Category Archives: Marvel Comics

iReview | The Official Handbook of the MARVEL UNIVERSE

For the first time collected in one volume, the one that started it all, every hero, every villain, every landmark location of the Marvel Universe as it was chronicled in the early 80s.

Imagine if you will, what it was like for me in 1982 — I was then a still emerging comic book fanatic — to gaze upon a singular volume of published books from Marvel Comics that would give me details about every single one of the major heroes and villains in the Mighty Marvel pantheon. I suddenly had an insider’s view of my favorite character’s alter egos, the major locations they operated out, and how many of them got their superpowers. Not to mention, every alphabetized entry featured my favorite Marvel hero in a super “superhero” pose!

Marvel was only beginning to celebrate a landmark publishing milestone in 1982 when The Official Handbook of the MARVEL UNIVERSE was first released, but many of imprint’s titles were rapidly marking their pace as best-selling books leaving significant marks on popular culture. Suddenly to hold in my hands, a book that immediately validated the role models I had accepted into my most impressionable adolescence, to learn that Captain America was 6’ 2” and weighed 240 and that by comparison Spider-Man was 5’ 10” and his eyes were Hazel — my heroes were real!

I was also infamously obsessed with written mythologies and historically intricate narratives, and Mark Gruenwald and many of the creative staff in the Mighty Marvel Bullpen had gone to incredible depths of detail to realize the world for me. The OHOTMU (as it had become popularly known among devotees) put it all together for me, and among my most favorite entries were the ones that listed everyone on the roster of the most popular superhero teams like the Avengers and the Defenders, and especially who were the founding members and where they were based.

The OHOTMU changed the way I looked at comics. It made them tangible and relevant to my world; especially as a native New Yorker, I felt I could just walk on over to the famed headquarters of the Fantastic Four, the Baxter Building and head on uptown to the Fifth Avenue location of the Avengers Mansion. Over the course of the original volume’s publication, the initial 12-issue release was followed by two additional tomes chronicling the “Book of the Dead and Inactive” as well as a technical volume detailing “Weapons and Paraphernalia” there would be many changes…

The new omnibus repurposes John Byrne’s classic art from the final issue of the series featuring many of the Marvel Universe’s major players.

From A to Z

Once Marvel got its groove, it wasn’t long before a “Deluxe Edition” of the Handbook replaced the original, elaborating on some of the entires popularized by the first. An entires “Origin” would be replaced by “History and in many cases would guarantee that most of the major character entries would have greater relevancy, as a hero like Black Panther would have their legacy chronicled over the course of multiple pages — and not limited to a single page. This would also provide an opportunity to detail a hero and villain’s look during the span of their career!

And speaking of legacy, as in the case of one’s like Hank Pym, the “Original” Ant-Man for example that passed on their identity to a new individual, a roman numeral would differentiate between the two. Scott Lang would be known as “Ant-Man II”, while Hank Pym would be referred to as “Ant-Man I”, etc. Future volumes would also more readily define a character’s “Strength Level” for easy comparison and individuals that had been gone inactive or deceased would be incorporated into the natural mix of things, more accurately defining the entirety of the Marvel Universe.

But it all started with the first series of books, and now those iconic 15-issues have been faithfully reprinted and collected in the latest Marvel Omnibus and featuring many of the original artwork and interlocking covers from the 80s issues that have become iconic. This is not just a nostalgic trip down memory lane, this is the classic Marvel Universe in its purest form, even as it prepares to mark its 80th Anniversary redefining popular culture as one of the narrators of the leading modern mythologies dictating legends of heroics and inspiring the impossible in our imaginations.

Marvel Omnibus | The Official Handbook of the MARVEL UNIVERSE | $75.00 available from Marvel collecting The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe (1983) #1 — #15. Check it out here.

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iReview | VENOM

Street journalist Eddie Brock has just stumbled upon an alien invasion of epic proportions in Sony Pictures VENOM based on the Marvel Comics anti-hero, though don’t expect an ever-loving web-slinger to make any appearances!

The year was 2007 and although there weren’t very many superhero franchise films saturating the summer blockbuster season, genre-films were starting to make significant strides winning audiences and luring fans into the multiplex. Though clearly there were signs that fatigue was starting to set in — no where was that more evident than in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man franchise and especially when it entered into its third installment. Spider-Man 3 didn’t enjoy the same critical appeal as its predecessors, neither did it ooze with charm.

