Category Archives: spider-man

Review: Marvel-Verse: Venom

Marvel-Verse: Venom

I should preface this review by saying I’ve never been the biggest fan of Venom. The character is an interesting idea, but I honestly think he’s been overused and overexposed by Marvel since his creation.

So why, then, would I pick up this collection of stories focusing on Venom?

Call it an impulse check-out from my local library.

After reading this collection of five comics, I find myself wondering just who the target audience is for this collection. Is it young readers to introduce them to the character of Venom (in case you’ve just discovered comic books, I guess)? Or is it older readers to give a quick overview of Venom’s origin? I don’t necessarily think it’s anyone who has only seen the big-screen, live-action version of Venom with Tom Hardy because that storyline doesn’t include Spider-Man as part of Venom’s origin. Continue reading

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Comic Book Review: Spider-Man: Bloodline by J.J. & Henry Abrams, Sara Pichelli, Dave Stewart

Spider-Man: Bloodline

Well, it appears that J.J. Abrams’ son Henry has inherited his father’s ability to start off a story well but has no idea how to stick the landing.

This five-issue mini-series event is a bit of a disappointment on the writing side. A new villain called Cadaverous kills Mary Jane and a bunch of other superheroes, sending Peter Parker into exile. A decade or so later, Peter is estranged from his fifteen-year-old son Ben and has left Ben in the hands of Aunt May as he travels the globe for the Bugle. But Ben is starting to have strange occurrences in his life, like sticking to walls and the ability to take out bullies with a single punch. Before you know it, Ben has discovered he’s got Spidey powers and Cadaverous is alerted that Spider-Man is back on the scene and can be used to complete whatever the hell plan it is that Cadaverous has dreamed up.

Bloodline feels like an extended mini-series based on the MCU more than the comic-book storylines surrounding Spider-Man — and that’s not a bad thing, per se. If there’s one thing Into the Spider-Verse showed us, it’s there can be multiple variations of Spider-Man without necessarily wrecking things.

But as I started out saying, the big issue here is Henry Abrams’ writing. It’s all over the place, pulling in things like Tony Stark, the Avengers, and other MCU items without necessarily thinking things through. If you’re all about a big reveal that doesn’t require much thought or internal continuity, this is the mini-series for you. However, Spider-Man has always been about something more than just big reveal after big reveal for me — it’s about investing in the character of Peter Parker — or whoever is taking up the Spider-Man mantle. And that’s where this mini-series ultimately fails. Yes, Ben Parker is Peter and MJ’s son, but beyond that, there is little or any character arc in play to give us a reason to care about. And since Peter turns into a distant father, there’s little, if any reason, to invest much in him either.

The story does try to go for a huge emotional twist in the final issue with mixed results. Again, I hadn’t invested enough in the characters to really feel anything more than a shoulder-shrug when said reveal takes place.

And the ending is all over the place. So, maybe J.J. wrote this with his son.

Putting the plot aside, the artwork for this miniseries is superbly done. I grew up reading reprints of the Steve Ditko and John Romita eras, and those will always be my favorites when it comes to Spider-Man. But the art by Sara Pichelli for this mini-series event evokes the best of Ditko and Romita. It’s colorful and easy to distinguish each character over the course of the five issues. There are a few striking panels in here that made me pause to just enjoy them before turning the page and continuing to roll my eyes at the plotline.

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Review: The Amazing Spider-Man, Volume 4: Hunted by Nick Spencer

Amazing Spider-Man by Nick Spencer, Vol. 4: Hunted

While reading through the Marvel Masterworks reprints of The Amazing Spider-Man, I encountered the first appearance of a lesser-known Spidey foe, the Gibbon. The Gibbon wasn’t exactly what you’d call even a B-list or C-list level of villain for Spider-Man. Beyond the hook of the Gibbon wanting to be an ally to Spider-Man (mirroring a bit Spidey’s attempts to join the Fantastic Four back in the day), I’d argue there wasn’t much memorable about the character.

So, imagine my surprise when reading this story arc, “Hunted,” when I found myself getting a lump in my throat when the Gibbon is killed off in the issue focusing on him. Somehow Nick Spencer took what was a minor villain in the Spidey-verse and not only made me connect with and care about him, but he actually made me get a bit weepy when he died.

That alone has to be worth an extra star when it comes to rating this arc in the current run of The Amazing Spider-Man. Continue reading

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Review: The Amazing Spider-Man Epic Collection, Volume 7: The Goblin’s Last Stand

Amazing Spider-Man Epic Collection Vol. 7: The Goblin's Last StandLike classic Doctor Who, comic books published during the Silver Age don’t necessarily hold up well to being binged.

