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Ultimate Spider-Man #73

July 2, 2012 Leave a comment

March 4, 2005

Quick Rating: Fair
Title: Hobgoblin Part 2

What has Harry been up to?

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Pencils: Mark Bagley
Inks: Scott Hanna
Colors: J.D. Smith
Letters: Chris Eliopoulos
Editor: Ralph Macchio
Cover Art: Mark Bagley
Publisher: Marvel Comics

When this book is on, it’s one of the best comic books on the market. Unfortunately, it isn’t on this issue. Ultimate Spider-Man #73 is a perfect example of how this title sometimes misfires. There’s nothing wrong with it, there’s nothing in here that’s bad, it’s just that the events in these 22 pages in no way were deserving of an entire issue to tell.

This issue, we flashback to where Harry Osborn has been since leaving the cast of this title many moons ago. That’s it. The entire issue is a Harry flashback that shows where he’s been, what he’s been up to, how he’s been on the sidelines of some of the other events we’ve seen, and how much he may or may not remember. This is all good information. This is all important information for the story. But by the end of this issue, absolutely nothing has changed in the status quo, the story hasn’t progressed one iota. This information would have been far better served worked into another issue with actual plot progression.

Mark Bagley, as always, does a great job on the artwork. We get to see his rendition of Nick Fury and a return of the Green Goblin, plus some recreations of earlier scenes in this series and in the lackluster Ultimate Six. He does a lot with very little story.

Brian Michael Bendis is a good writer, and it’s a relief to hear that this title will be slacking back on the ridiculous number of issues that were put out last year, but since it will finally be on a sane release schedule, it’s even more important that each issue move the plot forward. This one just doesn’t measure up.

Rating: 6/10

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Ultimate Spider-Man #72

March 19, 2012 Leave a comment

February 5, 2005

Quick Rating: Good
Title: Hobgoblin Part One

Harry Osborn is back… this can’t be good for Peter Parker

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Pencils: Mark Bagley
Inks: Scott Hanna
Colors: J.D. Smith
Letters: Chris Eliopoulos
Editor: Ralph Macchio
Cover Art: Mark Bagley & Richard Isanove
Publisher: Marvel Comics

Maybe I’ve been spoiled by the three two-issue stories that just wrapped up, but this issue of Ultimate Spider-Man felt really, really slow to me. Fresh from his horrifying encounter with Doctor Strange, a new horror enters Spider-Man’s life… the return of his former best friend, Harry Osborn, son of the Green Goblin.

The book starts by recapping the events from the very first issue of the title, where Peter Parker got his powers in the first place, then goes on to reveal some other events that went on that day that neither Pete nor the reader were aware of – events that are coming back to bite us now. Peter is still jittery, pushing away his girlfriend after having the fear of losing her instilled last issue, and having the son of his worst enemy, who also happens to know his secret identity, return to his life at just this moment makes for a devastating blow.

Brian Michael Bendis’s characterization and dialogue are as good as ever, and the added scenes don’t feel like a cop-out, wedged in to create tension now, like a lot of sudden reveal flashbacks do. It’s also nice to see that the quick stories that just wrapped up did not happen in a vacuum – although the Dr. Strange story isn’t specifically referenced, anyone who read the last two issues knows exactly where Pete’s sudden attitude shift comes from, and sympathizes even as you want to yell at his to wise up.

The problem, like I said, is the pacing. Quite often, the six-issue arcs of this title feel padded, and it’s a bad sign when I get that sensation from the first issue in the arc. This felt like half an issue, not a full one, and that disturbs me quite a bit.

Mark Bagley remains the king of Spider-Man artwork. Although there’s not a lot of action in this issue, the brief fight scene is handled well, and it’s interesting to note how much the characters have evolved visually since the beginning of the series, even if it’s just as simple as removing a pair of glasses and changing a character’s posture.

A good issue, as Ultimate Spider-Man always serves up. But one that felt like there should have been more here, a problem this title suffers from far too frequently.

