The Ultimate Pricing Conundrum

When Marvel announced that the Ultimate Universe was returning, many comics buyers were filled with trepidation. The original Ultimate Universe was well receieved in the beginning, mainly based on the Brian Bendis and Mark Bagely Ultimate Spider-Man book and the Ultimates by Mark Millar andBrian Hitch. But as with everything comics, the stories, characters and timelines grew and once again proved to be complicated for new readers. That and an astonishingly bad Ultimatum book by Jeph Loeb sent many of us running from the line.

Well, we are now one mini and a few titles into the new Ultimate Universe. And, well, the temperature would be anything but lukewarm. The books are flying off the shelves and the prices on ebay are going through the roof. What happened?

Over a month ago, prior to the release of Ultimate Spider-Man #1, I asked my LCS owner to hold #1 for me, which he did. I then went to ebay to look for Ultimate Invasion issues 1-4 to prepare for the launch. At the time, I could get the entire set for around $30, a few were cheaper and a few a little more expensive. For some reason, I passed at the time. After Ultimate Spider-man was released, I was hooked. I decided that I was going to grab those issues to get the complete backstory. To my astonishment, the price for the book had jumped…. a lot. Over the past week, that run has sold for anywhere between $50-$201. Individual issues are selling in the $25 range.

Ultimate Spider-Man #1 has similarly had a meteoric rise. The story is amazing, but the jump in price is ridiculous. (You can find reviews here and here.) Over the past week, Ultimate Spider-Man #1 has sold for $60-$224 for a 9.8. This book is not even two months old. Comics Cubed comic shop owner Shawn Hilton said, “This is rudimentary SUPPLY and DEMAND mixed with a version of SURGE PRICING. Speculation, fed constantly by YOUTUBE and other immediate opinion/information sources feeds fans FOMO (fear of missing out). This leads to an almost I WON THE LOTTERY enthusiasm when collectors and fans can find these books in the wild and pay cover price for the books. ALL of these books were readily available months before they arrived. Fans and collectors could have contacted their local comic shops two months in advance to order these books and they would have received them (from any reputable comic store). The unfortunate part was the HYPE didn’t hit until after the books were already in stores, and at that point, it was too late to adjust orders.” It will be interesting to see how much the demand dies for this book in a few months, and how much the amount will decline. And it will.

Ultimate Black Panther followed the release of Ultimate Spider-Man. There was a lot of interest in the book. Mr. Hilton took advance orders, knowing that this would be a Hot book. He was right. Additionally, 12,000 books were lost in transit, furthering the need for supply to meet that high demand. The result? UBP #1 sells for $25 to $129 for a 9.8. Not as high as Spider-Man, but pretty impressive for a character that doesn’t sell nearly as many books.

And, the final oddity in all of this- Marvel Previews #26, a free book of previews handed out at stores, recently had Ultimate Spider-Man on the cover. A copy of this recently sold on ebay for $50. I suppose someone will claim that it’s the first appearance of the new Ultimate Spider-Man. Now we are reaching.

I think we all know that these prices will not hold. As demand subsides, the issues will return to a more normal selling price. For those looking to jump into the story with a first print of either book, you may struggle to find a good deal for now. Ultimate X-Men isn’t far away. Make sure you tell your LCS to order you a copy now!

Ultimate Spider-Man #2 Review

Creators: Writer- Jonathan Hickman, Art- Marco Checchetto, Colors- Matthew Wilson, Letters- VC’s Cory Petit

Story:

Glenn: So once again, we have a lot going on here. We have Peter figuring out how to Spider-Man (yes, that’s a verb) with some hilarious misfortunes at the hands of a new version of the Shocker. We have some great interactions with the Parker family, more information on MJ’s job, a wonderfully adorable moment with little May Parker and a reason for Peter choosing the colours more along the lines of the iconic costume we’re more familiar with.

There’s some great scene’s with our supporting cast too. I love this friendship with Ben and Jonah. It seems this version of Jonah is much more chill (more akin to the version in recent years after he found out who Spider-Man was. There’s also a great scene with Fisk freaking out that Spider-Man is on the scene. It seems that there’s some influence over him which will be interesting to dive into.

Meanwhile the Green Goblin watches from afar.

This issue had comedy, intrigue, great character moments and action too. This doesn’t read like Hickman at all and in my mind when this was announced I couldn’t imagine what a writer like Hickman could be like on Spider-Man but he’s delivering.

Steve: As Glenn said, this book is hitting all the right notes. It is not Hickman-like in that it is immediately understandable and I don’t need an encyclopedia to follow. (not an indictment, just a fact that Hickman books are HEADY) But, it is very Hickman-like in that there are layers to explore and each layer is getting proper time to gel and develop.

Crucial to Peter’s character is family and the fact that he is an everyman, like us. Here, Hickman gives us a lot of time developing Peter as a husband and especially as a father. His relationship with May is wonderful and heartfelt. I assume that the knowledge of who he is may come back to bite him, but we shall see. Further, his first days as Spider-Man have been fun. He has not warmed up quickly to the new powers and, man, is he gullible. The Shocker plays on his good nature to comedic affect that works very well in this book. Eventually, Peter will get it and a scene with the Shocker will have great payoff.

Of course, J. Jonah and Ben get a lot of time here. Their conversations help set the scene for Kingpin and the Green Goblin. As they speak about the mysterious person wearing green armor and terrorizing Fisk’s building, it’s like we are getting a news story. Kind of a clever play with the two of them being newsmen. Cut to Kingpin, we see that he is not the true boss, but a sort of puppet on a string.

This new Ultimate world is turning out to be exciting and fresh. I can’t wait to see Fisk try to make his move on his current “bosses.” I can’t wait to see what this Green Goblin is up to and why he is attacking Fisk. It will be cool to see J. Jonah and Ben take over the paper…..because it will happen:) And it will be fun to see how Peter factors into all of this. Right now, this book is clicking on all cylinders. In short order, Hickman has developed an intriguing story and is developing the characters completely without dragging down the narrative.

Art

Glenn: Well Checchetto is doing some brilliant work. Even something as simple as MJ putting on her coat for work looks like some of the most stunning art you’ve even seen. Every panel is a feast for the eyes, creating an engagement even in the slower talky moments.

The action that’s here is great, the new designs are wonderful and Chechetto is delivering on the quiter moments like between Peter/May, Ben/Jonah and Fisk/his goons.

I can’t wait to see him drawing Peter in action in the more traditional costume where he will finally take down the Shocker to christen himself a proper history as he slowly starts to figure out what he’s doing.

This is the best a Spider-Man book has been since Chip Z finished his run. It’s not even close. This blew me away and I am drooling for issue 3 NOW.

Steve: Ok, Glenn, oh lover of JRJR, this is what a beautiful Spider-Man book looks like. Marco Checchetto is incredible. I have been a fan of his, especially for his work on Daredevil. He is made for books like this with street level heroes. There is a realism to his art that fits like a glove. His character action pieces move the story effortlessly through the panels. His small, character moments are real and show great skill at emotional story telling. His facial expression on May are priceless. He is clearly a director of the page. And finally, he does not skimp on background. Sometimes artists focus only on the subject in the foreground and leave the bacground sparse. Not here, every scene is fully developed.

Checchetto is at the top of his game and there is no better looking book on the stands.

Overall:

Glenn: 5 Webshooters

Steve: 5 Webshooters This is the Spider-Man book we are looking for.

Next week- more Spider-Man at Wanderings and Woolgathering.

Amazing 43 and Superior 4 Spider-Man Reviews

Amazing Spider-Man Creators: Zeb Wells- Writer, John Romita-Pencils, Scott Hanna- Inker, Marcio Menyz- Colorist, VC’s Joe Caramagna- Letters, John Romita Jr., Scott Hanna, and Marcio Menyz- Cover

Story:

Glenn: So the big battle is finally here and this issue isn’t much more than that. You get the odd standoff and exchange with Tombstone getting most of the best moments. We finish off an indication of where this story is going and….that’s it.

Apart from the good open that gives us some emotional weight, the issue is over in the blink of an eye. Most of the quality is in the fight choreography which I’ll talk about in the art. It seems that pretty much at the end of this, we’re going to largely finish us back where we started. I can practically write the last issue in my head so we’ll see how close I am in that regards.

After a pretty good lead on, the big showdown was kind of just there with the art doing a lot of heavy lifting.