In fact it oozed into obscurity and the critics pretty much tore it to shreds, inspiring Sony to immediately demand a “reboot”. Many cited that the film was particularly dense, having added too many extraneous characters — one in particular came at the demand of the studio. Hoping to send a more contemporary message, Sony requested that a modern villain be added to the line-up; particularly the studio requested that Venom be added into the mix. The black-clad alter-ego of Eddie Brock represented the antithesis of everything our hero stood for.

Unfortunately the character was largely lost in the melee that climaxed the film, but Sony held on to the property hopeful that one day they could resurrect the villain; holding most of the Spider-Man properties even as the web-slinger slipped through their grip (even after a pair of largely unpopular reboot attempts with a new Spidey under the hood). Now making good on their promise to steal some of Marvel Studio thunder, Sony unleashes Venon starring Tom Hardy as Eddie Brock, and the unwitting host of the titular anti-hero.

Enough Superheroes

The idea of Venom as a stand-alone franchise is obscure enough, and the fact that Sony plowed ahead with the feature without incorporating Spider-Man into the origin story is simply arrogant. The studio, of course, is banking on the conceit that audiences are willing to accept “alternate facts” when it comes to their genre fandom and comic book favorites. It’s worked for HBO and their hit series Game Of Thrones which has gotten tired of waiting for fantasy novelist George R. R. Martin to complete his saga and decidedly spun the narrative in its own direction.

The entire CW primetime line-up has been switching up, enhancing and taking major liberties with its adaptation of DC Comics properties for upwards of a decade now, so theater goers shouldn’t be too traumatized with the creative directions that screenwriters have taken with director Ruben Fleischer’s vision of the slick black insidiously predatory goo from space that instead of piggy-banking on Peter Parker ends up latching onto Brock (Hardy) who is still a street reporter chasing down political scandals and civil injustices on the streets of San Fransisco.

When Brock gets assigned to profile visionary industrialist Carlton Drake played by Riz Ahmed at his hyper-secret lab complex, he takes the opportunity to grill Drake on the accusations surrounding his firm — accusations that Drake’s team of scientist are exposing innocent people to dangerously unstable antigenes and using them as lab rats. Drake doesn’t take it kindly to the possible exposure and instead goes about shattering Brock’s credibility and firing his lawyer girlfriend, Anne Weying played by Michelle Williams, effectively ending his relationship!

Two Is Company!

Down and out, Brock has become a mere reflection of himself until another opportunity to expose Carlton Drake as a threat presents itself. Sneaking into his lab, Brock is exposed to an alien symbiote that attaches itself to him; most of Drake’s attempts to merge with the alien have proven unsuccessful, but in Brock’s case “Venom” takes to Brock very easily. The two soon form an uneasy alliance, as Venom begins to comfortably set into his new surroundings (Brock) and reveals to Eddie that Drake intends on bringing a symbiote invasion force to Earth!

Drake bonds with the murderously fowl “Riot” and exerts a plan to launch a shuttle into space to intercept that asteroid home of the symbiotes. If Riot is successful, the human race will effectively be wiped out and replaced by the predatorily merciless creatures. It’s up to Brock and Venom, with the help of Anne, to thwart Drake/Riot’s plan and save the planet! Venom nearly sacrifices itself to save his human host, and Eddie returns the favor. The two enter into a bargain to protect the innocent and only eat the bad guys, but only the really, really bad guys.

For most of Venom the audience gets to know Eddie Brock. The largely unlikable character from the comic has been reimagined to suit the star quality of Tom Hardy, who is largely charming in the role. It’s unfortunate though that Venom is anything but charming. The creature is crude and unappealing to look at; a CGI monstrosity that once it takes over the film becomes a monster movie, and that’s perhaps where it loses its thrust. With a new superhero adaptation taking to the big screen almost every season, these films have had to evolve to meet audience expectations.

An example of which is Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy which is a modern space opera, and a complete flip to the more grounded world of the Avengers. When Marvel continued to expand its brand it introduced the multiverses of the Marvel Comics with Doctor Strange and Ant-Man both features dramatically different in tone, one skewed toward the metaphysical, the other more science-fiction, but each providing a different tone and pushing the boundaries of the genre into all-new, all-different arenas — thereby bringing in new audiences.

With Venom Sony had an opportunity to make a significant departure and deliver something that would have been completely unexpected — taking advantage of the anti-hero’s darker tone and violent nature to make a genuine horror-monster movie. Venom eats most of his victims when it isn’t impaling them on its prehensile spikes, but most of that happens off screen during the action scenes. Drake’s ultra-secret science lab where he conducts his experiments of the symbiotes had most of the trappings of a chamber of horrors, but just suggest how lethal his intentions are.

