Upcoming: Michael Cho Variant Covers for February 2016


I really like Michael Cho‘s artwork — from his comics work to his Back Alleys and Urban Landscapes book, I love his style. The book, a collection of paintings of alleys and streets around Toronto, lives on a shelf by my desk so I can always flip through it easily.

Anyway… In February 2016, Marvel will publish 24 of his variants, across their range of titles. Above and below you can see my favourites from the covers already unveiled.


Upcoming: Gwen Stacy is Spider-Woman…

… this time, without gratuitous, ridiculous butt-graphics on the cover. In Edge of Spider-Verse #2, an alternative Marvel universe’s Gwen Stacy is New York’s spider-bitten protector. I don’t have a huge amount of interest in what is becoming an ever-more-complex web of Spider-Man-related series,* but the artwork by Robbi Rodriguez caught my eye. First, here’s the cover…


And second, a pair of interior pages. I rather like the hoody-outfit Stacy wears, and Rodriguez’s overall aesthetic and style is really interesting and eye-catching (I have no idea if there’s a proper term for this approach, so I won’t attempt to make one up)…


Edge of Spider-Verse #2 is due to be published September 17th, 2014.

* Seriously, Marvel – not everything has to be cross-pollinated and crossed-over. It’s really damned annoying. Not to mention expensive. (OH! Of course! That’s why you do it…)

Scarlet Spider, Vol.1 – “Life After Death” (Marvel)

ScarletSpider-Vol.1Writer: Chris Yost | Artist: Ryan Stegman (#1-4, #6), Neil Edwards (#5) | Inks: Michael Babinski (#1-4), Von Grawbadger (#3), Karl Kesel (#5) | Colors: Marte Gracia (1-2) Andre Mossa (#3) Edgar Delgado (#4-6)

Spinning out of Spider-Island, The secrets of the Brand New Scarlet Spider revealed! Who is the new webbed wonder – and why has he come to face corruption in Houston, Texas?

Collects: Scarlet Spider #1-6

I read a short Scarlet Spider story in a random Marvel Point One issue I picked up on Free Comic Book Day in 2012. I rather liked it, but have only just got around to trying out more of the series. And, I must say, I really enjoyed this. Definitely a series to check out if you want an edgier character in the Spider-Man universe.

At the start of this book, Kaine (who, for those not in the know, is a clone of Peter Parker) is in Houston, and he stumbles across a human trafficking operation. He deals with the criminals, but all of the people in the shipping container are dead. Except for one girl, who takes to the hospital.


Carpet of spiders!!

The first two chapters of the book deal with this case (some, big, flame-wreathed dude comes after the survivor… As can happen in super-hero circles…), and also Kaine’s introduction to Houston. We learn of his tendency to do good when all he wants to do is run away, to escape across the border and buy a beach or something (he doesn’t have everything sorted). I thoroughly enjoyed this intro, and I liked the clear differences that are developing between this series and any of the other Spider-Man titles I’ve tried thus far. And I think Houston’s going to be a cool location (being used to New York, it’s pretty funny when he runs out of skyscrapers, when webbing along…).


That’s gotta hurt…

In the third chapter and beyond we really start to see Kaine’s very different methodology to Peter Parker (see above – yes, he’s holding the perp by his face…). But, there are also some nice parallels between this series and the Spider-Man structure: for example, Kaine meets his own fiery red-head, Annabelle Adams, the barmaid of the hotel Kaine’s living in (remember the thing at the start, when he beat up some human traffickers? Yeah, well he “found” a lot of cash… Wonder if they’ll sustain this, and how…). I liked Annabelle immediately. She joins the group of people who know what he’s up to, including the doc from the hospital, Meland, and his husband (who’s a cop). It was pretty nice to see Kaine’s good side warring with his tendency to want to beat the crap out of people…

Oh, and to make things really awkward, the Guild of Assassins gets involved, as they’ve been chasing Kaine for quite some time. To begin with, I have no clue what was going on, but luckily, chapter four offers a brief catch-up that will give new readers everything they need.