Onto the conclusion.

Steve: This is the penultimate issue of Spider-Man Gang War and things have really come to a head as the armies of Madame Mystique and The Beetle do battle with Spidey’s gang intervening. It is frantic and ends quickly with a very cool twist on the final pages. I rarely say this about events, but I feel like this one is rushing to the end. There are so many layers that I wish they would have been explored here rather than in other ancillary books. I guess that’s why the comics companies tie-in as many as possible because clearly people are buying those, but it hurts the main event book in terms of depth.

So, the good. Lonnie Lincoln shines again. While I haven’t really enjoyed much of Wells’ run, I have definitely enjoyed how he has handled Tombstone. There has been a real depth here in his handling of his daughter and his true love and concern for her. The final page where he rips off her wings and knocks her out so that she doesn’t become him, is wonderful. It’s brutal, as he is, but shows some growth in character. Can’t wait to see where he goes in the final issue. Also, am hoping for a reunion with Robbie and Janice, once she comes to her senses.

Art:

Glenn: JRJR fights superhero slugfests well so the art does a lot of heavy lifting like I said above. At this point, we all know what we’re getting with the art and it serves this kind of issue well.

You’ll either greatly appreciate JRJR for what he delivers or be a grouch like Steve and yell scram every so often.

Steve: There is not much more I can say here about JRjr. I still don’t like his art, but at least here it’s not dependent on smaller scenes focusing on facial expressions. His action is his strength so I guess this script is perfect for him. I’m ready for a new artist on Amazing…….please.

Overall:

Glenn: 3 Webshooters I didn’t say much this issue because there’s not a whole lot to talk about. Its….fine? It just comes and goes. Not bad or great….just there which after all the build is a bit eh but I’ve read worse.

Steve: 3 Webshooters- Hope Wells sticks the landing and provides the opportunity for a fun Tombstone vs Kingpin romp going forward.

Superior Spider-Man Creators: Dan Slott- Writer, Mark Bagley- Pencils, John Dell- Inks, VC’s Joe Caramagna- Letters, Mark Bagley and Edgar Delgado- Cover

Story:

Glenn: Nearly 10 years ago, I read Superior Spider-Man 30 which saw Otto give Peter his mind back in the original Superior Spider-Man. It was a brilliantly written issue, but I kind of thought at the time ‘Peter didn’t get his win back’. After beating Peter physically in Amazing 700 and then mentally in Superior 9 (the original one) I wanted one last showdown between Peter and Otto in the mindscape where after a fight which the former would win, we’d get the scene where the villain realises he was wrong and the true Superior Spider-Man is declared.

Now Slott and Bagley give me exactly what I wanted and it was awesome. Battles like this can do things a regular one can’t cause you can have people show up who shouldn’t be there and can’t be there to represent both parties.

I did find it was funny that Ock got the Hulk on his side. Hulk hate big man!

It was an excellent battle that covered various era’s that these two have fought. It honoured their feud and various battles and just at the last minute, Peter overcomes Otto not only with some help from Uncle Ben but from the alternative Peter that Slott had in his first Spider-Man arc with Bagley.

NOW Ock is playing ball and the two will actually try to be a functioning team to save Anna Maria and defeat Supernova.

I thought this issue was brilliant, just packed full of all the things and everything I could have wanted from this issue when I kinda had a wish for it nearly 10 years ago. I only wish the save by Uncle Ben hadn’t been spoiled by the cover but Marvel gotta Marvel.

Usual Dan Slott Spider-Man lore brilliance that no one else today does better.

Steve: I was definitely excited to see a return to the Superior Spider-Man world. The last romp was fun and Slott definitely knows his way around a Spider-Man story. However, after this issue, I’m not sure why this story exists. It’s fun for sure, but I’m not sure it’s really necessary. Unless something changes drastically, it feels more like an epilogue than a fresh new story. I hope I’m proven wrong.

For this issue, most of it takes place in Doc Ock’s mindscape. Ock and Peter battle for control of Peter’s mind with Ock hoping to once again become the Superior Spider-Man so that he can save Anna Maria. The battle goes on through most of the pages with trips back to the beginning of Spider-Man’s story. Both Ock and Peter have moments, until Peter has some help in the form of Uncle Ben and an alternate Peter who was not bitten by a Spider. The two come to Peter’s aid and defeat Doc Ock proving that Peter Parker is indeed the Superior Spider-Man. The bit I really like here is that the Peter Parker who was not bitten is every bit the hero that our Peter is. Deep down, what makes Spider-Man great….and Superior, is Peter, not the powers. Lots of nice nods to the past, but that’s where it ends for me.

Having won, Peter does offer Otto the chance to help rescue Anna as he has all the knowledge of what he has unleashed on the world, Supernova. It looks like the buddy team-up will continue until Doc Ock tries to backstab Peter again. Speaking of which, Supernova has a three page interlude in which she reaffirms her need to kill Spider-Man and loses Anna Maria who has escaped. Supernova is a character we should feel sorry for, but somehow all of that is lost. I hope Slott can somehow make her human again. Who knows.

Art:

Glenn: Bagley’s a master. He got to draw a lot of people here and various era’s of these two characters. He draws elements of the different era’s the fight takes place in well while still looking like his own style and delivers another home run.

In terms of an issue like this that pays tribute to this long rivalry between these two foes, you want an artist very familiar with both characters. The only other artist still working today full time that has been both drawing Spidey and Ock longer is JRJR who is drawing the ‘main’ book. So there’s literally no one better to draw an issue like this.

Steve: It’s Mark Bagley, what can you say. Oh yeah, it’s really good. There is a two page spred that would make George Perez very happy, in a stand off of villains and heroes, Bagley draws, to my count, about 75 charactes. That is what we call putting in the work. I especially love the pages with Uncle Ben in action. So fresh and fun to see Ben take matters into his own hands. And the wink when the other Peter shows up- priceless.

Overall:

Glenn: 5 Webshooters Adore it!

Steve: 3 Webshooters- The art carried this issue. Hopefully Slott can find his footing again.

Keep coming back for more Spidey content.

Spine Tingling Spider-Man #4 Review

Spine Tingling Spider-Man Creators: Writer- Saladin Ahmed, Artist- Juan Ferreyra, Letterer- VC’s Joe Caramagna

Story:

Glenn:

Big showdown time, as Spidey gets his powers back courtesy of some assistance from Spidercide and goes for his head on collision with the mastermind behind his latest nightmare. Now with his powers back, Spidey overcomes the Jackal‘s last few obstacles with ease, dispatches him pretty easily and then wonders how lasting an effect this whole affair will have on him.

In two sentences worth of plot, the whole thing is wrapped up and I’m of two minds about it. This is like watching a really slow burn tense horror film like Hereditary and then it suddenly getting put on rapid rails for a Scream type finally. It works for Scream cause it has a brisker pace, but not with Hereditary, and I feel like this fourth issue is more like the last part of the former than the latter.

I didn’t feel the tension or sense of dread the previous issues established here. The mastermind being the Jackal makes a lot of sense. He certainly has the intelligence and capability of everything we saw in the issue previously. His whole motive of breaking down Peter mentally also tracks even though his plans in recent years have been on a bigger scale I’m not apposed to him going back to his core root of trying to mess with and/or kill the man he blames for the death of the woman he had a creepy obsession with.

It just feels a little too…easy? Like Spidercide literally presses a button on a remote and the case is wrapped up. It’s a fine finale, but I think the vibe is slightly off and although I can’t think of how, I feel the finale could have been more.

Steve:

I am in complete agreement. Each issue prior to this was a slow build. Some facet of Peter’s life was broken down, or he was faced with a new, frightening dilemma. There was room to breathe and feel the impact on Peter. It felt more like a character driven story with some real impact. Here, the reader can sense that it is over the minute that Spidercide flips the switch. Peter immediately goes to the Jackal and physically dismantles him in a few pages. Yes, there are lingering effects on his psyche that he will have to deal with, but he won and returned to normal life all in a few pages

Overall, I really enjoyed the story. The first three issues were a real surprise having Spidey be in a horror comic, but it really worked. And, it worked because Ahmed cleverly made his life frightening by hitting him where he would hurt the most, with those close to him. Not monsters under the bed, but the loss of what he holds dear to him. I really enjoyed his writing here; I just would have preferred for it to have been a five issue mini rather than four. The ending needed to breathe a little.

