Published: March 22nd, 2017 Written by: Rob Liefeld, Fabian Nicieza, Todd McFarlane, various Art by: Rob Liefeld, Greg Capullo, Todd McFarlane, Mike Mignola, Mark Pacella, Darick Robertson, Terry Shoemaker, various
Marvel Comics, 463 Pages
Man, oh, f’n man… it’s been ages since I’ve read the Rob Liefeld era of X-Force. When I was a kid, I thought that this was the greatest new series Marvel had but I also think I was convincing myself of that, as Rob Liefeld was a hot commodity and I was also a fan of The New Mutants, which this was born out of. Besides, there was just so much hype at the time and I was at a pretty impressionable age.
Reading this now, I still found it really enjoyable and was surprised that I liked it as much as I did.
However, I also know that the story essentially came from Liefeld like bullet points and then it was handed to ace writer Fabian Nicieza, who actually wrote all the dialogue and massaged Liefeld’s notes into a usable script. After Liefeld left the series to co-found Image Comics, Nicieza stayed on as the writer and worked with other greats like Greg Capullo and Mike Mignola.
Now looking at the other side of this, creatively, the art isn’t great and even if I loved Liefeld when I was in 7th grade, I see the issues with his art much more clearly now. However, I don’t want to shit all over the guy like everyone else has done for years. I just notice the issues he has with anatomy and perspective.
It’s worth mentioning, though, that the art did improve once Liefeld stepped away, which happened about two-thirds into this collection.
As far as the story goes, I really got reinvested in this and want to keep reading it. Possibly beyond where I stopped when I was buying this month-after-month, which was about four or five years into the series.
Additionally, this also reminded me of how much I liked some of the long forgotten characters that were so cool in 1991. Characters like G.W. Bridge, Garrison Kane and the other people associated with them and Cable’s past.
Published: February 15th, 2018 Written by: Jim Steranko, Gary Friedrich, Roy Thomas, Archie Goodwin, Ernie Hart, Steve Parkhouse Art by: Jim Steranko, Frank Springer, Herb Trimpe, Barry Windsor-Smith, Dick Ayers, Sal Buscema
Marvel Comics, 309 Pages
I started with Masterworks, Vol. 3 because it is a collection of what’s considered to be the most beloved work featuring Nick Fury, as the solo star of his own stories.
This also takes the character, puts him in S.H.I.E.L.D. and makes him a cool, hip superspy, as opposed to a military hero on the battlefields of war.
Marvel, like everyone else at the time, wanted to capitalize off of the ’60s spy craze that started with the first James Bond film, Dr. No in 1962. That movie inspired its own sequels, a slew of rip-offs, parodies, pulp novels and comics. So, instead of creating a new character, Marvel reworked one that was already pretty popular but existed in a genre that was drying up.
A lot of this is written and has art done by Jim Steranko. A lot of people worked on the issues in this collection, though, but Steranko is the guy that has always been given most of the credit for this groovy reinvention of Nick Fury.
Tapping into the ’60s era spy genre, this is trippy and colorful and it stands out in a really unique way when compared to the other Marvel titles of the time. I love the hell out of the art and the style in these comics and it’s why I’ve picked up a lot of the single issues, over the years.
I was never as captivated by the stories, as much as I was by the visuals, however. But the stuff featuring Nick Fury fighting Hydra and the multi-issue arc pitting him against the Hate-Monger were really damn enjoyable.
I never got to read all of these issues and experience the bigger picture. I’m glad that I finally did, though, as it’s really different than what was the standard ’60s Marvel fare. Plus, it’s also infinitely better than anything Marvel’s doing these days.
Published: June 17th, 2015 Written by: Mark Gruenwald, D.G. Chichester, Randall Frenz, Fabian Nicieza, Dann Thomas, Roy Thomas Art by: Larry Alexander, Mark Bagley, Ron Frenz, Don Hudson, Ron Lim, Mike Manley, Chris Marrinan, Jim Valentino, Ron Wilson
Marvel Comics, 493 Pages
I really liked the Streets of Poison storyline when I was a kid. I was also really pumped to jump right into this Epic Collection, as the previous one was pretty exceptional.
However, this didn’t read as good as it did when I was eleven years-old but lots of things don’t and that also doesn’t mean this was bad.
I like this era of Captain America and revisiting it makes me appreciate it even more, even if it’s not as perfect as I remembered it.
This kicks off with the Streets of Poison arc, which is highlighted by a fight between Red Skull and the Kingpin. I thought that this rivalry between the two villains and everything leading up to their fight was really solid. You had Crossbones trying to take out Kingpin with Bullseye trying to take out Red Skull and the two assassins having their own fight. Additionally, Captain America fights both of them as well.
