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The Amazing Spider-Man – Grim Hunt (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.

Although not technically part of The Gauntlet, Grim Hunt serves as a climax to eight months of stories in The Amazing Spider-Man. It comes at the end of what has been a pretty tough slog for the wall-crawling web-slinging superhero, after a string of pyrrhic victories and out-and-out losses. In essence, Grim Hunt is the culmination of all the plot threads running through The Gauntlet, as the sinister plot against the iconic superhero enters its end game.

It also comes towards the end of the Brand New Day era of The Amazing Spider-Man, only two story arcs before regular writer Dan Slott would take over the series for the next stage of the character’s development. Brand New Day was a controversial era for Spider-Man fans, building off a clumsy continuity reset in One More Day and trying to balance the weight of the character’s history against bold new directions.

As such, Grim Hunt also serves as something of a meditation on the history of The Amazing Spider-Man, a reflection on editorial attitudes to continuity and character development – an astonishingly self-aware and reflexive story arc that feels like a commentary on the character and the way that comic book storytelling tends to work.

A shot in the arm...

A shot in the arm…

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Greg Rucka and Marco Checchetto (and Carmine Di Giandomenico’s) Punisher – War Zone (Review)

This March, to celebrate the release of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, we’ll be taking a look at some classic and not-so-classic Avengers comic books. Check back daily for the latest updates!

Despite the continuity of character, plot and creator, it’s striking how distinct Punisher: War Zone feels from the sixteen-issue solo series leading into it. After Marvel cancelled Greg Rucka and Marco Checchetto’s Punisher series, the company green-lit a five-issue miniseries to allow the duo to wrap up the various plot threads and themes that ran through their earlier work. It is nice to see the pair given a chance to bring closure to their story, to tidy away loose ends on their take on Frank Castle.

At the same time, Punisher: War Zone feels very much like its own thing. The plot is powered by the arrest of Rachel Cole-Alves, Frank Castle’s accomplice who accidentally murdered a police officer during a botched raid. At the end of the series, the New York City Police Department had taken Cole into custody while Castle escaped into the night. In a way, the story could just has effectively ended there – the Punisher disappearing back into the woodwork, the characters all squared away.

While Punisher: War Zone does resolve the Cole-Alves subplot, it feels like it is primarily an accuse to pit Frank Castle against the Avengers. It’s a rather demented comic book idea – allowing a guy with lots of guns to face off against “Earth’s mightiest heroes” – but it plays into the larger themes of Rucka’s run about what tolerance of Castle says about the people who share this world with him.

Seeing red...

Seeing red…

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Greg Rucka and Marco Checchetto’s Run on The Punisher, Vol. 9 (Review)

This March, to celebrate the release of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, we’ll be taking a look at some classic and not-so-classic Avengers comic books. Check back daily for the latest updates!

The Punisher isn’t really a complex character.

Indeed, despite his popularity and appeal, there’s really only so much you can do with the character before it feels like you’re repeating yourself. He is a vigilante who brutally murders criminals, possibly because criminals killed his family. That’s part of the reason why Rick Remender’s Punisher run was so exhilarating. It genuinely felt unlike anything that had been done with the character before – even if Remender had to take Frank Castle off the reservation to do it.

Writer Greg Rucka and artist Marco Checchetto came up with their ingenious way of making the Punisher seem novel again. Realising that readers have probably become a little too over-familiar with Frank Castle and his world, Rucka and Checchetto shrewdly decide to look at Frank Castle from the outside, treating the Punisher as something like a force of nature, a terror glimpsed fleetingly as he stalks the concrete jungle.

A smoking gun...

A smoking gun…

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