Rating: 7/10

Avengers (1963 Series) #221

March 5, 2012 Leave a comment

February 4, 2012

Title: New Blood

Plot: Jim Shooter
Writer:
David Michelinie
Pencils:
Bob Hall
Inks:
Brett Breeding
Letters:
Janice Chiang
Colors:
Christie Scheele
Editor:
Jim Salicrup
Publisher:
Marvel Comics

If there’s one thing I’m a sucker for, it’s an old-fashioned “Who’s going to join the Avengers?” issues, and this is a really fun one. Following some dastardly doings by Moondragon, the Avengers are down to four members. Captain America, Iron Man, Thor and the Wasp each set out to look for recruits to join the ranks of Earth’s mightiest heroes.

Shooter and Michelinie really used the personalities of the Avengers they had well here, picking the new members based largely on how the others would go about finding them. Cap and Iron Man attempting to bring back Hawkeye makes sense, as does the Wasp throwing a garden party of sorts to invite some super-powered femmes who may be ripe for membership. The only thing that feels a little off is Thor’s attempt to recruit Spider-Man, but even that is easily justified with a quick conversation with Jarvis, who inadvertently points Thor in that direction.

Bob Hall and Brett Breeding do distinctive 80s art – the textures on the floors of Avengers mansion, the decorations at the Wasp’s house, the clothing and hairstyles of the characters involved… it’s all the sort of thing that you only saw in comic books of this particular time period. The book is quite a nostalgia trip for me as a reader.

The resulting team isn’t necessarily one of the legendary line-ups, but all six of the Avengers we’ve got at the end of the issue are characters who really define the team. Each of them feels like a classic Avenger, and four of them are actually going to be in the upcoming movie. What’s really amusing to me, though, is the list of “potential” Avengers we see on the cover (many of whom don’t appear in the issue at all). Of these 15 characters, only two of whom had previously been members of the team, eleven of them have been Avengers at some point in the 30 years since this issue was published. Funny how the Marvel Universe works, isn’t it?

Rating: 8/10

Marvel Treasury Edition #8

December 24, 2011 Leave a comment

December 23, 2011

This is one of two “Giant Superhero Holiday Grab-Bag” editions of the Marvel Treasury series. Both issues were full of reprints wrapped in a Christmas cover, but at least some of the interior content was holiday-related. I was fortunate enough to snag them both a few weeks ago, so let’s take a look at them, shall we?

Title: Twas the Night Before Christmas (Reprinted from Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. #10)

Writer: Gary Friedrich
Pencils:
Frank Springer
Inks:
Johnny Craig
Letterer:
Artie Simek
Editor:
Stan Lee
Publisher:
Marvel Comics

On Christmas Eve, Nick Fury is summoned to stop the Hate-Monger, a nasty Nazi remnant who has a plan to cleanse the Earth of “inferior” races, unless Nick can stop him. Fury being very much a World War II holdover himself, this sort of story was par for the course for him at this time period. The story itself was fine, but I wasn’t terribly impressed with Gary Friedrich’s script – clunky dialogue like “Save the sobs, sister! I ain’t dead yet!” permeate the story. The artwork isn’t the best either – odd poses and weak faces throughout. But at least this was a Christmas story… not the case with the next one.

Title: Spider-Man Goes Mad (Reprinted from Amazing Spider-Man #24)

Writer: Stan Lee
Art:
Steve Ditko
Letterer:
Sam Rosen
Publisher:
Marvel Comics

In this early Spider-Man tale, J. Jonah Jameson gets the idea to start running anti-Spider-Man testimony from the man on the street, thus removing himself from the equation and making his paper’s bias against the webslinger seem more legitimate. (It just goes to show you the media hasn’t really changed that much in the last 45 years.) When the stories appear, a psychiatrist offers Jameson a medical analysis that says Spider-Man is going mad… and to make matters worse, Spidey starts to believe it. Nice, classic tale from the Lee/Ditko era, fun to read, if not one of the greatest.

Title: Jingle Bombs (Reprinted from Luke Cage, Hero For Hire #7)

Writer: Steve Englehart
Art:
George Tuska & Billy Graham
Letterer:
John Costanza
Colors:
David Hunt
Editor:
Roy Thomas
Publisher:
Marvel Comics

Set in the days before he partnered up with Iron Fist, on Christmas Eve Luke cage runs into a trio of odd types with a pretty violent vision of Christmas. When Cage stands up to each of them, he discovers a different kind of villain is really behind the whole thing. The story is pretty good here – it’s a different kind of story, not just another Christmas Carol redux, as it seemed it would be. As he often did, though, Steve Englehart got a little preachy with the message of the story. Overall, though, it wasn’t bad, and it was a decent fit for Cage.

