Carlo Carrasco’s Comic Book Review: 2099 Alpha #1

Hey comic book fans! It is finally official! The 2099 universe of Marvel Comics has been revived with the release of 2099 Alpha #1 which I bought at the local comic book store here in Alabang, Muntinlupa, Philippines. The comic book that was available had a Spider-Man 2099 variant cover and it carried a hefty $4.99 price!

So you must be wondering…is the comic book any good? Does it capture the look and feel of the 2099 universe that first appeared in comic books back in the 1990s? Any significant changes in terms of storytelling and visuals?

Here is my review of 2099 Alpha #1.

2019-11-21_100919~2.jpg
The variant cover showing Spider-Man 2099 with Spidey and related characters from the past.

Written by Nick Spencer with art by Viktor Bogdanovic (colors provided by Marte Garcia), the comic begins in The Ravage (note: this is NOT the failed 2099 hero of Stan Lee and Paul Ryan) where a little boy finds Thor’s hammer but abandons it as he saw some monsters coming. The story then shifts to Brooklyn where Jake Gallows (Punisher 2099) gets into a violent encounter with a man before finally meeting the backup he called for. Then they see a sign that their god, Thor, is now in a merciful mood.

In Nueva York, Miguel O’Hara (Spider-Man 2099) talks with Tyler Stone inside an Alchemax tower. Tyler examines what Miguel brought to them and he mentions an incoming threat. Elsewhere, Conan appears struggling in battle with some people. From a distance, Doom 2099 watches and he has the Watcher captive.

Quality

To put it short, 2099 Alpha #1 is really a set-up type of comic book designed to immerse readers into the 2099 universe which now looks darker, grittier and more twisted than the way it was first presented back in the 1990s. Because the spotlight shifts from one place to the next, showing multiple characters, there really is not much meat in the storytelling. Really, thirty pages of art and story were made but ultimately ended up being not so engaging.

The art of Viktor Bogdanovic shows the 2099 universe to be a depressing setting and his art on classic characters like Spider-Man 2099, Punisher 2099 and Doom 2099 make them look unrecognizable. I remember Jake Gallows being huge and buff but in this comic book, he looks like he lost a lot of muscle and ended up looking ordinary.

Conclusion

Overall, 2099 Alpha #1 is an expensive disappointment and it is easily the weakest new comic book I bought all year long. There is a lot of suspense, expository details and even some horrific imagery, but ultimately there is no real fun to experience here. At $4.99, this is too expensive and it is a waste as it failed to engage and entertain me. Let me add that I lowered my expectation for this revival of the 2099 universe since the teaser announcement was made months ago. Back then, I anticipated that the new guys handling the 2099 universe of comics will take it to a new direction (move far away from what made the 2099 universe in the 1990s memorable and distinct) and this overpriced comic book is an early confirmation of it.

2019-11-21_101114~2.jpg
Recognize any of these characters?

Of course, there are still several other 2099 comics from Marvel that will be launched next month, including Spider-Man 2099 #1, Venom 2099 #1, Ghost Rider 2099 #1 and more. We will find out soon enough if those comic books will share the same dark and gritty style of 2099 Alpha #1 or not.

Ultimately, 2099 Alpha #1 is not recommended. As long as it is sold at cover price, avoid it.

+++++

If you are nostalgic of the 1990s 2099 universe, check out my reviews of Spider-Man 2099 #1 and #25, Ravage 2099 #1 and X-Men 2099 #1.


Thank you for reading. If you find this article engaging, please click the like button below and also please consider sharing this article to others. Also my fantasy book The World of Havenor is still available in paperback and e-book format. If you are looking for a copywriter to create content for your special project or business, check out my services and my portfolio. Feel free to contact me as well. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco and follow me at HavenorFantasy@twitter.com

 

 

 

A Look Back At Batman vs. The Incredible Hulk

I love reading a crossover comic book that was made by very talented creators to be a whole lot of fun from start to finish. Back in the early 1980s, rivals Marvel Comics and DC Comics collaborated temporarily with inter-company crossover comic books that were made to be entertaining to fans of their respective properties.

