‘Newt’s Tale’ is an example of an absolute gem from the early days and sports a great John Bolton cover painting.
Aliens: Newt’s Tale
Published by Dark Horse Comics Published 1992
Writer: Mike Richardson Penciler: Jim Somerville Letterer: Pat Brosseau Colorist: Gregory Wright
This was one of 39 different mini-series and one-shots based upon the Alien/Aliens movie franchise that was handled so well by the folks at Dark Horse Comics. For over 30 years, Dark Horse was pretty much the sole publisher of Aliens comics, starting with the comic Aliens: Outbreak (originally titled simply Aliens) in July 1988. ‘Newt’s Tale’ is an example of an absolute gem from the early days and sports a great John Bolton cover painting.
This two-issue story was based on writer/director James Cameron’s original screenplay and has all of the atmosphere, horror, and tons of action we found in the Aliens film. That’s no mean feat, transferring films well to comics. It is everything you want in a two-book mini-series, it’s so deeply true to the original Aliens film that any fan of the film would be hard-pressed to not be engrossed and invested in it.
Just a little side note if you haven’t already read “Alien the illustrated story” by Goodwin and Simonson published by Titan Books that would be the perfect aperitif. The Dark Horse original three series sit well in chronological order with this offering, (Book 1, Book 2, and Earth War). They form a much better sequel to Aliens than Alien 3 since they involve a great Newt and Hicks dynamic and if you haven’t read them you might want to check them out too. Thank me later!
While this novel is recognizably true to the film this encounter is told from Newt’s perspective and includes more back story and the much-needed new material to really get this fan’s juices flowing. The plot development centers around the Xenomorph infestation at Hadley’s Hope. The overrun prospectors can only find hope in the wait for Ripley and the Colonial Marines to arrive.
The transition into the marine’s arrival transported me to the tender moment when Ripley finds Newt in the film and the action moves along well from there to an exciting can’t wait for book 2 nail-biting conclusion. The Xenomorph art is original yet familiar. These creatures aren’t posed, traced, frozen, or toy-like. These are original and appear sparingly and menacingly in an impactful way that adds terror and horror in equal measure. I find the character drawings charming. There is color and shadow mixed well with the expressions that follow the tension and action. Not one part of the team let this comic down. The only criticism I’d have is I wish this iteration of Ripley was drawn a little closer to other, slightly sexier, iterations or her at the time.
SPIDER-MAN is Marvel’s most popular, iconic, and lucrative character. He’s been headlining the comic industry for 60 years and has no shortage of iconic stories such as Kraven’s last hunt, the night Gwen Stacy died, coming home as well as a myriad of others. However, those are stories mostly EVERY Spidey fan has at least heard of if not read multiple times over, and not every great Spidey story has had its fair share of attention, so here’s 10 (count ’em, 10) Fantabulous Spidey books that deserve a little more love.
Some ground rules: 616 only (this list would be too hard if it wasn’t), must feature Spider-Man (obviously), and must be in comic book form, no books, games, or movies/shows are going to be found here.
10: THE CLONE SAGA (1994-1996)……..yup
Yes, the clone saga. THAT clone saga. The 2-year mega-event that for some reason is cast aside as a convoluted, uninteresting, pointless mess. Whilst it IS a convoluted mess, it’s got a hell of a lot going for it and most people you talk to likely haven’t read it due to what they’ve heard (and also the fact it was a 2-year mega-event). The clone saga gave birth to great stories like power and responsibility, revelations, and the heartbreaking issue 400; let’s consider these honorable mentions. I for one think that stories like these make memorable additions to Spider-man’s long history and so does the clone saga as a whole. The reason the clone saga is at the bottom of this list is that it’s kind of a cheat. It’s more of an era of Spider-man than one storyline but screw it, I want to show it some love. Go the 90’s! (P.S this isn’t the last you’ll hear from the clone saga on this list).
