Adam Graham's Blog: Christians and Superheroes

July 18, 2018

The Amazing Spider-Man: Origin of the HobgoblinThe Amazing Spider-Man: Origin of the Hobgoblin by Roger Stern

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book collects the earliest appearances of Roderick Kingsley and the Hobgoblin in Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-man Issues 43, 47,48 and 85 and Amazing Spider-man 238, 239, 244, 245 and 249-251.

Thoughts on the individual issues:

(PPSS #43, 47, and 48): A crime story with Spidey hunting down the villainess Bella Donna. It's got a Noir bent to it as Peter tries to stop him. We meet Roderick Kingsley who seems unlikely to emerge as a supervillain, but we learn, he's selfish, cowardly, and absolutely ruthless in pursuit of what he wants. Enjoyable, though not essential to understanding the Goblin.

(AS #238 and 239): In a situation that has some parallels to the death of Uncle Ben, Spidey catches three of four bank robbers but decides not to chase after the fourth for fear that he'll get lost in the sewer and him wanting to retrieve his film. Unfortunately, this leads to the hood discovering Norman Osborn's stockpiles of Goblin supplies and going to a man in the shadows and telling him about it and that man becomes the Hobgoblin and Peter has some responsibility for it. We also get the first battle between Spidey and the Hobgoblin, and though the Goblin gets away he learns you need more than a creepy costume if you're going toe to toe with Spider-man. Peter is left to wonder whether Hobgoblin knows his secret identity.

(AS #244 and 245): A somewhat ho-hum robbery with Spider-man catching the bad guys takes on a whole new level danger when it's revealed Hobgoblin's involved and plans use stolen information from Osborn Manufacturing to make himself stronger. Has a nice fake-out cover for Issue #245 as it looks like the identity of Hobgoblin will be revealed. Even though what happens on the cover actually happens in the book, we don't get what readers thought they would get when they picked up the book..

(PPSS #85):After framing and killing a hood as Hobgoblin, Hobgoblin has created a formula to make himself stronger. The book features that, but is more about trying to show the challenge in the love affair between Black Cat and Spidey as Cat wants to be part of Spidey's Adventures but Spidey is worried about her being hurt, leading to a confrontation with Hobgoblin where they spaz a lot. Really could have been any villain. Kind of dubious step by writer Bill Mantlo (only issue in this book not written by Roger Stern) though there's a legitimate point about the problem in their relationship that he was trying to raise. I'll talk about that in a review of their larger ark in PPSS one day.

(AS #249-251): Hobgoblin decides to take advantage of Norman Osborne's file to blackmail members of a club to which Harry Osborn, Wilson Fisk, and J. Jonah Jameson belong to. For Harry, the blackmail centers around revealing the truth about his dad. For Jonah, the blackmail comes down to Norman's knowledge about Jameson being involved in the creation of the Scorpion. There are things to nitpick such as it not making much sense for Hobgoblin to pursue blackmail as his first big crime after so much fighting and building up muscle. What there is to like about this is everything else. We have Kingpin saving Spider-man, and we have one of Spidey's greatest fights ever on Hobgoblin's battle van without his Spider-sense. In addition, the story puts J. Jonah Jameson at a crossroads and finally has to make a decision about facing the consequences about some of his shennanigans in pursuit of Spidey, and you have Spidey rightly calling him on the carpet. It's three really great issues that are the crown jewel of the book. It also includes the 250th Issue (cheekily advertised on the cover as a normal sized 250th issue.)

Overall, these showcase some really good work by Roger Stern, along with a below part issue by Bill Mantlo before delivering a stunning finale. Great read for fans of Spidey and the Hobgoblin.

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Published on July 18, 2018 19:43 • 13 views • Tags: hobgoblin, spider-man

July 15, 2018

Essential Amazing Spider-Man, Vol. 11Essential Amazing Spider-Man, Vol. 11 by Roger Stern

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book collects Issues 231-248 of Amazing Spider-man, along with Annuals 16 and 17. An overview of the issues.