Art:

Glenn:

What vibes that remain is all down to Juan Ferreya’s excellent art. The Jackal who looks particularly terrifying which is something as his original design borders on the goofy side. The character didn’t get his upgrade to the sinister levels until he was brought back in the 90’s and was given a Joker-like redesign. When he was finally brought back by Dan Slott after many years away, the original costume did too and current artists have done a great job making it super creepy instead of silly, but Ferreya is the best to date.

The images linger after the last page which emphasises the Jackal’s last little boast to Peter about this little tale sticking with him. Few other villains have got into Peter’s head like Miles Warren (only Norman, Harry, Kraven, Venom and Ock immediately spring to mind) sop this makes sense. In a finale with an odd shift in tone in terms of pace, the art still delivers the goods.

Steve:

The story itself was good, but the art is outstanding. I’ve said it in other reviews, but I will say it again. Juan Ferreyra might be the best kept secret in comics…..and hopefully not for much longer. He absolutely excels at character work and layouts. His Spider-Man is fluid as Spidey should be. His Peter is likable and emotes the way a normal person should in this circumstance. His Jackal is terrifying and worthy of being the villain in this book. His backgrounds are fleshed out and frame the action well. And finally, his layouts are amazing! The two page spread with heavy action in the middle, and a foreshortened fist that would make Jack Kirby proud centers our attention, while the close ups around the central action deliver the intensity and ferocity of Spider-Man. It is beautiful to look at it and really delivers the emotion. This is one of two beautiful double page spreads. The other has a spoke like layout with the action emanating from a central motion of Spider-Man punching a hole through an androids stomach.

Sometimes double page spreads can seem lazy and feel like a cop out. These are works of art and move the story beautifully in short order. Reminds me of J.H. Williams and that’s a huge compliment. I’m a story guy first, but this art will bring me back over and over.

Overall:

Glenn: 3.5 Webshooters

Steve: 4 Webshooters (3 for story and 5 for art)

Check out all of our Spider content at the Pop Culture tab at Wanderingsandwoolgathering.com.

Superior Spider-Man #3 Review

Superior Spider-Man #3 Creators: Writer- Dan Slott, Pencils- Mark Bagley, Inks- John Dell, Letterer- VC’s Joe Caramagna

Story:

Glenn:

It’s the buddy comedy none of us expected, but we’ve always wanted with Spidey teaming with Doc Ock to save Anna Marie and the city. This issue largely focuses on Peter cosplaying as the ‘Superior’ Spider-Man with some wonderful deep cuts to many classic tales both old and new.

Given how many big scale stories he’s given in his years at Marvel, it’s easy to forget how funny Dan Slott’s writing can be and that’s on full on display here. There’s a mix of great action, comedy, tension and even small character moments. Are the moments where Otto does seem to show some decency all part of a plot or genuine? It’s hard to tell, but that ambiguity adds instead of detracting.

I love the part where Peter goes all Doc Brown Back To The Future Part II with his whiteboard of what happened during the original Superior era. It just displays how insane these stories are when you concise them in such a manner. Any longtime Spidey fan will for sure have geeked out at all the Final Chapter (the original Lee/Ditko one) references.

The shocked Pikachu reaction Peter has at the end is great and is a compelling cliffhanger. I would wager Peter has set up some mental barriers to making sure the whole ‘taking over my body’ business doesn’t happen again but we’ll see!

Steve:

This issue was indeed funny. Peter attempting to pull off the ol’ Doc Ock braggadocio was hilarious and well played. Peter was all in, smacking his lackies and calling the henchmen “dolts.” Sometimes, an issue like this can come across as a bit too slap-stick and takes from the story (see Rek-Rap), but here, the comedy and the team-up works. Seems as though villain team-ups are running rampant through the Spider titles. See Amazing Spider-Man for a team-up with Tombstone.

I’m do not go as deep as Glenn on Spider-Man lore, but I am very familiar with Amazing Spider-Man 33. It is one of the best drawn and illustrated stories in all of comics. Spider-Man pushes himself to the extreme to save Aunt May. The sequential art in that issue is phenomenal and doesn’t feel like an “old” comic. The fact that issue 33 was referred to here let’s us know that Slott is building upon what has come before. Something Spider-Man fans will appreciate, I’m sure.

I’m not as quick to dismiss the ending as Glenn. I surely hope he is right and Doc Ock does not actually take over Spidey’s body again, but alas, Superior Spider-Man is the title. It’s possible that Ock could steal his body and return it peacefully, showing growth by Ock. Wouldn’t be a ton of fun, but the better of the two options. Not loving the ending, but I will hold off to see what Slott has up his sleeve.

Art:

Glenn:

I actually thought Bagley’s art looked a little different here, but couldn’t quite determine why. I don’t think we’ve had any changes in terms of inker or some such, but maybe it’s because he’s drawing stuff that’s a little different. He’s probably grateful to draw something even slightly different as I’m sure he has nightmares of Spider-Man chasing him at this point.

Much like his Amazing Spider-Man peer, it’s difficult to say anything new or interesting about Bagley’s work on Spidey. By now, everyone knows what they’re getting, and I personally think it’s hard pressed to find anyone who can do it better.

Steve:

I can think of a few that I would prefer here ,Glenn. Ramos is always a solid choice and I would add Chris Bachalo and Mike McKone to the list. Maybe even Juan Ferreyra who is doing excellent work on Spine-Tingling Spider-Man. That said, Bagley is always good. I don’t have any stats, but I would imagine between 616 proper Spider-Man titles and Ultimate Spider-Man, he has drawn more Spidey than anyone. He is great here again.

Overall:

Glenn: 5 Webshooters With such a great mix of all the things, callbacks to the past, high energy and a great cliffhanger it doesn’t get much better in terms of Spider-Man comics.

Steve: 4 Webshooters Enjoying this, but hoping there is something new to say.

Amazing Spider-Man 42 Review

Amazing Spider-Man Creators: Writer- Zeb Wells, Pencils- John Romita Jr., Inks- Scott Hanna, Colors- Marcio Menyz, Letters- Joe Caramagna

Story:

Glenn:

After the action heavy 41, we get a pause to progress the story quite a bit here. I think this is a good balance in a way to have the action and exposition split up. Optimally, a superhero comic should have both, but I don’t think this run makes too much of a habit of it.

There’s a lot of licking wounds and moving players off/across the figurative gang war chess board. I think the highlight of the issue is a verbal stand-off between Beetle and Madame Masque, I think the scene is engaging and is kind of reminiscent of how in past times, leaders of armies would meet to try and talk out a solution before the battle commenced.

We have our issue end with it all about to kick off West Side Story style so next issue is looking to be a big epic battle with New York caught in the middle. It looks like the Spidey team will have to scramble to save the day, but I guess we’ll find out next issue!

Steve:

Glenn is correct, this issue picks up the threads from last issue and lays some context on it. They went heavy on the father-child angle of the series. Fisk goes out of his way to save the Rose and then steps out of the story. Tombstone continues to work behind the scenes with Spider-Man and She-Hulk to ensure no harm comes to his daughter, the Beetle. I think the story would have more weight if Count Nefaria hadn’t been take off the board so early (Masque’s father). That would have given us a triangle of fathers and children. Anyway, Madame Masque and the Beetle have a great conversation about being the child of someone who is a bad guy. It was a bit posturing, but also laying why they do what they out there for each other and the reader. Both are convinced they will do what it takes to become the new “Kingpin” of all of New York.

I truly hope that the Kingpin is lying about stepping out of the story. If he does not play into the end of this, it will be a missed opportunity.

Art:

Glenn:

Just basically the same as this whole story. Romita JR has done a great job and is more than able to balance the high octane action of last issue and the slower/more tense personal nature of issues like this. I can’t imagine many people who could have done a better job that Marvel has in their artist box.

Steve:

Oh Glenn, Glenn, Glenn, I can think of a lot of artist who could have done a better job. Romita excels at big action. His character work pales in comparison. I’ve stated it many times that his faces are just off- too much angle and odd cheek bones. The saving grace in this issue is that Spidey and Madame Masque are masked most of the time. One other minor quibble is the page with Spidey and She-Hulk jumping off a building. The Spidey pose is odd with his hands in an odd, elevated position with strangely hunched shoulders. Maybe I’m picking here, but it looked bad.