9: TO HAVE AND TO HOLD (Sensational Spider-man annual #1 2007)
The final hurrah of Peter Parker and Mary Jane’s marriage before one more day (curse you, Joe Quesadaaaaa!) is a really beautiful, touching story set during the post-Civil war era where Spider-man is on the run from the government. Two paths are taken. Peter Parker in a cafe talking to an agent and also Mary Jane talking to a S.H.I.E.L.D operative. That’s just the setup however, the great part of this story is the flashbacks, redrawn masterfully by Salvador Larroca, the book gives us both sides of their experiences together in an incredible one-shot issue. I won’t spoil it so you’re just gonna have to go and read it!
When the self-titled ‘Spider-man’ title of the ’90s came to an end in 1998, it was relaunched as Peter Parker: Spider-man the following year (not to be confused with Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-man). In 2003, this new series would end, bringing the run to a definitive ending. The title gave us a hell of a lot of long box fillers but on the other hand, did deliver some fantastic stories like the one listed here. REBORN is the work of acclaimed writer Zeb Wells alongside legendary Maxx creator Sam Kieth. REBORN centers around the sandman…Um, sandmen rather. William Baker’s alter ego is having a supernova of a mental breakdown, dividing himself into parts: his good-hearted self, a seductive woman, an innocent child, and a disturbing villain. In the midst of this, Spider-man attempts to solve Baker’s problems and stitch himself back together for the better. The ending of this arc is kind of sad, however, and ultimately Spider-man loses. If you want to know how I guess you’ll just have to read it for yourself!
7: DOWN AMONG THE DEAD MEN (Marvel Knights: Spider-man (2004) #’s 1-12)
Mark Millar has delivered some of the most prominent comic book stories of the last 30 years: kick ass, the secret service, the ultimates, swamp thing and so much more, I could go on for hours. Marvel Knights Spider-man however, is a series that doesn’t get noticed enough though. Without a doubt, you can walk into any comic book shop and find an issue from this series no question. It’s absolutely everywhere and yet it’s treated like box filler! It’s great! It’s exciting and moody, bringing new villains like Mac Gargan as Venom into the mix as well as old ones like Norman Osborn himself, the thriller tone to the book keeps you from putting it down and Terry Dodson and Frank Cho do an absolutely jaw-dropping job on pencil duties. The only reason this series shouldn’t be on your bookshelf is that a complete collection trade paperback is pretty tough to come by and if you manage to spot one, it’s likely to run you some change, so the cheapest way to get your hands on this series is to actually get the floppy’s in all their well-loved glory.
6: VS.FIRELORD (The Amazing Spider-man (1963) #’s 269-270)
Do you want to see Spider-man beat the ever-loving H-E-double hockey sticks out of a herald of Galactus? Yes? Well then, you’ve come across just the Spidey story for you! This quick, two-issue arc from 1985 delivers one of the worst @$$ Spider-man moments of all time. Firelord, a cosmically powered super being descends upon the earth for nothing more than a slice of pizza, in the process, he ends up getting a couple of New York citizens hurt which royally ticks Spider-man off. So with the little confrontation between the two, Firelord begins hunting Spider-man down with no signs of slowing until Spidey uses a combination of brains and brawn to beat the snot out of the former right-hand man to the galaxy’s scariest foe. And don’t be deceived by the (absolutely incredible Ron Frenz) artwork, all though Spider-man IS in his black suit, his powers aren’t enhanced as it’s not the actual symbiote, meaning Spidey took the Firelord out with only his standard set of arachnid-enhanced abilities. The only reason this balls to wall epic isn’t further up on this list is that it’s probably the most famous among the tales on this page and is not actually THAT underrated.
5: WHATEVER HAPPENED TO CRUSHER HOGAN (The Amazing Spider-man (1963) #271)
Well, would you just look at that? Roger Stern and Ron Frenz must have been doing something right when they delivered this sensational story right after the last entry on this very list! Whatever happened to Crusher Hogan is the only issue of Amazing Spider-man that made me cry (yep, I’m man enough to admit it). Crusher Hogan is, of course, the brutish wrestler Peter Parker fought all those years ago in Amazing Fantasy #15. Unfortunately for Crusher, these days he’s a caretaker of a wrestling ring under the ownership of Man-slaughter, a big ol’ tough guy akin to tombstone or kingpin. Crusher tells these wonderful stories to the kids training there about how he trained Spider-man and gave him his web-shooters and the like. So when Spider-man shows up to take down Man-slaughter, the pair finally reunite. Although Crusher’s stories were all nothing more than fables, Spider-man gives Crusher vindication for his hard work and tells all the kids at the gym that Crusher really was Spidey’s mentor, they shake hands and Crusher was brought to tears, truly one of the most beautiful and heart-warming stories in Spidey history. If you can find this issue in the wild, I promise you that you won’t regret picking it up.
