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The Amazing Spider-Man – The Gauntlet: The Vulture – Scavenging (Review)

This April, to celebrate the release of The Amazing Spider-Man 2, we are taking a look at some classic and modern comics featuring Spider-Man (and friends). Check back daily for the latest review.

The biggest problem with Scavenging is the villain.

The classic Vulture is admittedly a goof design, but – as with most of Steve Ditko’s villains – there’s an undeniable charm. With his silly “villainous green” colour scheme and the image of a super villain old enough to be collecting his pension, the classic Vulture sticks in the memory. Like so many of those classic Amazing Spider-Man bad guys, the Vulture has a sense of character that extends beyond his goofiness. (After all, Electro, Sandman and Mysterio are no less goofy in design.)

Feeding time...

Feeding time…

In contrast, the “new” Vulture featured in Scavenging feels decidedly generic. More animalistic, with a pinsir-like mouth and the ability to spew hot bile, the character is dressed in red – as if to suggest the classic costume design is more menacing in that colour. Introduced by Mark Waid in the 24/7 arc of Brand New Day, there nothing memorable at all about this version of the character, and he feels like an awkward fit for The Gauntlet, which traverses Spider-Man’s iconic selection of foes.

There is a reason that the character ended up as C-list fodder at the start of Greg Rucka’s Punisher run.

The Vulture has landed...

The Vulture has landed…

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X-Men: Operation Zero Tolerance (Review/Retrospective)

To celebrate the release of The Wolverine this month, we’re taking a look at some classic and modern X-Men and Wolverine comics. I’m also writing a series of reviews of the classic X-Men television show at comicbuzz every weekday, so feel free to check those out.

Operation Zero Tolerance is very much an artefact of the nineties. It’s a big bombastic X-Men romp, one that manages to hit on a lot of the key themes and ideas of the franchise (making them resonate with the public mood), while still seeming loud and simply and incredibly hollow. After all, it’s a comic about the prejudice facing a minority in the nineties, with repeated references to the Holocaust. “Zero tolerance?” Senator Robert Kelly asks towards the end of the event. “Isn’t that what the Nazis had for the Jews in the last World War?” The villain, Bastion, is presented as a “wannabe Hitler.”

Operation Zero Tolerance is, in a word, blunt. With so many of the high-profile comics of the nineties, from both Marvel and DC, “subtlety” is an alien concept. This is an X-Men comic where racial intolerance and prejudice are expressed through nothing short of attempted genocide. On the one hand, it’s very clearly the mutant prejudice idea pushed to its logical extreme. On the other hand, the notion of the United States government even passively condoning an attempted genocide feels like it robs the franchise of the social relevance which had made it so compelling and intriguing.

Still, the event’s impact is quite obvious. It’s hard not to see Operation Zero Tolerance as the driving influence on the entire X-Men franchise from House of M through to Second Coming.

Chances of survival are Slim...

Chances of survival are Slim…

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Stan Lee and John Romita’s Spider-Man – The Amazing Spider-Man Omnibus, Vol. 2 (Review/Retrospective)

I loved Stan Lee and Steve Ditko’s Amazing Spider-Man. In fact, I think it might be the most accessible Silver Age comic book that I’ve ever had the pleasure to read. However, all good things must come to an end, and Steve Ditko left the title after thirty-eight issues. As such, the title went through a transitional period, with John Romita Sr. taking over the art on the book. Romita would arguably end up a much more proactive guiding light on Amazing Spider-Man, doing a lot of work outside the main title that undoubtedly helped cement the character’s place in popular culture. There’s a wonderfully “sixties pop” feelings to the issues collected here, even if they feel a bit more conventional than Ditko and Lee’s collaboration. Still, it’s easy to see why The Amazing Spider-Man is among Marvel’s longest-running books.

Reflecting on a fun run…

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Ultimate Spider-Man – Vol. 12 (Hardcover) (Review)

You know, Jeph Loeb actually managed to make quite the impression on Marvel’s Ultimate line of comics. While his Ultimatum was intended to serve as a “shot in the arm” to a comic book line with waning sales and interest, it’s telling that Marvel organised another event almost directly afterwards, with The Death of Spider-Man serving to reorganise that fictional universe once again. This collection, the twelfth in the Ultimate Spider-Man line, sees author Brian Michael Bendis guiding the book between Ultimatum and The Death of Spider-Man. (Indeed, the next book in the set is the Death of Spider-Man omnibus collection.)

As such, it’s not too surprising that these fourteen issues feel a bit disjointed and uneven, as Bendis deals with the aftermath of one radical status quo change while gearing up for another. That said, I still think that Ultimate Spider-Man represents the single most consistent run on the title, and Bendis still manages to keep things interesting, even if this collection doesn’t quite compile the author’s strongest run of issues.

Spider-Men…

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Dan Slott’s Run on The Amazing Spider-Man – Spider-Island (Review/Retrospective)

Dan Sott’s Amazing Spider-Man run has been pretty well received by fans. Credited with giving the title a sense of fun after the continuity-tangling mess of One More Day, Slott has managed to inject some fun back into the franchise. Or so I’ve heard. Despite being a fan of Slott’s Mighty Avengers, I remain somewhat disappointed that there’s been no effort made to collect his Amazing Spider-Man run into either an omnibus or an oversized hardcover collection. Still, I recently had the pleasure of devouring Slott’s Spider-Island plotline in a nice oversized hardcover, and I have to admit that I was more than a little impressed with Slott’s epic “event” comic book.

New York, New York, it's a hell of a town!

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Stan Lee and Steve Ditko’s Spider-Man – The Amazing Spider-Man Omnibus, Vol. 1 (Review/Retrospective)

It’s hard to believe that Spider-Man first appeared fifty years ago. The character is arguably Marvel’s most iconic comic book creation, and his appearance and iconography is instant recognisable all around the world. As such, fifty years after his first appearance, it’s fascinating to look at just how much of Spider-Man is firmly rooted in the initial thirty-eight issues of the title, written by Stan Lee and illustrated by Steve Ditko. While I am normally quite wary of older material (Will Eisner’s The Spirit being the exception that proves the rule), it’s amazing how well Lee and Ditko’s Amazing Spider-Man holds up.

Animated by Kerry Allen.

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Avengers Disassembled: Captain America & Falcon (Review/Retrospective)

If any of the Avengers: Disassembled tie-ins make a case for the drastic shake-up that took place amid Marvel’s Avengers-themed titles in 2004, it’s probably Captain America & Falcon. By the time the tie-in to the event began, the book was only on its fifth issue, but it had already found time for the juvenile and shallow conspiracy-theory mongering that would make John Nay Rieber and Chuck Austen’s Captain America proud. Still stuck in a hamfisted attempt to tie into the post-9/11 zeitgeist, the book offers some of the worst examples of comic book storytelling at Marvel at a time when their Avengers line wasn’t particularly strong to begin with.

Not a smashing success…

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