Byrne’s art is clean and graceful as ever. His She-Hulk is a particular highlight and her journey through the hellish burning city is a real stand-out.
Fantastic Four #280
Written and Drawn by John Byrne
Released – July 1985
Published by Marvel Comics
The Fantastic Four is surrounded by an angry mob, with flaming torches and fists raised, crucified against giant stone letters spelling the word HATE while New York City burns in the background. It’s a dark and powerful image by writer and artist John Byrne and inker Jerry Ordway and makes a great cover for Fantastic Four #280. I definitely want to read on.
The story begins with the FF standing outside a giant hole in the ground, all that remains of the Baxter Building, their home, and base of operations, which has been plucked out of the ground and fired off into space and ultimately blown up. This all happened the last issue and necessitates a quick recap for anyone like me who missed it.
Exposition in older comics is always a pleasure to read. It’s clunky and unnatural and usually between characters who already know what happened but I love it all the same. Byrne being an excellent writer actually does it really well in this issue. It’s all done in a quick three panels on the second page as Reed Richards explains all to a disbelieving police officer.
Perhaps I should insert some exposition of my own. This issue comes somewhere in the middle of John Byrne’s revitalizing run at a time when She-Hulk has replaced The Thing as the team’s wise-cracking muscle.
Obviously, a building disappearing and leaving a gap in the skyline is going to draw a crowd and it’s here where the story’s dark mood begins to manifest itself. It starts with one old man, a tenant of the Baxter Building angrily berating the “Fancy-pants super-hero” for letting his snack shop be destroyed which he’s run for twenty-two years and carried a lifetime’s worth of memories. Reed Richards tries to placate him but it’s clear nothing he can say can help and it’s the first indication of how powerless super-heroes can sometimes be.
Instead, a police officer takes charge, pulling the man away and slamming him against the wall. The old man is revealed to be a Jewish-German immigrant and comparison to Nazi Germany and stormtrooper tactics are soon made explicit. Byrne is not pulling any punches and isn’t interested in his point being misunderstood.
Things escalate quickly when the She-hulk tries to intervene. The police and then the watching crowd turn on the Heroes. She-hulk is arrested and the mob surrounds the others throwing bricks and brandishing clubs. Unwilling to use their powers against ordinary people the FF are forced to split up and retreat only to find that the epidemic of hate and anger has spread to the whole city.
It’s a strong opening act reminiscent of Byrne’s award-winning work with Chris Claremont on the Uncanny X-Men who as mutant outsiders are continually hated and feared by the world. Except the Fantastic Four aren’t outsiders. They are the mainstream, Marvel comics most famous and loved superhero team. If the world can turn against them in a flash, it can turn on anyone and the impact is all more powerful because of it.
The rest of the issue follows a more conventional line as the real Villains make their move but the themes of powerlessness continue. Mr Fantastic struggles against the power of propaganda and She-Hulk finds that no matter hard she hits she can’t defeat a villain whose powers are intangible hatred and fear.
Byrne’s art is clean and graceful as ever. His She-Hulk is a particular highlight and her journey through the hellish burning city is a real stand-out.
A very grounded issue of the Fantastic Four with a serious point to make with an excellent opening act and a brilliant cover. As a casual fan, I’d definitely be interested in reading more from Byrne’s 80’s run.
This is really good comic. Writer Walter Mosley and artist Tom Reilly pack so much into the thirty-two pages that’s instantly worth reading it again and again!
The Thing #1 (1/6)
Written by Walter Mosley Art by Tom Reilly Colour Art by Jordie Bellaire
Released November 2021 Published by Marvel Comics
Join Ben Grimm, or The Thing to use his professional name in a new six-part solo series entitled The Next Big Thing. Set away from the Fantastic Four’s present continuity, somewhen in the team’s past, this is something to be enjoyed on its own, without the need for a ‘previously on’ recap button.
And I hope you do enjoy it. Because I thought it was fantastic! There, got my verdict in early…
This is really good comic. Writer Walter Mosley and artist Tom Reilly pack so much into the thirty-two pages that are instantly worth reading it again and again. It’s got a bit of everything, action, humor, super-hero hijinks, and a surprising amount of horror. Presumably, the kitchen sink will be in issue two.