Remember when I was talking about the relaunched Peter Parker: Spider-man title? I said the majority of it was just long box fillers but there were some highlights. This story is one such highlight. A very, very high, light. Written yet again by Zeb Wells and again featuring the Sandman, this is probably the most fun, and funniest Spidey book ever, and when you’ve got an artist as cool as Jim Mahfood (GRRL SCOUTS author) there’s no way you can go wrong. If you want an absolutely hilarious story about the Sandman invading an MTV beach house equivalent with a certain web-slinger thrown into the mix, this is one story you don’t want to miss out on!
3: A MATTER OF FAITH (Taken from Spider-man: Holiday Special 1995)
It’s Christmas Eve, and Ben Reilly is taking out the trash in the New York City allies. (Yep, Ben Reilly, What did I say about the clone saga, eh?) On his patrol he sees that a woman is falling off the side of the Queenborough bridge, he instinctively swings in to save her but once they land safely on the ground, for the first time in Spidey’s career, he doesn’t get a thank you because tragically, the poor lady didn’t actually want to be saved. Sadly, the woman jumped off, so Spider-man decides he’s gonna show her around the city in an attempt to lift her Spirits, but on their tour, the D-list super-villain Scorcher shows up on the streets of times square! Spidey and the villain do battle but when some debris is flying straight for a member of the on-looking crowd, the woman heroically jumps in and saves them. Ben is able to teach Jenny (the lady’s name) that life is beautiful and worth living. Spidey is able to leave Jenny with a more hopeful output on life as they wish each other a merry Christmas. I myself have never actually heard anybody talk about this story, ever. So if YOU, o’ humble reader, see this, then hopefully you’ve discovered a story you weren’t formally aware of (or maybe you just know everything).
2: THE LOST YEARS (Spider-man: the lost years (1995)
Once more, we venture into the divisive clone saga for one of the most straight-up awesome Spider-man stories ever. Written by Spider-man vet J.M Demattias (Kraven’s last hunt, c’mon) and penciled by Spidey legend John Romita JR. The lost years take place in the five years in-between the original clone saga in the ’70s and its 90’s counterpart. Centering around Ben Reilly and his ‘brother’ Kaine, these issues tell two sides of the same story in an unexplainably awesome fashion. I won’t spoil it, but this book reads like a thriller novel. We’re given all the tropes of a great Tom Cruise movie and it works like a charm. If you have a day or two to spare on a shorter Spider-man series, this is it! You don’t even need to know anything going into it whatsoever except that it’s not Peter Parker we’re following, but his clone. Stunning art and a stellar story, what could possibly go wrong? The lost years is one Spider-man storyline you’ll never forget.
1: THE COLLABORATOR (Spider-man’s tangled web (2002) #15)
Here we are, number one on this list. So that means that in my opinion, at least, this should be the best and yet most underappreciated Spider-man comic book ever. Well friends, I truly believe that this is it. The collaborator is the greatest Spider-man comics book of all time.
