Comic Book Review – X-Men by Jonathan Hickman Volume 2

X-Men by Jonathan Hickman Volume 2 (2020)
Reprints X-Men #7-11
Written by Jonathan Hickman
Art by Francis Lenil Yu

Jonathan Hickman’s new status quo on the X-Men books has been such a refreshing surprising over the last year from Marvel. It seems more and more often, comic books get stuck in nostalgic cycles of retelling the same basic stories over and over. Hickman has totally reinvented the X-Men, ending the entire conflict between the team and their villains to tell a much more compelling story about a new race of people trying to carve out their own place on this planet. There really isn’t an X-Men team anymore with this title and many of the others featuring regularly rotating casts. 

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Comic Book Review – Venom Volume 3: Absolute Carnage

Venom Volume 3: Absolute Carnage (2020)
Reprints Venom #16-20
Written by Donny Cates
Art by Juan Gedon, Jesus Arburtov, Iban Coello, Rain Beredo, and Ze Carlos

You’re saying, “Didn’t you review Absolute Carnage last month?” Yes. That was the core mini-series of the event while these are the issues of Venom that tie-in that storyline. Comics are hard to understand sometimes. That said, these issues focus Dylan Brock, Eddie’s son. While Eddie is out fighting Carnage’s hordes of symbiotes, Dylan is staying with Normie Osborn, former host to a piece of Carnage thanks to his grandpa, the Green Goblin. The two kids are being watched over by The Maker, aka Reed Richards. I’d like to talk about that character for a bit.

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Comic Book Review – Absolute Carnage

Absolute Carnage (2020)
Reprints Free Comic Book Day 2019: Spider-Man/Venom #1, Absolute Carnage #1-5
Written by Donny Cates
Art by Ryan Stegman

During the 1990s, there was a character I disliked even more than Venom, Carnage. If you aren’t familiar with Carnage, he is Cletus Kasaday, a serial killer whom Eddie Brock shared a prison cell with. When the symbiote returned to bond with Eddie and break him out of prison, it also gave birth to another symbiote. This organism bonded with Kasaday to create Carnage. I always felt like the character’s only selling point is that he was “edgy” in look and behavior. He was just teeth and claws who killed people, a villain that felt more at home in Image Comics than at Marvel. Apparently, he is very popular because Marvel has sold many titles based on Carnage being there, definitely not as much as Venom but still enough to make me think he must have some sort of fanbase.

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Comic Book Review – Venom: War of the Realms

Venom: War of the Realms (2019)
Reprints Venom #13-16, Venom: Cult of Carnage
Written by Cullen Bunn, Frank Tieri, & Donny Cates
Art by Iban Coello & Danilo Beyruth

Marvel is no stranger to the sprawling event comic. Currently, they usually have one big event with some smaller ones sprinkled in more concentrated ways over a year. War of the Realms was the culmination of Jason Aaron’s run on Thor and saw the hordes of Norse mythological monsters unleashed on Midgard, aka Earth. This doesn’t seem like too natural of a fit for Venom, but with Donny Cates’s expansion of the antihero to include ties to a Lovecraftian god in the form of Knull, it doesn’t seem too much of a stretch now.

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Comic Book Review – X-Men by Jonathan Hickman Volume One

X-Men by Jonathan Hickman Volume 1 (2020)
Reprints X-Men v5 #1-6
Written by Jonathan Hickman
Art by Francis Lenil Yu, R.B. Silva, and Matteo Buffagni

After Jonathan Hickman’s magnificent House of X/Powers of X reboot of the X-titles’ status quo, it was clear the classic Marvel characters were headed in a brand-new direction. The mutants had finally dropped their petty squabbles and coalesced into one community, relocating to the living mutant island of Krakoa. Now with their new-found sovereign nation status and the ability to grow medicinal plants that could change the survival rates of numerous diseases, they leveraged a place at the tables of power. We also learned in that mini-series how the mutants have overcome death, using Professor Xavier’s Cerebro computer and Krakoa’s regenerative properties to regrow dead mutants complete with all their memories. This is where the fifth volume of X-Men opens, a brand new world. 