But mostly it’s full of character. Mosley and Reilly combine to capture all sides of Ben’s personality, from his big heart to his big temper. Reilly’s cartoon-style art is incredibly expressive and perfect for capturing the range of emotions on The Thing’s rocky exterior. However, the standout theme is one of loneliness and melancholia. Despite his positivity and can-do attitude, Ben is still a man forever trapped in the body of a rock-skinned monster. Although it’s his jealousy and not his appearance that is the biggest obstacle to love and happiness.
Ben returns home from a few days fishing, ever-lovin’ and ready for some company only to find the Baxter building empty and the rest of the FF and girlfriend Alicia away being busy or having fun. Ben is out of the loop and reunions will have to wait. It’s the first touch of sadness but there’s more to come.
The reunions don’t go well. Ben’s jealousy and temper get the better of him and he ends up getting arrested by the superhero police. The prison sequence is great fun, locked up with the Avenger Hercules (who’s hungover) in an unbreakable cell. It’s proper superhero daftness and it’s a joy to watch them break out.
Bailed out by his teammates and dumped by Alicia, Ben is offered the chance to join an intriguing new dating agency. Reluctant at first but loneliness and bad dreams change his mind. There’s a lovely scene where Ben has to fill out a character questionnaire form and has to be thoughtful and honest with himself. In fact, every page seems to have a lovely moment or surprising detail in it that elevates everything to another level.
Sometimes it’s just a panel, like the look of regret on Reed Richard’s face unable to ease his friend’s pain. Other times it’s the whole page. Ben walking alone through the cavernous fairy-tale Baxter Building surrounded by wonders, a Beast minus his beauty. I could list a dozen other special moments.
Meanwhile, there’s a horrifying new villain called MOT stalking the streets and dreams of New York. A death-like figure is able to reach into a person and pull out their heart, corrupt it, and then put it back in. MOT’S sequences add an unexpected strain of horror to the story. There’s some strong imagery and nasty violence (and the consequences of violence, which is refreshing). However, there’s nothing gratuitous. Like everything else in this comic, its pitched just right.
Finally, Ben starts a new day with a message in his inbox and he’s off to meet someone new. A positive ending on what’s been a bit of an emotional roller-coaster.
Then the wall explodes. Roll on issue two.
See above. Superb storytelling and great art, a really strong exploration of the character, and packed with lovely moments. These guys really know their Thing!
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!
This arc is beginning to show that they might be investing in more action-based plots than horror, but with a view to creating a bit of new Alien lore and reveals.
Writer: Phillip Kennedy Johnson Artist: Salvador Larroca Colorist: Guru-eFX
Published by Marvel Comics Released – Sept 2021
Wow! This INHYUK LEE cover is an absolute stunner. I don’t care that it doesn’t resemble anything the “Alpha” or Alien drone looks like in the comic itself. It’s action, its terror and it is bursting through glass and the cover to attack at a frightening speed.
I love it, and I also love that it detracts from the pretty underwhelming Alpha we were introduced to in the last issue. It offers the promise that, although Marvel has failed to fully grab the reigns of the new Alien franchise, it can attract a wide range of influence from the House of Mouse (Disney) and the undoubted talent it might lure to the fold.
I actually quite enjoyed this issue especially when I gave it a read before the review write-up so as not to write it on first impression. My first impression was actually pretty good too though! . I chewed through it and found it entertaining. I think previous issues had helped me lower my expectations and increased my acceptance of the new audience that Marvel is trying to include and their approach to overseeing this current story. This arc I think is beginning to show that they might be investing in more action-based plots than horror but with a view to creating a bit of new Alien lore and reveals.
We are straight into the action from the start but this is delivered as an introspective insight into Gabe (our main character’s) history. It not only adds character depth it was reminiscent of the good old Dark Horse Comic plots. These few opening pages are pretty impactful and the gravity of the horror that could spread is so well-timed when Johnson writes ” I saw a TIDAL WAVE of living nightmares exploding out of my chest, blanketing the universe ” right before an image of a female resembling humanoid Alien around which there is building mystery and a sense of importance.
We get a nice double-page infographic that helps bring the reader up to speed. The mystery for me here though was that the Alpha Alien depicted was held in the Weyland-Yutani Epsilon station for heaven knows how long and yet with all them scientists not one thought to document things like its size whilst it was in a giant test tube!