Title: Heaven is a Very Small Place (Reprinted from Incredible Hulk #147)

Writer: Roy Thomas
Art:
Herb Trimpe
Inks:
John Severin
Letterer:
Sam Rosen
Editor:
Stan Lee
Publisher:
Marvel Comics

This story, on the other hand, is just… weird. On one of his many self-imposed exiles in an effort to be just left alone, the Hulk sees a strange little town appear out of the ether. At first, it seems like a paradise, like a place where he could finally be treated like everyone else, but as he continues his journey through the town, things turn out to not be what they seem. It sounds like the set-up for a Christmas story but it isn’t, it’s just plain confusing. Some very nice Herb Trimpe artwork helps, but this is definitely not one of the best efforts from the great Roy Thomas.

Title: Eternity! Eternity! (Reprinted from Doctor Strange #180)

Writer: Roy Thomas
Art:
Gene Colan
Inks:
Tom Palmer
Letterer:
Sam Rosen
Editor:
Stan Lee
Publisher:
Marvel Comics

This is a much better Thomas story. On New Year’s Eve, Stephen Strange has a strange vision of Eternity, embodiment of the universe, locked in battle against the maniacal entity called Nightmare. He shrugs it off and tries to ring in the new year with Clea, but it soon becomes apparent that his dream was much more than that. It’s a good story with great art, but it ends on a cliffhanger. Considering the stories in this book that had nothing to do with the holidays, one really has to wonder why Marvel didn’t cut those and finish this story.

Overall it’s not a bad little collection, but it could have been better.

Rating: 7/10

Marvel Holiday Special 2007

December 14, 2011 Leave a comment

December 21, 2007

Marvel Holiday Special 2007 (Marvel Comics)
By Andrew Farago, Shaenon K. Garrity, Lou Kang, Fred Hembeck, C.b. Cebulski, Alina Urusov, Mike Carey, Nelson & Ron Lim

This year’s grab bag of Christmas tales from Marvel, with one exception, somewhat fals short. “Piece of Cake”, the lead story, basically deals with Spider-Man ditching the cake he bought for Aunt May’s Christmas party to help Wolverine fight a rogue Sentinel being piloted by a disgruntled Department Store Santa. Cute, but nothing special. Next up there’s an old Fred Hembeck strip reprinted from a 1984 issue of Marvel Age, and then the gem of the issue: “Secret Santa.” This is a Loners story, written by C.B. Cebulski, that basically shows the team trying to re-bond at Christmastime. Cebulski picks up neatly on some plot threads he left dangling in the Loners miniseries, and this story works both to give the characters a bit of closure and to establish them neatly for future use. Finally, there’s the train wreck “The Meaning of Christmas” — a Daily Bugle feature reporter goes on a tour of the universe to allegedly discover the meaning of Christmas, but… I gotta be honest here, I don’t know what he comes home with. It’s totally nonsensical. This book is worth reading for the Loners story and the Ron Lim cover, but other than that, it’s utterly forgettable.
Rating: 5/10

Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #18

December 13, 2011 Leave a comment

March 6, 2007

Quick Rating: Very Good
Title: Sandblasted Part 2 (Back in Black)
Rating: A

Spidey and the Sandman seek out the man with Ben Parker’s face!

Writer: Peter David
Pencils: Todd Nauck
Inks: Robert Campanella
Colors: John Kalisz
Letters: Cory Petit
Editor: Stephen Wacker
Cover Art: Mike Wieringo
Publisher: Marvel Comics

Last issue, the Sandman tracked down his old enemy Spider-Man, not for a fight, but because he needed help. Flint Marko’s father is on death row, about to be executed for the murder of Ben Parker, and he needs Peter to help him clear dear old dad’s name. Meanwhile, someone who looks disturbingly like Ben has shown up in New York, and gunned down Spider-Man… 2211.

