The Venom Symbiote made its first appearance in Marvel Heroes Secret Wars #8 (May 1984). Spider-Man accidentally released the parasitic Klyntar following a scuffle on Battleworld. Spidey thought he was simply generating a new suit after his was shredded in the fight.
When Spidey finally realized the slick black and white suit was actually an alien organism, he rejected it. However, during the time the two were bonded, the Symbiote learned Peter Parker’s genetic code. Now Venom has the ability to grant any wearer Spider-Man’s abilities.
Since Peter Parker, there have been many notable wearers of the Black Suit. Eddie Brock is the most notorious. It was Brock’s time in the Symbiote that solidly established Venom as Peter Parker’s worst nightmare.
A Fresh Take On An Old Villain
In Venom #1, writer Mike Costa introduced a new perspective on the sentient alien goo. Taking us inside the Symbiote’s consciousness, Costa raises some interesting questions about a character we all thought we knew.
What if Venom is merely an amplification of the wearer’s Id? What if the Klyntar has less control over its actions than it appears, and the host is subconsciously in control the whole time?
By the time we roll around to Venom #6, it’s evident that the current host is bad news. Lee Price is a horrible person. He is a disabled military veteran with a grudge. His experience as an Army Ranger has made him mentally hard and his disability has made him bitter.
Lee dominates the suit to the point of abuse. For the first time, the suit appears unable to overcome the will of its host.
Now, with the FBI chasing it down, Venom crosses paths with The Amazing Spider-Man. In a bizarre turn of events, the leader of the Bureau’s Anti-Symbiote Task Force is none other than…Eddie Brock.
The main difference between The Punisher and Deadpool is motivation. Both appear to be sociopaths. But Frank Castle is driven by vengeance and Wade Wilson’s main concern is his paycheck. Neither wants to admit how deeply they are actually driven by emotion.
In Deadpool vs. Punisher #1, Fred Van Lente serves up a script that puts these two on opposite sides of an ambiguous moral scenario.
Wilson and Castle are very familiar with each other’s work. Wilson thinks Castle is a “self-righteous, sociopathic, shoot-first-ask-questions-never, humorless, fascist hard-ass.” Castle views Wilson as a “motor-mouthed, muddle-headed, arrested adolescent with delusions of competence.”
See the World. Fill it Full of Bullets
Deadpool vs. Punisher #1 opens with Punisher working undercover at an underground illegal gambling club. “VS.” is a place where degenerates gather to place wagers on superheroes. Some names on the board include Spider-Man (original, probably), Captain American Falcon, and Guy who thinks he’s Hercules.
After Punisher violently shuts down the club, he gets the information he’s been after. That’s when the desperate club manager gives up details on The Bank in order to save his own life. The Bank is Castle’s true target. But he’s also Wade Wilson’s accountant, money launderer, client, and close friend.
Pere Perez’ artwork suits the script perfectly. And there are plenty of background details, but not so many as to distract from well-planned action sequences. In addition, he nails the expressions on the unmasked characters. Perez brilliantly telegraphs nuanced expression through Pool’s mask and body language.
Van Lente sets up an interesting “best of five rounds” scenario. With a clear winner in each of the planned five chapters, Deadpool is playing with a loaded deck. With his regenerative abilities, he can afford to lose four of five battles and still come back for the next installment. Punisher doesn’t have the same luxury.
In All New Wolverine #19 there is a continuation of Laura’s journey that began last year. But a couple of things are revamped for the new era of X-Men. One of the biggest changes is a redesign of Wolverine’s costume. It’s now very reminiscent of the costume Wolverine sported in the X-Force books. Laura now dons a sleek, black tactical outfit. Her loyal companion Gabby, has upgraded the costume to be completely bulletproof. Gabby points out getting shot still hurts, even if you have a healing factor.
Issue 19 is also the beginning of a new story arc. It kicks off with an alien ship crash landing. Ironheart makes a guest appearance and she prevents the crashing ship from leveling Manhattan. The badly injured alien pilot has just two words for Ironheart–Laura Kinney.
Laura is just as baffled about her connection to this alien as Ironheart or the SHIELD agents monitoring the situation. Even more baffling is the mysterious virus that lead to a quarantine of Roosevelt Island.
All-New Wolverine has been one of Marvel’s strongest since it’s launch. And it’s new story arc begins with the same energy and intensity that made past issues a hit. Putting Laura at the center of a mystery with such high stakes will surely give Wolverine fans the charge of excitement they’ve come to expect. Plus, a number of beloved Marvel characters make cameo appearances in this first issue. But make no mistake, this is Laura’s story, and she’s here to do what she does best.