AS #231 and #232: A solid Cobra and Hyde story. Rating: B+

AS #233-236: The story involes the Brand Corporation, includes Will o' the Wisp and the Tarantual. Rating: A-

AS #237: Stiltman wants respect and to seriously upgrade his supervillain status. Nice character piece. Grade: B+

AS Annual #16: This introduces Monica Rambeau as the new Captain Marvel. Spidey becomes a guest character in his own book. Monica's story is okay and introduces a black female Captain Marvel, but this is probably now how you do that well. Grade: C+

AS #238-239: The story introduces the Hobgoblin and also draws some parallels to the death of Uncle Ben. Good start. Grade: A-

AS #240-241: The Vulture returns and we finally get an origin story that actually makes him somewhat sympathetic. Grade: A-

AS #242: A ho-hum fight with the Mad-Thinker highlights an issue that focuses on Peter Parker's life. Ends with Amy Powell giving him an unwanted kiss, just as Mary Jane Watson comes walk into his apartment. Grade: C+

AS #243: A better character-driven piece as Peter debates whether he should continue in post-grad school. Well-done debate as he weights all options and makes a tough decision. Well-written. Grade: B+

AS #244-#245: A somewhat hu-hum robbery with Spider-man catching the bad guys takes on a whole new level danger when it's revealed Hobgoblin's involved and plans use to stolen information from Osborn Manufacturing to make himself stronge. Has a nice fake-out cover for Issue #245. Rating: B+

AS #246: Learn everyone's Daydreams. Not a whole of surprises, Felicia Hardy's is pretty funny.
Provides s0me character insights. Grade: B-

#247-248a: Spider-man tries to stop a robbbery. Has to fight Thunderball. Hard to care too much this one. Grade: C-

#248b: The Kid Who Collected Spider-man. A tearrific story as Spidey tells all to a kid. A classic Rating: A-

Annual 17: At his high school reunion, Peter finds a classmate who's an up and coming writer who is in trouble with the underworld and tries to help. A very noirish story, hurt a little by a self-righteous ending. Grade: B

Overall, this is a solid read from a good run. Whether Roger Stern's run is the equal of the great runs from the 1960s is another matter, but this book is not only enjoyable in its own right, but contains issues that set the pace for Spidey books for years to come. I only wish Issues 249-251 had been collected, so we could have all of the early Hobgoblin stories in the same book. Still, it contains some very exiciting and fun Spidey comics. Definitely worth a read.

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Published on July 15, 2018 23:23 • 35 views • Tags: 1980s, spider-man

July 14, 2018

Batman: Detective Comics, Vol. 5: A Lonely Place of LivingBatman: Detective Comics, Vol. 5: A Lonely Place of Living by James Tynion IV

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book collects Issues 963-968 of Detective Comics and contains two arcs.

The first four-issue arc is about the return of Tim Drake who doesn't have much time to save a member of the team from the Batman of the future--Tim Drake. This one is a decent return. The story is something we've seen before (most recently in the New 52 Flash, but I liked what was done here and how it reflected the spirit of Tim Drake so well.

The second two-issue arc has two storylines going and is set before the events of the first arc which were dictated what was happening with Mr. Oz in Action Comics. At any rate, Stephanie Brown is going deeper into the world of Anarky while an attempt is being made to cure Clayface. Both stories were pretty good, though I liked the Stephanie Brown story better as she came to some realization about herself that were overdue.

Overall, I enjoyed the book and thought it made strides after a couple volumes I found disappointing.

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Published on July 14, 2018 06:23 • 45 views • Tags: batman, dc-rebirth, detective-comics

July 3, 2018

Green Lanterns Vol. 5: Out of TimeGreen Lanterns Vol. 5: Out of Time by Sam Humphries

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Sam Humphries great run on Green Lanterns wraps up with this volume that collects Issues 27-32 of Green Lanterns.

The five-issue story Out of Time is a great finale for Humphries. It manages to deal with a lot of big ongoing plot threads that have been in the book since its second volume. It also serves as a nice capstone to the character arcs for both Simon Baz and Jessica Cruz.

The single story House Party is a simple story but a lot of fun. It addresses Simon's issue with his estranged best friend while serving as yet another good character piece for these two great Lanterns.

Overall, this is a very good conclusion to Sam Humphries time as the writer of Green Lanterns. Both the characterization and art remained consistently good throughout the series. I'd never heard of these two before reading Humphries run and he's given these characters a great life and made them relatatable to readers. Here's hoping the new writer can build on that strong start.