What I’m going to review here is the 3rd superhero crossover comic book between Marvel and DC titled Batman vs. The Incredible Hulk.

Cover
The cover.

Background

Before I start, let me clarify that this particular comic book was specifically published as issue number 27 of the DC Special Series which was a series of one-shot comic books. By comparison, the 1981 crossover comic book Superman and Spider-Man (which I reviewed previously) was published under the Marvel Treasury Edition line of Marvel Comics as issue number 28.

Going back to Batman vs. The Incredible Hulk, the comic book was the final issue of the DC Special Series line and it carried a cover price of $2.50 which was quite high for its time.

The people at DC Comics made sure that the crossover was handled by the best talents they had back then. The late Len Wein (best know for creating Wolverine) was assigned to write the script (and ensure that elements from both the Hulk and Batman would mix nicely) while José Luis García-López was hired to illustrate. Dick Giordano was the embellisher and editor while Allen Milgrom and then Marvel editor-in-chief Jim Shooter were the consulting editors. In return for their assistance, Marv Wolfman and Mike DeCarlo were acknowledged with thanks.

Now we can begin with this retro review of Batman vs. The Incredible Hulk.

The early story

The story begins when a few persons in Gotham City witness their dreams turning real beyond logic. A man dreamed he was in the arctic hunting and wakes up to discover his room was filled with snow. In a cinema where a horror movie was shown, a couple kissing each other discover, to their shock, that monsters of different sizes surrounded them out of thin air.

At the waterfront of the city, the Joker (accompanied by his gang members) talks to an unseen being (Shaper of Worlds). He gives his assurance to the being that he and his gang will acquire a specific item (needed by the being). For the Joker, what was discussed was a simple business arrangement.

A short time later inside a high-tech facility of Wayne Research, Bruce Banner (the Hulk) secretly works under the false identity as David Banks. He works along with the scientists but not on the scientific projects. Rather, he works odd tasks such as lifting hardware and putting them into places that need them. Of course, Banner did not get hired for a salary but for something much essential to him and his condition with Gamma Rays.

“I had to get a job here somehow so I could get close to the experimental Gamma-gun they’re working on,” he thought to himself.

Suddenly the facility gets filled with laughing gas incapacitating all the people inside. Banner fortunately manages to wear a radiation suit for protection. Moments later, the Joker and his gang enter searching for the Gamma-gun. From this point on, Banner decides to act.

Quality

When it comes to the selection of characters from Marvel and DC, having the mismatch of Batman and the Hulk was a very splendid idea. Not only was having the large green brute and the world’s greatest detective together as temporary rivals a fascinating concept, having them work together as a duo turned out to be a really great move. When it comes to the selected villains of the Joker and the Shaper of Worlds as the anti-hero figures of the story, the two looked like an odd pair but if you focus on the details of the story, you will realize that it made a lot of sense having them two together. The Shaper needs something which requires him to depend on the Joker who in turn brings his gang with him to cause chaos to acquire what the alien needs

All of the above details would not have worked had it not been for the excellent writing by Len Wein. Clearly Wein knew a whole lot about the defining elements of the Hulk and Batman (and the same with the Joker and Shaper), and he carefully blended those elements together to make a story that is thrilling, intriguing, engaging and at the same time still made sense. More on crossing over, there are other characters connected to Batman and the Hulk that made appearances and a few of them fit in nicely into the story.

As this was released in 1981, it was typical of the time for writers to use thought balloons to help readers understand what the characters were thinking. The use of thought balloons in this comic book truly defined Batman who not only had to fight the bad guys but also manage his way with the Hulk and do a lot of detective work.