One thing that really stood out for me is the interesting set of powers Kaine has: razor-sharp claws (he shaves with them…), webs, but no Spidey-Sense, and a type of cloaking ability I didn’t quite understand. Then in chapter five he has big fuck-off claws/spikes that extend out of his wrists… In the same chapter, we learn he can also talk to spiders… To find dirty bombs hidden in Houston… Silly, but very awesome.

The final chapter doesn’t tie things up so much as give us hints for so much more cool stuff that is still to come in the series.


Ultimately, despite this not being my most in-depth review, I really enjoyed this book. There’s lots of action, the creation of a new setting (for the character/genre – Houston’s obviously real… No, really!), Yost injects a good and dry humour (sometimes rather dark), and there’s a lot of solid story. Throughout, the artwork’s sharp, with only a couple of strange panels or character contortions.

Scarlet Spider is definitely recommended. As soon as the next few issues are cheaper on comiXology, I’ll be picking up more of this series. (What? I’m a geek on a budget!) I’m also going to try out Venom next, as I continue exploring the extended Spidey-world…


Original issue covers


Variants for #1 (x2) and #4 – I really like that one on the right.

Amazing Spider-Man: “Died In Your Arms Tonight” (Marvel)

AmazingSpiderMan-600-ArtWriters: Dan Slott, Stan Lee, Mark Waid, Bob Gale | Artists: John Romita, Jr., Marcos Martin, Colleen Doran, Mario Alberti | Inks: Klaus Janson | Colors: Dean White, Jose Villarrubia, Javier Rodriguez

The return of Doctor Octopus, Daredevil, a wedding you never predicted, and the return of one of the most important people in Peter Parker’s life. Doc’s back in town, but it’s only a prelude to darker days ahead as Spidey unknowingly prepares for a gauntlet he can’t predict. Also, several short features showcase some rarely-explored aspects of both Spidey and Peter’s life. And, finally, the second most important wedding day of Peter Parker’s life.

Collects: Amazing Spider-Man #600-601, Amazing Spider-Man Annual #36,
& material from Amazing Spider-Man Family #7

The book is rather uneven. It’s bitty, highly episodic, and the tone veers all over the place, dependent on the writer. The humour works at times, but at others it feels like it is trying so hard, it’s difficult to like it at all (imagine the quippiness of Gilmore Girls, but with a wall-crawling super-hero). It took longer than I expected to read all of this, as I just couldn’t get sucked in. It is not, however, without its moments. Thankfully, the book improved, once we got beyond the first, mammoth issue.

First up, let me just deal with the “Spider-Man Covers You’ll Never See!” features, which are sprinkled throughout the book. They’re crap, and pointless. Moving on…

AmazingSpiderMan-600Issue #600 of Amazing Spider-Man is 101 pages long, including the cover and back-matter/extras (I was reading this via the comiXology app), and man did it drag at times. I’m not wholly new to Spider-Man or the characters that surround him. I’ve read a number of issues from all over the series chronology, as well as other Spidey series. So I wasn’t exactly lost while reading this, but there were times when I just wondered why the hell I should care at all.


Writer: Dan Slott | Art: John Romita, Jr. | Inks: Klaus Kanson | Colors: Dean White

In this story, Spidey’s incessant quipping was frankly exhausting. Maybe 10% of the comments, retorts and jokes were enough to raise a smile. That is certainly not a success rate that one might expect from such a popular series. Doctor Octopus is a complete cartoon, and his dialogue is just awful and cliché, and had me cringing on almost every page. I was very disappointed. The story dragged, the wedding stuff preparations and Spidey’s ongoing conflict with Mayor Jameson were simply tedious. I’ve read some later Spider-Man stuff written by Slott, and it’s clear to me that he got much better over time, as he became more comfortable with the characters. Given what I know about Superior Spider-Man, and the end of Amazing Spider-Man (issue #700), I can see some foreshadowing.



Writer: Stan Lee | Art: Marcos Martin | Colors: Javier Rodriguez

In this first back-up-style story, Spidey has visited a shrink. He reflects on his many, many years of adventures. The writing was a little weak, but the premise was strong: Spider-Man basically goes through all the (very) weird events and experiences that have happened over the course of the 600 issues of the series to this point. There’s a nice, knowing nod and a wink regarding the comics industry’s tendency to upend the lives of their various characters, not to mention ret-conning, poor artistic and narrative decisions, and other things like that. It was amusing, but I do think it could have been better, if written by someone else.


