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The Punisher by Rick Remender Omnibus (Review/Retrospective)

Rick Remender’s Punisher is a fun run. It’s not the most important or iconic take on the character, nor is it the writer’s best work at Marvel (or in the industry as a whole). It’s disjointed, it’s awkwardly paced, it seems to resolve itself merely because Remender was moving on to another title, but it’s also fun, exciting and interesting. Somewhat akin to Jason Aaron’s Ghost Rider work, it’s a great writer cutting lose with a grindhouse character and concentrating on telling a tale that is entertaining rather than definitive. In many respects, Remender’s Punisher really shouldn’t work half as well as it does, and that’s certainly a testament to the writer’s skill.

Here there be monsters…

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J. Michael Straczynski’s (and John Romita Jr.’s) Run on the Amazing Spider-Man – The Best of Spider-Man, Vol. 3-4 (Review/Retrospective)

I honestly believe that had J. Michael Straczynski’s Amazing Spider-Man run ended with his collaborator John Romita Jr., his time on Marvel’s iconic web-crawler would have gone down as one of the great runs. Sure, it is flawed – sometimes significantly so. However, if you divorce it from Sins Past and the mess of crisis crossover tie-in issues and awkward continuity reboots that followed, Straczynski’s early run was bold, exciting and entertaining enough to get away with doing something relatively new to Peter Parker. Given that the run includes the five hundredth issue headlined by the hero, that’s quite an accomplishment in-and-of itself. It’s not perfect, and I don’t think it’s as strong as many of the runs happening simultaneously at Marvel, but it is an intriguing direction for the pop culture icon.

How many iconic villains do you spy dere?

Note: The fourth hardcover also includes the start of Mike Deodato’s run. I am going to cover those issues separately. This review or retrospective is going to be concerned with the second half of the collaboration between John Romita and J. Michael Straczynski, culminating in The Amazing Spider-Man #508.

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J. Michael Straczynski’s (and John Romita Jr.’s) Run on the Amazing Spider-Man – The Best of Spider-Man, Vol. 1-2 (Review/Retrospective)

It’s easy to forget just how iconoclastic that early parts of the new millennium were at Marvel. The comic company was in the midst of recovering from its bankrupcy, and was going throw a massive creative shake-up. Many would argue that the late nineties represented the company’s creative nadir, and there was a very definite sense of change in the air. Some of that change involved a radical restructuring of core concepts, placing them in the hands of more radical creators.

The early part of the last decade gave us Peter Milligan on X-Force, Grant Morrison on New X-Men and Garth Ennis on Marvel Knights: Punisher. It also saw a number of big-name creators working on these characters. Kevin Smith wrote the introductory arc of the new Daredevil book. While J. Michael Straczynski’s Amazing Spider-Man has a controversial and divisive legacy, it was a product of those times. While it was flawed even in its early days, it’s still a bold re-working of an iconic comic book mythos.

King of the swingers…

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X-Men: The Dark Phoenix Saga – 30th Anniversary Edition (Review/Retrospective)

With our month looking at Avengers comics officially over, we thought it might be fun to dig into that other iconic Marvel property, the X-Men. Join us for a month of X-Men related reviews and discussion.

Chris Claremont enjoyed the company of some of the most respected and renowned artists in comics while working on Uncanny X-Men. He had the pleasure of helping to establish talent like John Romita Jr., Marc Silvestri and Jim Lee, all modern giants working in the field. However, it’s hard to argue that Claremont ever worked in tighter synergy than he did with John Byrne. Byrne succeeded artist Dave Cockrum on the book, and helped Claremont helm several iconic and defining X-Men stories, delivering pay-off on years of set-up and radically reshaping notions of what a superhero comic could and could not do. Though the pair produced several genuine classics, The Dark Phoenix Saga stands as the artistic triumph of their run. One could make a compelling case that it’s Claremont’s finest X-Men story, or the finest X-Men story, or – if one weren’t feeling especially modest – perhaps the finest mainstream superhero story ever told.

Bird of prey…

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X-Men: Inferno – Daredevil (Review/Retrospective)

With our month looking at Avengers comics officially over, we thought it might be fun to dig into that other iconic Marvel property, the X-Men. Join us for a month of X-Men related reviews and discussion.

This weekend, we’re taking a look at one or two of the smaller Inferno crossovers. These issues are collected in the crossovers companion book.

From what little I’ve read of Ann Nocenti’s Daredevil, I really like it. My experience of her work on the title has been mainly limited to crossovers and tie-ins, but Nocenti has always managed to put her own spin on events – rather than feeling like a satellite title to Mutant Massacre or Fall of the Mutants, her connected issues felt like Daredevil stories staring at a world gone completely mad. It’s a subtle distinction, but one that too few authors remember in this era of event-driven comics. Inferno is no different, as Nocenti manages to take a massive and unfolding X-Men crossover and make it work for her own narrative and characters.

This city’s really going to hell…

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Acts of Vengeance: Uncanny X-Men – Wolverine, Jubilee & Psylocke vs. The Mandarin (Review/Retrospective)

April (and a little bit of May) are “Avengers month” at the m0vie blog. In anticipation of Joss Whedon’s superhero epic, we’ll have a variety of articles and reviews published looking at various aspects of “Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.”

In celebration of the release of The Avengers, this weekend we’re taking a look at the massive 1989-90 crossover “Acts of Vengeance”, which pitted various villains against some unlikely heroes. I’ll be looking at some of the most fun match-ups. This arc is collected in the companion omnibus.

I know that a lot of people would argue that Claremont’s Uncanny X-Men sort of lost the plot a bit after Inferno, when he first sent the team to live in the Outback and then sent them through the Siege Perilous, essentially disintegrating the iconic superhero team and scattering its members to the wind with little idea of who or what they are. I, for the record, actually quite liked that period of Uncanny X-Men history, if only because it was so breathtakingly ambitious and completely unlike anything I ever expected in a superhero team book.

Detractors would, not unreasonably, suggest that there was a very good reason that Claremont’s approach was completely distinct from anything ever tried in a superhero team book. However, most of those who decry that era of Uncanny X-Men will concede that there were some highlights to be found. The Acts of Vengeance tie-ins, featuring the wonderful artwork of Jim Lee, are among the more widely-praised of Claremont’s work in this era, and I find it quite tough to disagree.

Big Trouble in Big China…

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Acts of Vengeance: Daredevil vs. Ultron (Review/Retrospective)

April (and a little bit of May) are “Avengers month” at the m0vie blog. In anticipation of Joss Whedon’s superhero epic, we’ll have a variety of articles and reviews published looking at various aspects of “Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.”

In celebration of the release of The Avengers, this weekend we’re taking a look at the massive 1989-90 crossover “Acts of Vengeance”, which pitted various villains against some unlikely heroes. I’ll be looking at some of the most fun match-ups. This arc is collected in the companion omnibus.

I’ll confess that I haven’t read all of Ann Nocenti’s Daredevil run. I’ve just read the issues contained in various crossover collections like Inferno, Mutant Massacre or even Fall of the Mutants. While any run on Daredevil is going to rest in the shadow of Frank Miller’s character-defining work, I find it interesting that Nocenti managed to so effectively tie the book back into the heart of the Marvel Universe. Miller defined the book as a noir adventure, and the tendency has been to follow that approach. While Nocenti writes the same Matt Murdock that Miller defined, she cleverly tends to put him in a different context, producing rather interesting and engaging results. Nocenti’s Daredevil is very much a superhero book, even though it follows Miller’s characterisation, and that gives it a unique flavour.

Stickin’ it to the man…

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