Going back to the Hulk and Batman, this comic book has a lot of fun stuff. More than once did the two superheroes engage in action-packed encounters and their exchange of words was very nicely done. Their match-up (or mismatch) really works.

Prev1
A perfectly crafted action scene between the Hulk and Batman, complete with accurate depictions of each character! 

When it comes to the common complaint by some readers out there that the comic book was more of a Batman story and made the Hulk less prominent, I should say that the slight imbalance is not a problem at all. In fact, for me it makes perfect sense that Batman has more spotlight than the Hulk. Why? Because Batman is a detective and he performed a lot of researching, information gathering and other moves to solve problems. His detective work in the story made perfect sense for the narrative. As for the Hulk, his character really has very limited options other than causing destruction and disturbing the public. Since early on, the Hulk was best known for attracting the attention of the American military (led by General Ross) and huge destruction defined the encounters. For this crossover, the creators did not show the Hulk engaging with the military (save for the phonies) but rather he struggled to figure things out whenever he encountered Batman or the Joker. There is no way the Hulk could do detective work like Batman and having him fight the military would have weakened this comic book’s presentation. Clearly, having the story slightly slanted towards Batman is still the right move.

Prev2
Very highly imaginative and dynamic artwork by José Luis García-López.

The artwork done by José Luis García-López is excellent! He really captured the looks and details of each and every character Marvel and DC that appeared in this comic book. Back in the early 1980s, I got to read several comic books that showed Batman, the Hulk, the Joker and others and the way they appeared in this comic book was indeed accurate of the time. José Luis García-López also knew how to balance spectacle with character development and expository dialogue in terms of visual pacing and framing shots. Also his work becomes even more imaginative during the final conflict. Undoubtedly this is still a great looking comic book!

Conclusion

Overall, Batman vs. The Incredible Hulk is a great comic book and easily it is one of the greatest intercompany superhero crossover comic books ever published! From start to finish, this comic book proved to be highly engaging and there never was a single boring moment. The creators led by Len Wein (he is sorely missed) made the best possible story anyone can make involving Batman and the Hulk.

You can read a hard copy of this comic book by getting Volume 1 of Crossover Classics or, if you can afford to, hunt for a copy of this in its DC Special Series form which now sells for $280 for a very fine copy to as much as $400 for a near mint copy as of this writing according to MileHighComics.com

In ending this, I declare that Batman vs. The Incredible Hulk is highly recommended!


Thank you for reading. If you find this article engaging, please click the like button below and also please consider sharing this article to others. Also my fantasy book The World of Havenor is still available in paperback and e-book format. If you are looking for a copywriter to create content for your special project or business, check out my services and my portfolio. Feel free to contact me as well. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco and follow me at HavenorFantasy@twitter.com

 

A Look Back At Superman and Spider-Man

I miss the old times when big rivals Marvel and DC Comics would set aside competition temporarily to team up and rely on their respective comic creators to make superhero crossover comic books that the fans can enjoy.

Back in the 1970s, key developments related to the comic book adaptation of The Wizard of Oz brought the two rivals together as partners. In 1976, Marvel and DC’s first superhero crossover Superman vs. The Amazing Spider-Man got published and to this day many comic book collectors and geeks I encountered still enjoy it. A few of them even called it a classic.

The collaboration between Marvel and DC continued in 1981 with Superman and Spider-Man which was published as issue number 28 of the Marvel Treasury Edition series.

1
The cover.

This is my look back at Superman and Spider-Man.

The comic book

Scripted by then Marvel Comic editor-in-chief Jim Shooter (with Marv Wolfman mentioned for plot suggestions) with art drawn by John Buscema and inkwork done by Terry Austin, Al Milgrom, Steva Leialoha, Walt Simonson, Bob Layton, Joe Rubinstein and Bob Wiacek, the comic book begins when Spider-Man swings into a construction site where he encounters several armed men and stops them singlehandedly.