As for the main body of the issue, it’s pretty entertaining and rolls along quite well. Two pairs independently trying to trace against time and the ever-present xenomorph threat to the escape craft with an added little twist at the end. I’ve labored in past reviews about Larocca’s Aliens I don’t want to rehash old ground. Suffice it to say the drones particularly still look a bit frozen but I did find myself smiling in satisfaction at the presentation of the center ( stapled ) pages.
Verdict: The Alien franchise is taking a new and bold direction in this first story arc. his is a solid issue and I looked forward to #6, titled The Beginning.
As Ben and Marcus (Ben’s supervisor) discuss their plan to attack, Marcus brings up the fact that since its in Brooklyn, there’s a mighty high chance Miles will ‘swing’ by onto the scene…
The Amazing Spider-Man #81
Written by: Saladin Ahmed Artwork by: Carlos Gómez
Published by Marvel Comics 15/12/21
One of the most anticipated chapters of BEYOND is finally upon us! The two rookie Spider-men collide in one action packed issue with a brand new creative team of Saladin Ahmed and Carlos Gómez.
This issue starts with (I believe an introduction of a new villain) Rhizome being spotted on the loose in Brooklyn. I’ve attempted to do some digging and it looks like this is the first appearance of Rhizome which is a welcome addition. Just to have ANY new marvel villains in this day and age is quite a feat, the last time Spider-man faced a new villain was Kindred back in 2018! Hopefully we get more new villains in Spidey’s future, fingers crossed.
As Ben and Marcus (Ben’s supervisor) discuss their plan to attack, Marcus brings up the fact that since its in Brooklyn, there’s a mighty high chance Miles will ‘swing’ by onto the scene, being the Borough’s resident web-slinger. Ahmed seems to really know how to give characters a personality, like most of the beyond issues, he manages to add in titbits of humor and depth to the character of Ben Reilly. Like in the introductory scene, we get some nice quips and when asked to enforce the Beyond trademark on Miles, Ben is weary but still accepts. Little pieces of characterization like this makes the characters feel more real and show readers Ben isn’t just blindly following Beyond’s orders. This is also been building up throughout the storyline which, by the end, I’m sure Beyond will be exposed and/or put out of commission by the friendly neighborhood you-know-who.
A character I really love in this Spider saga is Janine Godbe. She’s Ben’s girlfriend and she’s an interesting, 3-dimensional person. She first appeared back in the infamous clone saga in 1995’s Spider-man: the lost years, she’s had a complex story involving her having to take her own fathers life . After the clone saga ended however, Marvel figured that to tie up a loose end, they’d just throw her in prison for her justified crime (see why its justified in the said 90’s mini-series, its really good!) And practically shelved the best new character of the clone saga. But now, she’s back in the mainstream Spider-man series and it’s always fun when she shows up. Anyway, apologies for the tangent. Ben checks in with Janine and takes off to Brooklyn.
As Ben makes his way to the scene, he showcases his awesome Spider-wings that actually make him fly, which is totally awesome. Once he gets to the area of destruction, he discovers that Rhizome is nowhere to be seen and that’s when Miles shows up on the case. After Miles realises Ben isn’t the Usual Spider-man doing the rounds, they have a cool little sparring match which showcases each others abilities , since they’re both semi newcomers, they’re pretty evenly matched and the fight only ends once Ben blurts out Peter’s name, showing that he is connected to the OG Spider-man. Ben and Miles talk it out and find that they had actually met in Spider verse/Geddon. The both of them do some duties around the block that was damaged and save a few lives, deciding to team up and find the loose Rhizome which Ben manages to do with ease due to Beyond’s advanced tech.
The fight with Rhizome goes down pretty swiftly with the two Spider-men using a combination of Ben’s webs and Miles’ venom sting to take down the force of nature which, in actuality, was just a guy in a fancy suit supplied by an enemy Miles knows called “the Assessor”. This serves as Miles exit point as he goes to track down the Assessor and whatever other juiced up villains he has on hand with Ben and Miles making a friendship and the former doesn’t attempt to give Miles any kind of warning. The fight was beautifully drawn by the hugely underrated Carlos Gómez who has done some amount of work in almost every marvel book you can possibly imagine. The guys art leaps of the page and has so much energy in it, it makes the issue go so much faster and has you missing it once its over, brilliant stuff.