Venom instead sticks to the tropes of its genre, doesn’t really change the beats established by its predecessors and ends with the CGI slugfest that has permeated most of the other superhero movies of late. With the exception of the credit stinger (which leaves some glimmer hope), Venom doesn’t really get as dangerous as you’d hoped it would be, and is simply as adaptive as the symbiote it portrays. Perhaps if Fleischer is inspired by the recent comments Tom Hardy made while promoting the film, he’ll re-edit a “director’s cut” and put some R-Rated content in!

Venom starring Tom Hardy and Michelle Williams; directed by Ruben Fleischer | Rated PG-13

Trailer | Marvel Studios CAPTAIN MARVEL

Carol Danvers may not be the most well known star (yet) in the Marvel Cinematic Universe but her alter ego CAPTAIN MARVEL shines like a super nova in the first trailer heralding next summer’s first blockbuster!

It fell from outer space! And dropped right into the middle of a 1990’s Blockbuster! That’s literally how the new trailer of the much anticipated Marvel Studios Captain Marvel begins. The film’s heroine, Carol Danvers played by Brie Larson is headlining the first feature in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and introducing Captain Marvel to a new generation. The character herself has been around since the 1960 and earned her own title in the 1970s under her original superhero moniker Ms. Marvel.

Danvers, an Air Force pilot gains extraordinary abilities when she is exposed to alien technology, a Kree device (the Kree are first mentioned in the MCU in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 1) that is instrumental in the film and comics origin of the character. Captain Marvel crashes onto the Earth and is met with scrutiny from a new ally, Nick Fury again portrayed by Samuel L. Jackson. Larson apparently sits well in the skin of one of Marvel Comics most powerful heroes, and certainly expects to garner as similar a success as the competition’s Wonder Woman.

In recent history the character of Carol Danvers, as Captain Marvel has been elevated to a level that matches her contemporaries like Iron Man, Captain America, The Hulk and Spider-Man, and with Avengers: Infinity War having struck down many of these major players, will the arrival of Captain Marvel signify the new age of the Marvel Studios franchises? That certainly would appear to be the suggestion, but with a story that promises to span the cosmos and create a time-tripping backstory that could introduce the newest Avenger, it just looks cool!

Here is the trailer for Captain Marvel expected in theaters in March 2019.

Cover2Cover | First Look CAPTAIN MARVEL

Courtesy of Entertainment Weekly the pop-culture mag landed the premiere look at Brie Larson as Marvel Studios newest shooting star CAPTAIN MARVEL!

At the conclusion of Marvel Studios Avengers: Infinity War the mad Titan Thanos had succeeded with eradicating half of the population of the known universe. In the final moments, embedded in one of the film’s in-credit stingers, is perhaps the promise of the ultimate salvation for the Marvel Cinematic Universe! Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) using an old style pager sends out a distress call and we can only hope that the recipient of that message is listening, because we could use a miracle — we could use Captain Marvel!

Fans have known for months now that the Marvel Comics leading lady was making the big leap to the big screen, saddling up to the likes of Iron Man, Captain American and Thor. Academy Award-Winning actress Brie Larson won the coveted role of Air Force pilot turned interplanetary superhero Carol Danvers; not exactly the most popularly known name in common circles, but Carol has been an long-standing member of the Avengers in the comics, evolving into the Marvel Comics imprint’s version of the competitor’s Wonder Woman.

With the blockbuster success of that big screen adaptation and Wonder Woman’s (as portrayed by Gal Gadot) subsequent appearance in Justice League theater goers have proven that the world is ready for headlining super heroines to star in their own features. Marvel Studios is banking that Captain Marvel which will also feature Jude Law, Djimon Hounsou and Lee Page, will rightfully take its place even as Avengers 4 prepares to create a vacuum as key players in the MCU make their exit to let a new generation take over.

Don’t Call Her Ms. Marvel

The story in Captain Marvel will introduce audiences to Carol Danvers (Larson) the Air Force pilot and is set in the mid-90s. Danvers will find herself in the middle of an extraterrestrial invasion when the shape-shifting Skrulls (first introduced in pages of Marvel Comics Fantastic Four) bring their battle with the Kree (established within the MCU courtesy of Guardians of the Galaxy) to Earth and nab the attention of Nick Fury (Jackson) who will recruit Danvers to help repel this new threat. How it all unravels that Carol ends up with superpowers will soon be revealed.

