2099 Is In Trouble… (ASM #32-36)

20200202_132753.jpg

I’ve managed to let Amazing Spider-Man pile up a bit in my read pile the past few months, so I’m currently playing catch-up. I just finished the 2099 Is In Trouble… arc, and it was pretty good, but the artwork is what really stole the show for me.

#spoilers

The plot revolves around a lot of foreign espionage as the threat of war looms between Symkaria and Latveria. The Chameleon is a major player in it, aiding in the manipulation of Doctor Doom and Silver Sable. Spider-Man 2099 shows up in the modern day trying to find Peter Parker, and in this way things kind of turn fuzzy for me, because this was all part of a mini-event that spanned into other Spider-Man titles, but I don’t have any of those. Still, the standalone arc here in Amazing works just as good. So the short of it is that Spider-Man (Peter) is trying to prevent the outbreak of war, notably when an assassination attempt on Doom occurs. He ends up utilizing a new “Clairvoyant” tech that he and a classmate from ESU are working on together to essentially look into the future at the best way to avoid catastrophe (kind of like Doctor Strange’s use of the time stone the movies). Suffice it to say, Spidey eventually discovers the best chance and succeeds, though not without a whole lot of foreboding of bigger things to come, as usual.

What I’d really like to take time to gush over here is the artwork. Two artists take on the load of this story, Patrick Gleason for the first three issues and then Oscar Bazaldua for the last two. Patrick Gleason is an excellent artist, and Nick Spencer even writes a note in the first issue of the arc on how excited he is to have him on the Spidey team, but I gotta say Oscar’s work is truly phenomenal. The textures and the perfect blend of realism and fantasy is some of the best to catch my eye in a while. I know I’ve seen his work elsewhere (hard to forget a name like Bazaldua), but for some reason his art here really blew me away. Honestly if we could get him on this title as a regular I’d be thrilled. I know they like to rotate artists to spit out more issues of Spidey every month, but if they had a bit more patience this could be a consistently gorgeous book with somebody like Oscar at the helm.

Oh well, here’s to hoping…

TL;DR Score: On the side of fan service, I’m always excited for a good Spidey vs Doom confrontation!

Spider-Man #3 (2020)

The Abrams Spidey story continues to unfold, revealing some gruesome and mind-boggling imagery!

#spoilers

The issue opens with Ben and Peter having an argument in the wake of the former’s early outings in bus father’s old Spidey duds. It all comes to a pique when the room explodes and Cadaverous shows up, impaling and abducting Peter, leaving Ben to wallow.

Before long, Ben and his friend, Faye, seek help from an drunken, cowardly Tony Stark who resides in a bunker beneath an Avengers monument. During this, we find that Cadaverous has Peter wired and is draining him of vitals back at his evil lair. We learn from Tony that Cadaverous was part of an old Stark Industries project that also saw aid from Richard Parker, making Parker blood essential to the whole thing (I smell some Andrew Garfield over here).

The issue ends with Ben, Faye and Tony being ambushed by Cadaverized Avengers…

I gotta say, I love how grounded and grim this whole story is. The verbal action between Ben and Peter is very real, and Cadaverous’s whole dark eighties hyper-techno motif is both chilling and satisfying. Undead Avengers though? Didn’t see that coming. Curious to see how they’ll spin their way out of this…

TL;DR Score: Tony Stark with a man bun. ‘Nuff said.

New Year’s Evil #1

Happy New Year’s, everybody! DC put out a nice tie-in for the holiday season this past month, what’s more it actually focused more on New Year’s than Christmas which is a nice change of pace (we can all use a breather from Xmas, right?).

#spoilers

In eighty pages there’s a fair amount of variety here. It’s also an excellent showcase for some lesser known creative talent; there’s a couple familiar names, but a great amount of different.

There are several stories to chew on here. Joker gets frustrated with someone trying to imitate his work. Black Adam visits the real world Santa Clause who’s actually a wizard in Ancient Myra. Chronos attempts to alter his fate by pulling several “wonderful life” scenarios on his father. Harley Quinn shows her appreciation to Detective Montoya by giving her a fun night in. Calendar Man learns new tactics in his schemes. Ares pays a blood debt to his ancient love. Sinestro pays a visit to a planet he once defended to look upon his legacy. Toyman attempts to influence children’s interests over techy gifts for Christmas… and I think that’s all of them? I’m just going off memory, but I think that’s all of them. Oh yeah, there’s a Prankster one, too, about him celebrating his assistants for a year well done. I think THAT’S all of them… I think.

