Marvel Comics Final Thoughts – X-Men: Schism

Enter X-Men: Schism, the much touted Cyclops vs Wolverine fight that splits up the extended X-Men family.

Advertisements

With Marvel’s popular and successful foray into films with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I’ve finally decided to get back into comics. I grew up a big fan of X-Men and other superheroes but haven’t really kept up since the 90s. Thus begins my grand catching-up of the last ten years of Marvel comics, events and stories.

Thanks in large part to trade paperbacks and the digital convenience of Marvel Unlimited I can make relatively quick progress, and I’ll write down my Final Thoughts for each collection here on my blog. Like my gaming Final Thoughts, this will be full of spoilers. You’ve been warned!

marvelWriters: Jason Aaron, Kieron Gillen

Artists: Carlos Pacheco, Frank Cho, Daniel Acuña, Alan Davis, Adam Kubert, Billy Tan

Issues: X-Men: Prelude to Schism #1-4, X-Men: Schism #1-5, X-Men: Regenesis

 

The X-Men have been united for quite awhile following the big events of X-Men: Messiah Complex and Second Coming. Cyclops had successfully united the 200 or so remaining mutants, providing a (relatively) safe mutant haven in an island off the coast of San Francisco. An island that used to be Magneto’s Asteroid M, who now serves as an old war general and confidant. The times they are a-changin’.

So in 2011 Marvel decided they needed to break up the X-Men.

I can definitely see the reasoning. There’s always been a ton of mutants, and teams are usually split up based on where they are and what they’re doing. But with everyone in Utopia it gets super weird having multiple X-Men comics with different teams, for no real reason other than sales.

Enter X-Men: Schism, the much touted Cyclops vs Wolverine fight that splits up the extended X-Men family. The idea is neat, the dialogue suitable, and the actual fight between our veterans pretty darn violent and satisfying. But the overarching plot and kid-villains are incredibly dumb and frustrating, draining much of Schism’s power. Continue reading “Marvel Comics Final Thoughts – X-Men: Schism”

Marvel Comics Final Thoughts – Wolverine Goes to Hell

Logan’s soul is tortured in Hell while his Earthly body rampages with a host-demon in this killer start to his 2010 solo series.

With Marvel’s popular and successful foray into films with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I’ve finally decided to get back into comics. I grew up a big fan of X-Men and other superheroes but haven’t really kept up since the 90s. Thus begins my grand catching-up of the last ten years of Marvel comics, events and stories.

Thanks in large part to trade paperbacks and the digital convenience of Marvel Unlimited I can make relatively quick progress, and I’ll write down my Final Thoughts for each collection here on my blog. Like my gaming Final Thoughts, this will be full of spoilers. You’ve been warned!

marvel comicsWriters: Jason Aaron

Artists: Renato Guedes

Issues: Wolverine (2010) #1-5, Wolverine: Road to Hell*

*Also included sort-of tie-ins Daken: Dark Wolverine #1-3 and X-23 #1-3

As a kid of the 80s/90s I love Wolverine. But at this point in 2010, Wolverine had reached peak saturation. He was in multiple X-Men series, multiple Avengers teams, a part of X-Force, then Uncanny X-Force, and still had his own solo book. He also cropped up in other series like Deadpool.

As I said, I like Wolverine, but it was all a bit much. I didn’t have much motivation to read his new solo series when I was getting plenty of him elsewhere. But I kept hearing good things about the story, so I gave it a shot. And holy crap, it’s pretty damn good.

“Wolverine Goes to Hell” is a pretty simple premise. A bunch of normal people who had been wronged by Wolverine’s many, many terrible deeds in the past get together. They get their hands on some occult stuff, trick him into a van (uh, yeah) and then rip his soul from his body. Continue reading “Marvel Comics Final Thoughts – Wolverine Goes to Hell”

Marvel Comics Final Thoughts – Ghost Rider (2006), Vol. 1-3

Jason Aaron’s Ghost Rider so effectively embraces its campy grindhouse themes that I can’t help but love it.

