The Amazing Spider-Man #90 – Review

Gleason’s writing chops are nothing to mess with and pair beautifully with legendary artist Mark Bagley in a satisfying issue that I couldn’t put down, as far as verdicts go, you’re not going to get a better one than this.

The Amazing Spider-Man #90

Written by: Patrick Gleason
Artwork by: Mark Bagley
Published by Marvel
Released: 23/2/22

As a quick refresher, in the past couple of issues, Ben Reilly has been partially mind-wiped by those slimy rapscallions over at Beyond, the same dudes/dudettes that have unleashed the Queen Goblin on New York. On top of that, Old Peter Parker has managed to get back on his feet and is on his merry way to put an end to Queen Goblin’s reign of terror!

We begin with Beyond’s top dog, Maxine Danger tracing Ben Reilly as he swings across a bridge with Janine, who notices there’s definitely something off about Ben, which is where he confesses that he feels like he’s missing something in his mind (which, by the way, he totally is,  being brain wiped and all). He tells Janine that he just needs to focus and everything will be hunky-dory, but Janine knows that’s not good enough, it’s at that point that she spills the Intel she’s discovered about Beyond. Or rather, how they’ve set up the whole thing, sending out super-villains for Ben to stop so that they can get good publicity for themselves and their little Spider-man project. They decide that they’re going to take it to the top and go confront the big bosses at Beyond, but first, we’ve got some sweet, sweet action to attend to.

Pete is up in the skyscrapers, battling the new Queen goblin foe, which is where we get a ton of quality Spidey crack-ups, from getting confused with the X-men’s Goblin Queen to mentally crying for help as he barely manages to dodge the goblin’s blows. It’s moments like this where I feel Patrick Gleason really understands and gets the Spider-man character, I don’t feel like it’s one writer’s take on Spider-man, I just think of it as Spider-man, which is the best kind of writing. Of course, it’s great to actually know who’s writing a book by the tone it sets and dialogue and all the rest of the mumbo jumbo. But when it feels so much like the definitive, quintessential character, that’s when you know you’re doing a good job of writing a mainstream comic book. Obviously, it’s awesome to get some subversive material from creators not typically known for the superhero genre like, for example, Pete Bagge’s megalomaniacal Spider-man as well as a lot of other early 2000’s marvel books, which was a very interesting period for the company, but for Marvel’s flagship title, Pat Gleason does a fantastic job of realizing what readers want out of the main Spidey title. And speaking of what readers want, Mark Bagely is delivering some of his best work in the last 20 years in this issue as Spidey and the Goblin take their battle through offices, Spider-man billboards (with the Sam raising font, nice touch), and even subways. Every panel has energy inside it, there’s so much going on, but in a really good way, these pages are bursting at the seems with excitement and it really displays Bagely’s accumulation of skill on his 30-plus year tenure drawing the character. I, at least, got the sense that he must have really enjoyed penciling these issues and it shows great stuff.

Getting back to the story, the Queen goblin manages to use her unique “Goblins gaze” ability which she used successfully on the black cat’s last issue, which would have resulted in her death if not for the web-slinger arriving just in time. So Peter falls into the sea and goes through the whole “you’re not good enough” thing, but Spidey is able to defeat the hold it has on him, in his words “Doesn’t she realize self-doubt is kind of our thing?”. Pete manages to jump up out of the water and deliver the finishing blow to the latest addition to the Goblin Hall of shame.

Spider-man is able to get back onto the docks, where he meets up with MJ and the Black cat at that moment in all great superhero stories, where the previously split apart gang get back together again for the big finale, Peter is sent on his way to find Ben by his companions, but as we check up on Ben, he is kind of going a little bit insane, he’s not going evil insane, but Beyond have really scrambled his eggs to the point he doesn’t even remember Peter’s name when they meet up, but Ben pushes through it, and this installment ends with a page as awesome as when I found 20 pounds in a grid that one time, which means its totally awesome. Both Spider-men, suited up and ready to take Beyond down, Once and for all!