They’re all good stories. I find the Ares and Chronos ones rather dark, but they relay an interesting message. I think the Chronos one hits pretty hard, but I like the simplicity of Toyman’s as well as Black Adam’s. All in all it’s an entertaining dip into each of these villains during the holiday season.

If you can still get a copy I’d go for it. These types of books are few and far in between, and this one succeeds in all the right ways.

TL;DR Score: I mean… come on, the Jim Cheung cover alone is worth the buck.

Batman #85

20191222_220632.jpg

#spoilers

Just when you thought Tom King couldn’t get anymore Tom King about it…

I know the cover boasts an EPIC FINALE, but given the fact that there isn’t a ceremonious blurb written by Tom at the end of this book I have to believe that this isn’t the actual end… I haven’t looked it up, so I’m in the dark, and beyond the (kinda cool) stinger at the end of this issue I have to believe there’s gonna be an “EPILOG” issue for Tom King’s run…. though I have my doubts. It just feels weird that there wasn’t any sort of “special thanks final thoughts editorial” featured here.

Anyway… things happen in this book in an oddly fluid and sensible way. Kudos to Tom King, because he does things completely out of order that feels both very legible but also ushers a second reading. The main thing here is that (following the events of issue 84) Bruce and Selina take down Thomas Wayne and … live happily ever after? There’s this whole sequence sprinkled in there were Bruce goes to a bar and watches a football game with some random guy, and we get a bunch of wrap-up where Bane breaks Thomas’s back… but it’s all completely out of order. Bane breaks Tommy’s back before Bruce beats Tommy, and Bruce drinks with random before and after… everything.

It makes sense. I’ve only read it once (like most books), but it does make sense in retrospect. If I’m to wrap it up though, these are the main things:

  1. Alfred is dead.
  2. Bruce and Selina are “married.”
  3. Bad guys lost.
  4. BONUS… Joker’s knows who Batman is and that’s the next big ARC coming from James Tynion IV?

I don’t know… we’re talking about an 85-issue run here. Tom King is a damn good writer, and to think that this is how he closes out seems a little lacking… but at the same time fitting. Tom King is bloody poetic, and this book is almost as poetic as issue 84. I’m hoping he has ONE more book left, but I haven’t looked into that myself, so I don’t know. I’m assuming this was his last, but it was a solid finish nonetheless.

I definitely want to go back and fill in the gaps in my reading. I read most of his run, but not quite all of it. I don’t think I missed much, but if there’s one thing I can say it’s that I’m more eager to retread Tom King’s Batman than Scott Snyder’s. Not to say Snyder’s Batman isn’t bad, but just that King is more my speed… I really loved the War of Jokes and Riddles… and I Am Bane… and the entire Wedding arc from the Engagement to here at the end. It’s been fun and meaningful all the way through.

TL;DR Score: Thank you, Mr. King.

Comic Cover Impulse Buys!

20191222_210726.jpg

I don’t know if this is a common thing. I have a couple friends that run into this scenario all the time, so I gotta imagine it’s relatively common, but who knows. One of my favorite things about comic books is the power of the impulse buy, more specifically the COVER impulse buy.

It’s pretty self-explanatory… you see a cover, and based purely on the cover – you buy it. It’s honestly (as far as I’m concerned) one of the most pure forms of the comic book medium there is. If you’re one of those few that thinks imagery has nothing to do with comic books, well, this is it. I’ve literally bought variant covers to books I’ve never read purely because the image was cool. Who wouldn’t? One of my recent purchases was this:

20191222_211505.jpg

Lookit that…

I haven’t read a new Deadpool comic in a long time (ignoring Spider-Man/Deadpool, but that’s been cancelled for a bit anyway), and yet look… Marvel squeezed a purchase out of me on a practically unrelated image. They did an X-Men cover similar to this that I also love – the whole retro magazine cover is quite effective, plus my wife LOVES Scarlet Witch and Vision so how could I not grab this one?

Then there’s this one:

20191222_211707.jpg

I picked this one up early on when I was finally getting serious about comic book collecting (TL;DR of TL;DR… comic purchases were limited to antique stores and Chapters/Indigo for most of my life until the start of this decade). I literally had NO IDEA was Siege was all about. I was treading in the infancy of my recurrent comic reading, and as a Spidey fan this cover really struck me.

Guess what?

I found out that (at the time) Mac Gargan was Venom and that there was all this crazy Asgardian stuff going on in the Marvel universe. This cover doesn’t REALLY suggest much of those finer details, but it’s a damn cool image of Spidey and Venom (and I’m pretty sure it’s a collage cover that matches up with several others, too), so that’s why I grabbed it at the time.