Overall:

Glenn: 3.5 Webshooters because I’m not getting paid and I can do what I like. (I’m deducting half a webshooter for Gleen’s insolence) We’re gearing up towards the final conflict which was likely be followed by an epilogue issue. It\s a very good issue that balances well with the last part.

Steve: 3 Webshooters

Next time: Finale of Gang War at Wanderings and Woolgathering.

Ultimate Spider-Man #1

Ultimate Spider-Man Creators: Writer- Jonathan Hickman, Artist- Marco Checchetto, Colors- Matthew Wilson, Letters- Cory Petit

Story:

Glenn:

The year is 2000 and my life is about to change. I’m 14 years old and I’ve been largely reading Spider-Man comics via reprints from Panini comics. I step into an old school comic shop and among many other things, I buy Ultimate Spider-Man 1. It’s actually a hard sell for the retailer who even gives me a discount because I’m buying so many back issues.

I read it, I’m confused because it’s so different. The names are the same but everyone is in different places and are acting slightly different. I don’t have the burden of heavy continuity knowledge I have now, but I know enough to know this is unlike any Spider-Man I’ve ever read. I was even puzzled that he didn’t show up in costume in the first issue (or the next, or the next, or…you get the idea.) Picking up that first issue though led to more and for like 70 odd issues, Ultimate Spider-Man to me was near perfection. It started the small trickle of what now is a huge flood of comics that live in my attic.

The year is now 2023 and my life has changed a lot. I’m 37 years old, have more comics than I know what to do with, work for a living, have had comics of my own made, gotten married, had kids and even beat death a time or two. Another Ultimate Spider-Man has hit the stands and like the one from the year 2000, the names are the same, but the characters are all in different places.

After the events of Ultimate Invasion, The Maker (evil Reed Richards from the original Ultimate Universe) has created a world without heroes. One of them includes 35 year old Peter Parker who was never bit by a certain radioactive Spider. He has a wife in Mary Jane, has two kids (Richard and May) and works at the Daily Bugle. What he does there isn’t mentioned I don’t believe but for this issue, it’s not particularly important.

What is important is how different the Bugle is. There is the familiar sight of Jonah shouting Parker at the top of his lungs but it’s not Peter he’s after, its managing editor Ben Parker. Never having died at the hands of a burglar 20 years ago (or so) here Ben is a career newspaper man where he is seemingly playing the role here usually played by Robbie Robertson (more on him later).

The issue largely centers around three things. A memorial for those who died after The Maker committed a large attack on this universe that’s had Tony Stark take the blame, some work drama at the Bugle and Peter getting a message from a short time in the future.

Overall the issue is very plot driven with Spider-Man only really appearing on the last page. Still, the scene’s are engaging, the characters have weight to them and so far, everything about this world seems fascinating. Everyone seems the same but slightly different.

Jonah’s still a blowhard but seems almost like a father figure to Peter.
Ben is very much still Peter’s father figure but seems a lot colder and more….broken? Than we’ve ever seen him.
Robbie Robertson who historically never one to take it lying down is willing to step aside to keep his own finances secure.
Harry Osborn is not a part of Peter/MJ’s social circle and never has been.

Etc, etc.

It’s all deeply interesting and although we’ve had about 1034 retelling’s of Peter finding his way as a teen hero, this way of having him come to his powers later in life is a fascinating concept. There’s also some excellent stuff with Wilson Fisk and perhaps a vigilante version of the Green Goblin. Who might be under the mask however given that Norman is apparently dead in this universe? I doubt the answer is the obvious.

Given his prominence in comics and how well regarded he is in comics, I’ve not read much from writer Jonathan Hickman. I’ve read his brilliant Fantastic Four, the parts of Ultimate Fallout he wrote and Secret Wars. Given those works and what I know of his writing overall, this is very different than him. This read more to me like JMS Spider-Man in those initial Romita JR years and I mean that as the highest compliment. Things are gradual but engaging. The characters seem themselves but understandably different in a way that’s hard to put across.

It’s hard to make an issue that has SO much to deliver but I think Hickman does it with leaving us with a lot to look forward to next issue.

Steve:

I came to Ultimate Spider-Man in the beginning and really enjoyed that run. I didn’t read all of the Ultimate books, but picked up some Ultimate X-Men, the Ultimates, etc. I read through Ultimatum which left a very bad taste in my mouth. I hated how the characters were treated and pretty much stepped away from anything Ultimate. I am bo no means an expert in all things Ultimate comics, but I know enough to know this take is very different and what I thought I knew no longer matters. I also did not read the latest Ultimate Invasion story by Hickman that set up this new book, and the other Ultimate books that will be coming out shortly.

The easy thing for Hickman here would have been to give us a huge info dump in the beginning, or make this issue explain it all and quickly get Peter back in the suit. But he did not do that. Instead, he gave us a wonder, character driven story that ultimately leads to those wonderful teases about the universe as it is.

Every character gets a moment to shine. The bits at the Bugle are excellent, especially Jonah and Ben, turning down the Kingpin. Showed amazing fortitude and character. Peter and MJ are amazing as parents and supporting each other as husband and wife. Eventually, we get a cool few pages with Iron Man that set up the future issues.

Although we don’t get Spider-Man, we get a lot of Peter Parker. We see all about his new life We see how his relationships work. And, in a cool touch by Hickman, we know that there is something amiss with Peter. He has a nagging feeling that something just isn’t right in his life. He can’t put his finger on it, but it’s definitely there. It’s fun as the reader to know exaclty what missing, but be able to follow along as Peter takes a step into his adventure.

This was a dialogue heavy issue and no action. I’m sure some have complained, but I found it very compelling. In one issue we have a lot of threads and a ton of heavy lifting complete in terms of character development. I did not feel lost in any way.

Art:

Glenn:

I think I first became aware of Marco Checchetto’s work during the Omega Effect story that ran through Mark Waid’s Daredevil, Greg Rucka’s Punisher and Avenging Spider-Man. He was the regular artist of Punisher at the time but stopped off at the other two books to draw the whole story and I fell in love with his work.

Its somehow realistic and stylized at the same time with a unique look to it that looks stunning with the right colourist. He’s no stranger to drawing Spider-Man having done some stuff during Brand New Day and being the regular artist on Superior Team-Up and Avenging for a while but I felt for years he was underappreciated and needed the right title to break out.

That title turned out to be Daredevil where he along with writer Chip Zdarsky did a run I’m told is an all-timer. Now that run is finished, Checchetto is rewarded with a high profile gig. A new Spider-Man world with one of the biggest writers in comics and it looks amazing. EVERYTHING just looks drop dead gorgeous and I’d expect no less from him. He’s able to deliver the quieter and emotional moments but when big explosions are needed THEY HAPPEN.

I’m sure a lot of folks won’t be a fan of his Green Goblin redesign, but I like it. It reminds me a lot of the Raimi Goblin…but better. We only see Spider-Man in shadow at the end, but I’m sure we’re in for some fantastic stuff for Spidey in costume action next issue and beyond.

Steve:

I knew I was going to love the art because I have loved both Checchetto and Hollingsworth since they worked on Daredevil in the past. Checchetto draws with great detail and hyper realistic style. It’s perfect for books that focus on quieter character moments. Hollingsworth is the perfect partner. He is not afraid to explore different color values. Some colorist stay safe and neutral. Hollingsworth really explores warm colors on interior scenes, like the bar scene, and cooler blues on outdoor nights. His colors shape the mood and those beautiful pencils illustrate the emotional beats. Checchetto also works really well with direction: his point of view choices, changing from worms eye to straight on to illustrate strength and power. He does it frequently; it really adds a dynamism to the page.

Between this book and GODS, also by Hickman, I am loving the art! Can’t wait for next issue.

Overall

Glenn: 5 Webshooters Issue one’s are supposed to hook you and this one does that and more. I am so excited for Ultimate Spider-Man, something I never thought I\d say again. Giving this book this title was a heavy responsibility because of my personal connection to the original Ultimate series but once again, I have been taken by complete surprise. Once again I read Ultimate Spider-Man 1 and I am faced with a Spider-Man comic unlike any I have read before.

Let’s strap in folks, it’s going to be one hell of a ride.

Steve: 5 Webshooters

For more Spidey content, come here every week.