This issue was one of the best parts of Beyond to date, delivering all of those epic moments you know you love as we dive headfirst into what is bound to be an incredible final act of Spider-man: Beyond. Gleason’s writing chops are nothing to mess with and pair beautifully with legendary artist Mark Bagely in a satisfying issue that I couldn’t put down, as far as verdicts go, you’re not going to get a better one than this. Although if I had to make one small gripe, I would say that the Beyond company’s whole twist and game plan is a little predictable, but that is an issue that pails in comparison to all of the great aspects of this Spidey-saga. Join me soon for the next chapter!

9.5/10


Review by Leo Brocklehurst



Ghost Rider #1 – Review

In this bumper sized first issue, Johnny Blaze is undergoing therapy after a motorcycle crash has left him without a clear memory of who he truly is.


Ghost Rider #1

Written by: Benjamin Percy
Art: Cory Smith
Released: April 2022
Published Marvel Comics

In this bumper sized first issue, Johnny Blaze is undergoing therapy after a motorcycle crash has left him without a clear memory of who he truly is. The idyllic life he leads in Hayden’s Falls as a husband and loving father of two children is shattered when he experiences horrific visions of demons. Are his family who they claim to be? Is the next-door neighbour’s dog a vaguely irritating yapper, or a demon in disguise? Is the white-picket-fence-apple-pie town he calls home a hotbed of supernatural forces? The big question that covers all of these, “Are there such things as monsters?” is repeated as a mantra as he drinks to forget that he might well be a monster himself. When Zeb, a scout for a group of night magicians, turns up in Hayden’s Falls, Johnny is shown what lies within himself and beneath the façade.

A well-executed story, it’s perfect material for a relaunch issue. Rather than dwelling for too long on the memory loss aspect, writer Benjamin Percy wastes no time in getting to the action. The first half of the comic focuses on Johnny’s therapy sessions, home life and visions, before the Spirit of Vengeance comes to the fore in a superb full-page splash.

Pencilled and inked by Cory Smith (with additional pencilling by Joe Bennett), the colour work by Bryan Valenza keeps Hayden’s Falls just the right side of dark, so even though a baseball pitch and supermarket look bright enough on the surface, there’s still a hint of the underbelly lurking beneath (think David Lynch’s picture-perfect town in Blue Velvet and you’ve got the right idea). Zeb’s walk down the main street while he ruminates on the falseness of it all is revisited when all hell breaks loose, with the people he passes by — including a mother pushing a buggy, a postman, a man mowing his lawn – reappearing later in a much different guise. Meanwhile, the anti-hero status that makes Johnny such an interesting character is realised through his bouts of drinking and hallucination-induced outbursts towards his wife and kids.


A very promising first issue that also introduces Talia Warroad, a former agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. turned FBI, whose claim that “I hunt monsters” is already proving to be as intriguing as Zeb’s interest in Johnny. If this is the last we’ll see of Hayden’s Falls, I’ll be sorry (the concept is rich in narrative possibilities), but that won’t stop readers glad to see Johnny break out of his false reality and get to some serious demon slaying. Nice to see Percy and Smith returning the Ghost Rider mythology back to its roots by focusing on the original Spirit of Vengeance. I eagerly await the next issue.


Review by Christopher Witty


Killing Moon Vol. 1 Graphic Novel – Review

The latest incarnation of Killing Moon is a nostalgia trip for any fantasy enthusiast, but it’s also so much more than that. It’s a reimagining of a world, it’s an invitation to use and enjoy our own imaginations, it’s a series of great stories presented in a fun and unpretentious way.


Written by: Chris Denton (current run) and Chris Langton (original run)

Art: Neil ‘Bhuna’ Roche (current run) and Mark Roche (original run)

Colours: Darren Stephens

Letters: Bolt-01 (current run) and Vincent James (original run)
Pigdog Press – 2020

Imagine a world of dark legend, home to mad wizards and hooded assassins, where the undead and creatures fair and foul roam free.  Against a backdrop of imposing castles, fiery plains and dark dungeons we are invited to travel to this world and meet the intriguing cast of Killing Moon.

Volume one collects the first four issues of the modern run of this excellent title, paired with the original stories from the mid ’80s, presented here for the first time since original publication.  To further add to the book, Pigdog Press and the creators have included an interesting and inspirational foreword from Chris Langton along with a history of Moses Valentine and Killing Moon essay.  As if that weren’t enough, we then have a stunning back-matter gallery of artwork from numerous small press artists, each offering their own take on the world and characters of Killing Moon.