Thus issue concludes with Ben receiving a Scolding from Head of Beyond, Maxine Danger which results yet another Beyond lecture on how the company has poured so much resources into him and Janine, (the Beyond lecture may actually become a villain of its own so make sure to buy five copies of the first time Ben Reilly’s most dangerous foe appears!!!) These things never seem to get through to Ben however and I’m sure he’ll continue in his rebellious, good hearted ways. As an epilogue, Maxine is revealed to be holding a jar of the material Rhizome was made out of, this might mean that Maxine danger planned the villain to break free and unite Ben and Miles? Or maybe it even means Danger herself is the Assessor, which would give Miles a far bigger part in the story. All interesting stuff!
This issue of the Amazing Spider-man lived up to its well deserving title. Exciting and mesmerizing art coupled with an edge of your seat script make a stellar issue of the webbed wonders adventures. Be here soon for an oddball tale of a problem in Peter Parker’s medical ward…
We take a look at seven classic George Perez covers.
A dark cloud has been cast up comic fans from all across the globe recently with the sad news of the impending retirement of the great George Perez.
If the retirement were under better circumstances for George then we have no doubt the same bravado would ensue, but alas it is not the case as it has been forced upon him by way of ill health. Tragically, it has become clear that it does not appear to be getting any better and one week ago CGC announced that on the 31st of January, George Perez would be holding one final, all be it private, signing session.
The impact and influence of George’s work upon the industry is legendary, his stories have become timeless classics and perhaps most impressively of all, many of the characters that he either created or redefined are still considered by many to be the definitive or standard setting versions, something that is backed up often in TV/Movie adaptations in recent years.
This is the start of a short series of articles we will be doing looking at some of our favorite elements from his most popular works. We are looking today at our seven favorite classic covers this time, perhaps an artists best way of becoming a household name of course is doing a classic cover, and George certainly knows how to set us up with something alluring to behold on the shelf, so lets take a look…
Logans Run #1 – (1977)
Perhaps its that totally awesome logo, or that mad dash out of the page that Logan and Jessica are doing in a remarkably Kirby-Kamandi like manner (Michael York-Mandi?), but anyway this cover has imprinted on many a readers memory. A fun little run too, if you like that kind of thing! We do!
The New Teen Titans #1 – (1980)
Iconic to the core. Having all the Titans on the front was always a must, but that badass arrangement around Raven coming towards us as the poor green skinned cannon fodder that’s about to be pummeled would have been an eye catcher for any punter in the shop that day looking for a bit of new DC action.
The Infinity Gauntlet #1 – (1991)
Just look at thing thing… I mean, flash forward thirty odd years and look around at the marketing used for the MCU, the designs on packaging for toys (good ones) and all manner of other things, this really has aged beautifully. Possibly more widely known now that it ever was back in the 90’s, its George’s ability to cram so much, so clearly and without any offence to the eye on any cover that continues to astound today.
Wonder Woman #20 – (1988)
This one may have as much to do with the story than it does the cover art. Without giving much away ‘Who Killed Myndi Mayer’ was a great arc that came at just the right time in the Perez run, with us witnessing Diana’s continuing struggle to find her own moral compass within a confusing new world, and on the back of the grim murder of her eccentric and controversial publicist. This mock newspaper cover was just the right tone needed to carry the story forward, and always sticks out when flicking through the run and brings us to a brief stop, as we pull it out and go “Ah yes… Who was it who killed Myndi again?”
Crisis On Infinite Earths #7 – (1985)
What needs to be said, arguably it doesn’t get more iconic than this. Its always been his most dramatic cover, that’s for sure. First we have that gut wrenching and hopeless pose from Superman, then there is the fact he’s holding his (spoilers) Supergirl, his dead cousin who is drooped in his arms with what on an initial look would be quite graphic injuries for a Superman feature cover from DC 1985. Then finally you have the wave of characters who mourn in the background, silhouetted like an army of the dead. It stinks of failure. Its perfect.
The New Teen Titans #39 – (1984)
There were lots of quality stories going on within the New Teen Titans, but one that was perfectly reflected by its cover was that of issue #39.