Amazing Spider-Man 41 review

Amazing Spider-Man Creators: Story- Zeb Wells, Pencils- John Romita Jr., Inks- Scott Hanna, Colors- Marcio Menyz, Letters- Joe Caramagna

Story:

Glenn:

Action! Blood! Loud Noises! Its two kinds of standoff with the majority of the issue having Tombstone, Spider-Man and She-Hulk fight Kingpin, Typhoid Mary and various goons. Meanwhile, Beetle confronts the Rose and Digger alongside her female supervillain peers. Its a good mix of action with some legit funny moments with the star of the issue, Typhoid Mary flirting with either She-Hulk or Spider-Man.

Not much story progression here, its very much a fight centric issue. I’ve seen better and worse with Amazing Spider-Man 33 (Vol. 2) and the issue long fight with Morlun being an example of the standard and I don’t thing this issue is at that level. Still, it’s great action with some small character moments from all the major players I greatly enjoyed.

Steve: As the Beetle runs headlong into the Rose, Tombstone calls a meeting the Kingpin to try to stop their kids. As you can imagine, it doesn’t go well. As one would imagine, things don’t go well between these big egos. Essentially, this issue is fights on two fronts: one between Tombstone and Kingpin and one between Beetle and the Rose. As the Beetle seemingly has the upper hand with the Rose, Kingpin’s troops show up. In a very parallel sequence, Tombstone is besting Kingpin when Fisk receives a call stating that it’s over. “to be continued…..”

This issue was heavy on fighting and action sequences. The story in a larger sense didn’t progress much. The star of the issue was Typhoid Mary. She is unhinged here and provides genuine comic relief. In a very tense scene, she is looking over Fisk’s shoulder, flirting with either Spider-Man or She-Hulk. The Spider-Man and She-Hulk reaction, banter and confusion over her attention is hilarious. We learn that she flirted to anger Fisk and make him his best, and that she clearly doesn’t like She-Hulk.

Art:

Glenn:

So you know who drew that fight with Morlun I just mentioned? Why it was John Romita JR! So yeah, he can draw action and he has experience drawing the majority of the characters here so this is another easy task for him. I love how visceral in particular the fight between Tombstone and Kingpin is. These two titans have come a long way from being criminals who fought their way to the top but when its just the two of them battling it out, you see what they’ve become kind of melt away.

Again the best thing about this issue is Mary and Romita JR draws her little flirtations with Spidey and She-Hulk so well that it adds to the little bit of bizarre humour to the moment. Having two scene’s of high tension with these little odd moments shouldn’t work but it does.

Steve: The best part of the art was the variant cover by JP Mayer and Dave McCaig- Hasbro Rom. Love the way that Rom pops off the page. As for the interiors, I have made it known many times how I feel about JRJr. I do not like his character work, especially faces. That stays true here. What I do enjoy, though, is his story movement and panel layouts. He does an excellent job depicting the insanity of two different brawls. Lots of characters, all doing different things. He did a nice job selling the battle here, especially between Tombstone and Kingpin. Very intense and nasty.

Overall:

Glenn: 3.5 Webshooters (someone should tell Glenn that we don’t do halves)

It’s another great issue but without much actual story progression and having read better fight centric issues, I have to mark it down slightly. I also am a little worried that we don’t have much time left in this story and there’s still a lot to do.

I hope the ball isn’t dropped here.

Steve: 3 Webshooters-

Next review- Ultimate Spider-Man by Hickman. Join us here.

Spider-Man Trifecta Review Week

Amazing Spider-Man Creators: Writer- Zeb Wells, Pencils- John Romita Jr., Inks- Scott Hannah, Colors- Marcio Menyz, Letters- Joe Carmagna

Story

Glenn: Two great issues in a row? Why it must be Christmas! A good mix of action and plot progression in this one. I think Tombstone in particular is being written really well. He’s basically throwing away everything he’s worked his entire life for in an attempt to save his daughter, but is it perhaps too late?

The pieces on our proverbial chess board continue to march onwards as we get an interesting new ‘King’ in play at the end. Its a shame that this was spoiled in solicits as it would have been a nice surprise, but that’s modern comics.

When it was announced that Zeb Wells was taking over Amazing solo I could never have predicted a crime centric story being his best work on the book, but here we are.

Steve: Getting a little tired here of agreeing with Glenn. I, too, did not have high hopes for this “event.” Wells’ run thus far had been pretty sketchy and inconsistent. Perhaps his work leading to this point is actually going to pay off. The star of the series is actually Tombstone. Wells has done an amazing job of making the reader relate to Lonnie through his love for his daughter. He goes to all lengths, including a team-up with Spider-Man, to make sure she comes to no harm. Wells is bringing in Kingpin and Typhoid Mary so things should really heat up.

Art

Glenn: Again, John Romita JR is in his element. I’m not sure if he’s the one who designed Janice’s new Beetle suit, but its pretty cool looking even if it is pretty on the nose about her descent into darkness.

Its a treat to see him drawing the two characters at the end given that he co-created one of them and his dad co-created the other. His action pages are also great and I’m just loving every page in this story. I think this is his best work on this current era yet.

Steve: I’ve been pretty hard on JRJr so far. I don’t love his art, especially his facial work. Here, though, he is showing why he is a master stroy teller. His panel work and movement is fantastic. He is absolutely nailing the “city is blowing up” facet of this story. He has given Beetle a new suit, as Glenn mentioned. I, however, would have preferred she stay in her original costume. It makes her look younger and more innocent. It sells Lonnie’s motivation a little better.

Overall

Glenn: 4 Webshooters. Gang War is a treat. Let’s see if we can keep it up

Steve: 4.5 Webshooters I am absolutely loving this story.

Superior Spider-Man

Superior Spider-Man Creators: Writer- Dan Slott, Pencils- Mark Bagley, Inks- John Dell, Colors- Edgar Delgado, Letters- Joe Caramagna

Story

Glenn: So things ramp up here too. Although Peter decided that changing back into his normal clothes would save the day, they very much haven’t. Luckily Anna Marie is on the scene….or is it?

As soon as we had the ol dependable ‘villain takes love interest/former love interest captive’ story beat I was like ‘ahhhhhh THIS is why we have THIS title on the book.

I’m VERY excited now to have Peter and Otto having to team up now for a common goal with the latter coaching the former on how to be more like the latter when they were the former (comics are a trip). I thought this issue was excellent, but I am SO excited for how this unlikely partnership will go.

Steve: Surprise Surprise, we get another Spider-Man team-up with a villain. It didn’t hit the same way that the team-up with Lonnie did in Amazing, since we are actually relating to him. I am enjoying this book, but I’m not feeling much of a connection to the villain, in any way. There simply isn’t much to grab onto. I get it, she wants to kill Spider-Man (Otto) I hope there is a twist that makes me care a little more.

For the good- I’m enjoying the inclusion of Anna Marie here. She is a wonderful character and has an interesting relationship with Otto and Peter. It will be interesting to see how she puts her stamp on this story. I am also liking the inclusion of Spider-Boy. Nice to see Peter mentoring a young Spider-Boy with all the worry and guilt that comes with it.

Art

Glenn: I find it a struggle to really come up with new things to say about Bagley every review. Its odd to have two such seasoned Spider-Man artists STILL drawing books starring the character, but they do a damn great job.

I still think Bagley’s swan song on Spider-Man should have been life story and Marvel give him a new challenge, but his work is still as good as ever so I won’t complain much.

Steve: I agree Glenn. Bagley is fantastic and has been for a long time. My only issue with the art is the fact that I read it alongside two other Spidey books. The colors were a little darker and murkier here. I preferred Amazing and Spine-Tingling much more. Still great storytelling, so the story only suffered minimally.

Overall

Glenn: 4 Webshooters. The story is on the precipice of something special with where it seems to be going. We’re not quite there yet, but this was another strong part of what essentially is now a two part lead in to the return of the Superior Spider-Man (kinda).

Steve: 3 Webshooters

Spine-Tingling Spider-Man

Creators: Writer- Saladin Ahmed, Art/colors- Juan Ferreyra, Letters- Joe Caramagna

Story

Glenn: Damn it, this book is great. It seems we’re at the solution, but not quite. There’s a strong mix of atmosphere to keep up the tension while some plot morsels are fed to us.

It doesn’t seem as if the ‘spoiler’ cover I feared is all that it seems as we get another player in this nightmare theatre Spidey finds himself in. Are we still accepting all we see though at face value? I’m not sure what to believe in regards to this story and I’m loving every second of it.