Collecting two years of issues from the run of The Amazing Spider-Man, this volume has some of some series highs and some series moments that may leave you scratching your head a bit. Of course this collection includes the pivotal and comics changing “The Night Gwen Stacy Died” arc, seeing us lose not only Peter Parker’s love interest but also the original Green Goblin over the course of two pivotal issues. This story and the one after it stand out as some of the most intriguing from this influential run, as does a multi-issue run with Doc Ock battling Hammerhead to become the crime boss of New York, all with Aunt May caught in the middle.

There’s also a sojourn to Canada to battle the Hulk and track down and trace down an old family mystery to add to the intrigue.

But then there’s a couple of forgettable enough stories in there as well. While the return of Flash Thompson from the Vietnam War and the implications this has for the character and his friendship with Peter Parker still echo today, there are a few moments that haven’t aged as well and are less than politically correct today.

And then there’s the Gibbon. This multi-issue arc sees a character who wants to be Spidey’s partner in crime fighting only to be humiliated by Spider-Man and then taken under the wing of Kraven the Hunter. It sounds silly and it doesn’t come across much better on the printed page. Odds are they won’t be raiding this arc for future Spider-Man movies. And there’s probably a reason that the Gibbon doesn’t make the upper pantheon of great or even so-so Spider-Man villains.

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Comic Book Friday: The Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows Volumes 0, 1 & 2

Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows, Vol. 2: The Venom ExperimentA decade ago, the controversial “One Day More” storyline saw the Spider-universe hit a ginormous reset button and remove the marriage of Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson from the continuity. Years later, another huge crossover event would, the second (or is it the third) Secret Wars storyline saw the creation of a parallel universe where Peter and MJ are still married and raising a daughter.

Their daughter, May, has similar powers to those of her father. In the wake of an evil overlord named Monarch who seems intent on collecting all the super powers he can get his mitts on, Peter is hopping to stay one step ahead of the latest detection devices for himself and his daughter. But when they get noticed and rumors of the Spider-Man’s return begin to surface, Peter finds himself fighting to defend his family — and now the family wants to join the fight.

The resolution of that storyline encompasses volume 0 of this series and then things really get going on volumes 1 and 2. Written by long-time Spider-writer Gerry Conway, these collection of arcs is a lot more fun than they have any right to be. Having recently revisited Conway’s tenure on Amazing Spider-Man, I wasn’t sure what, if anything, I should expect from these issues. But after trying to read much of the current storylines taking place in the Spider-Man universe, I found these refreshingly easy to digest, straight-forward and welcoming to readers who haven’t memorized every detail of comic book continuity for the past decade. Seeing Peter try to juggle his secret identity along with the demands of the two women in his life to be part of the crime-fighting team gives the story some much needed depth. The second collection even raises the stakes a bit by having MJ become motivated to contribute to the team (tech left over from Monarch lets her share Peter’s powers) and turning to Liz Allen for a new version of the Venom symbiote.

These three collections are some of the best recent Spider-Man stories I’ve read and they reminded me of what it was that I initially loved so much about my favorite wallcrawler.

 

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Comic Book Friday: Marvel Masterworks: Amazing Spider-Man, Volume 14

Marvel Masterworks: The Amazing Spider-Man, Vol. 14Collecting a dozen or so issues from the mid-70’s run, Marvel Masterworks: The Amazing Spider-Man, Volume 14 showcases a successful comic book and character treading water for close to three-hundred pages.

Yes, Harry Osborne finally goes over the edge and embraces his inner Green Goblin. But like his father before him, he will conveniently forget that a)he’s the Goblin and b)Peter Parker is Spider-Man by the time anyone in authority arrives. Harry’s transformation is teased across multiple issues (and I believe they started planting seeds as early as issues in the last collection). But the return of the Green Goblin lacks the emotional punch it could or should have, possibly because the last time we saw Spidey tangle with the Gobin it was one of the high points not only of the character but one of the iconic turning points in comic books.

Other villains include the return of the Molten Man and Mysterio and new threats like the Mind Worm and the Grizzly. Yes, you read that right. Spider-Man spends not one but two issues battling it out with a former wrestler who has an enhanced grizzly bear costume and has decided its time to give J. Jonah Jameson his comeuppance for ruining his wrestling career. And yes, I’ve just re-read that sentence and I know how silly it sounds. The comic book presentation isn’t much better.

Of course, the infamous start of a certain saga that nearly killed Spider-Man as we know it in the 90’s is also beginning here. So, maybe part of my lack of love for this collection of issues is knowing where it will all pay off in twenty years’ time. Or maybe it’s just that writer Gerry Conway’s stories don’t really add all that much to the Spidey canon. Look, I know not every issue from my favorite era of Stan Lee and Steve Ditko were masterpieces. But at least there was always some hook, some threat or some narrative point to keep me interested. That’s not often the case here. These issues feel like they come down to a formula for writing and Conway’s just happy to plug in various characters as we move slowly between battles with that issue or arc’s central villain. It comes down to Spidey meets villain, Spidey gets his you-know-what handed to him by said villain, Spidey as Peter beats himself up about it and interacts with the supporting cast, Spidey goe out and find the villain again and the battle goes Spidey’s way this time. Lather, rinse, repeat.