Even though he stopped the bad guys, Spider-Man’s spider sense bothers him making him speculate that, because there’s no clear danger around him, the construction site seemed to be a threat.

After Spider-Man swings away from the police who just arrived, classic Marvel supervillain Doctor Doom watches via surveillance video and he was bother by the way things turned out.

“I did not like the way Spider-Man paused and look around after subduing the thieves – – as if he sensed something unusual about the excavation! Those accursed spider instincts of his,” Doom said before proceeding with his master plan.

A day later, the Hulk arrives in Metropolis causing lots of damage. Separately Superman and Spider-Man arrive to contain the green guy. However, things are not what they seem. This is where the story description ends.

Quality

What this comic book lacked compared to the 1976 Superman-Spider-Man crossover is visual impact. Clearly John Buscema had to follow closely the script which called for multiple panels per page and that left him little room to draw scenes dynamically. That’s not to see the art is weak. In fact, Buscema’s art is pretty good and he has deep knowledge about how the characters (including those many supporting characters and other minor characters from both Marvel and DC Comics) really looked from the size of Hulk’s body, the details on Wonder Woman’s costume, the distinctive look of J. Jonah Jameson, Perry White, etc. In short, I recognized the characters very easily.

15
This remains fun to read.
24
Peter Parker in Metropolis along with the Superman supporting characters. This is one great element that made this comic book worth reading.

While the high number of panels per page limited him, Buscema managed to come up with some action shots that packed some impact.

When it comes to writing and storytelling, this comic book exceeds that of the 1976 Superman-Spider-Man crossover big time! To start with, the plot is much more elaborate, more detailed and yet consistently remained easy to follow.

While the 1976 crossover had the most popular villains of Superman and Spider-Man as the representation of evil, this one instead had Dr. Doom and Parasite. The great news is that these two super villains complement each other nicely and that itself adds good depth into the plot. Dr. Doom is a major schemer and Parasite fitted nicely within his master plan for global chaos.

Regarding dialogue, the script had a lot of strength and was also specific in capturing the personalities of the superheroes, the super villains and the supporting cast. I can easily identify J. Jonah Jameson, Perry White, Lois Lane and others through the dialogue.

Not to be outdone is the deeper approach to the crossover aspect of the story. Right from the start, the comic book creators expected us readers to suspend disbelief and start believing that while the story is non-canon, the respective universes of Marvel and DC Comics co-existed. Because there were TV shows of Wonder Woman and the Hulk playing, the two characters were included in the comic book adding depth to the crossover.

Speaking of crossovers, this comic book was not limited to Superman and Spider-Man. The encounter between the Hulk and Superman was a short but sweet spectacle to read. The encounter between Wonder Woman and Spider-Man meanwhile was short yet fun.

Adding more to the fun in this comic book was how Clark Kent interacted with the Spider-Man supporting characters while Peter Parker interacted with the Superman supporting characters. I enjoyed every moment of these scenes.

As far as narrative is concerned, this comic book is slightly slanted towards Superman. One factor behind this was the implementation of how local authorities interact with Superman and Spider-Man. Whenever he solves crime, Superman is highly respected by the public and the police. This is not the case with Spider-Man who is often perceived to be a social menace even though he helps solve crimes. Another factor was that Superman did more detective-type work (including a visit to Latveria) while Spidey hardly contributed anything to the plot’s development.

38
Nothing can be more frustrating than getting attacked by police officers when you try to help them solve their problems.

Regardless, the two icons got a fair share of the spotlight during the final stages of the story and there was enough spectacle to enjoy.

If there is any complaint I have, it would be the comic book creators’ reluctance on fully connecting itself to the 1976 crossover. In the scene wherein Peter Parker was guided into the film editing room by Jimmy Olsen, he recognized Lois Lane and remembered meeting her in the 1976 crossover (which ended with socializing). And yet when Spider-Man and Superman get together in this comic book, there was a noticeable lack of friendliness and personal cooperation between them even though they bonded nicely in the 1976 story.