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Published on July 03, 2018 22:21 • 43 views • Tags: dc-rebirth, green-lanterns

July 2, 2018

Daredevil: Back in Black, Volume 2: SupersonicDaredevil: Back in Black, Volume 2: Supersonic by Charles Soule

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book collects Issues 6-9 of Daredevil as well as Annual #1.

Issues 6 and 7 find Daredevil going to meet Elektra and Elektra trying to kill him for a very personal reason. It's a Noirish story with a good twist.

Issues 8 and 9 are Blind Man's Bluff, which finds Matt Murdoch playing poker incognito in Issue 7 leading to a team up with Spider-man in Issue 8. This story had some interesting ideas and a lot of fun, but also some fairly dumb plotholes.

The Annual contains a kind of mediocre story involving Echo and a pretty bad one involving Gladiator.

This book isn't bad and there's some great art in here, but I'm really feeling this new Daredevil series isn't for me. Soule turned the entire status quo at the end of Mark Waid's run on its head and two books in, he's not offering any explanations or even any hints. The series would have to be great to overcome my annoyance and this one just isn't. Not bad, but not for me.

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Published on July 02, 2018 23:09 • 45 views • Tags: charles-soule, daredevil

July 1, 2018

Spider-Man: Revenge of the Green GoblinSpider-Man: Revenge of the Green Goblin by Howard Mackie

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book collects Issues 20-29 of the relaunched Amazing Spider-man series the 2001 ASM annual, the Spider-man: Revenge of the Green Goblin Mini-series, and Issues 25 and 29 of Peter Parker, Spider-man. The issues are set during a time when Mary Jane is presumed dead.

The book opens up with a two-parter in ASM #20 and #21 where Alistair Smythe is out of his wheelchair and blackmailing J Jonah Jameson and has hatched yet another spider-slayer plot. This isn't particularly original, but it's enjoyably done.

ASM #22-24 is a three-part story which involves a U.S. Senator who is really a traitor from his SHIELD days and Arthur Stacy (Gwen's uncle) is determined to kill him and says he's the most dangerous man in America. It turns out Arthur's right. I like the scope of the story as it has Spidey saving the world, but there are a lot of plot points that are nonsense.

Revenge of the Green Goblin Mini-Series (#1-#3): Written by Roger Stern, this mini-series tells how Norman Osborne is crazy, hates Spider-man, and plans to bring him down through his revenge plot. The focus of these issues is squarely on Norman as he monologues and reveals his evil plan. This really does feel like it could have been condensed to a one-shot if this weren't the early 2000s and Marvel was trying to bleed readers for every penny. There's a very thin romance plot with Norman and a nurse that is supposed to give some pretext of a plot to keep this going three issues. We also learn how Norman is able to get through Peter. Peter Parker's poisoned by using a free toothpaste sample he got in the mail. Peter and his love of crummy toothpaste almost proves to be his downfall.

Darkness Calling/Trick of the Light (AS #25, PPS #25): Two double issues tell the story of Norman Osborne's revenge plot as Spidey races to find out about the returned Green Goblin. It leads to a very long psychological showdown between Peter and Norman. On one hand, there are some pretty clever and twisted ways Norman takes to obtain revenge and some dramatic moments. On the other hand, there's a lot of monologuing and repetition and retcons of the Goblin's past that are meant to make him darker and edgier but are kind of dumb when you think about it. It also ends on a really negative note. This one kind of left me with a meh feeling.

The Mask (ASM #26): After Peter's battle with Norman, who tried to put himself up as Peter's father figure, Pete sets out to find out about his real father and finds an old friend of his dad who runs a bar. Unfortunately, said friend's neighborhood is being terrorized by a lame Squid villain who gives Spidey more trouble than he should to set up a contrived parallel to his dad.

The Stray (ASM #27): Randy Robinson has decided that he is the arbiter of how long Peter has to grieve and has decided after six months, it's time for him to date again and he creates an awkward uncomfortable situation. Meanwhile, a cat rescue goes wrong and Peter has to protect a stray cat whose had some weird stuff done to it from being killed by AIM who has sent assassin because of unspecified reasons. The story has two two-page spreads that have turned to be read. Neither are all that amazing. It's a transparently lazy attempt to pad out the page count.