My only real gripe about the story was how being exposed to drugs altered Cap’s behavior pretty immensely. It bonded with the super solider serum in his body and the only way to cure Cap was to remove his blood and fix the serum. However, Cap, being strongly anti-drug after this experience, rejected the serum and decided to move forward as a normal man and not the creation of a drug he took back in the 1940s.
Following Streets of Poison, we got the story of the Serpent Society abducting Diamondback and trying her for her crimes against the Society. King Cobra and his minions rule against Diamondback harshly but she survives her execution when Cap finds her. Diamondback’s allies within the Serpent Society leave the group as well and they start to establish themselves as a new heroic group.
There are a couple single issue stories weaved into the bigger tapestry, here. None of them were bad and they honestly just showed how solid the writing at Marvel was in this era.
Also known as: Nick Fury (Argentina, France, Italy, Poland) Release Date: May 26th, 1998 (TV) Directed by: Rod Hardy Written by: David Goyer Based on: Nick Fury by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby Music by: Kevin Kiner Cast: David Hasselhoff, Lisa Rinna, Sandra Hess, Neil Roberts, Garry Chalk, Tracy Waterhouse, Tom McBeath, Ron Canada
Fury Productions Limited Partnership, National Studios Inc., 20th Century Fox Television, 90 Minutes
“Contessa Valentina de Allegro Fontaine. Quite a mouthful when you try and wrap your tongue around it. Don’t let the blue blood fool ya, Pierce. Val’s an old hand at the sexpionage game, aren’t ya?” – Nick Fury
I remember seeing the ads for this on television back in 1998 and thinking, “Yeeeeeeeesh…” Because of that, I never watched this but I have seen some scenes and clips over the years.
If I’m being completely honest, though, there probably wasn’t better casting at the time than David Hasselhoff to play the classic Nick Fury in a low budget, TV movie that was, more or less, a failed pilot for a series.
Watching this now, I really like Hasselhoff and I think that he nails the look and chutzpah of the comic book Nick Fury pretty well. It just sucks that the rest of the production around him is really terrible and it actually brings down his performance.
If someone came up to six year-old me in 1985, handed me a Jim Steranko Nick Fury comic and said that the dude from Knight Rider would play him one day, I probably would’ve been beyond ecstatic. But alas, we got a picture that failed from top-to-bottom.
The plot is fucking terrible and makes little to no sense. For most of the movie, Fury has been exposed to a deadly toxin but it doesn’t even start to effect him till like the end of the movie, when he’s hunting down the chick that poisoned him but can also cure him. I guess the toxin isn’t all that bad if this dude can fight like nothing is wrong with him for half the movie. And if anyone knows the character Viper, once she poisons you, you’re pretty much immediately fucked.
This could’ve been pretty damn great and led to a decent Marvel Comics television show in an era where people would’ve really ate it up. Instead, we got a poorly written, awfully directed piece of crap, starring a guy that could’ve brought great things to the table if someone behind the scenes gave half a shit.
Rating: 3/10 Pairs well with: other Marvel films before the 2000s changed everything.
Published: 1998 Written by: John Cassaday, Ben Raab Art by: John Cassaday, Liquid! (cover)
Marvel Comics, 64 Pages
I wasn’t expecting much from this two-issue story arc but I was pleasantly surprised by how fun this was.
I love the X-Men and I love Alpha Flight. I especially love when they come together.
In this story we see the X-Men get captured by Baron Strucker and Hydra. Alpha Flight then goes in to save them.
I didn’t realize that this was a 1998 story when I first read it, as the version on Comixology listed it as 2016. So at first I thought it was a cool throwback because it had a very ’90s art style.
This is also the second X-Men/Alpha Flight team up mini-miniseries. I have read and owned the first one for years now. I don’t remember how good that one was but if it’s on par with this, that’d be great.
For a short story that didn’t have much room to breathe, this was a good, fun comic that reminded me why I loved these two teams back in the ’80s and ’90s.
Alpha Flight needs more love, people.
Rating: 7.5/10 Pairs well with: other ’90s X-Men and Alpha Flight stories.
Published: February 17th, 2016 Written by: Jeph Loeb Art by: Tim Sale
Marvel Comics, 150 Pages
I’ve really been enjoying these color themed Marvel books by the dynamic duo of Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale.
What made this one really cool was that it was a Captain America story from World War II, which featured Bucky, a slew of other heroes in cameos as well as Red Skull as it’s big baddie.
