Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Joshoncomics Review of 2010

2010 has been a mixed year for me on a personal level, with several high points and sadly some low points as well. That said, it gives me great pleasure to see this post bring me to 20 for the year - equalling my output for 2009 despite a period of shocking and inexcusable inactivity in the Summer. It has been, in all honesty a below par year for comics. Sales are down to near unheard of levels and my pull list has been mercilessly shorn. Despite this there is much to celebrate, as in my mind Marvel's Heroic Age has been a quiet success, ushering in an end to the event driven storytelling of recent years. Hopefully next year will be a great, and improved year for comics with increased sales and more great stories! But for now, let's focus on the best of 2010. Happy reading, happy new year and a million thankyous to anyone who has spent even a moment reading my inane ramblings this year!

Best Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
While Bendis has been one of the most lauded figures in modern day comic books, he is also heavily criticised, with online fandom taking issue with his decompressed style of writing and distinctive patterns of dialogue. Thankfully, given his rather prolific output I am not one of those critics. While his relaunched Avengers title has faltered, both New Avengers and Ultimate Spider-Man have been firing on all cylinders. Bendis deserves this award for consistently delivering quality, despite a workload that would reduce many other writers to tears.

Best Artist: Pasqual Ferry
The jury is still out on Matt Fraction's hotly anticipated Thor series, yet its biggest success in my eyes has been Pasqual Ferry's distinctive artwork. I am not art critic but Ferry's work on the title has enlivened Fraction's occasionally pedestrian scripts, making Thor one of 2010's most readable titles.

Best Series: Avengers Academy
Christos Gage is a writer that few would have been familiar with just a few years ago but in the last 12 months he has risen to the top of my list of up and coming Marvel writers. In his acclaimed, if not hotly anticipated run on Avengers Academy Gage has mixed deft characterisation with classic superheroics, to brilliant effect.

Best Single Issue: Ultimate Avengers 2 #2
Mark Millar's return to the Ultimates characters that he made famous has sadly not fully lived up to its potential, despite being an entertaining enough blockbuster action romp. The undoubted highlight in my mind was the second issue of the second volume of his Ultimate Avengers series. In the space of 22 pages Millar introduces a compelling and multi-layered new character, as well as finding space the hard hitting fight scenes that made him famous. Add Leinil Francis Yu to the mix, back to his best after a lacklustre showing on Secret Invasion and you have my favourite single issue of the year.

Biggest Disappointment: Avengers
While he was my favourite writer of the year, this title's inclusion shows that Brian Michael Bendis is in no way exempt from criticism. Avengers promised much, especially after a stellar opening issue, but delivered little. Its opening arc was something of a confusing mess, although a promising latest issue suggests that the title could be in for a much improved 2011!

Best Film: Shutter Island
For someone who quite simply did not understand Inception, Shutter Island stands as a memorable highlight in a solid year for film. Martin Scorsese's psychological thriller melded a star studded cast and a bafflingly brilliant storyline, to create one of the most thought provoking films of the year, with probably my favourite twist ending of all time (Yes, I didn't see it coming).

Best TV Series: The Trip
I was sorely tempted to give LOST, my personal favourite television series of all time, this award, but the fact is that sixth season was slightly below par, and was largely saved by an outstanding conclusion. With that in mind, my favourite television series of the year goes to a show that probably won't be widely known outside the UK - The Trip, starring British actors/comedians Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan. Boasting a confusing premise, the Trip's strength lies not in its comedy but its honesty, with Brydon and Coogans often inane conversations standing apart from anything else on modern television. Infused with an unexpected bleakness, The Trip is a rare breed - a completely unique modern televison program. Highly recommended.

Song of the year: O Children - Ruins

Album of the Year: Arcade Fire - The Suburbs

Well that brings us to a close, and concludes my postings this year. While I still have your attention I implore you to listen to the above songs - they really are excellent! Thanks to everyone once again for reading, if you disagree (or agree) with any of my choices then by all means contact me - the links are in the top left of the page. Happy new year readers! Josh out!

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

How Did Writer's Tackle the Spider-Marriage?

One of the major bones of contention among Spider-Man fandom in recent years has been the character's marriage - or lack thereof. Joe Quesada's hugely controversial decision to terminate Peter and Mary-Janes wedding in the widely panned One More Day storyline has literally split the webslinger's fanbase through the middle. Whether you loved it, hated it or are somewhere inbetween it is a definite fact that several writers disliked the marriage, and found it difficult to write stories with a married Spider-Man. However - arguably just as many writers thoroughly enjoyed the challenge of writing a married Spider-Man and thrived under the constraints that the marriage provided. In this article I intend to look at a few of the more notable writers who dealt with a married Spider-Man, looking at who was successful and who was...less than successful.