Kid Flash, or Wally West rather, formally announces that he is leaving the team and soon after Robin announces that he too is giving up being Robin entirely. It has some subtle emotional twists in the narrative, and despite not being a true classic, it certainly delivers. Much like the cover, which reflects the narrative within really well. You are very much left with an empty feeling, possibly even upset upon finishing the read, and so when turning back to the cover Perez gives us a perfect summery. No background, no jokes, no care or nostalgia for their uniforms at all as Robins costume conveniently hangs rather ominously from the Titans logo. Dramatic indeed.
Wonder Woman #36 – (1989)
I’ve read this run several times and I can’t for the life of me remember what part of the story this covers, however, it matters not. Just look at the cover. Perfectly capturing what feels like the essence of a character in one image. There are loads of brilliant Perez covers in his Wonder Woman run, many with Diana in battle of course, but this one stands out in particular for that incredible expression of harmless joy and the striking angular T pose as she leaps high above her home. This run had its really dark moments, but Perez knew how to treat us with iterations of these characters that we genuinely felt happy for when they were totally happy, and rare times they were indeed. It was the 80’s…
Back in the summer of 2019 when comics were plentiful, the Marvel universe welcomed Prah’d’gul (or Prodigal according to mishearing Ben Grimm) in three one-shot comics where our young visitor from space bumps heads with three of Marvel’s mainstream titles. First up it’s the Fantastic Four!
Fantastic Four: The Prodigal Sun #1
Written by Peter David Art by Francesco Manna
Released: September 2019
Published by Marvel Comics
Back in the summer of 2019 when comics were plentiful, the Marvel universe welcomed Prah’d’gul (or Prodigal according to mishearing Ben Grimm) in three one-shot comics where our young visitor from space bumps heads with three of Marvel’s mainstream titles.
First up it’s the Fantastic Four, who at the time of publication had only just returned to Earth after a few years of unpublished adventures in an alternate dimension and were busy settling into the early stories of Dan Slott’s excellent monthly run.
Prodigal crashes in the Savage Land, a prehistoric jungle hidden in the Antarctica much loved by the X-Men and populated by Dinosaurs and various warring tribes of pre-agricultural types. Our hero barely has time to pull a dramatic pose before he’s eaten by a T-Rex who must lie in wait for crashing spaceships, so often do they occur in this supposedly secluded paradise. (This is a great recurring gag in Brian Michael Bendis’ New Avengers. Pause while I go and re-read the first few issues.)
Unfortunately for Rex, Prodigal is hard mouthful to swallow and he’s quickly exploding his way out and being proclaimed a God by the locals. This suits him fine and he’s soon got his new congregation looking for a replacement spaceship and stirring up trouble with the neighbouring tribes. It’s a quick start, but one-shots don’t let you hang around and soon enough Ka-zar and Shanna, the underdressed Heroes who rule the Savage Land, have got the FF on the phone asking for help getting rid of the troublesome interloper. Cue action.
Peter David knows his game and keeps the script light and frothy with plenty of jokes. The classic superhero meet-cute fuelled by misunderstanding and bravado is played for laughs but soon begins to wear thin. It’s all a bit one-note and silly and Prodigal mainly comes across as an arrogant jerk complete with annoying catch-phrase. Unfortunately, the limited page count doesn’t give him much opportunity to redeem himself. Perhaps in the following instalments we see a bit more of his character. A bit of mystery would have been welcome too. There’s time for a touch of perfunctory back-story but the few lines we get doesn’t sound that original or exciting. Mostly this is all just an excuse to showcase Prodigal’s fairly conventional superpowers, which in world full of superheroes isn’t that interesting. Even the Fantastic Four don’t really get that much to do. Reed and Sue get a few nice moments but The Thing and Human Torch are barely in it. I think Johnny Storm gets one line.
Francesco Manna art is solid and dependable if a little short on the spectacular. Again, I think the limited page-count doesn’t give him a chance to really shine. There was a real missed opportunity to draw an exploding Tyrannosaur, which I’m sure he would have enjoyed. But no room for it. Shame. Next up for Prodigal it’s back into space and if the cover is to be believed it’s a zero-gee dust-off with the Silver Surfer while a ringside Galactus places his bets before a final meeting with the Guardians of the Galaxy rounds off the trilogy. After that, who knows? Did Prodigal become a regular somewhere? Did he become interesting? Maybe I’ll look online to find out. Then again.