Audiences are more excited about the potential introduction of Carol Danvers alter-ego Captain Marvel returning to Avengers 4 — especially with the World’s Mightiest Heroes numbers all-but decimated by the terrorist Thanos, they’ll need all the help they can get, and with Larson flexing further her muscles to assume the role of Marvel Comics super namesake, this will undoubtedly spark an entirely new dimension in the growing narrative establishing Marvel Studios’ domination of the genre.

Entertainment Weekly featured these thrilling “first looks” from the upcoming motion picture which will inaugurate the 2019 Summer Blockbuster Season when it is released on March 8.

The Skrulls make their Marvel Cinematic Universe debut in the next summer’s “Captain Marvel”.

 

iReview | ANT-MAN AND THE WASP

Marvel’s most astonishing pint-sized hero is back for another big screen adventure, but after battling on the side of the angels in the climatic Civil War Ant-Man and The Wasp must team-up — for the first time — to save the day!

In the annals of Marvel Comics creations, the characters of Hank Pym and Janet Van Dyne are without a doubt instrumental in setting in motion the comics imprint’s modern era of superheroes. As two of the founding members of the Avengers, Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, the duo had a significant influence inspiring every generation that followed in their footsteps. When Marvel Studios announced that they would be adding the pair to their cinematic line-up, fans assumed that they would debut as part of the premiere team-up of Avengers. Not so.

As part of the next phase of the extended Marvel cinematic universe Ant-Man was introduced in his own big screen adventure, but it wouldn’t be Henry “Hank” Pym in the title role. Veteran Hollywood actor Michael Douglas was cast as the original hero first introduced in the classic Tales to Astonish #27 (Jan. 1962), but it would be comedic leading man Paul Rudd who would step into the super suit with the abilities to control his size and mass! Rudd was cast as Scott Lang, the second hero to assume the mantle of “Ant-Man” and introduced in Marvel Premiere #47, 1979.

In the comics, Lang a talented engineer was also a small-time crook who stole Hank Pym’s suit, but after proving himself to the scientist, Pym recognizes Scott’s potential and gives him the suit, so long as he uses it to fight crime. As the new Ant-Man, Scott Lang would become a hero in his own right often teaming up with Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four and even joining the Avengers for a time. His daughter Cassie would eventually assume her own superhero persona and join the next generation of heroes inspired by the Avengers.

Hope Van Dyne (Lilly) is every bit the hero the world needs, and a capable force even at pint-size!

On the Big Screen

When the hero was realized for the big screen, his origin was similarly styled after his comic book introduction. Pym (Douglas) has learned that the technology he has developed and coveted over the years called “Pym particles” is being coopted by a former business partner. With the help of his daughter, Hope Van Dyne (played by Evangeline Lilly) the pair intended to recruit Lang to their cause to subvert the organization that is intending to weaponize his science and turn his life around as a superhero.

As the Ant-Man, Scott fought along with Captain America when the heroes confronted one another in the midst of a “Civil War”. At the end of that epic confrontation, Scott was sprung from prison and kept a close eye on by the FBI. Under house arrest there isn’t much that he can do, so he spends a lot of time with his daughter, Cassie, but when the fugitive Hank Pym and Hope Van Dyne seek his help, Scott may lead the way to the mysterious whereabouts of Hank’s missing wife and partner, Janet (Michelle Pfeiffer).

In Ant-Man and The Wasp Scott and Hope will team up once again under the directorial eye of Peyton Reed who proved uniquely capable at balancing the dramatic and comedic sides of the first feature which played like a classic caper film. The follow-up to the franchise doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but greatly enhances the mythology and solidly places Ant-Man and The Wasp rightfully in realm of the growing number of heroes in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, most of which recently met their fate at the hands of the Mad Titan Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War.

Ant-Man (Rudd) finds himself facing an enemy that’s out of phase with reality in “Ant-Man and The Wasp”.

Larger Size Action; Bigger Heart

The first Ant-Man is perhaps one of the best origin stories in the Marvel Studios pantheon; it was highly beneficial in helping to establish Scott Lang and the Ant-Man who had been largely eclipsed by the more iconic contemporaries including Thor, Hulk and the aforementioned Captain America. Even though the characters were both pioneering members among Earth’s Mightiest, both Ant-Man and The Wasp remained largely enigmatic second players. The success of Ant-Man changed all of that, and his appearance in Captain America: Civil War raised his profile.

In the premiere installment the villainous Darren Cross (Corey Stoll) plans on selling Pym’s tech to none other than Hydra, the clandestine organization that infiltrates S.H.I.E.L.D. — our heroes are able to stop Cross who adapts Pym’s suit advances it into the  “Yellowjacket”. Lang emerges a true contender nimbly battling his adversary and turning an army of ants into a formidable force to be reckoned with! Stoll’s Yellowjacket will undoubtedly emerge as one of the most frightening foes, and the pair’s epic confrontation in Cassie’s playroom one of the best yet!