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Comic Book Review – Venom Volume 2: The Abyss

Venom Volume 2: The Abyss
Written by Donny Cates
Art by Ryan Stegman & Iban Coello

Donny Cates’s run on Venom has been all about the strange symbiosis between Eddie Brock and his companion. It’s a fascinating study of body horror, precisely the moments where Eddie loses time and learns the symbiote was moving him around and speaking for him. The title leans into its horror elements more than it’s superhero roots. There’s also a desire to build out the Venom mythos beyond just being a part of the Spider-Man niche of the Marvel Universe.

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Comic Book Review – Venom: Rex

Venom: Rex
Reprints Venom v4 #1-6
Written by Donny Cates
Art by Ryan Stegman

I’ve previously delved into the world of Venom via Rick Remender’s run on the series. I always admit upfront that I am not a fan of the character. Venom came about right as Marvel was being dominated by the future Image Comics founders, most artists, where grimy & complicated design overshadowed proper character development. Venom is essentially “evil Spider-Man” and has become an anti-hero with an apparently large fanbase, comparable to The Punisher or Deadpool (two more characters I don’t really like). I had heard extremely positive buzz about Donny Cates’s current run and decided to put aside my personal biases and give this one a look.

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Comic Book Review – X-Statix: The Complete Collection Volume 1

X-Statix: The Complete Collection Volume 1
Reprints X-Force #116 – 129, Brotherhood #9, X-Statix #1-5
Written by Peter Milligan
Art by Mike Allred, Darwyn Cooke, and Paul Pope

This is the most of Peter Milligan’s work that I have ever read. Before this is was a handful of Justice League Dark issues and a mini-series he did for DC’s Flashpoint crossover. I can’t say I was ever a fan of what I read, it is all so strange & off. That doesn’t mean it’s bad, more that your brain sort of has to adjust to the wavelengths Milligan is broadcasting on. It’s evident he has his own style and is writing first for himself. I prefer writers who practice that approach, write a story you would want to read, and the audience will come to you. This is one of those forgotten runs in Marvel’s X-Men niche, running alongside Grant Morrison’s brilliant reboot of the main title. Milligan’s take on X-Force got a lot of attention when it kicked off, but I don’t remember it lasting too long, the series kept going but the buzz faded.

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Comic Book Review – New Mutants: The Demon Bear Saga

New Mutants Epic Collection: The Demon Bear Saga
Reprints New Mutants #13-31, Annual #1
Written by Chris Claremont
Art by Sal Buscema, Bob McLeod, & Bill Sienkiewicz

Calling this volume “The Demon Bear Saga” feels a slight bit disingenuous as the conflict with the titular entity takes up about four issues in this collection. A more apt title would reference the stye transition brought to New Mutants by the legendary Bill Sienkiewicz. The switch in issue 18 from Sal Buscema fairly standard art to Sienkiewicz dynamic and kinetic style is jarring in all the best ways. There are quite a few story arcs and subplots running through this collection, so it’s not as much about one singular narrative as it is New Mutants differentiating itself from its sister title at the time The Uncanny X-Men.

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Comic Book Review – House of X/Powers of X

House of X/Powers of X
Reprints House of X #1-6 & Powers of X #1-6
Written by Jonathan Hickman
Art by Pepe Larraz and R.B. Silva

Forty-four years ago, writer Chris Claremont was tasked with reviving the middling X-Men title for Marvel. Compared to books like Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, and Captain America, X-Men was never a marquee hit for the company. Its characters were often operating in their own mutant pocket within the larger universe, occasionally being a part of the larger world. Claremont embraced the marginalization of mutants and expanded the mythos farther than it ever had been. At the end of his sixteen-year run on Uncanny X-Men, spinning off titles like Excalibur and New Mutants, Claremont left the book due to clashes with a new editorial staff. What remained was the template for what X-Men could be that every writer has clung to tightly since. The adherence to Claremont’s characterizations and plots have been so rigid that X-Men was a moribund franchise within Marvel for the last five years. Characters died only to be resurrected months later, and there never seemed to be real growth & change save for a small handful of heroes & villains. Then came Jonathan Hickman.

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