With Marvel’s popular and successful foray into films with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I’ve finally decided to get back into comics. I grew up a big fan of X-Men and other superheroes but haven’t really kept up since the 90s. Thus begins my grand catching-up of the last ten years of Marvel comics, events and stories.

Thanks in large part to trade paperbacks and the digital convenience of Marvel Unlimited I can make relatively quick progress, and I’ll write down my Final Thoughts for each collection here on my blog. Like my gaming Final Thoughts, this will be full of spoilers. You’ve been warned!

marvelWriter: Jason Aaron

Artists: Roland Boshi, Tan Eng Haut, Tony Moore

Issues: Ghost Rider (2006) #20-35, Annual #2

 

Next Issue: Death Race on Ghost Cannibal Highway OR Cycle Nurses Kill! Kill! Kill!

There’s a moment near the end of Volume 2, when Ghost Rider (Johnny Blaze) confronts his misguided brother Danny Ketch. Ketch had been absorbing the power of other Spirits of Vengenace around the world, and was prepping for a final battle against the last few holdouts. He challenges Johnny to a race around the world, and Johnny points out the absurdity of going on a silly race in the middle of a giant battle. Then they promptly race, which includes soaring past pyramids and over oceans, complete with Ketch picking up a shark and hurling it at Johnny.

Your reaction to that last sentence is a good indicator of whether or not you would enjoy Jason Aaron’s run on Ghost Rider circa 2008-09. I try not to throw the phrase Ridiculously Awesome around too much but Ghost Rider so effectively embraces its campy horror-grindhouse themes that I can’t help but love it.

My previous experience with the motorcycle-ridin’, skull-flamin’ vigilante was limited to Nicholas Cage. I never had much motivation to actually read a comic, but my best bud and comic aficionado recommended this run as a good jumping on point for an awesome arc – and I couldn’t agree more.

marvel

Our first story picks up after Johnny Blaze had just been given a startling revelation about his past – his powers come not from Hell, but from Heaven. Specifically directly from God as avatars of justice, overseen by the archangel Zadkiel. Zadkiel acts as a mostly off-screen but menacing super villain throughout the arc as he storms heaven’s gates to usurp God.

“Hell Bent and Heaven Bound” (#20-23) eases us into the life and times of Johnny Blaze by having our anti-hero get mixed up in a creepy small town filled with undead ghouls, hillbilly cannibals, and busty cycle nurses. Blaze ends up following a lead on a young man that experienced a near death experience – and actually saw Zadkiel. The plot leads to multiple factions literally running into each other in an explosive finale in the town square. It’s super campy and a hell of a lot of fun, particularly how Blaze simply gets caught up in these crazy events.

The plot slows back down when Blaze puts himself in prison to follow yet another lead on Zadkiel in “God Don’t Live on Cell Block D” (#24-25). It mostly serves to introduce the gigantic villainous Deacon, a monstrous tattooed man with daggers that spews Bible verses as he kills the unbelievers.

Ghost Rider #29

In “The Former Things” (#26-27) we’re introduced to the new important character of Sara, a nun that finds out her long lost grandfather is the Caretaker of the Ghost Riders. The old caretaker is slain by a motley crew of villains (presumably from Ghost Rider’s rogue’s gallery) and Sara gains all his knowledge, eventually going through a nice character arc from meek nun to Sarah Connor-esque badass.

We’re first teased with Danny Ketch – Blaze’s long-lost brother and former Ghost Rider in the first Volume. “The Last Stand of the Spirits of Vengeance” (#28-32) continues Ketch’s quest to absolve all the Ghost Riders and absorb their powers. He’s funneling the power directly to Zadkiel, which is bad, and Blaze and Sara have to meet up with the few remaining survivors to battle him.

Ghost Rider #31Seeing other people as Ghost Riders is a lot fun, and Aaron really gets inventive as we go international, with brief glimpses of Ghost Riders riding bears, elephants, and even a shark! Such greatness.

In Issue #33 we even get a fun history lesson on past, present, and future Ghost Riders, from World War II vets with hellfire tanks to the Prohibition era Undead G-Man. How about some cybered-up Ghost Riders from the future? Hell Yeah!