David Micheline:
David Micheline was the first writer to regularly tackle the Spider-Marriage in the flagship title, Amazing Spider-Man. Micheline also wrote the landmark storyline running through ASM #290-292 where Peter finally pops the question (successfully). In my opinion, a lot of the strongest aspects of Peter and Mary Jane's marriage originated in Micheline's portrayal of their relationship. Micheline writes Mary-Jane as a woman who in Peter has finally found someone that she can trust - enabling to grow out of being the girl who always ran away from her problems. MJ's acceptance of Peter's double life is a testament to her growth of character, and many forget that is Micheline who is largely responsible for this growth. Of course Micheline's portrayal of the relationship is not without fault - I felt that he often idealized their relationship. Although it was initially appropriate as Peter and MJ were still in the 'honeymoon period' I felt it wore a little thin as his run progressed. Nonetheless, in my mind Micheline still stands as one of the foremost architects of Spider-Man's massively popular marriage.

Tom Defalco:
Although Tom Defalco's record writing the marriage in mainstream continuity is unremarkable at best, he definitely deserves plaudits for his superb alternate reality take on it in his recently cancelled Spider-Girl series. Although Defalco's portrayal of Peter and Mary-Jane's marriage is undoubtedly changed due to its status in the characters future, it is an undeniably fascinating look at how the make up of their relationship is fundamentally altered by the presence of a child and the absence of Peter's dual identity. Defalco writes a hugely convincing Peter as a father, and his portrayal of Mary-Jane is bang on as well - with her rebellious streak often coming to the fore during disagreements about their daughters superheroics. While at its core, Spider-Girl is a series about the daughter of Spider-Man, it could be argued that it is just as much about Spider-Man's family.

J.M Dematteis
Probably the man responsible for my favourite marriage related stories, J.M Dematteis is distinguished as man responsible for not one, but two of the most underrated runs in Spider-Man's history. What is even more remarkable is that his, and arguably the best ever story about the marriage actually takes place outside both of these runs, in a stand alone arc running through all four Spider-Man titles shortly after the wedding entitled Kraven's Last Hunt. Dematteis' blend of psychological and light hearted stories lent itself well to Peter and Mary-Janes characters, as Dematteis proved himself to be adept at writing both the serious and more jokey sides of their relationship. I also really liked the way, particularly in his second run on Spectacular Spider-Man that Mary-Jane was shown to be an active participant in Peter's in costume adventures, such as when she knocked out the Chameleon and helped Peter design several new costumed identities during the Identity Crisis storyline.

Howard Mackie
There are several writers who wrote Peter and Mary-Janes relationship poorly, but few failed as spectacularly as Howard Mackie in his post-reboot run on both the Amazing Spider-Man and Peter Parker: Spider-Man. To be fair to Mackie, he has publically admitted several times that he was burnt out on the character during this period, and some of the blame must lie at Marvel's door for putting him on both titles. Nonetheless, I am of the opinion that this roughly 25 issue period did more to damage public opinion of the Spider-Marriage than any other period in its history. Peter and Mary-Jane both behaved bizarrely during this period, repeatedly reminding readers of how young they were during their all too frequent squabbles. Mary-Jane's supposed 'death' was pretty much caused by her ridiculous refusal to tell her husband about the stalker making her life hell. To add insult to injury, after Mary-Jane finally returned Mackie promptly wrote her out of the series in a diabolically bad annual where Peter relentlessly hounded her for sex. As I said, Mackie is not entirely to blame here but this was very bad stuff.

J. Michael Straczynski
In all honesty I am only including JMS as he is probably one of the most acclaimed writers of the marriage in its history. While I enjoyed his run and felt that Peter and MJ's relationship was one of its strongest aspects I just didn't find it as compelling as under previous writers, possibly due to the fact that I thought that the quality of his stories gradually decreased when Mary-Jane returned to the series. That said, I think that Sins Past is one of the strongest examples of the marriage in recent history - while it was a hugely controversial story I don't think that his portrayal of Peter and Mary-Jane's relationship during it can be faulted.