While I’ve always enjoyed Sale’s art style, his use of colors and inks in this book make it feel like it’s a comic from the era it was set in. Well, at least visually. The narrative style by Loeb feels modern, even if the setting isn’t. But it all comes together quite nicely and this was a stupendous read.
The central focus of the story looks at the relationship between Cap and Bucky. Unlike the films, Bucky was the smaller, weak sidekick and not the badass that Cap looked up to. In this story, Bucky looked up to Cap and was always trying to please him like a little brother searching for approval. You really felt the emotional weight of their relationship and what they mean to one another.
The story is action packed and there are several high points. The biggest for me, though, is the final showdown that sees Cap try to save Paris and Bucky, who is held captive by Red Skull.
Hands down, this is solid work from Loeb and Sale and one of my favorite Captain America stories ever put to paper.
Rating: 9.25/10 Pairs well with: The other color themed books that Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale did for Marvel.
Release Date: April 13th, 2015 (Dolby Theatre premiere) Directed by: Joss Whedon Written by: Joss Whedon Based on:The Avengers by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby Music by: Brian Tyler, Danny Elfman Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Don Cheadle, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Bettany, Cobie Smulders, Anthony Mackie, Hayley Atwell, Idris Elba, Stellan Skarsgård, James Spader, Samuel L. Jackson
Marvel Studios, Walt Disney Studios, 141 Minutes
*Written in 2015.
Avengers: Age of Ultron further solidified the main takeaway that I had after seeing The Avengers three years ago. A film this big, with a multitude of characters strong enough to carry their own film, is not necessarily a good formula. This wasn’t a bad movie, but like the first film featuring all the Avengers, it ranks below most of the solo films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Yes, I did enjoy the movie but nowhere near as much as the recent films that preceded this one: Guardians of the Galaxy and Captain America: Winter Solider. I even enjoyed Thor: The Dark World more than this. The fact of the matter is, this film is just too busy.
In its busyness, Avengers: Age of Ultron lacks a good balance between the characters. There seems to be more focus on Black Widow and the Hulk, which is fine, as neither seem to be getting their own film anytime soon, but it makes things somewhat lopsided and there’s just a bunch of dudes in superhero garb one-lining each other to death from start-to-finish. And while Tony Stark witticisms are funny and the camaraderie of all these actors is generally pretty great, it has gotten to the point where it is starting to feel like a caricature of itself. The joke is wearing thin and it seems less organic now. The banter has gotten too predictable and thus, somewhat mundane. Much of it seemed forced and the back-and-forth between them over their radios during big battles, didn’t come off as natural. It felt like actors reading lines to a room full of strangers and a green screen.
Ultron, the main villain of the story, was created way too quickly, conveniently and easily. I feel like he should have been something brewing in Stark’s lab for a very long time. Something in the shadows that had been watching this whole time. Maybe there should have been seeds planted throughout other movies. I mean, the studio had to know they were going to do a film with Ultron, right? Right?!
The execution of Ultron was half-assed and the character, in this film, just didn’t feel like the unbeatable and nearly omnipotent Ultron of the comic books. Additionally, his personality was bizarre. While he was a cold and calculated killing machine, ready to wipe humanity away, he subjected himself to his own witticisms and his own weird sense of humor. Also, his powers were pretty limited compared to his comic book version, which they did because it is harder to write a story where the heroes are essentially fighting a god. That is a pretty weak cop out. Isn’t Thor a god? And then you have the Scarlet Witch, Hulk and Vision, so…
In a nutshell, Ultron came across as a bulked up General Grievous. But at least Grievous had four lightsabers. Ultron just had an army of flying robots that have been used to death since the second Iron Man film, which was eight Marvel movies ago.
And what was the point of Baron Strucker? He should have been just some random unimportant Hydra commander. He was made to look extremely weak and then just brushed aside and murdered off-screen. It was a waste of an iconic character that had potential and probably should have been used as a major villain on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Also, his eye piece looked retarded.
Yay, Nick Fury shows up! And then he just talks a bunch.
The CGI at certain points in this film was just ridiculous. In the opening scene, everything felt too sped up and the movements of the Avengers came off as pretty cartoony. Call me old fashioned but what’s wrong with using some practical effects? It isn’t a bunch of Avatar creatures fighting a Tolkien dragon, it’s a bunch of human beings in costumes. So they all move like Jedi on cocaine now? And what’s the point of Quicksilver, if every other character comes off as almost that fast? The opening scene of Avengers: Age of Ultron just reminded me of that awful snow mountain sequence from last year’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
Speaking of Quicksilver and while I’m at it, the Scarlet Witch, both of them had horrible accents. Sometimes it was there, sometimes it wasn’t. I guess that’s okay though, since Black Widow, a Russian character, sounds like she is from New York City. Also, Joss Whedon recently poked fun at how X-Men: Days of Future Past handled their version of Quicksilver. Whedon’s a boring jackass, as his version was one-dimensional, uninteresting and didn’t have a single moment nearly as notable as the amazing prison break scene from last year’s X-Men film.