Conclusion

Overall, Superman and Spider-Man is indeed a highly engaging, fun-filled superhero crossover comic book. For me, it is a true literary classic and definitely worth searching for out there. I read this crossover many times from start to finish and even though I knew the plot and the dialogue, I still had a lot of fun reading along the way. With the combined talents of Shooter, Buscema and many others, this superhero crossover was indeed one of the very best stories ever told by Marvel and DC Comics.

Given the current corporate climate Marvel and DC Comics are now in, it is very unlikely we will see another creatively fun superhero crossover collaboration between them happening soon. For the newcomers reading this, Marvel is owned by the Walt Disney Company while DC Comics is owned by Warner Bros.

Whether you search for the original comic book or its inclusion in a volume of The Marvel/DC Collection: Crossover Classics Volume 1, Superman and Spider-Man is highly recommended!


Thank you for reading. If you find this article engaging, please click the like button below and also please consider sharing this article to others. Also my fantasy book The World of Havenor is still available in paperback and e-book format. If you are looking for a copywriter to create content for your special project or business, check out my services and my portfolio. Feel free to contact me as well. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco and follow me at HavenorFantasy@twitter.com

 

A Look Back at Avengers #366

Back in the early 1990s, collecting comic books that had #1 on their cover or had a special cover on the front was a trend among comic book collectors. Marvel Comics back then was well known for releasing comic books with gimmick covers using material like foil, holograms, embossed art and the like. They also released comic books with gimmick covers when a comic book series reached its “anniversary” with the 25th issue, 50th issue, 75th issue, 100th issue and so on.

Then something happened in 1993. Marvel celebrated the respective 30th anniversaries of the X-Men and the Avengers that year and that meant releasing comic books with gimmick covers as well as some related merchandise to entice the fans and the collectors.

Here, I discuss with you Avengers #366.

TheAvengers366
The “gold” gimmick cover of Avengers #366.

Released in 1993, Avengers #366 marked the 30th anniversary celebration of its franchise and for a cover price of $3.95, it had a gimmick cover and over 60 pages of content.

The story begins with the Avengers – composed of Captain America, Sersi, Black Widow, and Hank Pym watching a situation. Sersi reveals that Dane/Black Knight is being tortured and that they have to rush to stop the bad guys who captured him. Vision arrived suddenly to their surprise and tells them that Black Knight, Crystal, Hercules and Deathcry have been captured. More startling is that the Kree brought a nega-bomb to Earth. The said weapon was used by the Kree to kill billions of inhabitants. Running out of patience, Sersi tells her teammates that immediate action is needed and angrily she flew out of the Avengers headquarters determined to make the Kree pay. Immediately the Avengers assembled and moved on to rescue their friends.

In terms of storytelling, the comic book has a predictable tale about its superheroes moving to help their suffering teammates. Of course, even though I won’t spoil the plot, it’s obvious where the story is going. To fill the many pages, there is a lot of expository dialogue as well as character interaction moments in between scenes.

When it comes to action and spectacle, there is a lot to see here and there although the quality of the art keeps them from being dynamic.

There is also one additional story published and it even has Deadpool in it.

Ave366a.jpg
This is how the Avengers looked like in 1993.

For a comic book celebrating the Avengers’ 30th anniversary, I found it weird that the Avengers #366 lacked any retrospective to the origins of the franchise. It’s like the publisher did not want readers to remember how the Avengers were formed, who were the original members and why the team was formed in the first place. In other words, the story was nothing special and it does not justify the gimmick cover.

If you are a fan who started liking the Avengers franchise because of Marvel Entertainment movies, then this comic book will most likely not appeal to you. The Hulk, Iron Man and Hawkeye are not included and the style of spectacle will most likely fail to impress you. However, if you are an Avengers fan who started reading the comic book series at least a few years before 1993, this one just might entertain you temporarily.