Honourable mention must go to Matt Fraction, for his superb portrayal of the marriage during the critically acclaimed Sensational Spider-Man Annual #1. While I didn't think that it would be appropriate to include him based on one story I strongly recommend that anyone interested in the marriage check it out. I would also recommend the excellent J.R Fettinger's series of essays on their relationship entitled Why did it have to be you Mary-Jane? The articles can be found over at

That just about wraps things up - I hope you've enjoyed my brief rundown, if you think I have missed any writers out or disagree with any of my opinions please feel to free to comment or contact me by via email. Thanks a lot for your time, I hope all my readers have a very merry christmas!

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Spider-Girl # 1 Review

Spider-Girl #1 by Tobin / Henry

The launch of Paul Tobin’s new Spider-Girl series has been more controversial than it really has any right to be. The fanatical following of Tom Defalco’s recently cancelled previous Spider-Girl series have sworn off the title in droves, seeing Anya Corazon as a pretender to Mayday Parker’s Spider-Girl throne. While I was a fan of Defalco’s Spider-Girl I thought that it had run out of steam in recent times. Given its poor sales I can understand Marvel’s decision to cancel it and hand the title over to a new character (albeit one that has been around for a few years in a different guise).

Tobin’s debut issue is a strong start, introducing readers to an engaging heroine with a well worked, if limited supporting cast. Anya’s relationship with her father is very well written and a welcome tonic to the fraught parental relationships often evident among young characters. The family’s links to the Fantastic Four are well worked as well, without seeming forced – it is great to see Sue Storm in an off duty capacity and Tobin writes the character very well.

Oddly for a new series, this issue is fairly light on superheroics and it is in the out of costume scenes where the story really shines. The story does start off with a fun bout between Spider-Girl and Screwball, an underused villain with a cool concept who I always like seeing. It bothered me that she was so easily beaten though – Screwball is a character who has often given Spider-Man trouble in the past so I found a bit odd that a teenage girl with no actual superpowers was able to take her out in the space of a few pages. Spider-Girl’s status as a non-superpowered heroine was one that while well explained, seems a bit of a stretch to me. The recap page helpfully explains that she has received training from other heroes but I found it a bit puzzling that she seems to find crimefighting as easy as she does. I’m hoping that this is something that is expanded on in coming issues.

The cliffhanger ending featuring the Red Hulk came way out of left field for me. While it is good that Spider-Girl will be tying into the wider Marvel Universe, I would probably rather that she was more attached to Spider-Man’s world. Red Hulk is never a character that I have found particularly interesting and he has appeared in two Marvel books that I pick up in this month alone – this seems a little like overkill for me, particularly for a character who appears regularly in the Hulk stable of books.

Clayton Henry’s artwork is solid and serviceable without ever being spectacular. While I admire his clarity and good grasp of anatomy I tend to prefer more stylised artwork, with his work in this issue appearing a little bland for my tastes. He still does a good job though and I am more than happy with him on the title.

The issue also includes a short back up, also written by Paul Tobin with art by Dean Haspiel. It was nothing groundbreaking but was a fun little story, providing some much needed backstory on the Corazon’s relationship with the Fantastic Four. The artwork was very easy on the eye and I would not mind at all were it to become a regular feature. Anya and her father’s relationship with the FF is a very interesting element of the series and one that is ripe for exploration in future issues.

This is an issue that will probably not blow anyone’s socks off, but it worked very well for me as an introduction to the new Spider-Girl and her world. Anya is a very appealing and unique character and hopefully Tobin can build on this strong, if unspectacular start.


Monday, 13 December 2010

Tpb Review: Batman - Gothic

Batman: Gothic, collecting Legends of the Dark Knight #6-10 by Morrison / Janson

My forays into the mainstream DC universe are rare at best, but after one of my class teachers last week encouraged me to 'read some Batman comics' in preparation for this weeks seminar, I thought it would be rude not to. In addition to being one of modern day comic books most critically acclaimed figures, Grant Morrison is the current writer of Batman inc. and has recently completed a hugely commercially successful run on Batman and Robin. Batman: Gothic is one of the Scottish writers earlier attempts at writing the character, taking place in the anthology series Legends of the Dark Knight.