The war between X-Men and Inhumans has ended. What’s next for the X-Men? If you’re looking for answers, X-Men Prime #1 is a good place to start.
X-Men Prime #1 wraps up loose ends from the X-Men/Inhumans struggle and sets up the new X-Men status quo. In addition, Prime brings together three of the writers from upcoming X-series. And it lays groundwork for upcoming events and sets the tone for all the new X-books.
Beloved X-Man Kitty Pryde has returned to Earth following her exploits with the Guardians of the Galaxy. She thinks she will be able to lay low and live a simple, somewhat normal life. However, that illusion is quickly shattered when Storm arrives and attempts to cajole Kitty into rejoining the X-Men.
The X-Men Need a New General, a New Direction, a New Mission
Storm doesn’t only want Kitty to return. She wants the veteran to take over Storm’s duties as leader of the X-Men. In Storm’s own words, “The X-Men cannot continue as we have. The X-Men need to move forward. And I’m the one who’s holding them back.”
The X-Men and X-Mansion are in shambles, recovering from the battle with the Inhumans. Lady Deathstrike is on the move. The original time-displaced X-Men have disappeared on their own.
The writers have delivered a script that is full of potential and interesting beginnings for the upcoming titles. Next month, Marc Guggenheim pens X-Men Gold, Cullen Bunn moves on to X-Men Blue, and Greg Pak writes Weapon X.
X-Men Prime sets up all three individual series beautifully, while keeping continuity between them. Resurrxion is a perfect place for new readers to jump in. However, long time readers will also be fed by references to previous incarnations of the story, and the return of favorite veterans.
Comics aren’t just for kids, is a refrain you’ll often hear from fans and it’s true. Marvel took things to a new level though with their mature content imprint MAX. Created in 2001, Marvel MAX focuses on darker heroes from the Marvel universe or creating new more morally complex characters. MAX’s R-rated comic content gives adult readers a more grown up reading experience.
Here are some of MAX’s best titles:
He’s a half-vampire, half-human vampire hunter. And he uses an arsenal of extreme weaponry to slay the undead. The MAX line gave creators the opportunity to tell the scary and violent stories Blade fans had been waiting years for.
Deadpoolhas long been a fan of four letter words and extreme violence. So, his MAX book allows him to really cut loose and be the best mercenary he could. This version retains the humor that made the character so popular. But it also frees the creative team of the limitations of a mainstream book. The result is one of Deadpool’s craziest adventures.
Wolverine’s berserker rage is on full display in this series. He’s been freed of the X-Men continuity and content restrictions. Now Wolverine is turned loose in a more gritty and noirish story. The violent and brooding world of Wolverine fit perfectly with the darker, more grown up tone of the MAX books.
If any character was made for a MAX book, it’s Frank Castle. And he’s finally able to deliver the bloody retribution he had been talking about for decades. Writer Garth Ennis was able to dig deeper into the psyche of The Punisher than ever before. Yet the book still delivers some of the finest action sequences in the character’s history.
If we can thank the MAX line for anything it’s the creation of Jessica Jones. She’s now a mainstay of the Marvel universe. Jessica was introduced in the Alias gritty detective series. Writer Brian Michael Bendis gives is a beautifully flawed and compelling protagonist. But he also shines a light on the more human side of superheroes.
Every week we review a select few comics for New Comic Book Day. There are so many that come out each week it’s hard to choose. This week we take a gander at Batwoman, Punisher and Daredevil. Check out our other blog articles so see our thoughts on other books. Be sure to comment or share our post on Facebook or Twitter if you like our articles!
SPOILER ALERT — We try to keep from posting spoilers, but one may sneak through to our reviews now and again. Read with caution, true believers.
Batwoman #1 By: Marguerite Bennett, James Tynion IV, Steve Epting
Finally, Batwoman is back in her own solo comic! I’ve immensely enjoyed James Tynion IV’s work with Batwoman and the voice he has given her in Detective Comics, but I’ve longed for Kate Kane to be the star of the show instead of a member of an ensemble. Batwoman #1 is everything I hoped a Batwoman comic would be and more.
It fully fleshes out Batwoman, giving her a base of operations, a method of transportation, and even her own Pennyworth butler. However, the writing duo of Marguerite Bennett and James Tynion IV have made sure Batwoman isn’t just a female Batman. Part of that is due to her unique voice and globe-spanning mission while the remaining part is due to her unique past that the issue starts to touch on. There are many layers to Kate Kane, and the issue starts to peel them back one-by-one. Complementing the story is the beautiful art by Steve Epting.