Verdict Mostly fun but ultimately a conventional intro for a conventional character. Prodigal didn’t really excite and I don’t think the FF gained much by being in it. Next time Ka-zar calls you Reed, send the reserves and save yourself the bother.
A facsimile of Conan the Barbarian #1 originally published by Marvel in October 1970.
CONAN THE BARBARIAN #1
Written by: Roy Thomas Art: Barry Smith
Released: December 15th 2021 Published Marvel Comics
A facsimile of Conan the Barbarian #1 originally published by Marvel in October 1970.
For those unfamiliar with Robert E. Howard’s original stories published in Weird Tales from 1932, this is a great way of introducing one of pulp fiction’s most enduring characters to a new generation of readers. Writer Roy Thomas begins Conan’s story with the briefest of background information, welcoming the reader to the Hyborian Age placed somewhere between “the sinking of Atlantis and the dawn of recorded time.” At the back of the comic is The Hyborian Page, which goes into more detail about the world Howard created and, like all good works of fantasy, includes a half-page map indicating the various lands and kingdoms.
From page 2 it’s straight into the action with the youthful, mercenary Conan fighting alongside the Aesir against the invading Vanir. With the promise of more gold, Conan helps Olav — an Aesir chief — pursue two high-ranking Vanir warriors. Their search leads them to a shaman in possession of a Star-Stone, a cosmic jewel that can bring forth visions of both the past and future; it’s a neat narrative trick by Thomas that allows the reader to learn more about Conan’s past, while offering a glimpse into what will become of him.
Hyperbole and the heroic language associated with tales of sword and sorcery is a staple of the Marvel Universe, particularly in Thor and Tales of Asgard, so the world of Conan already feels like a natural fit for a comic book adaptation. Respectful of the source material, fans of Conan will appreciate the efforts Thomas has gone to in retaining the authentic dialogue (“By Crom!”) and imbuing in Conan the grey area that all great anti-heroes hold; he makes it clear that Conan is a mercenary first, but whose moral compass is such that he will still fight for what he believes is right over monetary gain. Barry Smith’s artwork is lively, breathing life into the battles scenes without resorting to the bloodshed that spattered the pages of Howard’s stories, while the various warriors, sorcerers and winged monsters will be instantly recognisable to those whose tastes lean towards fantasy. The lettering by Sam Rosen highlights key words, drawing attention to the names of the tribes and places that are all important when building an imaginary world, though in some panels this world-building would have benefited from more background detail by Smith rather than using blocks of colour.
Overall, this is a fine adaptation, as satisfying to a Howard reader as it is accessible to a newcomer to Conan’s world, serving as both a gateway for those who want to explore further and a homage to the pulp stories that inspired the likes of Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and, of course, Roy Thomas.
Whilst it doesn’t boast the non stop, cataclysmic action of earlier beyond chapters, it’s still no pushover and serves as a great continuation of the latest Spidey super arc.
Amazing Spider-man #79
Published by Marvel comics on 25/11/21
Written by: Cody Ziglar
Artwork by: Michael Dowling
The latest chapter in the beyond arc sees Ben Reilly settle into his role as Spider-man as he struggles with the beyond corporation’s tight grip aswell as coming face to face with the new (and improved?) Kraven the hunter.
The creative team has yet again had another 2 issue change. Which I like the idea of, so far we’ve had Zeb Wells and Patrick Gleason, Kelly Thompson and Sara Pichelli and now we’ve got Cody Ziglar and Michael Dowling bring us the beginning of this short story featuring Kraven! Our story begins with a beyond corp party at a bar, when one drunk worker is leaving the party down an alleyway, a mysterious shadow overcasts him as we cut away to Ben having his suit fixed up due to his encounter with morbius (see my review on issue 78). Marcus (Ben’s supervisor) chats the usual dirt about how “beyond has sacrificed a lot for you blah blah blah”. After their conversation, Ben goes out to see Peter in the time he has spare before he has to go on an assignment.
MJ sits at Peter’s bedside as Ben enters through the window, I really enjoyed the little bits of chemistry shown between the characters in this book. I wasn’t aware of Cody Ziglar before reading this (I think he may have written some Spider-man books before) but his writing feels really natural, it allows the reader to feel more involved in the comic and view these characters as real people. Ben says his goodbyes and swings off to stop an armoured car robbery, after doing so, he gets a call from Marcus, who needs to Ben to stop by the home of a beyond board member in distress. Upon arriving, he finds the man dead on the floor but before he can investigate any further, his Spider-sense is set off, but its to late has Ben is hit by a huge explosion!