It’s not just the best-underrated one, I can honestly say that this is the best. Ever. Master of independent comics Paul Pope joins marvel for a one-shot story for Marvel’s criminally overlooked tangled web title which tells the tale of a teenage girl who absolutely adores Spider-man, more than anything in the world. Unfortunately, her father doesn’t share the same opinion. But when the daughter is caught in the middle of a super-powered attack, Spider-man appears on the scene, on one page only, for the girl to tell him where the Villain went. Don’t worry, I’m not going to ruin the end for you because you owe it to yourself to hunt this book down like it was dinner for tonight. The sheer brilliance of this story lies in the fact that it is a Spider-man comic book through and through and yet he appears on one solitary page, in silence. The story isn’t even about him but it shows Spider-man how he would really be. The story is crafted to make you anticipate and build your expectations for the arrival of the wall-crawler and when he shows up you find yourself awe-stricken by the sight of this hero. It’s simply Amazing, Spectacular, sensational, ultimate, one could go as far to say its Web of. When I say that you NEED to read this issue, I really mean it. Treat yourself and snatch it up. My imaginary hat goes off to Paul Pope 1000%.
And with that, we draw to the conclusion of our list. So what have we learned? That’s right, Spider-man rocks and we should read more comics. Good night!
Phillips does an incredible job of showing us a complicated, multi-faceted character, that has too often been played for laughs at the expense of some real depth. Here, she is angry, smart, compassionate, violent and, yes, funny…
The first story, “Welcome Home”, in Harley Quinn’s new solo series, from writer Stephanie Phillips, offers a fresh take on the character. With the recent movie, Birds of Prey and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn, a film which I actually really loved, having been helmed by a female director, it’s nice to see DC Comics following suit, allowing one of their most beloved female characters to be tackled from a female perspective.
Phillips does an incredible job of showing us a complicated, multi-faceted character, that has too often been played for laughs at the expense of some real depth. Here, she is angry, smart, compassionate, violent and, yes, funny.
There isn’t much story to speak of within these pages if I’m being honest. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing at this point. Phillips just takes the time to set the scene, show us where Harley is at in her life right now, and give us a sense of her place within Batman’s world going forward.
She is a character trying to make amends for her past sins and, as Harley herself points out during one specific moment, “Everyone does love a good transformation story”. And seeing such a flawed character striving to earn redemption is definitely the kind of story I am drawn to.
The artwork by Riley Rossmo will take some getting used to for me. It’s not the kind of work that I usually go for, with exaggerated features, which often feel as though you have entered somebody’s fever dream. However, it is entirely in keeping with the character of such an often unreliable narrator as Harley.
We are introduced to a character, named Kevin, who could very well go on to become Harley’s side-kick. I can certainly see the potential there and there is something endearing about Harley taking someone under her wing who may just be crazier than she is.
A suitably chaotic first issue in this solo series for fan favorite Harley Quinn.
This was my first old issue of Thor I have read, and I can understand why he has been and always will be a fan favourite….
Reviewed by Angus Woods
Writer: Len Wein
Artist: Walt Simonson
Published by: Marvel Comics May 1978
First of all, I would like to talk about the cover art, wow, just wow, I really do enjoy the vibrant and exciting covers of old comics, of course just being about 18, I am used to the more artistic and detailed covers that we have today, but what really drew me into comics is the old style of covers with dialogue and an action packed scene. This cover has the main man Thor and Iron man smashing a missile to pieces and all I can say is it gets you hyped for the story inside so let’s go…
In this throwback issue of my favourite super hero right now Thor and Iron-Man team up to defeat the evil self-serving computer that is Faust that has sent missiles to destroy earth, made out of adamantium it is very hard for Thor and Iron man to destroy the computer from the inside.
To be completely Honest, it’s no Donny Cates, but hey what is. This is definitely a happy one-off kind of story, there is no real character development for Thor, but as I understand you rarely find it to the same type of extent in these older comics. The story move’s at an okay pace but it would have been nicer to have another hero up there with Iron Man and Thor when fighting Faust.
Not to be taken away from is the beautiful art by Walt Simonson and colours by Glynis Wein. I have always been a fan of how Thor used to look in the old comics and how his colours always popped of the page, and I have to hand it to Walt Simonson and Glynis Wein they really carried this issue, they have shown some amazing talent and understanding of each other’s work in this issue.
Overall, this is a fun issue to pick up and add to your collection, if you enjoy Thor and Iron man, you will enjoy this there is no doubt about it. This was my first old issue of Thor I have read, and I can understand why he has been and always will be a fan favourite. The art and colours match each other so well and the cover just makes you want to read it, so go pick it up.