Writer: Mark Waid | Art: Colleen Doran | Colors: Jose Villarrubia

This short tale is told from the perspective of Uncle Ben. He’s reflecting on his insecurities about raising Peter, after the death of his father. We see how much he worries about his nephew, how much he misses his brother. It builds nicely, and eventually Ben and Peter confront his concerns. It’s calm, not at all melodramatic. And it is actually a wonderful, moving story. Superb.


Writer: Bob Gale | Artist: Mario Alberti

This story has slightly rougher artwork than the previous stories, but it is a fun story of kids philosophizing (as they are wont to do) about how they would “be” Spider-Man, if they got the chance. They go through all of the things that would be so cool, and the ways in which they’d use their powers for celebrity and other selfish purposes. But then move on to the concerns they have.

“It’s just WRONG — that Spider-Man is cool, but BEING Spider-Man isn’t cool. That’s, like, so totally messed up.”

Tell me about it, thinks Peter Parker, as he wanders past…


Writer: Marc Guggenheim | Artist: Mitch Breitweiser | Colors: Elizabeth Breitweiser

Aunt May, pre-wedding to Jameson Snr., is visiting Uncle Ben’s grave. She talks to him, going over her various fears, her worry that she might appear to be replacing Ben. It’s a short diversion. Sweet story, interesting art style, but thin and ruined by a silly, schmaltzy ending.


Writer: Zeb Wells | Artist: Derec Donovan | Colors: Antonio Fabella

Wells is also the author of the first few issues of the awesome Avenging Spider-Man. However, this is just another quick jolt of making fun of past bad decisions (the Spider Mobile, in this case). It’s fine, but too short to really do anything beyond make long-time fans chuckle. (In itself, no bad thing, it’s true.)


By: Kelly, Fiumara, Chuckry & VC’s Caramagna

This was a very dark and very cool short: it’s clearly a prologue, of sorts, for “The Gauntlet” storyline, which ran from #6??-#6?? (and was collected into five books). I’m quite intrigued by this upcoming story, now, I must say. I had been cool on this whole series (despite picking up the first two collections from #600) at this point, but this short certainly made me sit up and take note.


AmazingSpiderMan-601Writer: Mark Waid | Artist: Mario Alberti | Colors: Andres Mossa

Which brings us, after waaay too long, to issue #601. This one features a famous cover – of Mary Jane Watson, sitting suggestively on the couch, breasts pressed together, as Spidey swings off out the window. I have a feeling someone recreated this at some point, perhaps the guy behind Collectors…?

This issue finally picks up the main story from the end of #600. Mary Jane Watson has returned to New York, which has distracted Peter no end. It kicks off the morning after the wedding, with Peter waking up, very hung-over. He turns over, and sees a woman in his bed, who he believes is MJ. Unfortunately for Peter, it’s not his former flame. Michelle (his not-exactly-platonic-anymore roommate) is especially pissed after Peter calls her “MJ”. Naturally: “You’re the reason there’s a waiting period on handguns!” she screams at him.


The issue had a lot of talk about economic downturn and hard economic and employment times (the issue was published in 2010, so that’s not surprising).


Writer: Brian Michael Bendis | Artist: Joe Quesada | Colors: Morry Hollowell

This was another pretty cool back-up story: Spidey drops in on Luke Cage’s wife, Jessica Jones, and their baby daughter (she used to be a super-hero, apparently). They talk about Jones’s memories of the first time she ever saw Spider-Man, and how much of an impact it had on her own career as a super-powered-person. Spider-Man convinces her that the best way for her to instill the idea of “With great power comes great responsibility” is to show her the best side of herself, rather than to just tell her. (This story continues in New Avengers, apparently.)


AmazingSpiderMan-Annual-36And last, but by no means least, we get to Annual #36.