The plot takes a more supernatural angle on Batman and his world than is often seen, with the Dark Knight dealing with a series of murders in Gotham City, which may or may not be linked with a mysterious figure from the past. I found the plot fairly unremarkable. The additions to Batman's backstory were solid and made sense, but it feels like every time I read a Batman comic book or watch a Batman film his childhood is dredged up in some way. This is probably a more modern day trend and so may not have applied as much when Morrison was writing this story, but I found it a fairly tired element of the arc that didn't really add much. The villain was pretty generic as well, with no discernible motivations beyond 'being eeeeevil'. One of the strongest aspects of Batman's universe is his wealth of cool villains, this might have been a more effective story had Morrison used an already established foe, or even one with a little more depth.

The tone of the story was spot on for me though, and was one of the arc's strongest features. While Batman stories do not traditionally deal with supernatural themes, they seemed to fit in very well here with his universe. Batman has the potential to be a very dark character, and this is something that Morrison was not afraid to explore here with some very 'mature' subject matter and imagery. He also has a great handle on the character of Bruce Wayne, in particular his relationship with his butler Alfred- who stole every scene that he appeared in. With Batman himself being such a compelling character it is often easy to ignore his civilian alter-ego, a pitfall that Morrison thankfully avoided.

Janson's art was serviceable and fit with the tone of the story but is ultimately not really to my taste. Janson is a great inker, but his pencilling work often looks rough with some questionable anatomy. Thankfully this fits with the tone of the story so it wasn't too jarring.

Despite having a few flaws, Batman: Gothic was an enjoyable enough read. Morrison clearly has a great handle on Batman and his world and I'm not surprised that he has gone on to great success with the character.


Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Are Digital Comics the Future? Part Two

So what are Digital Comics, and why do I think that they have the potential to save the comic book industry?

Webcomics have been around in various forms since the 1980's, with varying degrees of success. Marvel and DC's forays into the world of cybercomics have been mixed at best with both publishers seeming hesitant towards the idea. Marvel experimented with Cybercomics - that is original flash animated online comic strips - from 1996-2000, before the companies financial worries saw the idea abandoned. Most comic book fans have an aversion to the idea of digital comics and I have generally shared that attitude, never being able to imagine reading a comic book on a computer screen. Sure I have done it before and it hasn't been too bad, but to me nothing can replace the feeling of holding the comic itself in your hands.

So why do I think that digital comics could save the industry when I'm barely even interested in them myself? The sad answer is that people like me (and probably you) are not who comic book companies need to be targeting. Like it or not, the world of comic books needs fresh blood. The industry has been shedding readers for decades and the trend has to stop somewhere if it is to stay alive.

Digital comics tick all the right boxes for me, in particular for users of the ipad; The comixology app features over 2,000 comics from 40 publishers, including the 'Holy Trinity' of Marvel, DC and Image. The devices slick interface allows for a truly ingenious reading experience, that potentially rivals the act of reading a comic book itself! Crucially the app also features 160 free comics. For me this is exactly what is needed for new readers, perhaps brought in by the myriad films and television series' based on comic books. Marvel and DC's digital download service also offer a similar feature, and with the sad social stigma around comic books, a free sample might be necessary to encourage many to take the plunge and give them a try. The fact is that comic books are not impulse buys anymore - to get hold of them you need to find a specialist shop and pay often in excess of £3 for a single issue.Digital comics allow potential customers to browse from the comfort of their own home, with affordable costs of around the £1-1.150 mark for a single issue.

If it sounds like I'm advertising digital comics that's because...I am. If you know anyone who is vaguely interested in super heroes or any of the various comic book adaptations on TV or cinema screens, chances are they will at least be curious about the possibility of seeing these characters in their 'original' forms. With free samples on offer there really is no excuse for them not to at least check out a couple of digital comics. Who knows, they could become a new comic book reader?

There is still some work to do, but if the major comic book companies can tap into digital comics in the right way they could bring in countless new costumers. Used in conjunction with the vast array of blockbuster comic book movies comics could finally become socially acceptable. It seems unlikely, even to an optimist like myself. But we can dream right?

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Are Digital Comics the Future? Part One

I'm not going to mince my words here - Comic books, or at least printed comic books are dying. Sales of single issues are dropping at an unprecedented level and show no signs of slowing down while the 'writing for the trade' mentality adopted by many writers means that 'floppies' (single comic books for the uninitiated) are rapidly decreasing in importance, being replaced by their harder backed cousins. Something needs to be done of course; Sales of collected editions are more closely guarded than single issues but it has to be assumed that they are not faring much better, despite being a lot more trendy and accessible. So what is the answer? Can anything save modern comic books from the malaise that they are currently steeped in?