Not only is the issue a great jumping on point for new fans, but it also serves as an excellent book for longtime Batwoman readers. Batwoman #1 is highly recommended and is one series to keep an eye on in the future.
Punisher #10 By: Becky Cloonan, Matt Horak, Declan Shalvey
Punisher’s one-man war on Condor continues in Punisher #10. Becky Cloonan continues to delight as she writes a Frank Castle that is tough-as-nails, resourceful, and leaves a trail of bodies in his wake. This comic has never been shy about showing violence, but what Punisher does with a bear trap takes this comic to a whole new level. Punisher #10 lives up to its parental advisory notice.
As the story starts racing to its conclusion, this is turning into one Punisher tale you don’t want to miss. Due to the unfortunate passing of Steve Dillon, artist Matt Horak fills in for art duties. He captures Dillon’s style almost perfectly and allows the book to fit in stylistically with the previous issues. If you’ve yet to check out this series, you’ll want to make some room on your pull list as it’s worth reading. Punisher #10 is an excellent read and shows that Marvel can still pump out mature titles that are on par with the rest of the industry.
Daredevil #18 By: Charles Soule, Ron Garney, Matt Milla
One of the burning questions since the beginning of Charles Soule’s Daredevil run has been “How did Matt get his secret identity back?” After over a year, Charles Soule is finally ready to answer that question. Daredevil #17 was told entirely by flashbacks and bridged the previous series to the current one, and Daredevil #18 picks up right where #17 left off.
Soule introduces readers to The Purple Man, who promptly gives us a display of his powers in a downright horrifying fashion. In fact, the story ends up being more about him and his offspring than about Daredevil. The twist at the end brings about more questions, and we’ll see more than a few fan theories as a result of this issue. I’m excited to see how Charles Soule ties it all together.
If you’ve yet to check out Charles Soule’s Daredevil, #17 and #18 are a fantastic place to start. I know I’m planning on checking out the previous issues of this series; if the writing is as good as this issue, I’m in for a treat.
Steve Rogers shocked the world back in Captain America: Steve Rogers #1, May 2016. While hurling his friend and ally to his presumed death, he uttered two words that nobody ever believed would come out of Captain America’s mouth. “Hail Hydra.”
It has since been revealed that Red Skull used Kobik to turn Roger’s memory inside out. In his new recollection of events, Cap remembers learning Hydra’s ideals as a child in a special school. He also remembers befriending a young Helmut Zemo.
In his head, Rogers returned to the United States and then became the first Super Soldier. It was perfect cover for Hydra’s ultimate spy.
Baron Zemo Steals The Show
Captain America: Steve Rogers #13 spends most of the chapter developing Baron Zemo’s character. In the buildup to Secret Empire, Nick Spencer delivers a fuller picture of just how highly Cap regards his friendship with Baron Zemo. Rogers will go so far as to stand between Bucky and Zemo in the middle of a firefight to keep them both alive.
The flashback sequence teases a bigger conflict between Barnes and Zemo in the upcoming Secret Empire. A forced decision with mortal consequences between his two best friends could be the trigger that snaps Cap out of the fugue he’s been living in. We can hope, anyway.
While this chapter is heavy on exposition, there are a few dynamic action scenes. The artwork is fantastic throughout. Baron Zemo’s arrogant indifference is telegraphed brilliantly, despite being a masked character.
It’s hard to tell where the pencils of Ro Stein leave off and Ted Brandt’s begin. There is one sequence in particular that has four pages, sixteen panels, and zero dialogue. The artwork tells the entire story, and the reader has no difficulty following along.
America Chavez has been a standout member of the Young Avengers and The Ultimates. Now she’s taking center stage in her first solo ongoing series–America. Fans will not be disappointed as she retains all the attitude and strength that made her so popular.
America #1kicks things off with The Ultimates in battle before the teen hero heads off for her first day at college. She’s a super-powered Avenger from another reality, but she still needs to get an education.
America is enrolled at Sotomayor University. But this campus is a little different. There are Magic/Mutant Power Test Zones and a department devoted to Radical Women and Intergalactic Indigenous Peoples. At school, America reunites with former Young Avenger, Prodigy. And she also runs afoul of Professor Douglas, who teaches “Intergalactic Revolutionaries and You.”
Digging into America
America #1 is a lot of fun. There’s a lot of story potential seeing America in a normal college environment. This gives writer Gabby Rivera the opportunity to dig deeper in America’s character. Separated from a group dynamic, America’s relationship problems and her struggle to overcome the death of her mother are highlighted. She’s also been separated from her best friend Kate Bishop, who’s off in LA solving crimes in her own book–Hawkeye.