Kraven reveals himself to the bruised up Ben and gives him a good beating until he manages to find his way out of the building. However, when Ben is in free fall, he’s it with a mirage of poison tipped darts, which send him spiralling down to the edge of a building. Broken, Ben manages to muster up the strength to stand, but when he dies, he is faced with a 500 foot huge kraven monster God who is the result of Ben’s hallucinations, right?
This issue was a decent read, Ziglar’s writing felt totally smooth and human and was accompanied by some really nice artwork by Dowling. Whilst it doesn’t boast the non stop, cataclysmic action of earlier beyond chapters, it’s still no pushover and serves as a great continuation of the latest Spidey super arc.
This book features some good, old school, 90’s fun. When everything was going great for the most part, when Spidey was married, Venom and carnage were the coolest guys around and clones weren’t on anybodies mind.
Web of Spider-man (1993) #97 (Retrospective)
Published in 1993 by Marvel Comics
Written by: Terry Kavanagh
Artwork by: Alex Saviux, Derek Yaniger
Welcome to this corner of the Spider-verse, to a time long, long ago. 1993. Horses were still being ridden and the world enjoyed blissful ignorance to the horror show that would be…Coldplay. Also, this issue of Web of Spider-man was released!
Web of Spider-man was the sister in-law to the Amazing Spider-man (the sister series being the spectacular Spider-man). It began in 1985 and for a while there, it was the more artsy Spider-title, featuring incredible ,then upcoming artists like Arthur Adams, Marc Silvestri and Mike Mignola. This was all well and good until issue 35 when artist Alex Saviuk jumped on board. Don’t get me wrong, his art is good and in later issues (around issue 100 and after) even great but his seven year stint on the book made it feel like the lesser Spider-man book on stands. His house style would have been no doubt perfectly adequate in other time period but then the 90’s rolled around. Artists like Todd McFarlane, Erik Larsen and Mark Bagely were making waves with their electrifying pencils And even Spectacular Spider-man had legendary marvel artist Sal Buscema on the title leaving Web of Spider-man the weakest series. That’s not to say “Web of” was bad though, the issues before the one being reviewed here were part of the awesome Spirits of Venom storyline which crossed over with the spirits of vengeance book. And a few issues later, the 14 part epic maximum carnage was told in part in the pages of Web of. So with all that context out of the way, let’s get into this issue.
First of all, this issue marks a first appearance, being that of Nightwatch who appears in a weird scene where he introduces himself to some dudes on a beach. The story is mainly centered around blood rose, the new moniker of…the rose. The issue starts with him taking down some gangsters in a particularly gruesome fashion for a Spider-man book. We then cut to Peter at the doorstep with Betty Brant who has dinner with the Parkers (which, at the time, included Peter’s ‘parents’). Just as a quick side note, this a time where Peter and Mary Jane were married which was the best part of Spider-man comics for about twenty fricking years and they ripped it away from us. WHY MARVEL, WHYYY!!! Sorry about that, just have some issues with Joe Quesada’s at a certain comic book publishers.
Once dinner is finished, Peter is being yelled at by Robbie Robertson when a huge explosion is hears from Fisk towers, Pete suits up and gets caught up in a bloody rampage that blood rose is making. Gunning down men left and right and throwing them out of windows until Spidey intervenes. Rose makes a getaway, or so we think until he shows up behind Spider-man with a hostage! Spidey it’s the hostage in the face with impact webbing (which was pretty funny), making him land on the webbed net outside the tower. Rose shoots at our hero until Spidey can get a couple of punches in when the tower quickly begins exploding and collapsing upon the pair. Outside, bystanders are evacuated as Spider-man breaks through the rubble. Stumbling upon Robbie and also, on a cliffhanger note, the Blood Rose!
This book features some good, old school, 90’s fun. When everything was going great for the most part, when Spidey was married, Venom and Carnage were the coolest guys around and clones weren’t on anybodies mind. The book was by no means bad, but just a little predictable, which is fine. If you have me a trade with 20 issues of Web of I’m sure I’d enjoy it, but then again it wouldn’t rock my world.