Two words - Digital. Comics. Yes that's right, Digital Comics. I will admit that I have viewed Digital Comics with the same level as scepticism as most other comic book fans, remaining unconvinced that reading a comic on a screen can accurately replicate the comic book reading experience cherished by many (myself included). However, the sad truth is that aiming comic books at die hard comic readers is perhaps no longer enough. There clearly aren't enough, in the Direct Market at least, to attain the sales that the major comic book companies quite clearly crave. The answer is to preach to the uninitiated. Marvel and DC in particular, in the form of the successful film adaptations based on their characters, have the perfect point of entry for new readers. As of yet however, this has not been taken advantage of as much as it could have been.

For me, the main problems with attracting new readers to comic books seem to be twofold; Price and accessibility. Paying $3.99 or £3.00 for 22 pages of content is clearly not something that many comic-novices would choose to do, particularly given that many people choose not to pay at all for films, television or music, choosing instead to illegally download. The problem is exacerbated when you consider that legally downloading also seems a much more attractive proposition than walking into a shop and buying a few comics. A quick browse of the iTunes store reveals that for the price of one 22 page comic book from my local comic shop (roughly 5-10 minutes of entertainment) you can buy one episode of popular TV series House (roughly 45 minutes of entertainment) with around 50p to spare. Clearly something does not compute.

So what exactly are Digital Comics, and can they save the comic book industry? Find out next time on Josh On Comics! (Too cheesy? I think so...)

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Retro Review: Thunderbolts #18

Thunderbolts (volume 1) #18 by Busiek / Bagley

Despite loving the concept and generally enjoying the modern day iterations of the series, it has taken me an insultingly long time to check out the series that started it all. Fondly remembered by most, I was lucky enough to find a handful of issues in a 50p bin at my local comic shop recently, this issue being one of my favourites.

Did it meet my lofty expectations? In short - pretty much yes. Kurt Busiek is a master of characterisation and that is where this issue, and indeed the series as a whole shines. Previously bland characters such as Goliath and the Beetle are given believable motivations and are made to be impressively likeable characters. Goliath (now calling himself Atlas) is characterised very believably given the characters history. Each character has a clear and well defined role in the team and a realistic reason for being there, something pleasing to see in the current age of teams being seemingly randomly thrown together.

Busiek manages to fit a lot of plot into the issue along with the character development, it is all fairly standard stuff but enjoyable enough. The status quo (or lack thereof) of the team is very refreshing. While the idea of the heroes being mistaken for villains has been around since the 1960s (Spider-Man the X-Men) the fact that the Thunderbolts were initially genuine villains (with many still unsure of where their loyalties lie) is a superb twist on a fairly tired idea. Jolt's presence as the teams moral compass is also an inspired move on Busiek's part.

That said, the story isn't perfect. Busiek's dialogue is not his strong point and his love for silver age comics is clear from his portrayal of the stories villains, who primarily come in the form of cackling ciphers. The Masters of Evil are still fun enough villains though and Busiek crafts a good fight sequence that stands as a good contrast to the stories quiet beginning.

Mark Bagley is on solid form, despite not quite matching the heights of his work on Spider-Man. His storytelling is solid and he is predictably adept at fight sequences. I think he works better on solo rather than team books but there are still few that I would rather have had drawing this issue.

Overall, on the strength of this issue The Thunderbolts probably deserves its reputation. A genuinely original concept, coupled with a solid plot and excellent characterisation. Not even some slightly iffy dialogue and hackneyed villains can drag this issue down. Recommended.


Monday, 2 August 2010

Tpb Review: Scott Pilgrim - Precious Little Life

Scott Pilgrim volume 1: Precious Little Life by Bryan Lee O'Malley

It was with some trepidation that I sat down to read Bryan Lee O'Malley's critically acclaimed (and soon to be captured on film) series Scott Pilgrim. Over the last year it has become a series that I have heard and read so much praise for that I was afraid it might be difficult to look at it in an objective way. In addition to this, at first glance the books artwork looked...not to my tastes. I have the utmost respect for Manga but it is really not my sort of thing and at first glance I casually dismissed O'Malley's artwork as 'too manga', possibly in part due to the lack of colour. Thankfully a glowing recommendation from a member of staff at my LCS was all that was needed for me to take the plunge and give volume 1 a try.