The supporting cast returned to join Scott, Hope and Hank on their mission to rescue Janet from her exile to the Quantum Realm, but even as they race against time another threat the mysterious Ghost (the crazy fantastic Hannah John-Kamen) is also chasing after Pym’s technology. As a young girl, the Ghost was caught in an industry explosion that placed her “out of phase” rest the rest of the world. An associate of Hank’s, Bill Foster (Laurence Fishburne) promises to help, but it soon becomes evident that the government prefers to turn the Ghost into a secret agent.

One of the charms of the film is how heavily it relies on Marvel Comics mythology, and the elaboration of the backstory that sets up the covert missions of the original Ant-Man (Douglas) and The Wasp (Pfeiffer) with the introduction of Fishburne’s Bill Foster who also is best known to comic book fans as the size-changing hero Goliath. Rudd and Lilly have an onscreen chemistry that work on multiple levels, but establish both as inheritors of the next phase of Marvel’s cinematic narrative. No doubt that Pfeiffer’s Janet Van Dyne will also emerge as one of the best cast roles.

The final act of Ant-Man and The Wasp as our heroes work to save the day is a phenomenally choreographed piece with Hope’s Wasp fully integrating herself into her role as a hero and Lang still navigating the intricacies of the suit, but proving his heart is bigger than most, and that he is truly one of the Marvel Universe’s most larger than life superheroes! Let’s all hope that given what’s at stake after the conclusion of Infinity War and (SPOILER ALERT) the disappearance of most of the Ant-Man family, Scott emerges the hero we all know he is!

Ant-Man and The Wasp starring Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly and Michael Douglas directed by Peyton Reed is currently playing in theaters.

iEditorial | Captain America CHRIS EVANS To Hang Up His Shield

With Captain America ready to lead the Avengers in battle against the greatest threat they’ve ever faced, will one of the mightiest fall in the final moments of the Infinity War?

<span class=“dropcap”>A</span>mong the many dangling participles fans can expect from the much anticipated Avengers: Infinity War which is coming to theaters earlier than anticipated, is which one of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes may not survive the onslaught brought upon them by the arrival of the Titan known as Thanos (motion captured by John Brolin). A decade in the making the latest installment in the Marvel Studios franchise will be unprecedented in that it will unite on screen the core cast of all the Marvel films characters for the two-part epic.

10 years in the making, the Marvel Cinematic Universe took off with the introduction of Robert Downey, Jr. starring in Iron Man and continued with an unlikely cameo appearance in The Incredible Hulk (2008) which then starred Edward Norton in the titular role. The cinematic continuity continued with Thor but it wasn’t until the introduction of Chris Evans as the Star-Spangled Sentinel in Captain America: The First Avenger that everything started to take shape. Suddenly a “team movie” appeared very realistic and quickly came together.

Evans may be the first casualty of the Avengers: Infinity War.

The result was Marvel’s The Avengers which brought together all the established leading players (and recast Mark Ruffalo as The Hulk); a sequel followed-up and several more solo films, but can anyone imagine the franchise continuing without Chris Evans as Captain America? That’s what reports will have us speculate — the fates of several Avengers have already been hinted at hanging in the balance — but the actor who has portrayed not only the First Avenger, but previously entered into the Marvel Universe as a member of the Fantastic Four may be calling it quits.

The actor has reported that after the next Avengers film, that is the one after Infinity War he will be leaving the Marvel Cinematic Universe for good. Evans has been quoted as suggesting he’d rather “get off the train,” rather than “before they push you off.” Evans won’t be the only star that has been hinted at not returning after the climatic arc ends. Robert Downey, Jr. apparently has also hinted that this may be his last turn as the Armored Avenger Iron Man. Downey, Jr. unlike Evans has previously talked about his exit, even teased after Captain America: Civil War he’d retire.

Though nothing has yet been set in stone, the stars that lead off the spin-offs features are becoming increasingly more expensive even for a blockbuster budget, and with the new kids on the block like Black Panther raising the stakes, perhaps the timing might be perfect to bring in some new blood and give the original roster of Avengers some time off to enjoy the riches of their reward, or enter into the afterlife as true heroes! Whatever fate befalls our favorite Avengers in Infinity War it will no doubt alter the fabric of the summer blockbuster season.

The countdown has begun! Avengers: Infinity War makes planetfall on April 27.