Oh yeah, and Quicksilver dies. You see, there had been a rumor around for awhile that an Avenger would be killed off in this film. A rumor that was pretty much confirmed. But what Whedon did was go the easy route. The guy who loves killing likable characters, didn’t have the balls to commit this round. Maybe that was Marvel’s call, maybe it was Whedon’s, no one will ever really know but it was a pointless and shallow end to a pointless and shallow character.
The plot was nothing special. You can take away almost everything you need from the trailers. If you’ve seen the trailer, you know the set up. Essentially, bad guy is born, bad guy fucks shit up, good guys fight him and then win. There are no surprises, no big twists, nothing great and unexpected. It is a pretty straightforward story and predictable. But at least they weren’t standing around talking on a Helicarrier for a third of the film like the last one. And at least the big enemy wasn’t a giant propeller or generic aliens on flying jet skis.
And the big evil plan? Ultron lifts some eastern European city into the sky with underground boosters, in an attempt to drop it back down to Earth like a meteor. And people think Whedon is a genius? Ultron was mentally handicapped for a super computer but at least they explained that the giant rock wasn’t crumbling as it was being lifted due to some magic magnetic field. Never mind that this super strong magnetic field wasn’t stopping small pieces from crumbling off the edges during the very lengthy sequence. And I wasn’t sure how the city lifting didn’t turn the city itself into a crumbled mess pretty instantaneously. Were the buildings protected by the magnetic field too? And when Thor saved people falling off the floating city, why did he drop them off on the floating city destined to crash and not the fucking ground below?
And with the giant floating rock, was Whedon inspired by Superman Returns. Visually, this idea felt like a reverse of the major villainous plot from that film.
Then there was the ongoing joke of the film, that started with the first dialogue exchange. Stark says “shit” and Cap points out his potty mouth, to which every five minutes someone has to poke fun at Cap about how lame he is. Because if you forgot, he’s from the World War II era and must be an old coot.
And why did Black Widow have a tactical outfit that lit up like a character from Tron? How the fuck is she supposed to sneak up on bad guys and take them out stealthily if you can see her body outline glowing in the dark? Then again, neon Scarlett Johansson boobies would probably distract anyone long enough for her to get in a punch.
As far as positives, I like the seed planted for the upcoming Black Panther film. I also like how the arms dealer, played by Andy Serkis, is Klaw. They even went as far as to make him lose an arm in the film. I also liked how they made the Hulk v. Iron Man in Hulkbuster armor battle happen. I thought it would be handled poorly and was a bullshit attempt at fan service but how they made it work in the film was pretty awesome. Granted, I don’t understand why people were standing around gawking during the fight but that’s Hollywood for ya.
I also like that Hawkeye actually had a presence in this movie and wasn’t just some Loki zombie for 90 percent of the film. The look into his life and the fleshing out of his character was good. I liked the casting of Linda Cardellini as his wife.
I liked the tension between Captain America and Iron Man, which is a nice set up to what will happen in next year’s Captain America: Civil War.
I like that the Infinity Stones were finally explained and that Thanos acquires the Infinity Gauntlet in the mid-credits scene. Although that scene was bizarre and it seemed like Thanos was breaking the fourth wall. I don’t like that there wasn’t a post-credits scene.
However, the greatest thing about this film was Vision (I’ve always hated calling him “The Vision”). Paul Bettany, who has been the voice of J.A.R.V.I.S. since the first Iron Man film in 2008, was brought to life in the form of Vision. Bettany was the perfect choice and not just because his voice was Tony Stark’s assistant over the years, he just had a very serious yet calming presence that made him perfect for the part.
I’m fairly excited for where this series can go but I am more optimistic about the future than the present, as the next set of Avengers films will not be helmed by Joss Whedon. To be frank, I don’t understand the insane amount of fans that guy has.
Well, next up is Ant-Man. I’m hoping its smaller scale, pun intended, is a refreshing experience because this film was too large for its own good.
But what the hell do I know? Billions of fan boys will love this without question because Marvel can apparently do no wrong and Joss Whedon has a golden penis.
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