This series continues Marvel’s recent move of focusing on younger female characters. Although the story is fun and fast-paced, it’s also a coming of age tale. America has much to learn about being a superhero.
Marvel readers, both new and old, are sure to enjoy America’s journey. Plus, there’s a twist in the final pages that promises exciting things for future issues.
Comic book movies are big business. Marvel’s The Avengers made $623 million at the box office. DC’s The Dark Knight made $534 million worldwide. It should come as no surprise that Hollywood execs look to the pages of popular comics for inspiration.
More films than you might think began life as comic books/graphic novels. Some are obvious comic book adaptations, like the Marvel Cinematic Universe and DC’s Extended Universe. Others, you wouldn’t know without having first been exposed to the printed source material.
In 1994, New Line Cinema turned Dark Horse’s The Mask into a film starring Jim Carrey. The premise of the film is simple. A lovable loser name Stanley Ipkiss finds a green mask. When he dons the jade mask, he gains extraordinary powers including shape-shifting, superhuman strength, and near invulnerability.
It’s Party Time! P! A! R! T! Y? Because I Gotta!
Along with the physical changes, Stanley undergoes a shift in personality. The mask takes away his inhibitions and pumps his Id into overdrive. He becomes a benevolent, mischievous sort of superhero. In the film, Ipkiss’ alter ego is referred to as The Mask. The backstory given is that the mask is a depiction of Loki, Norse god and trickster.
In the end of the film, Stanley gets the girl and ditches the mask in the river. The story ends up being a classic happily ever after, because Hollywood.
The comic book source material is much darker. “Big Head,” as The Mask’s main character is known in the early books, is based off black comedy characters like The Joker, The Creeper, and Mr. Hyde of Jekyl and Hyde. The movie is rated PG-13 for “stylized violence.” The comic is rated 14+ for comedic ultra-violence.
Don’t Put It On! Don’t Ever Put It On!!
“It doesn’t matter who you are. Once you put on the mask, you’re a homicidal lunatic with a bad taste for bad jokes and seriously deranged violence. And nothing–but nothing–can kill you!”
The comic book Ipkiss is a weak and neurotic character. He purchases the jade mask as an apology gift for his girlfriend. After the mask begins speaking to him, Ipkiss tries it on and transforms into Big Head. Stanley goes on a brutal killing spree, targeting people he believes have wronged him.
His nocturnal expeditions begin to take a toll on Ipkiss. He becomes verbally abusive to his girlfriend Kathy and she throws him out. Stanley breaks into her apartment and steals the mask, which she has kept. Technically, it belongs to her.
Later in the story, Kathy will shoot Stanley and take the mask, becoming the second Big Head. Later still, Lieutenant Kellaway will don the mask and become the third Big Head. After Kellaway, there are a string of other Big Heads. The mask itself is the character, regardless who is wearing it.
Which is Better?
Jim Carrey was an excellent choice to portray Ipkiss/Big Head/The Mask in the film adaptation. Many of the practical effects were created solely with prosthetics and Carrey’s ability to effortlessly twist his face inside out. The more spectacular effects were done with CGI that was cutting edge at the time the film was released. The CGI effects have aged, but not as badly as some of the other films from the same era.
With that being said, there are no restrictions on comic book effects. There are no budgetary constraints. There are no limits on how many explosions a sequence can have or how gory a sequence can be. There’s no struggle between using hokey practical effects or digital effects that look cool today, but may look awful in ten years. Technological advances in home entertainment are rarely kind to older effects.
The toned down horror elements in the movie allowed a larger audience to be exposed to the story. The movie evolved into a sort of violent comedy rather than a funny horror story. There are several scenes in the comic where Big Head appears to be wearing the skin of his victims as disguises. It’s hard to imagine Jim Carrey pulling off an Otis B. Driftwood (From The Devil’s Reject) on the silver screen.
Mediums are not Equal
Comparing mediums is difficult when talking about a movie adaptation of a comic. Fans who have read the book prior to seeing the film may be disappointed that their favorite scenes were condensed, changed, or simply omitted entirely. People who buy the book after seeing the film may be surprised by the darker tone and the hyped up violence.
It simply boils down to this: Movies aren’t books. It just isn’t possible to translate some material from graphic novel to live action. Conversely some of the material works better on screen than on the page.
So, the book is better. The book is always better. Except when it isn’t. But in the case of The Mask, the book is the winner.