The last stand is gloriously action-packed, but Ketch, along with an army of Zadkiel’s angels, ultimately wins. Zadkiel storms the golden city, but we’re only teased about what happens next.

The final Volume (“Trials and Tribulations” #33-35) acts as an epilogue of sorts, each issue starring one of our main cast (Ketch, Sara, Blaze). It’s surprisingly entertaining with good old fashioned horror stories, especially Danny Ketch battling a satanic ghoul-trucker on the highway. The major plot and the battle for heaven concludes in the six-part mini-series Ghost Riders, which I’ll save for later.

I honestly didn’t think I’d love Ghost Rider as much as I did. It also helped that the art steadily improved with each new artist on each volume. Volume 1 had a cheap, simple look that I wasn’t quite into (though it fit the campy theme well enough) but by the end the art looked great without ever getting too glossy or polished. The major exception being Ghost Rider Annual #2, a one-shot about Blaze battling a demonic sheriff in a small town, with super glossy, ill-fitting art.

Jason Aaron effectively combined campy B-movie supernatural horror with memorable characters and an impressive overarching plot that lasted nearly two years. Blaze’s quest to find Zadkiel and meeting up with Sara and other Ghost Riders is just as entertaining as the random creepy side adventures they get into. For someone that wasn’t into Ghost Rider or really into horror or supernatural stuff at all, I absolutely loved it.

Marvel Comics Final Thoughts – Star Wars #1

Thanks to Marvel’s popular and successful foray into films with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I’ve finally decided to get back into comics. I grew up a big fan of X-Men and other superheroes but haven’t really kept up since the 90s. Thus begins my grand catching-up of the last ten years of Marvel comics, events and stories.

Thanks in large part to trade paperbacks and the digital convenience of Marvel Unlimited I can make relatively quick progress, and I’ll write down my Final Thoughts for each collection here on my blog. Like my gaming Final Thoughts, this will be full of spoilers. You’ve been warned!

star wars #1 coverWriter: Jason Aaron

Artists: John Cassaday, Laura Martin

Issues: Star Wars (2015) #1

Most of my Marvel Comics Final Thoughts encompass trade paperback volumes containing anywhere from four to nearly two dozen issues, and all of them are older comics as I make my way through a good ten years of Marvel continuity.

Not so with this one! Ever since Marvel announced several new Star Wars comics as part of the new Disney-owned era, I knew I needed to see for myself. I don’t necessarily plan on keeping up with psychical monthly issues, but owning the first issue of a brand new series seems like a no-brainer (and I’m not the only one; Star Wars #1 is the top-selling single issue of the last twenty years).

Marvel recruited some of their top talent to write and draw the new flagship series and the production values are top of the line. Jason Aaron generally plays it safe as we follow the adventures of our familiar heroes after they destroyed the first death star. We finally get to see the rebellion actually pull off some subterfuge and plans of their own to fight back against the Empire, not unlike Disney’s excellent animated series Star Wars Rebels. Leia and Han bicker like an old married couple, Chewbacca grunts and growls while taking sniper shots at Vader and Luke’s slowing becoming the stoic badass that he evolves into. Even C-3PO’s stilted cadence is somehow captured in the dialogue with all the verbosity I expected.

Star Wars #1 feels very Star Wars, and that’s a great thing. I fully expected the first issue to play it pretty safe in regards to some of the most recognizable characters in science fiction, and it’ll be interesting to see how far they can stretch them while still planted firmly within the rigid continuity of the original trilogy.

Marvel is also putting out solo series, beginning with Star Wars: Princess Leia and Star Wars: Darth Vader. The dialogue-less preview pages at the end are a neat idea to hook readers in and provide some fun examples of the artwork.

As someone that saw the insane hype and popularity rise bestowed by the prequels quickly shatter after their universal disappointment, it’s been tough to fall back in love with Star Wars, even with this new regime change. At least in the comic world things seem to be moving in the right direction and I’m tentatively prepared to declare that the Force is strong with this one.

star wars #1 variant cover