My faith in Marvel Comics has been plummeting for years. Just the same, the publisher plays host to one of my favorite superheroes in existence: Spider-Man. Amazing always had me hooked, and both Spectacular and Web of were also mighty fine books. But I’ve been away from the character for a long time, and returning, I noticed that there are a number of new and different books out there, so I ended up with a few issues of Ultimate Spider-Man.
With Johnny Blaze’s origin story out of the way (see Marvel Spotlight), Marvel opens up and gifts the spirit of vengeance his very own book, and it’s a winner through and through. Released way back in September of 1973, Ghost Rider was one of the more popular horror titles post-code for Marvel Comics, who’d been hot and cold with genre titles for years thanks to the lunacy of the Comics Code. But the code’s stranglehold continued to loosen sometime around 1970 and Marvel got right down to introducing all sorts of killer monster books. While there are a few vintage titles I love, none had the staying power (or sales) of Ghost Rider, who remains a hot commodity today.
I didn’t start reading Incredible Hulk until 1990. I honestly can’t tell you why, as the character always seemed to spark curiosity. There was always something magnetic about the character, I suppose I just got swallowed in Spidey, Supes, X-Men and Batman books, primarily.
Once I did give the big green beast a try, I only looked back to track down vintage issues. One that’s always stood out to me was Incredible Hulk #162, the debut appearance of the awesome Wendigo.
The story was titled Spawn on the Flesh-Eater, and opens with a dose of reality for readers: people hate what they fear, and they fear Hulk. Men ambush him, unleashing gunfire. “Can’t Hulk ever have peace? He only wants to find friend-“ The Hulk, as big and intimidating as he may be, is a sad soul, sympathetic on a near immeasurable level. It’s hard not to feel for the character… unless you’re a frightened military man or a rogue trigger happy local.
Interestingly enough, it’s an attack by rural folk that inadvertently leaves the Hulk looking for a missing man named Paul, believed to have been taken by the Wendigo. Needless to say, it isn’t long before the Hulk meets Wendigo for the first time.
To Hulk’s surprise, the Wendigo is nearly unshakable, a beast of equal if not superior strength and ability to the Hulk. Eventually, after a back and forth battle Wendigo makes a getaway, but not before hurling Paul from a cliff. Hulk catches the falling man, and proves successful in saving the day.
But there’s an insanely clever twist to the story, as writer Steve Englehart really flexes his mental muscle. It wasn’t Paul the Hulk saved, it was his friend. Paul, as it turns out, had devoured a man while stranded in the wilderness. A curse set in, and Paul transformed into the very Wendigo that Hulk just battled.
It’s a brilliant spin on things, and even today, a reminder that I missed out on some stellar books having avoided this specific title until 1990.
Wanna talk killer Hulk tales? Talk about he first appearance of Wendigo, talk about issue #162.
A true classic that introduces a number of characters that would, decades later, find themselves firmly entrenched among a blossoming group of iconic names and faces. In X-Men #1 Stan Lee gives us the chance to meet Professor Xavier, Cyclops, Beast, Angel, Iceman and – eventually (she arrives at the Professor’s school for gifted youngsters about halfway through the book) – Jean Grey, then known as Marvel Girl. We also learn of the professor’s intentions to hone his pupils into warriors capable of defending and preserving the safety of the world’s average men and women.
The first issue of this amazing Spidey spinoff featured a showdown with the menacing yet unintentionally comical Tarantula. Tarantula’s a fun character, though few Spidey aficionados would likely place the man on any “Best of” lists. The villain introduced in issue two however, has quite a different following.
Kraven the Hunter pops up in this book, and of course, that means he’s not only going to tangle with Spidey, he’s going to tangle with Tarantula, who’s still hanging around, as well. But, these two aren’t occupying the same space by mere coincidence. Tarantula was hired to kidnap chancellor Lansky, but he was also hired to kill the mayor, an assignment he botched. That’s where Kraven comes into play, to try and get the mystery man’s plans back on track. So, like it or not, Tarantula and Kraven are in this devious plan together, and the plan has changed. Kraven and Tarantula’s new assignment is to capture Chancellor Richard Gorman – dead or alive.
Peter goes through the normal growth process. Problems with Mary Jane, concern for Aunt May. Education, employment. Peter’s always going through that crap, and when he’s not, he’s going toe to toe with Kraven or Tarantula.
It’s a back and forth affair between Spidey and Kraven, all the while Tarantula delivers Gorman to our mysterious villain only to be double crossed. Whoever pulls the strings is sharp, and cautious.
Eventually the book comes – sadly – to an end, but not before an explosive and definitive conclusion to Spiderman and Kraven’s battle. Wanna guess who picked up the W in that rematch? Speaking of Ws, what’s next for Tarantula? Is he a goner, and will this particular story arc reveal the mastermind early, or will we be forced to wait for issue four?
Another amazing, classic book that comes to us courtesy of stud writer Gerry Conway and personal favorite with the pencil, Sal Buscema. Again, this really is a beautiful book.
It’s time to rewind the clocks and jump into one of my favorite Spidey comics, Spectacular Spiderman.
The inaugural issue absolutely rocks and today holds a nostalgic charm you don’t get from every book out there. It also pits Spiderman in a rematch with the nimble and extremely able Tarantula. Who takes this round? And who does the Tarantula have targeted? He isn’t back for Spidey alone, no. He’s also got his peepers on the Vice Chancelor of Petey’s school. He’s destined to run into both, but what will be the final outcome?