It’s those things that make comic books so damn cool. We all know that it’s a marriage of word and image, and most of the time it’s the word that carries the story (obviously), but there’s plenty of times that are also immensely supported by the image, and it’s never better represented than by impulse covers.

Going back to Doomsday Clock #12, this is a “mini”-series that I dropped after the first few issues, not because it was bad, but because the release was far and few in between and I lost patience with it. However, when I saw this very simple but very Watchmen/DC cover, I had to have it. Maybe it’ll be worth something someday, but honestly it’s just so damn crisp and impactful, and as a fan of Watchmen… I mean, I can’t really explain it, but without even opening the book I think most like-minded people will understand the desire to just HAVE this book. It’s literally Superman meets Watchmen.

The point is is that comics are an art form in every visual and verbal sense, and it’s these covers that prove it. You could give two $#!^$ about the actual story that unfolds within, because at the end of the day the fate of most comic books is that they’re just another cover that gets flipped through within the bulk of a long box, whether by an adventurous buyer or nostalgic collector. What remains with most of either party is the cover. The cover will sometimes remind us of the further story, but it’s the cover that instantly makes us remember what we love and why we love it, such as something as simple as an image of Spidey clashing with Venom, or two love birds looking sexy as hell.

In some ways the cover is far more important than the pages within. I’ve read many comics in my few years, but I remember some covers much more than their accompanying stories.

…I think there’s a point to all this, it might be generic but I honestly can’t place it…

TL;DR Score: … It’s ‘don’t judge a book by its cover.’ … DON’T JUDGE A BOOK BY IT’S COVER…. no wait I MEAN-

Batman #84

20191217_203844.jpg

#spoilers

This was a very tight book. It’s a perfect show for how Tom King can pack a literal punch behind a simple message.

The book begins with Thomas Wayne taking a swing at Batman – a nice solid POW to the jaw. From there the book turns back time as we go back through Thomas’s life and all the moments that led to the present. We see how he has lurked in the shadows through most of Tom King’s run, especially at key moments, and eventually we find him back in the Flashpoint timeline where we get some more bits of his history as a crime fighter. I especially like seeing here how Catwoman was Thomas’s sidekick in his timeline (don’t know if this was already established, but I was surprised by it). Time goes back further until we see Thomas at a young Bruce’s bedside as he sleeps, making a very familiar vow to protect his son by whatever means. With that we return to the present following Thomas’s punch, where he then urges Bruce to retire from being Batman and to enjoy a normal life.

It was soooo good. Tom King never fails to impress, and the way he spins a narrative is unlike most writers. It feels like seeing a poem, and the way he spun this one together was magical. Allegedly issue 85 is to be the last installment of this grand arc, but we’ll see. Either way I’m excited to see how it ends, because at this point I feel anything is possible, even what we least expect…

TL;DR Score: … Bruce might actually retire… maybe… nah, definitely not. He’s gotta avenge Alfred…. but maybe after?… The suspense might be getting to me.

Superman #18 – Revealed to the World!

20191217_203930.jpg

#spoilers

Well… it’s gone and happened again… serious Civil War vibes in this issue. The cover doesn’t lie: Superman reveals his identity to the world, and he does it via press conference (I’m not kidding, the echoes to when Spider-Man revealed his identity are real). The entirety of the issue showcases Superman sharing his close friends (namely Perry White and Jimmy Olsen) in on his secret before he takes to the mic and shares it with the world. That’s all fine, but then you get the inevitable foreboding cliffhanger that lingers on Lex Luthor and his cohorts being faced with the reveal, the final splash page is particularly crisp.

You know, besides the fact that this spells a lot of problems for Supes in the coming issues, and perhaps the rest of his life, I actually really enjoyed this comic – a lot more than most of Bendis’ recent stories. It felt like a step in the right direction and the way he handled the reveal and the way it occurred for Clark’s friends was spot on. Perry’s reaction was actually quite touching and Jimmy’s as to be expected from “Superman’s Pal.” Altogether it’s a very well-written standalone that makes for an excellent character piece.

Still… revealing Superman’s identity? I really hope they stick with it. If this gets turned around in the next year or two it’ll be another check for the problems with comics these days. For once I’d like to see them commit to such a tremendous move in the character’s progression and not chicken out.

TL;DR Score: Superman makes fun of Adam Strange for being behind on the times over the joke that Supes’ alter ego is Batman…. then I guess I’m as far behind as Strange is.

The Ultimates Wrap-up

Screenshot_20191210-203009_Comics.jpg

I finished up the first volume of The Ultimates finally, and I find it nothing short of awesome.