Distractions (ASM #28): Randy decides to take awkward new level when he tricks Peter into meeting up with a very intense woman whose under house arrest. He no more has chewed him out for setting him up with a woman whose into witchcraft, has piercing, and tatoos (something Peter wouldn't say today because Marvel doesn't want to offend the fans) before he has to go and save a friendly mobster from the Enforcers. Overall, probably my favorite issue in the book.

Mary Jane/Destinations (ASM #29/PPs #29): In this issue, it's revealed what happened to Mary Jane and boy is it anti-climatic. The man behind it is some random guy who monologs and whines a lot. At the end of the day, the issue is resolved in a way in which Peter doesn't save the day or do anything, but at least Mary Jane and Peter are back together until...

Passages (ASM Annual 2001): Peter and Mary Jane are together again and making plans to move back in, laughing and having fun, and then it all goes abruptly downhill. This wasn't really an attempt to end the marriage. If it was, it was a heck of a lot better and realistic to the characters than One More Day, but that's damning with faint praise. Still, I think if this had been how it ended, fans would be upset but they would move on. That doesn't make it a good issue. It screams editorial mandate. It ended Howard Mackie's run on Spider-man and that's the best thing about it.

Overall, this book isn't horrible, but there are lots of problems. If you're a fan of the Green Goblin or a Spidey completist, this could be a worthwhile read. Otherwise, I'd give it a pass.

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Published on July 01, 2018 17:14 • 65 views • Tags: green-goblin, howard-mackie, spider-man

June 27, 2018

Darkwing Duck Classics Vol. 1Darkwing Duck Classics Vol. 1 by Brian Swenlin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book collects the first and sadly only volume of Boom Studios' archived Darkwing Duck comics from the 1990s.

The first 100 pages collects the Darkwing Duck comic mini-series that is essentially the first two episodes of the TV show in Comic Book form. It's a really good adaptation of the TV episode, I'd almost go as far as to say it works better than the TV show. The plot finds Darkwing trying to make a name for himself and needs to battle a big supervillain and he collides with he bovine villainy of Taurus Bulba.

The comic explains how Darkwing met Goslin and Launchpad and just generally sets up the series. It's a faithful adaptation with only one detail changed that I could see. It's an intelligent adaptation because they find a way to translate some things which worked on TV that don't always easily translate to comics.

The rest of the book contains four Darkwing Duck strips from Disney Adventures magazine. These strips could be of varying lengths depending on whether they were the main story or a back up story. The quality of these varies quite a bit.

The first story, "Let's Get Fiscal" is about a FOWL accountant who has defected to SHUSH with a calculator that allows him to perform real-life calculations, multiplying, subtracting or dividing. The story is dumb and non-sensical, but thankfully only eight pages long.

Next is, "Liquid Diet" which finds the Liquidator released from prison and claiming to have gone straight while offering the public a popular new sports drink. Everyone thinks he's reformed, but Darkwing things otherwise. My favorite of these four stories. At 24 pages long, it feels like a lost episode.

In, "Turnabout is F.O.W.L. Play," Steelbeak has a ray that will turn Darkwing evil and it works, but Steelbeak learns the hard way to be careful what you wish for. Overall, a fun story even if the end is a bit of a copout.

In the final eight-pager, Darkwing is forced into a vacation when St. Canard goes through a bout of low crime. As is usual when Launchpad is flying, they fall out of the plane and find themselves in a mysterious jungle. A nice twist ending and a cute story.

Overall, this book is a lot of fun and it's a shame there's no plan to collect the other 31 Disney Adventures tales

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Published on June 27, 2018 16:44 • 93 views • Tags: 1990s-comics, boom-studios, darkwing-duck

June 26, 2018

All Star Comics Archives, Vol. 7All Star Comics Archives, Vol. 7 by Gardner F. Fox

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Golden Age Justice Society team of Hawkman, the Flash, Green Lanter, Doctor Midntite, the Atom, Johnny Thunder, and Wonder Woman as Secretary return for five post-War adventures in Issues 29-33

Issue 29: The Man Who Knew Much: Landor, a man bored with a Utopian future returns to the 1940s only to discover it takes money to live so he sets out to commit some daring crimes to capture the attention of the Justice Society. Really fun. Grade: B+

