fun comic that reminded me why I loved these two teams back in the ’80s and ’90s.

Alpha Flight needs more love, people.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other ’90s X-Men and Alpha Flight stories.

TV Review: The Comic Book Greats: Episode 7 – Spotlight on Chris Claremont (1992)

Released: 1992
Created by: Stan Lee
Directed by: Rick Stawinski
Music by: Rick Stawinski, Rob Stawinski
Cast: Stan Lee (host), Chris Claremont

Excelsior Productions, Stabur Home Video, 50 Minutes

Review:

I’ve really been enjoying going back and watching this series. Most of the episodes I haven’t actually seen as I only owned five of the 13 videos. This is one of the ones that I missed back in 1992 because I was much more into the artists than the writers back then.

Unfortunately, out of all the ones I’ve seen, this being the seventh, this one was definitely the slowest and least interesting. I think that part of that is because it was just a straight up interview for 50 minutes and there wasn’t a large portion of it devoted to art and comic book creation.

I was pretty surprised by how detached I was, as I do love Chris Claremont and I thought that his documentary from a year or so ago was damn good. He is, hands down, one of the best writers I was reading on a regular basis when I was first getting into comics.

Now this isn’t a bad episode of the series but it’s probably not going to excite kids that are interested in comic book creation.

Chris Claremont is a class act and you certainly shouldn’t miss this episode if you want to watch through all of these but I wouldn’t call this a good starting point.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: other episodes in The Comic Book Greats video series.