Only Peter David could take the utterly bleak “Back in Black” storyline and find a way to tell a story that’s actually fun. Although Peter isn’t making light of the situation, the classic Spider-Man sense of humor is evident in the fight scenes. Plus, for fans (like myself) who have always been mad about the arbitrary decision to make Sandman into a bad guy again after his reformation, seeing him and Peter fight side-by-side again is very entertaining. The scene with the two of them talking at Ben’s grave is absolutely great.

The only real problem with the issue is through no fault of the writer – the “Back in Black” delay clearly impacted the story, as there’s no mention of how or why Peter is in his black costume again anywhere in the issue. Now that Amazing Spider-Man #538 has finally come out, we get a quick mention on the “previously” page, but it was too late to work it into the story. As such, we’ve got a deep, brooding Spider-Man who can’t quite talk about why he’s deep and brooding, which makes for awkward reading.

Todd Nauck has long been a favorite artist of mine, and his style fits this story perfectly. He’s wonderful with any Spider-Man, but his cleaner, more classic style fits the black costume far better than more hyperdetailed styles used in some of the other titles. He helps make this a fun book, the best of “Back in Black” so far. Hopefully by next issue they’ll have caught up enough to get into the actual reasons for the black suit in the story.

Rating: 8/10

Somebody’s First Comic Book: What If? (1989 Series) #108

December 12, 2011 Leave a comment

Wondering what Somebody’s First Comic Book is all about? The explanation is on this page!

TITLE: The Greatest Sacrifice

CREDITS:

Writer: Tom DeFalco
Pencils:
Sergio Cariello
Inks:
Keith Champagne
Colors:
Kevin Tinsley
Letters:
Chris Eliopoulos
Editor:
Frank Pittarese
Cover Art:
Sergio Cariello
Publisher:
Marvel Comics

PRIOR KNOWLEDGE: The Avengers… they’ve got that movie coming out, right? And… I guess Spider-Man is one of them, too?

IMPRESSIONS: Maybe not… the story kind of starts in the middle, with the Avengers (Captain America, Thor, Iron Man and three people I don’t know) throwing down against Spider-Man’s enemy Carnage, who somehow has taken possession of the Silver Surfer. (Wait – Silver Surfer… wasn’t he in the Fantastic Four movie?) Evidently, we learn later, Carnage is some sort of alien slime that has been bonded to a serial killer, but left the killer and possessed the Silver Surfer.

We also find out, somehow, that these guys aren’t technically Avengers, but that they’re about to pick a new team. I’m not sure exactly how this works, but I like to imagine it’s like gym class, with Captain America and Iron Man taking turns picking from a line and the last one (I’m guessing the dude called “Justice”) being stuck with whoever picked second. Anyway, “Cosmic Carnage” nearly destroys the Avenger called the Vision and whips up on the rest of them until Spider-Man decides to clue them in that the monster is usually vulnerable to loud noises and fire, and maybe this girl called Firestar could do something? In the end, though, all she does is weaken the alien enough for the Surfer to exert control, fly into space, and kill himself and, presumably, the alien too.

I’m… lost here. The story itself is kind of straightforward, but what on Earth are they talking about – they’re not “really” the Avengers, they went and killed the surfer, and… and the title of this book. “What If?” Is that supposed to tell us that this is a “fake” story? It didn’t really happen? And if that’s the case, why the hell am I reading it?

GRADE: C-

[Meta-Note: I’m going to drop the usual pretense of this feature for a moment here to explain my commentary. The old Marvel What If? series, for a long time, was hosted by the Watcher, who explained that what we were seeing was a story set in a world very similar to the “real” Marvel Universe, but where something happened differently and the whole world changed as a result. Kind of a superhero version of Ray Bradbury’s Butterfly Effect theory. At some point, they dropped the Watcher as the narrator and, not being a regular reader of that book at that time, I didn’t really think much of it. Looking back for the sake of “Somebody’s First Comic Book,” I realize the lack of explanation makes this confusing as hell.

On a more amusing note, the letters page for this issue features letters for issue #105, the first appearance of Spider-Girl. The letters absolutely gushed over the comic, although the editor answering the letters initially says “Every story is only meant to be a glimpse into that particular reality. So don’t count on any more trips to see Spider-Girl!” Ah, hindsight.]