It’s all so formulaic in nature — and I think reading the issues close together in a collection like this only underlines this. I can’t help but think if I read these monthly as they originally came out (or were reprinted), I might end up enjoying them a bit more. Or be more forgiving of certain tropes that seem to show up issue after issue like clockwork.

This collection is Spider-Man fully on cruise control. And in a collection that features the Spider Buggy (yes, that was a thing!), that’s pretty damn ironic.

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Review: Marvel Masterworks: The Amazing Spider-Man, Volume 13

Marvel Masterworks: The Amazing Spider-Man, Vol. 13Collecting a dozen or so issues of the original run of The Amazing Spider-Man, this may represent the most memorable stories of the Gerry Conway era. Starting off with the epic two-part story that “changed comics forever,” “The Night Gwen Stacey Died” set a new tone for the Peter Parker and his secret identity. It’s one of the few comic book deaths (outside of Uncle Ben) that has really stuck, though Marvel has certainly tried to mess with this by having clones of Gwen come back and then later revelations that Gwen and Norman Osborne were hooking up while she was off in London.

The two part story that features the end of Gwen and the original Green Goblin has been retold and given homage in multiple re-tellings of the Spider-Man story. But few are better than what Conway does in these two issues. Knowing the ending allows you to sit back and really examine how Conway and the creative team on ASM toyed with readers of the day, building up and foreshadowing the two major deaths to come.

As if that monumental two-part saga weren’t enough, we also get the introduction of the Punisher to the Marvel-verse and the Jackal to the Spider-verse. And both of these introductions occur in the same issue. The sad part is that said issue isn’t necessarily much to write home about. The Punisher is an interesting force to be reckoned with, but in his debut, he’s pretty much a one-note character. The backstory that we associate with the character comes later. Continue reading

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Comic Book Friday Audiobook Review: Spider-Man: Forever Young

Spider-Man: Forever YoungAs a re-imagining of the “Table of Time” saga from multiple issues of The Amazing Spider-Man, Spider-Man: Forever Young is a bit of a disappointment.

The strongest parts of the story are borrowed directly from a couple of issues in the Stan Lee/John Romita days of ASM. Filled to the brim with angst for Peter Parker, multiple villains for our favorite web-slinger to contend with and a McGuffin to drive the story (in this case, an ancient tablet that contains the formula for a fountain of youth serum), the first half of the story is entertaining, riveting and chock full of classic Spidey goodness. Continue reading

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Comic Book Friday: Marvel Masterworks: The Amazing Spider-Man, Volume 11

Marvel Masterworks: The Amazing Spider-Man, Vol. 11After penning a hundred issues, Stan Lee turns the reigns over to writer Roy Thomas (at least for a couple of issues) and there’s a perceptible change in the storytelling quality.

Seeking to cure himself of being Spider-Man in order to have a normal life, Peter Parker downs an untested serum, falls into a deep sleep (in which we are treated to a summary of Peter Parker/Spider-Man’s life up to now) and wakes up with six arms. Horrified by what he’s done, Peter scrambles to find a cure all while battling new threat Morbius the vampire and the return of the Lizard.

Another arc centers on Flash Thompson’s return from Vietnam and the fall-out from his attempting to do the right thing for a group of villagers. The arc starts well for Flash but quickly goes in an entirely less than politically correct direction for the remainder of its run.

Then Spidey and company are off to Antartica to find Ka-Zar’s forgotten world and deliver a photo feature that will save circulation at the Daily Bugle. (Interesting to see that newspapers were having issues with circulation back then and not just as we continue to explore the digital age). Gwen Stacey tags along as a model, which complicates things when Peter has to go all Spider-Man to battle Kraven the Hunter as well as various prehistoric beasts that inhabit the area. Continue reading

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Comic Book Friday: Marvel Masterworks: The Amazing Spider-Man Volume 10

Marvel Masterworks: The Amazing Spider-Man, Vol. 10Stan Lee always wrote his comics as if each issue was someone’s first entry into the universe of that particular hero or team of heroes. So there are times reading any collected edition of his works that you may feel like the story is repeating itself a great deal or going back to reflect on the origin of whatever hero or team he’s chronicling.

And while that happens a bit in this collection of The Amazing Spider-Man, it’s hard to find a few gems from a creative team that was firmly in a grove at this point. Collecting issues 88 to 99 of the original run, Spidey does battles some classic and not-so-classic foes all while Peter Parker’s life is upended by his decision to continue being Spider-Man. The collection includes a couple of pivotal events in the life of Spider-Man from the death of Captain Stacy to the infamous drug addiction storyline that Marvel had the courage to print without the endorsement of the comic code authority. Re-reading this story now, it seems a bit light-weight and a bit like something you’d see on a daytime drama. But looked at through the prism of when it was published, it’s downright revolutionary and hard-hitting. Continue reading

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