#spoilers

Following a slow start to their tenure as a team, having defeated the Hulk, the Ultimates are faced with the threat of the Chitauri, Nazi-allied aliens that have come back to haunt Captain America. What unfolds is a grand conflict that results in the deaths of many, but ULTIMATELY one of the greatest triumphs. The highlight for me, of course, is the Hulk’s battle with Herr Kleiser… nothing short of hilarious. Cap pointing Hulk to different foes and making outrageous claims with regards to the big guy’s sexuality is something I never thought I’d read, but given the nature of Mark Millar’s narrative it is tremendously satisfying.

You can definitely see a lot of the influence this title had on The Avengers movie. To say nothing of the Chitauri (they’re not the mindless bots they are on-screen), but the way the team comes together and interacts with one another is quite grounded and a fair foundation for their adaptation. Whereas the film is the more light-hearted variation, this has a lot more grunge and attitude which is good in it’s own right.

I’m starting up Ultimates 2 so it’ll be interesting to see how it progresses, but all in all the first arc in the saga is worth a read for any comics enthusiast, especially if you’re familiar with the original material. I think the overall tone of the book, despite it being set in the Ultimate Universe, is a bit too gritty for my personal taste when talking about the Avengers, but then again I guess that’s why they do bear the name Ultimates. Either way it’s a nice alternative take that Millar executes incredibly.

TL;DR Score: This ain’t your grand-pappy’s Avengers.

Spawn: Origins Collection Vol. 1

20191202_213003.jpg

At long last….. Spawn.

That heavy metal symbol of bad-assery courtesy of the great Todd McFarlane finally made his way into my readings, and I loved every panel.

#spoilers

Spawn, for you few who aren’t aware, tells the story of a man returned from the dead by a demon, cursing him to wage war on criminals and bad people in order to build an army of the damned for the latter’s benefit. Spawn, formerly Al Simmons, wakes up after being dead for five years to his new life, finding his wife remarried and with a child. After much deliberation and an encounter with the Demon who gave him a new lease on life, Spawn commits himself to his new life to make some good of the world (despite what it means to the Demon).

This book is Todd McFarlane’s imagination unleashed. In his intro he talks about how he conceived of Spawn during his schooldays, and it shows. This is a well-thought universe and array of characters that seems to have fermented for an age. The line-up of villains alone consists of some fresh and iconic creations: Violator, Billy Kincaid, and Overt-Kill make up the rogues gallery that appear in this first volume, and they’re each their own form of disturbed, diabolical, and delicious.

This printing also has a very gorgeous remastering of the art. It’s got that new sheen that most recolors have, and it looks great. Todd McFarlane is one of the most talented artists out there, always has been, and his writing is just as good. Seeing his work in pique condition is a treasure, and considering this particular volume is priced cheaper than the subsequent books, I’d say it’s worth picking up whether you’re new to Spawn or a long-time reader.

TL;DR Score: I guess you could say Spawn is really… off the chain… heh… get it? I mean… if you don’t then you ought to educate yourself.

The Ultimates #5

Mark Millar is one of the most entertaining writers around. His work in the Ultimate Universe is always a treat. His Ultimate Comics Avengers titles were awesome, and I’m only now reading through his initial run of The Ultimates. This particular issue I found to be an absolute riot.

#spoilers

Hulk… well… So in the midst of the formation of the Ultimates, Bruce Banner injects himself with a concoction of Steve Rogers’s blood and his Hulk serum, allegedly to give the heroes a reason to unite and prove their worth to the world.

The rampage the Hulk goes on is catastrophic as he completely tears apart Manhattan as he searches for Betty Ross. The Ultimates come together and kick the green giant’s ass – end of story.

The real highlight here is Millar’s depiction of the Hulk, and it’s completely perverted. The guy is not only a rage machine, spouting out cusses and threats, but he’s also a total horndog. Most of his intentions are implied through character communication, but some of the things he says and does are beyond shocking and hilarious. I won’t share them here, but trust me when I say it’s unlike any Hulk you’ve ever read… except maybe the Red Hulk.

It seems natural that Mark Millar would be the one to bring this element to the Hulk. His hyper-realism that he applies to superhero mythos mingled with the self-aware meta-ness would of course expand on the Hulk’s rage into the sibling emotions…. or hormones in this case. It’s highly R-rated and grungy, but also a whole lot of fun.

Reading Millar you have to suspend purism and just enjoy what he weaves. He takes his stories quite seriously, but clearly has a great sense of humor. In this case I’d say it was on point. Millar’s take on the Hulk, even all these years later, is fresh, fun, and spot-on.

TL;DR Score: I’m nowhere near as brave as Cap. I think if the Hulk threatened to rip off my head and use my throat as a toilet I’d run.