Writer: Marc Guggenheim | Artist: Pat Oliffe | Inks: Pat Oliffe & Andy Lanning | Colors: Antonio Fabela

The whole Parker and Jameson wedding party has schlepped up to Boston for a special dinner. This, sadly, meant that a lot of the issue was written in a “Bahstin” accent. Rookie, bad writer mistake. It was fine for one or two speech bubbles, but after that, it quickly got old and annoying (not to mention inconsistent). Mid-way through the dinner, some crazy dude called “Raptor” interrupts Peter in the bathroom (uncool), and just starts wailing on him. It turns out, Raptor believes Peter is Ben Reilly – Peter’s clone from a long-running Spider-Man story-arc, The Ben Reilly Epic. There’s more to come from this story, later in the series, and I’ll be interested to see how it unfolds.


I think the annual should have been placed at the start of the book: chronologically, it would’ve made far more sense, being set before the wedding. It’s not a bad way to finish a book, though. Despite the “Bahstin” accents…


So, overall, this book is very hit-and-miss. It’s long, but the first issue makes it feel so much longer. There are moments of excellent story-telling; but there are also swathes of dull, drawn-out and boring sections. If you want to start on Amazing Spider-Man, then there may be a better point either earlier or later in the series. I’ll be investigating later collections (I have already read the follow up to this book, Red-Headed Stranger), so I might be able to give new readers a suggestion for a better starting-point.

The Ultimate Avenging Spider-Men Review (Marvel)


I’ve been doing a fair bit of comics-reading the past couple of weeks, but I haven’t been reviewing much. Therefore, I’ve decided to clump some of them together. This time, as the title may suggest, I deal with some Spider-Man series: Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man Vol.2, Spider-Men and Avenging Spider-Man Vol.1. A mixed bag, but overall some good stuff on offer for fans both new and old.

Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man Vol.2, “Scorpion”

UC-SpiderMan-Vol.2Writer: Brian Michael Bendis | Artist: Chris Samnee (#6-7), Sara Pichelli (#8-9) & David Marquez (#10) | Colors: Justin Ponsor

A brand new chapter in the saga of Miles Morales, the all-new Ultimate Spider-Man! The new Ultimate Scorpion is introduced! Still discovering the limits of his skills and powers, Miles must learn how to be a hero from… Peter Parker?

Collects: Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man #6-10

In this second volume of the post-Peter Parker Ultimate Universe, Miles Morales is still figuring out how to actually be the new Spider-Man. He’s had the nod from the Ultimates, who also gave him a pretty cool new outfit (something he realises needs washing a lot).


The main thrust of this book is his continued exploration of his powers, as well as his continued struggle to juggle his normal life (at a boarding school) and his family life. Mostly, though, he seems to be having a blast, figuring out his limits.

His uncle Aaron, though, has guessed what’s going on and what has happened to Miles, and has decided to make himself a part of Miles’s life, and isn’t above blackmailing him. Miles must also face off against the Scorpion, a crazed criminal boss from Mexico, who has come to New York seeking out Aaron for retribution. It’s not pretty, but there is a ton of action.

Perhaps too much action, actually. I think more time could have been spent on Miles and his attempts to balance his life as a school kid and son, and being Spider-Man. There is some of this, of course, and that includes lots of nice touches – this is a a modernized version of the Spidey origin story, basically: he’s at a special boarding school, has a smart phone, and so on. It’s quite well done. I like his parents, too – they feel very natural, dealing with a young teenager going through his own… Issues.


The artwork in final issue is my probably my favourite, but I also have a soft-spot for Pichelli’s.

Generally speaking, a good follow up to the first collection, and this continues to be a series I look forward to continuing with.




Spider-Men-TPBWriter: Brian Michael Bendis | Artist: Sarah Pichelli | Colors: Justin Ponsor

It’s the ULTIMATE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN EVENT OF THE YEAR, as Spider-Man comes face-to-face with… Spider-Man! Can even Peter Parker and Miles Morales – the Spider-Men of two worlds – defeat Mysterio, the Master of Illusions? And what happens when Miles encounters an older, wiser version of his inspiration, Peter Parker? Guest starring Nick Fury and the Ultimates!