Any well-written Rocket Raccoon book is going to have more great one-liners and quips than can be packed into a concise review. But here are some examples from writer Matthew Rosenberg in Rocket Raccoon #3.
“I’m one of the X-Men…Avengers! I meant I’m one of the Avengers!”
“I know I’m not the first guy to ride this boat in his underwear, so you can all take a walk.”
“Who are you talking to buddy?” “I’m monologuing.” “Oh, OK.”
These are just a few of the humorous lines that should get you hooked. But if it’s not enough, there’s plenty more to put you over the top as the smallest of the Guardians of the Galaxy takes on a big adversary.
Let the Hunting Begin!
In Rocket Raccoon #3, Rocket has been stranded on Earth after the Guardians of the Galaxy’s spaceship was destroyed in Civil War II. Then there’s the appearance of Kraven the Hunter. He’s spearheading–literally–an alien hunting contest and has set his sights squarely on the heroic Rocket.
Jorge Coelho’s art is the cherry on top of this action-packed issue. The first page displays the hunter in all his glory. “You’re going to believe the guy wearing an animal’s face and yoga pants over me?” Rocket complains to the cops. And a hilarious scene featuring Kraven’s 80’s-era party van–complete with his likeness atop a horse. There’s also Rocket running around New York in nothing more than jockey shorts to complete the story’s appeal.
This issue is a cliffhanger that will keep even the casual reader coming back for more.
When the gods are fighting each other, ’tis best to get out of their way. That is Thor’s current predicament in Mighty Thor#16.
The thunder goddess was previously kidnapped and delivered to the Shi’ar gods Sharra and K’ythri. Wanting to flaunt their dominance over their Norse rival, the pair challenges Thor to a contest. While Thor has no interest in these godly games, the Shi’ar threaten to destroy Earth, leaving the goddess little choice.
Writer Jason Aaron deftly handles the divine dialogue among the three through a combination of highbrow philosophy with some lowbrow humor thrown in. “So begins the kicking of thine hindquarters,” Thor says at one point. But Aaron’s words break new ground for a comic book series as Mighty Thor wrestles with the nature of being a god.
Not All Gods are Equal
The Shi’ar gods have little regard for their worshippers. They are merely pawns in a game. Thor knows about suffering all too well, as her alter ego Jane Foster is dying of cancer. She risks her life to defend the people Sharra and K’ythri put into harm’s way because it’s the right thing to do–even though they don’t pay tribute to her.
Artist Russell Dauterman and colorist Matthew Wilson make a great tag team. There are magnificent close-up battles from Dauterman. And Wilson clearly delineates the many worlds we visit in this issue, from the pastels of the Shi’ar’s M’Kraan Palace to the earth tones of the Asgardian throne room to the blackness of deep space.
But it’s the richness of the characters–particularly the female ones in Thor and Sif–that make the story special. Thor’s quest to accept the burden of being a god–and to cure herself–make the series worth following.
Young biochemist Ted Sallis was working in the Everglades as part of a secret team, known as Project: Gladiator. The team’s mission was to recreate the Super-Soldier Serum that gave Captain AmericaSteve Rogers his abilities.
Dr. Sallis breached protocol on the site by allowing his lover, Ellen Brandt, to accompany him in the lab. When Sallis discovered his girlfriend was a double agent who had sold him out, he destroyed his written notes. He had the formula memorized, but there was only one existing vial of completed serum.
Fleeing with the vial of serum, Dr. Sallis was ambushed by Brandt and a couple thugs. In a desperate attempt to save his own life, Sallis injected himself with the serum. Unfortunately, before the serum took effect, he crashed his car into the swamp.
Bursting from the car and rising from the soupy muck, he emerged as Man-Thing.
Man-Thing is a creature composed of plant matter and has superhuman strength and stamina. It is able to sense human emotion and interact with humans, but lacks human sentience.
R.L. Stine (Goosebumps, Fear Street) uses Man-Thing #1 to expand on a concept that was first touched on in What If? #26 (April 1981). What if the Man-Thing had regained Ted Sallis’ brain?
Man-Thing’s Past Comes Back To Haunt Him
The five-part miniseries opens on a movie set where Man-Thing is starring in a science fiction action film. The Man-Monster has recovered his ability to speak and has the intelligence and memory of Dr. Sallis.
When he’s fired from the set of the movie, sentient Man-Thing struggles (literally) against his animal self. He has to decide whether to return to the swamp or try to make things work in the city. Unfortunately, it’s not easy for a ten-foot tall vegetable with superhuman strength and a Ph.D. to fit in.