Steve: After lots of story twists and turns, it’s nice to start getting some payoff. It was a nice touch to tease us with Mysterio only to get yet another layer of evil. Not sure how I feel about Spidercide showing up again. Not terribly familiar with the character and he looks a little too much like Rek-Rap:) Thank goodness he doesn’t have a bad sense of humor. I’m excited to see how this one lands.

Art

Glenn: Dear lord. The creepy factor and heavy atmosphere by Juan Ferreyra is just so strong here. I can’t think of many other artists that would make this book so otherworldly and dreamlike.

The image of where Beck is in particular makes me think I’m reading Hellraiser and not Spider-Man. It almost makes me feel sorry for Quintin, but he’s put Spidey through a lot of bs in recent years….

I can’t wait to see what horrors Ferreyra will inflict on my eyes next issue.

Steve: Can’t say much more than Glenn said and what we have said for the past two issues. Juan Ferreyra ia a master! He can go the simple, quiet moments to insane horror. He is quickly becoming one of my favorite artists.

Overall

Glenn: 4.5 Webshooters The series is SO GOOD. I want to give this a perfect score, but I’ m worried the last issue might drop the ball. I don’t think it will, but I’ll air on the side of caution. Its only perfect…

Steve: 4 Webshooters The art is special!

Check out all Spidey content at Wanderings and Woolgathering.

Spine-Tingling Spider-Man 2 Review

Spine-Tingling Spider-Man 2 Creators: Writer- Saladin Ahmed, Art- Juan Ferreyra, Letters- VCs Joe Caramagna

Story:

Glenn:

This story is giving me serious Silent Hill vibes as a powerless Peter continues to be in his own personal nightmare hellscape. There’s lots of more nightmarish, unsettling scenario’s that aren’t always original per say, but always work(the creepy child that shouldn’t be there). The whole thing is a horror thrill ride that goes from one unsettling scene to another but keeping the core of what’s going on at a distance.

I must admit, the scene of Jonah all chained up made me think of Stjephan Sejic’s brilliant Romance comic Sunstone which made me laugh. It also reminded me of the classic ‘Jonah in hell’ story from Webspinners 1-3. Anyway, creepy stuff is happening and its effective, but we still don’t know why but has the cover for issue 3 shown at the end of the issue given the game away? We’ll see.

I also really appreciate the ease of reading this, anyone who knows the bare bones of Spider-Man can pick this series up and enjoy it.

Steve:

What I love about issues like this is the focus on the person behind the hero. Here, Spider-Man is not present. It’s a powerless Peter front and center. When writers strip the character down, we find out why the heroes are special. Peter has no idea why no one knows him and why he has no powers, but he pushes forward on a haunted train to a super haunted house. He battles a sadistic train conductor before escaping the train and following carefully place clues that will lead him to those close to him being held captive. Peter rescues them only to have them become demons involved in whatever ruse this is. Again, powerless, Peter powers through to rescue those in need. This whole thing seems a bit too convenient. It will be interesting to see who is actually pulling the strings. So far, this story is truly spine-tingling.

Art:

Glenn:

Horror lives and dies on its imagery possibly more than any other genre and Ferreyra is delivering in that regards tenfold. I would put his skill at conveying horror through art and images at the same level as Junji Ito or Andrea Sorrentino. I just love the atmosphere he’s drawing here and it makes the whole thing deeply unsettling.

I’m not sure if it was just me or maybe even on purpose, but the house Peter eventually stumbles on gave me Phycho vibes. Again, this is not entirely new but it works, its effective, especially when drawn this well. The use of colouring in this comic paired with the imagery shown gives the overall atmosphere an extra layer of terror that’s hard to convey in words. I don’t want to pigeon hole Ferreyra as he’s immensely talented, but I hope to see a lot more horror from him in the future because he’s so bloody good at it.

Steve:

Juan Ferreyra continues excellent work here on a horrific Spider-Man. He creates an environment that is truly unsettling, especially the “meat locker” on the train and the house holding JJ, MJ and Aunt May. I also really like the color palette change from the train to the haunted house. The train has a very cool palette as Peter is on his own. The palette is warmer in the house when he reconnects to family. Very subtle and well done. When this is over, I would love to see Ferreyra on and old school Spider-Man story from the 1960s- a real character piece.

Overall

Glenn: 4 Webshooters It’s an excellent story so far. The only nitpick is the mystery of what is happening could go either way in terms of delivery and I can’t judge that yet because we don’t know. Overall this is excellent though.

Steve: 4 Webshooters A true combination of storytelling from writer and artist.

Check out our coverage of Amazing and Superior here.

Amazing Spider-Man Gang War First Strike #1 Review

Spider-Man Gang War Creators: Writers- Zeb Wells and Cody Ziglar, Artists- Joey Vazquez and Julian Shaw, Colorist- Bryan Valenza, Letterer VC’s Joe Caramagna

Story:

Glenn:

Its time for the latest big Spidey event as we return to the streets, some more familiar Spider-Man foes and the continuation of Marvel’s recent trend of reusing old storyline names in the hopes that lightning can strike twice.

There’s a lot happening this issue as we knock over the dominos set up in Amazing to set this whole kit and kaboodle off. We get a lot of good character moments, especially with Janice Lincoln, the new Beetle, Tombstone’s daughter and former fiance of Randy Robertson. It’s mostly a talky talky which is fine because at least its mostly good talky talky that progresses the plot. The issue ends with things just about to go full blown action, Spidey musing about needing a team and the real mastermind of the event being revealed.

I think this was a lot better than the last few stories we’ve had. I do have some issues. Particularly the conversation between the two Spider-Men. Here we see Peter being dressed down heavily by Miles. I’m never a big fan of seeing Peter portrayed as the incompetent hero who needs to be told off by anyone, but especially not his protege. It makes Miles seem unreasonable and Peter seem like an idiot. I think this conversation was perhaps needed from Miles perspective but it didn’t need to be so ‘teacher telling off a bad student’ vibe.

I liked the scene of the gangsters gathering a lot, but I felt a bit lost in terms of who each of the characters where. Some of them aren’t referred to by name and could maybe have used a small caption box to state who they were. I’m also not 100% sure who people like the new Crime Master is. You can’t expect every reader to know everything and that’s me saying that who knows far too much about Spider-Man.

This issue reminded me of the great crime centric stuff Howard Mackie and John Romita JR did back in Spider-Man in the 90’s. Stories involving Hammerhead, Jimmy 6, Silvermane and others but…not quite as good.

Steve:

I agree with Glenn on much of the issue, but I had a different take on the interaction with Peter and Miles. While Miles is certainly bold in this conversation, I think Peter’s response speaks to his character. He is not above reproach. He can look at a situation, or a critique, and accept his responsibility in how he handled it. Exactly what happens here. It reminds me a bit of my time in high school administration. There are times when a student has a good idea, or a point of disagreement where I must accept that they are right and move on. I feel like that is exactly what happens here.

The scene with the crime lords meeting to discuss who owns what part of the city was good. However, not sure why Shang Chi was there, unless it is infiltration. I haven’t read his book lately so I’m not aware of his current status in the 616, but this seemed odd. The addition of Janice at the meeting added the necessary stakes for the issue. Would she kill her former fiance Robbie to take her place at the table. Of course we knew the answer to this, but it did provide the drama and heart for the rest of the issue.

By the end, New York has exploded. It will be interesting to see where this goes. I hope it doesn’t become a giant royal rumble that events typically do, losing the heart that makes Spider-Man great.

Art:

Glenn:

I’m not too familiar with the artists here who seem to be some of the batch of Marvel ‘everymen’ we’ve seen over the past few years. Very talented people who the company swap around to wherever they’re needed while never being pushed as particular ‘names’ or ‘stars’.

It flowed well, everything looked great and it had a close enough likeness to McGuiness to have some good visual continuity from the last arc. The emotions when needed where portrayed very well and every scene flowed well. Nothing massivingly mind blowing but all very strong and doing what was required of the story.

My biggest issue with the art is I think Marvel should be treating its artists better. My mind goes back to how they stated that a number of artists don’t ‘move the needle’. I feel they could do more to promote the talent they have so if the needle statement is accurate, that can change.