Collects: Spider-Men #1-5

Overall, this isn’t a bad comic. I do think it’s a little too gimmicky, though. Given how much Spider-Man and Peter Parker history it goes over, I think it may probably only be a must for real Spidey-fans, who are familiar with the long back-story of the various Spider-Man related series (as well as Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man pre- and post-Death of Spider-Man story arc). I knew some of it, of course, but I don’t think it had as much effect on me as it could have if I’d read a whole bunch of Spider-Man comics.


I chuckled a few times, as there are some moments when the two Spider-Men are getting familiar with each other, and as other people get used to the idea of Peter Parker, grown-up, back in their lives (even if temporarily).


Mainly, though, I enjoyed the artwork: Pichelli is a superb artist, in my opinion; able to keep things fresh and bright, filled with nice details and small touches throughout to keep us looking at the panels. Bendis’s story isn’t bad, either, but… Well, I’ve read much better Spidey stories.

This was, ultimately, a novelty and sadly a tad thin in the end. One for die-hard Spidery fans, but perhaps that’s it.



Avenging Spider-Man Vol.1, “My Friends Can Beat Up Your Friends”

AvengingSpiderMan-Vol.1-TPBWriter: Zeb Wells | Artist: Joe Madureira (#1-3), Greg Land (#4), Leinil Francis Yu (#5) | Colors: Ferran Daniel (#1-3), Wil Quintana (#4), Sunny Gho (#5) | Inks: Jay Leisten (#4), Gerry Alanguilan (#5)

A brand new Spider-series that teams the wall-crawler with some of the greatest heroes in the Marvel Universe! Spider-Man and new Avengers teammate Red Hulk kick things off by taking on a Moloid army during the New York Marathon. Spidey and Rulk raise and lead an underground army in this action packed extravaganza – but when Red Hulk falls, only Spider-Man stands in the way of the Subterranean invasion of Manhattan!

Saving the best for last, we move on to Avenging Spider-Man. This series was always meant to be one that focused on team-up stories. The first three chapters feature Spidery’s quite hilarious team-up with Red Hulk (and, in a way, Mayor Jonah Jamieson); the fourth is with Hawkeye, offering quite an amusing intro for the marksman; and the fifth is a surprisingly heart-warming story featuring Captain America.


The Red Hulk issues had me laughing out loud a couple of times. It’s filled with amusing quips, asides, background details and more that had me at least smiling all the way through. There story is pretty crazy, featuring a lot of bizarre underground shenanigans, as the Moleman and his little goblin-esque minions capture the Mayor during the start of the New York City Marathon. All is not as it seems, however, as something else – something bigger – has been pulling the strings, and wishes to come in and taken over the land above and below. A great introductory story-arc for this series.


In chapter four, Hawkeye is pretty arrogant. I haven’t had much experience with this character beyond the Avengers Assemble movie, and a few other issues here-and-there, in which he is part of a larger ensemble cast or peripheral at best. The issue starts as a simple team-up, with Spider-Man having to suffer Hawkeye’s constant bragging and posturing (as well as a moment of honest vulnerability as he explains why he is constantly training) as they are sent on a mission. It morphs, however, into a very good ending, in which Spidey shows readers why many consider him the heart of the Avengers team. (I thought it was very touching, actually.)

The final issue is a heart-warming story with the Avengers, but really focuses on Spidey’s relationship with Captain America. Again, we’re shown the role Spider-Man plays as team mascot and heart. Peter helps Cap loosen up and remember (fondly) some of the more nerdy interests and passions of his youth. This was a really good issue, with some good action-scenes, but what really made it for me were the sweet and endearing final couple of pages.

The issue marries some very good, zany humor with a good amount of depth. It’s not too nuanced, but there’s an obvious love for the characters and medium on display throughout this book. I think it works really well, actually, making this not only a a great Spider-Man series, but great series overall. I’m really happy I picked it up.

(The sixth issue of the series is a tie-in to the “Omega Drive” storyline that was also in Greg Rucka’s The Punisher and Mark Waid’s Daredevil – which is how I came across Avenging Spider-Man in the first place.)