It’s a really impressive package and makes for a book that stands out.  It’s clear from the outset that the guys were keen to meet their promises to their Kickstarter pledges with gusto.  I’m certain that, if anything, they exceeded expectations (for those unaware, Kickstarter is a ‘crowd-funding’ platform; a website through which projects can be proposed/presented at various stages of development and the the fans/audience pledge a certain amount to help fund the project’s completion.  This is done in a tiered system, offering various rewards on delivery of the end product).  I’m certainly very glad to report that the Killing Moon crew exceeded their funding target.

The physical and overall quality of this book is very high; the wrap-around cover is produced on very high quality card stock and the interior pages are a delight to flick through.  They have a very pleasant tactile quality and present the contents in a way that should have some of the major publishers blushing and taking notes.

The cover itself has a striking logo and bold, atmospheric art depicting some of the main characters.  That it segues from the modern take on the world of Killing Moon on the front through to the original vision on the back is a really nice touch and hints at some of the changes that were made, both in art and narrative.  It’s a cover which will instantly appeal to Killing Moon’s target audience while also intriguing others who might have been browsing for something else.

So, first to our main characters, who are perhaps more fitting the mantle of ‘anti-hero’ than hero.  They are, after all, assassins for hire operating under the name ‘The Killing Moon’.  Ingrid Stensgarrd, Mr. McKie and Jack the cat are led by the grim faced, mysterious Moses Valentine.  Ingrid seems to be the newest member of the group and seems well suited for her profession, approaching her work with stoicism and gravitas.  Meanwhile, the darkly moustachioed McKie is given to moments of dry humour and seems entirely matter-of-fact in the presence of death.  Jack no doubt keeps his own secrets while Valentine is shrouded in shadows and mystery, often serious, always thoughtful and living to his own moral code.

While growing to become quite fond of a band of assassins seems like an unlikely side effect of reading about their exploits, here I am… liking them.  While that perhaps says something about me, the development of these characters through the book is a pleasure to follow and we are treated to a colourful and engaging cast of supporting characters too.  There is the aforementioned dark sorcerer, a hapless thief of crowns, various skeleton and zombie warriors, a city of entirely civilised orcs under the mountain… the list goes on.  It is through their interactions with each other and the other denizens of this world that we come to know Valentine and his band.  Each chapter, from prologue to issue four, has its own feel while still very much being part of the greater whole.

‘The Prequel’ opens on sinister happenings in the gloomy halls of a castle.  We are introduced to a couple of key figures who are about to set events in motion.  Several darkly comic, Monty-Pythonesque exchanges later and we move to the story of ‘The Tyrant Wizard’ in issue one.  ‘It began in Merstburg’… wherein the The Killing Moon are approached by the Mayor to rid the town of a necromancer who not only stole Castle Merstburg from their former lord but now uses the town’s dead as his playthings.  What follows is a hugely entertaining adventure which feels as if it could be a transcript of someone’s really, really good Dungeons and Dragons session.

The second story, ‘Warning to the Glorious’, follows Ingrid as she stalks a crown thief through the Flaming Fens.  It’s a story in which both main characters are relatable and, as such, we’re left on our own when it comes to which side to cheer for (so to speak).  The tale is bookended by depictions of Ingrid’s life prior to her joining The Killing Moon, bringing us closer to the character and offering up more intrigue.

‘The Man in the Mountain’ has us following our motley crew as they enter Miwk, an orc city built on cooled lava inside a volcano.  The enter at the behest of King Drenkost, whose people are being terrorised by someone known as The Man in the Mountain.  As they investigate, it is soon clear that the orcs are under threat from fanatical cultists who seek to eradicate orc-kind.  This is a great tale, which I’ll reveal no more of other than to say that again, this feels like it stepped from the pages of an old tabletop role playing game.  I mean this as great compliment; it’s full of the things that make fantasy/sword and sorcery stories such good fun.

‘Targets’ is the closing story for the current run, where we find The Killing Moon take on an ancient vampire nobleman.  As they set their ambush in a moonlit forest of twisted trees, we start to wonder if maybe they have bitten off more than they can chew…

The creative team have done a fantastic job here and it’s clear that they really care about their comic.  It’s a labour of love that is a real pleasure to share in.  Chris Denton’s writing is clever and darkly humorous, lending a strong sense of character and setting through dialogue.  Each story is accessible and enjoyable either as a standalone or as part of the larger arc, making for a book that can be devoured in one sitting or consumed in small doses.  Either way, it’s a fun and engaging read.  The narration and dialogue are conveyed by excellent lettering, always clear and sympathetic to the scene and, above all, easy on the eye.  The sound effects are also superb; well judged and full of energy.