I love this book. Probably – I’ll find out soon enough – every single issue. And while I think Marvel could have kicked this one off with focus on a villain that holds a bit more of a marquee appeal, Tarantula is a fine starting point, as it leaves the book – already very solid – with nowhere to go but up.
Gerry Conway’s story has a hint of a throwback charm and a reasonable dose of contemporary style to it, simultaneously. That mixture prevents the book from feeling too dated, but also summons a strange idea of innocence. It’s an unorthodox but engaging mix.
And, of course, I can’t possibly move on without issuing huge praise to one of history’s greatest Spidey artists, Sal Buscema. Buscema did it all. He drew for every major book from the 70s up well beyond the old Y2K mark. His style is very clean with plenty of animated faces and smooth lines. We’re talking about a legend of the pencil who’s got the respect of everyone in the industry.
We leave the first issue with questions on our minds. There are some things to be resolved, and by the end of this story arc we’ll likely see Spidey and Tarantula tangle on a few more occasions. It’ll be close folks, but we’re picking Spidey by TKO!
Deadpool is… well, he’s killin’ it!
Marvel’s R-rated action comedy featuring everyone’s favorite mouthy merc, Wade Wilson has now surpassed the $328 million mark on the domestic market, and it’s been slaying internationally, as well. Believe it or not, it’s still got steam at the box office; it’s been available to the public for about five weeks, and it’s still drawing north of the $10 million weekly mark. That’s absurdly impressive.
But just how impressive is it? Over the last decade or so we’ve seen Marvel roll out huge blockbuster after huge blockbuster. And the vast majority of them really do win crowds over, toppling the $100 million mark almost without fail.
Marvel owns cinematic comic adaptations, plain and simple. DC looks to be playing catch-up, but with pictures like Deadpool being produced it’s going to take a lot of work to catch up to Marvel, or even rival the quality of their films.
Let’s get back to business, which is this very real question: Just how is Deadpool comparing to fellow successful Marvel releases?
The answer: Wonderfully! The pic has already hit $708 million worldwide with a current domestic mark of $328 million.
Here are 16 Marvel movies that had the momentum to comfortably trek past the $100 million mark, and did enjoy success on the international market, but didn’t quite have the steam to draw more than Deadpool has managed.
1 Ghost Rider – Domestic = $115 million – Worldwide = $228 million
2 The Incredible Hulk (2008) – Domestic = $134 million – Worldwide = $263 million
3 Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer – Domestic = $131 million – Worldwide = $289 million
4 X-Men – Domestic = $157 million – Worldwide = $296 million
5 Fantastic 4 (2005) – Domestic = $153 million – Worldwide = $330 million
6 X-Men: First Class – Domestic = $146 million – Worldwide = $353 million
7 Captain America: The First Avenger – Domestic = $176 million – Worldwide = $370 million
8 X-Men Origins: Wolverine – Domestic = $179 million – Worldwide = $373 million
9 X2: X-Men United – Domestic = $214 Million – Worldwide = $407 million
10 The Wolverine – Domestic = $132 million – Worldwide = $414 million
11 Thor – Domestic = $181 million – Worldwide = $449 million
12 X-Men: The Last Stand – Domestic = $234 million – Worldwide = $459 million
13 Ant-Man – Domestic = $180 million – Worldwide = $519 million
14 Iron Man – Domestic = $318 million – Worldwide = $585 million
15 Iron Man 2 – Domestic = $312 million –Worldwide = $623 million
16 Thor: The Dark World – Domestic = $206 million – Worldwide = $644 million
Old Man Logan offers readers a look at a Wolverine that we’re not all too familiar with. See, Logan wakes to one day realize the world seems to be nothing as he knows it. He’s a stranger in a strange land, until the memories come flooding in and he’s forced to accept a future he would have once balked at.
The villains of the world finally got their act together, formed a massive alliance and not only obliterated superheroes, but just about anything in their path. What remains of those who were once gifted, fighting the good fight, is slim to say the least.
But the reality of it all is burrowing deep in Logan’s mind, and that’s never a good thing Logan dwells. He always has. And this time, he’ll dwell with a chance to change the future, as he’s somehow seen the clock rewound to a time just before the menaces of the world would take place as the alphas of the world. And only one remains: Can Logan change a dreadful future before it becomes a nightmarish present?
Jeff Lamire fires big, right out of the gate. And he does a stellar job of making Logan, a man once feared by anyone on the wrong side of his own stance, the law or the well-being of decent mutants, all but helpless. Domesticated and fragile, Logan will have his hands full if he hopes to get to the bottom of things and right a ship already losing course.
Artist Andrea Sorrentino does a great job of giving us something of a guerilla-style visual. Image details often masked by shadows, villains blending into one another, wide and expansive backgrounds, the perfect setup for focus on our heroes and villains. And Sorrentino doesn’t accomplish the look alone, colorist Marcelo Maiolo adds a great deal of depth to the book.
As a longtime fan of Wolverine, I’m always on the hunt for a new spin. A place Logan hasn’t yet ventured. A villain Logan has yet to collide with. Old Man Logan offers up a lot of the very things I search for.
Grade-A work, right here!
Order issue #1 right here.