Looking back in 1993 when I barely had enough money to buy new comic books, I’m glad I never bought Avengers #366. By comparison, the 30th anniversary celebration of the X-Men was better and more engaging with the Fatal Attractions storyline.

 

A Look Back At Fantastic Four #375 (1993)

When it comes to cinema, Marvel’s Fantastic Four has yet to achieve greatness commercially and critically. Already four movies were made and the last one released in 2015 was so terrible, I felt that the Fantastic Four brand suffered.

Truly the best way to enjoy the stories of Fantastic Four is in the comic books with a long bridge connecting to its past. Through the decades no doubt. Like any other comic book series, Fantastic Four had its high points, low points as well the unusual or intriguing stuff.

Today we take a close look at Fantastic Four #375.

Released in 1993 by Marvel Comics at a prize of $2.95, Fantastic Four #375 came with a foil cover which shines under direct light. The gimmick cover, which was part of the trend of the 1990s, had that “Bling!” visual effect when the brightest light is used on it.

Written by Tom DeFalco and drawn by Paul Ryan, the comic book follows the Fantastic Four with Lyja and Sharon who find themselves suddenly transported into space inside a facility with Uatu, the Watcher. They learned from Uata that their mortal enemy Doctor Doom usurped the power of a renegade Watcher called Aron. Uatu expressed that Doom has grown into a greater threat.

The Fantastic Four and their companions split up in an attempt to find Doom before it is too late.

Storywise, the splitting of the protagonists allowed some notable character development moments to happen. I liked the scene wherein Sharon tries to comfort Ben (The Thing) whose solid face got damaged by Wolverine during a very recent encounter (told in Fantastic Four #374) which makes him vulnerable to excruciating pain when he gets hit on the soft spots. Johnny Storm meanwhile deals with the Skrull woman Lyja whom he has a conflict with. And then there is Reed Richards with wife Sue struggling with some issues as they work together.

Sue said to Richard: I can’t believe that you allowed the Watcher to buffalo you into fighting his battle especially since Johnny is still wanted by the police back on Earth!

When they finally confront Doom, there was this division between them.

Richard: Susan! We must protect the optimizer at all costs!

Sue: Then you guard it! If he’s hurt my brother, Doom is mine!

When it comes to quality, the story can be hard to grasp if you missed out on the previous issues. This was because the conflicts between the characters clearly started from some time back. Also it was interesting to see the Inhumans in the mix.

On spectacle, there is a lot of action to satisfy readers. As this was released in 1993, the 1990s superhero trends were unsurprisingly present such as those large futuristic guns and excess pouches/pockets. While they do make sense in the context of the story, the use of guns by key members of the Fantastic Four (which is reflective of the decade of the comic book’s release) can be alienating to any Fantastic Four fan who has gotten used to seeing the team NOT using such weapons.

Artist Paul Ryan, for the most part, delivered serviceable visuals and clearly tried his best to add impact on the action scenes.

Overall, Fantastic Four #375 delivers some temporary fun. Is it a very memorable Fantastic Four story? Absolutely not. Is it a must-read or a must-buy for new comic book collectors? Not really. In my opinion, the most engaging feature of the comic book is just its shiny cover. Once readers get past the cover and immerse themselves into the story, they won’t got much value in return other than temporary fun.

FB_IMG_1554473010319.jpg
The cover with the “Bling!” visual effect under bright light!

 If you find Fantastic Four #375 at a bargain bin for less than $1, then it would be a good purchase. Don’t pay any higher than $1 for it.


Thank you for reading. If you find this article engaging, please click the like button below and also please consider sharing this article to others. Also my fantasy book The World of Havenor is still available in paperback and e-book format. If you are looking for a copywriter to create content for your special project or business, check out my services and my portfolio. Feel free to contact me as well. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco and follow me at HavenorFantasy@twitter.com