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Todd McFarlane’s Run on Spider-Man (Review/Retrospective)

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.

Todd McFarlane is undoubtedly one of the best artists ever to work on Spider-Man. His take on the character is iconic and influential. He really captures the sense of Spider-Man as a character who should be unnerving or disturbing – a character who is part insect, whose limbs are able to bend and contort in ways that would seem unnatural to a casual observer. His run on The Amazing Spider-Man with writer David Michelinie is one of the most underrated Spider-Man comics ever produced.

McFarlane was working at Marvel around the time that the company was investing more power in its artists. More and more, artists were becoming more essential to the creative process – whether credited as “plotters” or “writers.” Jim Lee was wresting control of the X-Men franchise from veteran writer Chris Claremont. Rob Liefeld was writing and drawing on his popular X-Force, launched from New Mutants.

Holding it together...

Holding it together…

In this context, it made sense to allow Todd McFarlane to branch out and write his own Spider-Man title. Launched to run alongside The Amazing Spider-Man, McFarlane’s adjectiveless Spider-Man remains one of the comic book success stories of the nineties, selling 2.5 million copied on initial release. It remains one of the best selling comic books of all time, with the original artwork recently selling for over $675,000.

As with many of its contemporary artist-drive series, McFarlane’s Spider-Man is a compelling read. It’s a glimpse inside the mindset of the comic book industry, a snapshot of trends that were still developing. McFarlane’s writing might be a little over-cooked, his plotting a little weak and he may not have the strongest sense of theme or structure. However, McFarlane’s artwork is absolutely spectacular, and there’s something very fascinating about McFarlane’s attempt to write Spider-Man as a horror comic starring the iconic web-slinger.

A sting in the tale...

A sting in the tale…

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X-Force Omnibus by Rob Liefeld & Fabian Nicieza, Vol. 1 (Review/Retrospective)

To celebrate the release of The Wolverine later in the month, we’re taking a look at some classic X-Men and Wolverine comics every Monday, Wednesday and Friday here. 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.

Rob Liefeld has become something of a polarising force in comic books. The artist was a driving force in the industry in the nineties. Along with creators like Todd McFarlane and Jim Lee, Liefeld really helped turn comic books into an artist-driven medium during that decade. (Rather pointedly, X-Force #1 credits Liefeld as responsible for “everything but…” the specific tasks dolled out to other contributors.) The artist became a celebrity in his own right. He got his own Levi commercial. He famously sketched while speeding inside a car.

Liefeld has arguably become more a symbol than a creator. His heavily involvement in the second year of DC’s “new 52” reboot really solidified the impression that former Marvel head honcho and current DC editor-in-chief Bob Harras was trying to channel the nineties comic book market. (The fact the line has been heavily emphasising contributions by Jim Lee and Greg Capullo, other nineties superstars, really underscores the notion.)

It’s hard to look at X-Force without seeing it as a hugely symbolic work. This is really one of the comics which defined the nineties – arguably even more than Jim Lee’s X-Men or The Death and Return of Superman. If you wanted a glimpse into the mindset of American mainstream comics in the nineties, X-Force is the perfect glimpse.

Welcome to the nineties!

Welcome to the nineties!

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The Amazing Spider-Man by David Michelinie & Todd McFarlane Omnibus (Review/Retrospective)

The Amazing Spider-Man by David Michelinie & Todd McFarlane Omnibus is a fun comic book collection. Todd McFarlane was one of the rising stars at Marvel in the late eighties, and it’s no exaggeration to suggest that his work on The Amazing Spider-Man (along with Jim Lee’s work on Uncanny X-Men) had a massive influence on how the company would develop during the nineties. McFarlane’s artwork still looks absolutely superb, but it’s easy to forget that McFarlane worked for an extended period with author David Michelinie, crafting stories for the iconic web-crawler. While the stories and characterisation might not have been as strongly influential as McFarlane’s artwork, they still remain impressive until today. This might not be the finest or most important collection of Spider-Man adventures ever collected, but it reads incredibly fluidly and has a great sense of fun behind it.

Itsy-bitsy Spider...

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Greg Pak’s Run on The Incredible Hulk (With Jeff Parker) – Fall of the Hulks (Review)

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.” Today, I’m focusing on one in particular, the Incredible Hulk.

I have to confess, it’s quite difficult to find nice hardcover collections featuring The Incredible Hulk that you can recommend to non-comic-book fans. Given the character’s fairly massive impact on popular culture, you’d imagine that Marvel would produce any number of easily accessible collected editions featuring the not-so-jolly green giant. He has, after all, featured in two movies in the space of ten years, an iconic television show and a whole host of other media. Unfortunately, Fall of the Hulks is unlikely to be that collection, and is unlikely to prove accessible to new readers looking to pick up a book featuring The Incredible Hulk. While it undoubtedly has quite a few qualities to recommend it, it is certainly not for those unfamiliar with the character.

Men of action...

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