Steve:

There is no doubt that the artists on this issue did a servicable job. The pacing is good. The layouts are good. The “acting” by the characters is good. My only wish with this story would be to have a grittier artist. There are a few scenes, especially when we find out who is behind the whole mess, and her subsequent beat down of Hammerhead, that would be more effective with a more realistic, less cartoony, artist.

Overall

Glenn:

Some quibbles but a LOT better. This whole run still is of course weighted down by its own bad decisions. They would either need a completely fresh start or something mind blowing to shake that off and whole this was good, it wasn’t mind blowing.

Steve:

I really liked the issue as a whole. Wells and Ziglar have placed many threads to handle as they move forward. One bright spot is the ending. It seems that Spider-Man is putting a team together, hopefully placing him firmly in the Marvel Universe again.

Glenn: 3 Webshooters

Steve: 4 Webshooters

More Spider-Man content incoming at Wanderings and Woolgathering- Pop Culture tab.

D.G. Chichester Daredevil – Retrospective Pt 1

In November, D.G. Chichester returns to Daredevil with the a four issue mini-series called Daredevil: Black Armor. Yep, the armor is back. Debuting in issue 321, the armor is either loved or hated by Daredevil fans. So why bring it back when it’s so divisive? I guess only Marvel editorial knows. Of course the armor is secondary to story. If the writing is good and the art is compelling, no one will care about the armor.

Before jumping into the new series, a look back at Chichester’s run may give us some insight on where this series may go. Among fans, Chichester had some serious highlights and some excessive mis-steps. His most talked about stories are Last Rites and Fall from Grace. Again, those both receive mixed reviews. So, what did Chichester bring to Daredevil?

Chichester’s run began with an initial story arc that brought together a lot of pieces. In issues 292-296, the arc leading to Last Rites, Chichester gives us a glimpse of what’s to come. He knows that Daredevil is a character capable of small, personal stories, street level crime stories and mystical stories featuring The Hand, The Fist and The Chaste. He pulls out all the stops here.

In this arc, we get Tombstone, Taskmaster, The Punisher, Ghost Rider, Kingpin, Typhoid Mary, Baron von Strucker, the Hand and the Chaste. That is a lot to juggle and feels more like the hero/villain count in a team book. Each piece of the story builds to another piece and ultimately leads to the final showdown with the Hand and Chaste. Following that, Matt vows to take down the Kingpin.

The Good

Chichester picks up threads from the past. Matt and Foggy work to get his law license reinstated. I know this is minor in a lot of Daredevil stories, but Matt’s relationship with Foggy is important. Foggy grounds him and adds a layer to Matt that makes him more relatable. Chichester also brings Karen back. Matt tries to rekindle the flame, but Karen is not quite ready, if she ever will be. Again, this relationship is important to his character. Typically, those around Matt get hurt or are used by others. This adds to his responsibility and guilt. Of course, both characters remind us of the amazing story Born Again. Kingpin does Kingpin things here. He works alongside Typhoid Mary as he attempts to steal money from a southern gentleman. Baron von Strucker works surreptitiously to steal money from Kingpin and has a tie to the Hand. The Chaste return and come to Matt’s aid. Matt works like a detective to figure out why Tombstone and Taskmaster are on a killing spree. The ending leads to Matt starting his mission to take down the Kingpin; this becomes Last Rites. The pieces are here for a long run. It’s a promising start.

Lee Weeks- one of my top five artists of all time. Looking at Weeks’ art now, you can see his progression from these issues. But even then, he excelled at the action. He expertly handles Daredevil’s acrobatics as well as his hand to hand and use of billy club. Of course, the smaller moments are important with Daredevil, and he equally directs/draws the emotional beats of the characters and moments. His Kingpin is huge and menacing. Love how this sets him up for the fall to come.

The Bad (it’s actually pretty minor)

It’s just too much. With all of the above going on, Chichester throws in the Punisher and Ghost Rider. The Punisher makes for an entertaining fight sequence and shows us why Matt is better than him. He is the perfect foil. Both want justice, but Matt takes a higher road, sometimes falling short, but striving to do right. That’s where it ends, though. There is really no reason for him to be here unless Chichester is planting seeds for a future arc. Still, not essential for this story.

Ghost Rider makes sense in the fact that he uses the penance stare to make villains reconcile with their sins. Daredevil has a history of dealing with faith, guilt, and redemption. But, that is where the reason for Ghost Rider’s appearance ends. He shows up following the trail of murders by Tombstone and Taskmaster. He fights alongside Daredevil and ultimately returns to his true self following an odd event with a ninja of the hand. Both Punisher and Ghost Rider are thrown in extraneously, possibly as a stunt to draw readers. Matt gets a glimpse of von Strucker through Ghost Rider, but it ends there. As I said, above, there are pieces in place, but with the sheer number of threads and characters, extra characters are not needed. 1990s comics are viewed as art over substance and largely dismissed as a poor era in comics. In fact, the glut led to bankruptcies. This story, no matter how full, is certainly not the glut of the 90s- Just maybe slightly over ambitious.

Next Arc

Last Rites is up next in issues 297-300. Chichester has done a nice job of creating some threads and story beats moving forward. Kingpin will have to deal with von Strucker who is trying to steal his fortune and Daredevil who is coming after him to exact retribution. Matt will continue to reinstate his law license with Foggy and try to rekindle his relationship with Karen. The Hand is lurking in background ready to return at a moments notice, and the Chaste have returned, always keeping Stick lurking around.

Overall, this is a great start to his run. Chichester uses many of the elements that make Daredevil great. The key here is if he can narrow down the number of players and focus the story. Come back next time for a look at Last Rites.

Amazing Spider-Man 34- Peter Wreaks Havoc

Creators:

Zeb Wells- Writer

Patrick Gleason- Art

Marcio Menyz- Colors,V

Cs Joe Caramagna- Letters

Amazing Spider-Man 34 continues Peter’s path of destruction. Following an issue where he put Kraven 2 in a grave, alive, he increases the pain here. Peter pulls the plug on Tombstone in the hospital, threatens to throw MJs man off a bridge, ala Gwen Stacey, and he beats the snot out of Norman Osborn. The story culminates in an awkward meeting with Peter and the Goblin Queen and Norman rescuing Kraven 2 from his grave. This is the penultimate issues of the arc leading into Gang War, so next issue promises to have a big finale.

Story:

Steve: My fellow Webshooter and I have not been shy about our feelings about this run. Putting those feelings aside, this isn’t a bad issue for what it is. If, as readers, we truly want to find out what can happen to a person with Goblin blood coursing through his veins, look no further. Peter’s altruism is thrown out as he vengefully goes after those who have hurt him in the past. Knowing he will return to himself, this is a fun, albeit violent, journey for Peter. Watching this play out should be interesting, especially what could happen with Peter and the Goblin Queen dealing with Kraven on a revenge tour. The big question is what will happen to Norman as a result. This seems like a great opportunity to save Peter and reaccept his role as the Goblin. We shall see. Maybe we can get a more down to earth story where Peter actually acts like Peter and has to deal with normal problems while saving the world. Ahhhhh, doubt it.

Glenn:

Filled up with some serious bad Goblin juju, Peter seems to be settling old scores that have been troubling his subconscious. This issue, his twisted mind turns him towards Mary Jane and her new partner, the infamous Paul. Luckily all around good guy Nomran Osborn manages to compel MJ and Paul to scamper. He even gives Peter an alibi and advises the couple to take the tunnel, not the bridge which I thought was a nice touch. As stated before though, I will never accept good guy Norman or other people accepting of him. MJ in particular should have been constantly kicking him in the crotch, but this is where we are.

Black suited Spidey shows up and puts on a serious beatdown on Norman while MJ/Paul make their getaway. During this beating, Peter voices a LOT of criticism over good guy Norman and Paul to the point of parroting some of the discourse some of the recent Spidey story decisions have made. IT’s almost meta in a way, and to me, that’s an error. If this is on purpose, it means the writer and company KNOWS what people are unhappy about and are ignoring it/villainising it (some people it should be sent are rather demented about some of their criticims) OR they’re pointing out the stupidity of some of the things people don’t like so your reader might go ‘hey wait, he’s got a point.’

The comic is also split with Claven in his coffin battling thoughts of suicide. I think it’s bad form for Marvel to have someone who has a family history of suicide (so to speak) without a trigger warning or perhaps some pointing towards some help lines with those that have had similar thoughts. I may be overthinking it, but as someone who has dealt with heavy suicidal thoughts, it hit me like a ton of bricks. It was well written but I feel it could be unsettling or distressing to survivors like myself or those that have been left behind. Given how strong Claven is, I doubted he’d be stuck for long, so being stuck in this terrifying situation where he battled his mind was the real conflict.