Issue 30: Dreams of Madness: An old JSA villain Brainwave tricks the JSA into going under so that he can use their dreams to drive the mad. Can anyone save the JSA? This is the best story for Johnny Thunder I've ever read. A very fun ending. Grade: B+

Issue 31: The Workship of Willie Wonder: A toymaker is turned evil by a mini-red evil alien sun creature and designs stuff for criminal. A bit meh for me on this one. Grade: C

Issue 32: The Return of Psycho Pirate: Psycho Pirate returns in a story that serves to teach kids the dangers of letting various emotions get out of control. Not sure the writer understands humility, but anyway not a bad story. Grade: B

Issue 33: The Revenge of Solomon Grundy: JSA Headquarters has been trashed, Green Lantern's disappeared and his old enemy Solomon Grundy is on the loose. It's easily one of the best JSA tales I've ever read. Very tense ending. Grade: A

Overall, this is a strong volume. The worst story is only mediocre. I actually found myself enjoying the Johnny Thunder chapters, and everything else is as good or better than previous volumes. One big bonus of this book is Roy Thomas' loving introduction. His passion and enthusiasm for the series shows and is quite contagious. A very solid read.

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Published on June 26, 2018 23:11 • 44 views • Tags: all-star-comics, golden-age, jsa, justice-society

June 22, 2018

Spidey, Volume 1: First DaySpidey, Volume 1: First Day by Robbie Thompson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book takes a look at Spidey as a modern teenager start out at mid-town High.

The first issue is a bit rough. It's frentic and jumps all over the place. It features the out of character moment where Gwen Stacy punches Flash Thompson in the face and then there's the lady in a bunny suit who robs a bank so Spidey makes puns, Peter goes to a lab and a fight with Doc Ock is shoe-horned in.

However, after the first issue, the book gets better as we feature Spidey battles with all-time great foes like the Vulture, the Lizard, Doctor Doom, Green Goblin, and Sandman. The stories are fun and make for light breezy reads. If you like simple Spidey away from all ways the Marvel 616 version have been messed up, this reads great. Also, if you want to introduce a kid to Spidey, this is a good book to do it with if you're afraid they won't be able to get into the originals. Although, these aren't on par with that.

My one complaint after the first issue is that the story reuses the art for the same opening page telling the story of how Peter got his powers.

Other than that, though, it's a fun book for kids and for fans who just want a simple continuity-free Spider-man story.

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Published on June 22, 2018 23:48 • 76 views • Tags: peter-parker, spider-man

June 21, 2018

Batman '66 Meets Wonder Woman '77Batman '66 Meets Wonder Woman '77 by Jeff Parker

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Jeff Parker brings together these two nostalgic iconic television franchises in this comic book crossover.

Parker takes advantage of the fact that the first season of Wonder Woman was set in the 1940s but later seasons were set in the 1970s, and thus we're given a three era story with the first part being set in the 1940s (with a robbery that occurred in the 1960s leading to Batman telling the story to Robin), the second part is set in the 1960s, and the final part occurred in the 1970s. Ra's Al-Ghul is the featured villain throughout.

The art is fantastic. It's a visual nostalgia piece for fans of either series. We get to see all three of the TV Catwoman actresses portrayed, 1970s redesigns of some Batman characters including a 1970s Nightwing and 1970s Catwoman henchmen (the best) as well as seeing Wonder Woman in a Kathie Crosbyeseque jump suit that's really intriguing. The art is drawn with great care for every little detail.

The story is mostly fun and for most of the book, I had a smile on my face because of the nostalgia. The story does have some problems. The Batman '66 story/family has a particularly dark turn that seemed a bit out of place. In addion, Ra's Al-Ghul seems strangely out of place in this and his plans don't amount to much.

Still, the superb art and general tone of the book makes up for the few flaws in details. This is a worthwhile read if you're a fan of either series.

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Published on June 21, 2018 22:27 • 72 views • Tags: batman, wonder-woman

Christians and Superheroes

Adam Graham
I'm a Christian who writes superhero fiction (some parody and some serious.)

On this blog, we'll take a look at:

1) Superhero stories
2) Issues of faith in relation to Superhero stories
3) Writing Superhe
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