After 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
Stan 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
My first thought when I heard Marvel was producing a new series centering on Hawkeye was that it was a marketing thing to cash in on the heroes’ new-found popularity thanks to the cinematic universe.
But then I heard the buzz that there might be more to this than meets the eye. Add in that the new series is written by Matt Fraction, author of the brilliantly subversive Sex Criminals comic books and the series had my interest.
So when my local library got in the first collected edition of the new Hawkeye, I picked it up. Continue reading
When Jughead’s old pal Hot Dog is hit by a car, the distraught teen takes him to Sabrina and her family to bring him back to life. While her aunts refuse, Sabrina is moved by Jughead’s plight and taps into some dark magic to bring Hot Dog back to the land of the living.
Apparently all the copies of Pet Semetary were checked out before Jughead decided to this. Because while Hot Dog does come back, sometimes dead is better. Before you know it, Hog Dog has unleashed a wave of zombie terror in Riverdale — and wouldn’t you know it, on the night of the big dance!
Afterlife with Archie is a hybrid of the squeaky clean stories of Archie, Jughead and company and the gritty, over the top horror of The Walking Dead. Reading that sentence, you might think these are two things that won’t go well together. But instead of being jarring, the two pieces fit well together, giving us a band of survivors that we know and can root for all while watching their world go to hell in a hand basket as several familiar faces become zombies and begin attacking.
And yet for all the humans who did in this collection (and there are a few), it’s interesting that the death that readers may feel the most is Archie’s beloved old dog pal. Heading home to check on his parents, Archie comes across the zombie Hot Dog and looks doomed, only to see his old pal step in to save his life one last time. The use of thought balloons to narrate Archie’s pal’s internal monologue and thoughts about saving his beloved master are moving at first, turning tragic as the zombie virus consumes him and he turns on Archie.
I won’t lie and say I wasn’t more than a bit moved by this moment and the emotions that this comic taps into. I also won’t lie and say I caught every nuance of the storyline because I’m not necessarily familiar with every character and cliche from the world of Archie comics on display here.
But none of that matters because this collection of five issues works well as a homage to both the tropes of Archie and horror stories.
I’ve read a lot good Spider-Man comics over the years and I’ve read a lot of terrible Spider-Man comics over the years.
Dan Slott’s “Spider-Verse” has to be among the worst of the worst — and yes, I’ve read the entire, completely reviled clone saga from the mid-90’s.
So, every iteration of Spider-Man that has ever been is brought together for this epic, cross-over saga. And while it might seem like fun to see the 60’s animated Spidey share the page with the new animated Spidey, these fun moments are few and far between in this book. In between, we get a lot of convoluted moments with various iterations of our favorite web-head spouting off meta-physical malarkey. From what I could gather, every Spider-Man in every universe has been targeted by Morlun’s family to….ummmm, well, I’m not really quite sure why, except to feed on them and to create a reason for this crossover. Continue reading
In an odd bit of timing, I started reading this latest collection of the Batman ’66 comics on the same day that the news broke of Yvonne DeCarlo’s passing. This turned out to be bittersweet because the first story features Batgirl and the Dynamic Duo battling the forces of evil around Gotham City.
As I said for the first two installments, this comic book series is intended as pure, unmitigated fun and a great homage to the classic TV series. The comics can do things that the TV show budget didn’t or couldn’t but it never forgets what made the TV series work so well. One story that’s especially fun finds Wayne Manor robbed and the Shakespeare bust removed, effectively cutting off our heroes from the Batcave. Forced to resort to older versions of the costumes, we get to see Batman and Robin in the costumes from the movie serials that preceded this one. The story is a lot of fun and stays just long enough so that it doesn’t wear out its welcome.
Also included is a story that finds Batman invented a robot that will be on duty 24-hours a day and fight crime. The scenes of Bruce and Dick actually getting to fishing are nicely done as is the reasoning for why the Bat-bot can’t stay on duty all the time.
This collection continues the fun of the series and was just delightful. It’s not heavy Batman stories — but they don’t need to be. If you want something fun and entertaining, give this series a try.
Scott McCloud’s The Sculptor is a weighty read. And I don’t just mean the actual physical weight of the book (though it is a thick, heavy book). I’m talking about the story, it’s implications and how it’s stuck with me even though I finished the last page months ago.
David Smith is a struggling artist. He’s visited by the ghost of his dead uncle and given a choice — give up art and live a long life with marriage, children, etc. or live two hundred more days and be able to create as much art as he wants. David chooses the shorter life and art, but he finds, as with all choices, there are pros and cons to it. A pro is he can create art faster and more effectively than ever before. A con is that his friends and agent find it hard to believe he’s creating this much art so rapidly.
Another con is that just as David’s life has an expiration date, he meets a girl and falls in love. At first it appears a one-sided love (she’s dating someone else) but soon the two are falling in love.
The interesting thing about The Sculptor is that the love affair is rich, complicated, wonderful and messy — sometimes all within a few panels of each other. Meg has her issues and isn’t the “perfect” love interest. But she’s a great fit for David — at least for most of the run of this story. Where McCloud takes our characters and this story is profoundly moving — going from the great excitement of the early days of a relationship to the hard work that comes in keeping the relationship going. McCloud doesn’t shy away from some of the harder issues facing our couple nor does he come up with any easy answers for them. Continue reading