The art is really great throughout and evokes the atmosphere of each setting by way of bold line work and vivid colours.  Action is dynamic and, at times, bloody but is always easy to follow and track.  Panel layouts are designed to help and guide the reader through the book, using splash pages for grand vistas alongside smaller, sometimes quick-fire panels for action.  Each character is given keen visual identity, with the art enhancing the charisma lent by the writing through dialogue and characterisation.  The art team of Neil Roche and Darren Stephens really draw us into their world, each page having been crafted through great care and attention.  I found myself transported not only to their world but further, back to Fighting Fantasy game books, to the role playing and video games of the 1980s, to sharing imaginary adventures with friends.

The latest incarnation of Killing Moon is a nostalgia trip for any fantasy enthusiast of a certain age, but it’s also so much more than that.  It’s a reimagining of a world, it’s an invitation to use and enjoy our own imaginations, it’s a series of great stories presented in a fun and unpretentious way.

And all of that before we get to visit the original version!  Here we move to black and white art and to a different vision of the world of Killing Moon.  It’s a post-apocalyptic place, having regressed to a near lawless, low-tech nightmare of a frontier.  It’s survival of the fittest, nastiest, most cunning and it’s in this environment that we meet Valentine as he teams with four other assassins to take on a near impossible job.  They are tasked with eliminating an overlord type figure and set off, squabbling and plotting as they go.

It’s interesting to see the genesis of the current comic and also to read a story (presented here over two issues) with a different feel.  Instead of facing undead monsters and foul magics, Valentine wields his blade against hooded henchmen (one of whom brings a pistol to the knife fight!).  This world is, if anything, even more dog-eat-dog and Valentine faces conflict from amongst his companions before he even faces his enemy.

The story moves along at a fast pace, and gives plenty of opportunity for the assassins to use their skills, both with blade and tongue.  The artwork is stylish, evocative and full of nostalgic design touches that work well for this type of comic.  There’s great use of shadow (there’s a three panel character reveal which is lovely) and each page has nice details to spot.

It’s a shame that the comic never continued beyond its initial run of two; it would have been interesting to see these ideas go beyond this formative stage.  Instead, fast forward to present day and the current iteration created by Neil Roche and friends and it’s easy to see why Neil wanted to resurrect his brother’s creation.

Shifting the setting to one more in-step with traditional sword and sorcery/dark fantasy has given the series perhaps more narrative freedom and while Valentine and company seem suited to either world, it is in his current form that he really shines.  Gone is the broadsword of old, replaced by a staff, a cat and no small magical prowess to match his martial skill.  The pipe smoking happily remains, giving us some cowl-shadowed-Strider-in-the-inn vibes (I’m thinking animated Lord of the Rings film here).

His companions are two equally interesting characters, and Ingrid offers a genuinely strong female lead, thus broadening appeal.  Each fan of this comic will have their own favourite character, their own favourite moments, and that’s a really good thing.  It means that it’s a comic people can engage with and relate to.  It’s a title that will appeal to fans of Conan, Elric, Geralt of Rivia and indeed fantasy stories in general, but it has enough to offer that its reach can extend beyond.

Killing Moon is a really high quality book, created with love and hard work.  It’s an expression of its creators’ wish to entertain, and has moments of high adventure, intrigue, dry, dark humour and even the occasional Star Wars quote in the dialogue. It’s packed with gorgeous, sometimes gritty art on every page, supplemented further by some stunning gallery work.  It’s just a really cool book to have on your shelf.  There’s more on the way too, with Killing Moon Rising, which I’m sure will be something to look forward to.  If you can, keep an eye out for the project on Kickstarter and lend them your support.


I feel very lucky that I was made aware of this book, so please allow me to recommend that the next time you visit a comic shop, maybe looking for something a bit different, ask for Killing Moon.  Nine out of ten assassins (and cats) prefer it.



Review by Andy Flood

5/10/21