The issue ends with the Goblin Queen seemingly trying to reach Spidey as perhaps some of her Ashley Kafka personality has resurfaced even if her appearance hasn’t changed. Norman also digs Claven out of his grave using the magical sphere asking for his help. Next issue we get the cure of Peter who I hope didn’t hurt anyone in his attempt to take out MJ and Paul. I really don’t need more of super depressed ‘Ah’m a MONSTERRRR’ in the style of Bluster Bluth mode Peter.

Art:

Steve: As with the other issues, the art is fantastic. Patrick Gleason is an excellent Spidey artist. The real star on this issue is the colorist Marcio Menyz. This story is dark and he is up to the task. Deep colors with orange highlights for the coffin pages. Deep blues and shadows for the night scenes. Gorgeous pages. Honestly, I prefer a lighter, brighter palette for Spider-Man, but for this story, it’s perfect.

Glenn:

Gleason does a lot to service a story that requires a lot of. tense visuals. A lot of tight panels to either magnify the threat of our Spidey-Goblin or Kraven’s claustrophobia. His panel of Norman’s expression as Spider-Man’s MASSIVE frame looms behind him is especially effective. Is Spider-Man really this much of a unit? It doesn’t matter I guess cause it works in the moment. I also loved the design Gleason did on Spidey on the closing pages as he attacks the tunnel where MJ and Paul are trying to make their escape. Like I said before, Gleason is doing a fantastic job making everything look great. I can’t imagine many other people working today that would make anything here much better. He’s a gifted storyteller in how he’s communicating what the story is trying to get across which is really helping some of the things the reader needs to pick up on.

I always feel bad that I don’t say more but every time I experience Gleason’s work, I feel like I’m not taking much away. Yes, he’s great, yes he’s doing what is needed but nothing jumps out at me really in particular. Like I said last issue, despite drawing a LOT of Amazing Spider-Man by now, he’s not really had that much of a huge impact or impression.

I do love that MJ had a pair of Jeff the Landshark slippers. I want a pair Marvel, pronto.

Scores:

Steve: 4 out of 5 webshooters

Glenn: 3 out of 5 webshooters- Overall it was fine, with some good tension but again there’s such a magnicently sized cloud of stupid over everything.

Next issue is the finale of this story and should lead us to the beginnings of Gangwar. Come back to Wanderings for more Spidey updates.

Movie Review – Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness – Directed by Sam Raimi. Written by Michael Waldron. Starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Elizabeth Olsen, Rachel McAdams, Xochitl Gomez, Benedict Wong, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Stuhlbarg, and an insane array of spoiler-filled cameos.

***/****

It’s been only four months since the last MCU movie gave us an wild-and-crazy adventure as multiple universes crashed into each other and threatened all reality. Now, the next installment…gives us a wild-and-crazy adventure as multiple universes crash into each other and threaten all reality. In some ways, this makes sense. After all, the Avengers faced off the biggest threat in the entire universe already in Avengers: Endgame. What’s the next step? The biggest threat in more than one universe.

The first installment in the Doctor Strange series isn’t considered one of Marvel’s best, although it’s far from the worst. It had a strong lead performance from Benedict Cumberbatch, a fun supporting cast, and some spectacular visuals. However, it suffered from a weak villain, a forgettable love interest in McAdams’ Christine Palmer (who, interestingly, Strange did not wind up with in the end), and some questionable casting for The Ancient One. Most MCU films far preferred Strange’s appearances as the deadpan guardian of the mystic arts in Avengers and Spider-man movies to his solo feature.

With Sam Raimi stepping in for Scott Derrickson on this installment, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness makes some smart course-corrections right out of the gate. Strange is much more human here than he was in his first movie, as he still deals with the fallout of being “Blipped” for five years. That’s a ridiculous plot thread that never quite works 100%, but the scenes where he attends Christine’s wedding and grapples with whether he’s truly happy are very compelling.

There are a lot of spoilers in Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness, some which should stay a secret, so I’ll stay coy about the plot. I will say that Cumberbatch here gives one of the best performances I’ve ever seen in a Marvel movie. As the title gives away, there are going to be multiversal counterparts here, and Cumberbatch winds up playing multiple versions of himself and even playing off himself at certain points. It’s a tour de force, and the use of Strange’s magic is also far better than it’s been before. One particular scene, involving a battle of musical notes, is one of the most visually stunning scenes I’ve ever seen in a Marvel movie.

Benedict Wong’s Wong, who became Sorcerer Supreme in Strange’s absence, continues to be the secret weapon of the franchise. His deadpan delivery and sarcastic banter with Strange reminds me of what would happen if Alfred actually got to be a superhero in his own right. Although the plot separates him from Strange for much of it, his segments are never anything but compelling. What happens with Chiwetel Ejiofor’s Karl Mordo, though, is a little trickier. This is one of the pitfalls of the MCU – with installments years apart, we often miss key story elements just because so much time has passed. A multiversal Mordo does appear in this film, but we’re left to find out the backstory there through dialogue.

The plot is kicked off by the arrival of America Chavez, a multiversal refugee played by Xochitl Gomez. After barely escaping death in another universe and pursued by a grotesque demon, she gets rescued from certain death by Strange and Wong. In possession of incredible multiverse-traveling powers but not able to fully control them, she’s a massive target for people who want her abilities. Her initial role as a macguffin and kid who needs rescuing led to some comparisons to the character called Cassandra Cain in the Birds of Prey film, but unlike that film, this movie does right by the character. America is really this film’s secondary lead, coming into her own as a superhero and dealing with long-simmering trauma. Her interaction with Strange is thorny, but gives both of them an amazing character arc. I’m very excited to see where they take this character next.

And then there’s Wanda Maximoff, whose involvement in this film is probably the most anticipated part of Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness. Coming off WandaVision, a lot of people were wondering if this movie would be her return to heroic form – or her descent into madness. I can’t talk about this movie without getting into some mild spoilers, so be warned here.

Major Spoilers Below

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The Wanda we meet here is a very disturbed woman, and one who wants to use the Multiverse for her own ends. Corrupted by the Darkhold, she definitely takes on an antagonistic role for much of the film, but one of the strengths of the movie is that it keeps you guessing throughout. Her mission is a dangerous and twisted one, but one driven by a mother’s love taken too far. It’s impossible not to have hope for her, even as we’re horrified by the paths she goes down. Elizabeth Olsen also gives a great performance here, but it’s a less subtle one than she gave in the heartbreaking TV series. Many of her fans are not pleased with some of the choices made here, and I can understand that.

Also taking me by surprise is just how much of the legendary director there is in Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness. This is an MCU movie, to be sure, but it’s also a horror movie with some of the darkest and most disturbing visuals ever in a superhero movie. Some scenes are darkly funny, others provide some of the best jump scares I’ve seen in a while. The creatures here are genuinely like something out of Lovecraft, and the movie is never anything but thrilling and engaging.

And that’s even without getting into the massive parade of cameos, some of which basically leaked in the trailers and others which took even me by surprise. They shouldn’t be spoiled, but expect the biggest options and you’ll still be surprised. But for all the hype over them, most of them felt like they were just there to be cool easter eggs that didn’t have too much impact on the plot. One in particular will create a massive casting debate in the coming months. They almost felt apart from the movie in some ways.

And that plays into the biggest problem with Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness. This is a movie that’s often at war with itself. It wants to be both a Doctor Strange movie, and the next continuity-spanning megablockbuster. It largely works – but only if you’re a die-hard MCU follower like me. Some MCU movies require some prerequisites to fully get, but in this one you’re going to be completely lost if you’ve not watched not just the last Doctor Strange movie but Wandavision – and Loki and What If hold some key context clues as well. It has some phenomenal moments, but tries to do so much that it often breezes past them.

Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness basically lifts a mountain on its back – trying to undo some of the mistakes of the original (such as a surprisingly involved role for Christine), do justice by its main characters, and introduce new players. It largely succeeds, but in trying to live up to the massive legacy of previous MCU megablockbusters, it often struggles to maintain a consistent tone.

It’s the age of the megablockbuster and everyone else is just living in it – even the title character.