Sunday, November 24, 2013


And away we go:
    Art: Alan Davis
  1. Excalibur by Alan Davis
    (EXCALIBUR #42 - 67)
    Nostalgia Rating: 1 | Story Quality: 4 | Overall: 2.5
    Reason: I won't waste much time on this one, because I've already written about it at length in my Captain Britain reviews -- but I find Davis's tight plotting and mastery of seemingly unrelated sub-plots which thread back together, sometimes when you least expect them to, to be astounding. The run loses steam after issue #50, but it's never a chore to read, and the characters are all great fun.
  2. Captain America by Mark Gruenwald
    (CAPTAIN AMERICA #307 - 443)
    Nostalgia Rating: 2 | Story Quality: 4 | Overall: 3
    Art: Kieron Dwyer
    Reason: This is, to me, the definitive Captain America -- Gruenwald realized two things which no writer, before or since, has tumbled to: One, Cap does not need to perpetually be a "man out of time". Even accounting for "Marvel Time", he should be completely adjusted to the modern world by the time we read his adventures in the present day. And two, Captain America does not need a secret identity. He is Captain America, 24/7. Steve Rogers is a skin he slips into when he needs to travel incognito, but he doesn't need a job or a supporting cast beyond a small staff to help him fight crime. And because Gruenwald realized these simple details, his Cap is the Cap. I admit that the run loses some focus after issue #400, but it's never not entertaining.
  3. Thor by Walter Simonson
    (THE MIGHTY THOR #337 - 382)
    Nostalgia Rating: 1 | Story Quality: 5 | Overall: 3
    Art: Walter Simonson
    Reason: Thor has never done much for me as a solo character. I like him fine on the Avengers, but he seemed boring to me as a kid. And yet I'd heard so much over the years about the classic Walter Simonson run, that when Marvel began the THOR VISIONARIES: WALTER SIMONSON series, I had to at least try it out. I was hooked in short order. Simonson drew on actual Norse mythology, and his handling of the vast Asgardian cast was outstanding. Throughout the run, everyone has a moment to shine. I loved this saga so much, that I've dipped my toes in the subsequent Tom DeFalco/Ron Frenz run, and I've picked up trades of the Dan Jurgens/John Romita Jr. era (though I have yet to read those). I even re-bought the entire Simonson run when Marvel released it in Omnibus format a couple years ago.
  4. Daredevil by Frank Miller
    (DAREDEVIL #158 - 191)
    Nostalgia Rating: 1 | Story Quality: 5 | Overall: 3
    Art: Frank Miller
    Reason: As a kid, I just figured Daredevil for a poor man's Spider-Man. Acrobatics and "radar sense" couldn't hold a handle to the proportional strength, speed, and agility of a spider, not to mention "spider-sense"! But, as with the Simonson Thor material, I had heard amazing things for years about the Frank Miller Daredevil, and also as with Simonson's Thor, I picked up the DAREDEVIL VISIONARIES: FRANK MILLER trades when they originally came out back in 2000-2001. I found this run to be everything it was cracked up to be, and more. Everybody remembers the "grim & gritty" aspects of Miller's Daredevil, but few seem to acknowledge just how fun it was, too! Even as his life falls apart around him, Daredevil finds the spirt to crack an occasional joke. Later interpretations of the character skew too far to the "dark side" for me, but this Daredevil is pitch-perfect. So much so, that -- again, as with Simonson's Thor -- I'm upgrading my trade collection to Omnibus format when Marvel re-prints the DAREDEVIL BY FRANK MILLER & KLAUS JANSON OMNIBUS this month.
  5. Spider-Man by Stan Lee & John Romita
    (AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #39 - 110, plus assorted annuals and other related issues)
    Nostalgia Rating: 3 | Story Quality: 4 | Overall: 3.5
    Art: John Romita
    Reason: It may be blasphemy to say it, but I'm not a huge fan of Steve Ditko. I acknowledge that without him we wouldn't have Spider-Man or the majority of his rogue's gallery, but taking for granted that they exist, in my opinion the Romita run is far superior. The storylines were longer and seemed to bleed directly into one another, and Romita -- to my eye -- draws far more attractive people and more exciting images than Ditko. Plus, the Kingpin, a personal favorite, showed up practically every other issue for about two years! To me, this is what Spider-Man is all about, and this is the look and feel anyone working on the character should try to emulate.
  6. X-Men by Scott Lobdell & Fabian Nicieza
    (X-MEN #4 - 70, UNCANNY X-MEN #281 - 350, plus many, many annuals, one-shots, mini-series, etc.)
    Nostalgia Rating: 5 | Story Quality: 3 | Overall: 4
    Art: Andy Kubert
    Reason: "X-Cutioner's Song". "Fatal Attractions". "Phalanx Covenant". "Age of Apocalypse". "Onslaught". "Operation: Zero Tolerance". To some, these are awful examples of Marvel's commercialism at its worst. But to me and to an entire generation, these were the X-Men. Of everything on this list, this entry was the hardest for me to separate nostalgia from story. My brain knows these stories weren't all the greatest (though I believe the good outweighs the bad throughout), but my fond memories of reading the issues trump almost all other considerations. And by the way -- Scott Lobdell is not a bad writer. He's not the greatest comic scribe of all time, but his narration and dialogue are fine. His characters have their own voices. He didn't always get to write the best stories, but as a scripter he's easily up there with most of his contemporaries.
  7. Spider-Man by Gerry Conway, Sal Buscema, & Alex Saviuk
    Nostalgia Rating: 5 | Story Quality: 3 | Overall: 4
    Art: Sal Buscema
    Reason: This is "my" Spider-Man from childhood. I was about ten years old when this run was underway, and though I didn't get every issue, I had a smattering of both series. I avoided AMAZING like the plague due to the ugly Todd McFarlane artwork (which I still can't stand). But over in SPECTACULAR and WEB, Sal Buscema and Alex Saviuk were still drawing a normal looking Spidey. Even when they switched to the bigger eyes, their work was still far superior to McFarlane's. And their artwork was in service to some great stories, too: Conway has said that he wrote this run by coming up with sub-plots first, and then writing the main action to fit around them, and as a sucker for superhero soap operatics, I love the approach. A great deal of my affection for this run comes from those memories of picking up random issues at 7-11 or Safeway, but having re-read it recently, I find that the stories still hold up relatively well. There are occasional plot-holes, but rarely are they big enough to distract too much from the issue at hand.
The list concludes next week!


  1. 12-10
    I never actually read any of these, but I'm considering to look
    in to Simonson's Thor run.
    ..Eventually anyway.

    I have read only the first third of this run.
    And I agree, this run is everything it was cracked up to be
    one of the cornerstones of Millers career and fame.
    And one of the best runs ever.
    Born Again is the perfect capstone to Daredevil as a whole.
    If Marvel had ended the series right there and then,
    I doubt anybody would begrudge them because
    Miller's run is untoppable. The final word on Daredevil.

    This is where we are going to have to agree to disagree.
    I'm not much of a Ditko fan, either but I don't really care
    for Romita either.
    I always found his art to be too slick, too pretty, too static and too plastic.
    Always felt his son's art was far more dynamic and visually arresting.
    And the spider artists were emulating Romita's art for years, untill McFarlane came along and shook everything up.
    No wonder I'm bored of Romita because he has been emulated for 25 years with varying degrees of success ( i prefer Gil Kane or Ross Andru from the 70's or Romita jr and Ron Frenz from the 80's Larsen, Mcfarlane and Bagley for the late 80's and early 90's. )

    This is were I bowed out in regards to the X-men.
    I came in late..very late actually and mostly read back issues of Claremont's run
    and then started reading new X-men comics.
    And I pretty much went ...neeevermind.
    It's just so convoluted with meandering plot lines that go nowhere or outlive their welcome.
    And I just don't like Age Of Apocalypse.
    I also had to buy twenty million comics, just to keep up with the storyline.
    I haven't touched an X-men comic ever since.
    no new ones anyway, I tend to stick with Claremont's first run.
    I have however read New X-men and X-men Forever, but even those were years after the fact.

    6 :
    Yeah I remember these too, I hunted the back issues down.
    The tomb stone storyline still sticks out in my mind.
    I didn't always get it as a kid, but was enthralled each time I got a back issue,
    that filled in another piece of the puzzle.
    And I know you hate McFarlane's art but you may find this comic book legend interesting.
    It features McFarlane art
    Marvel commissioned McFarlane to draw an issue of Gi Joe and found the result unacceptable.
    They got Marshal Rogers to redraw it and when McFarlane became super hot, Marvel published the comic they rejected earlier, anyway.
    And you may just find it interesting to see how two totally different artists, tackle the same script.
    McFarlane's art is splashy but unrestrained.
    While Rogers art is rather spartan, it has good story telling and his page between Billy and Jinx is far, far better then McFarlane's.
    Jinx looks 12 there and why is she smiling ?

    1. I actually own the one-shot of McFarlane's GI JOE #61. It was published the month after the series' final issue, and I picked it up to compare with the original. What's interesting is that McFarlane had drawn #60, which was published, but apparently his work was deemed sub-par on 61 by Larry Hama himself.

      (I'm also one of the few human beings on the planet, apparently, who has a copy of GI JOE #155).

      I have to admit that I'm not a huge fan of "Age of Apocalypse" either. It's funny; that's generally considered to be the bright spot of the nineties X-MEN, but I've just never had much interest in alternate universe stories. I admire AoA for its execution, but I don't know that I've ever actually re-read it since its original publication (despite owning it in Omnibus format).