While not exactly Manga, Scott Pilgrim is far from your typical comic book. Despite my initial dislike for it, O'Malley's artwork really grew on me over the course of the book. What his art lacks in detail it more than makes up for in kinetic, off the wall energy. O'Malley's often unconventional storytelling choices also suit the quirky tone of the book. Don't get me wrong, it isn't the sort of thing I would usually go for but in this instance is a perfect fit for the story.

Ah...the story. Even for a comic book the plot of Scott Pilgrim is often utterly ridiculous, yet still manages to be more rooted in the real world than most. The titular character of Scott Pilgrim is an average Canadian guy, currently between jobs whose main passion is playing in his (terrible) band. The story picks up as a year on from a seemingly painful breakup, the 23 year old Pilgrim acquiries a high school girlfriend before becoming obsessed with the enigmatic delivery girl Ramona Flowers. Pilgrim learns that to date Flowers he has to defeat her seven 'evil exes' in combat. Despite the bizarre premise O'Malley manages to make it work, mainly through his excellent dialogue and likeable, realistic characters. This runs as a sharp contrast to the ridiculous and brilliantly over the top fight scenes, where his dynamic artwork is allowed to really shine.

It's not perfect - at times the plot seems a little aimless and I have a feeling that there is a lot more to come from forthcoming volumes. Despite this O'Malley does a fantastic job of introducing the reader to Scott Pilgrim's crazy world and the characters that inhabit it. A nice surprise.


Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Wolverine and the X-Men: Episode One Review

Despite being a fan of Marvel Animation, Wolverine and the X-Men was never a series that I had much interest in. Perhaps this is due to my recent lack of recent interest in the X-Men franchise, perhaps it's more to do with Wolverine's prominent placement in the series title. Either way, up until earlier this evening I had made very little effort to watch the show. This all changed when I noticed a DVD containing the first six episodes on sale for £2 (for my American readers, I'm not sure how much this is in $ - probably not a lot). At such a knockdown price I could hardly turn it down and settled down about half an hour ago to watch the first episode.

And I was pleasantly surprised. The core plot of the episode is nothing to write home about and variants of it have been seen elsewhere in subtly different forms. Despite this however the series promises a lot so far, with various subplots and mysteries introduced already. Both the animation and artwork shine, with a delicate balance being struck between overly complex and too simple and some really fluid, realistic movement on show. While not many of the X-Men made extended appearances the designs looked generally solid as well.

One thing that annoyed me a little, and justified my fears about the series name, was the prominent role that Wolverine played in the episode. While Wolverine is a good character he has been horrendously overexposed at times, most notably (and annoyingly) in the X-Men films, which may as well have shared a title with this series. While a lot of his characterisation in this episode is good it is ground that has been covered before. I appreciate that this show is aimed at the younger viewer who may not have been exposed to the comics but this was something that harmed the episode for me. Despite this, once Beast was introduced the episode improved a lot. The voice actors nailed both the characters and they played off each other very well. Here's hoping that the chemistry between the rest of the team will be as good.

Perhaps this episode was helped slightly by my low expectations, but nevertheless I found it a very enjoyable start, one which certainly whetted my appetite for more. Very much recommended to fans of the X-Men or just Marvel Animation in general.


Saturday, 29 May 2010

Retro Review: Spider-Man: Redemption

Spider-Man: Redemption #1-4 by Dematteis / Zeck

The brief 90's period where Ben Reilly stood in for Peter Parker as Spider-Man is not one fondly remembered by fans and critics alike. Ben's status as the 'real' Peter Parker was seen as a slap in the face by many of the wall crawlers longtime followers and it could be argued that as a result he was never given a fair chance to shine as Spider-Man. Despite his generally lukewarm reception there are two Spider-Man stories that are generally cited as hidden gems from his brief run wearing the webs, both written by experienced Spider-Scribe J.M Dematteis. The first of which, titled The Lost Years told an untold story of Ben's time on the road and was a huge success. As a big fan of the story I was very much looking forward to reading Dematteis' follow up mini-series, Spider-Man: Redemption.

Set in the present (at the time) day, Redemption deals with the return of Ben's ex-lover Janine. Despite leading an initially blissful existence the pairs happiness together is shattered by the return of arch-nemesis Kaine and his final plan to end both his and Ben's lives.

It's kinda sad to say it but I really wanted to enjoy Redemption more than I did. The Lost Years was a great story, and while its follow up isn't bad at all, it fails to reach the heights of its predecessor. Part of the problem is the art. Mike Zeck is a very capable artist, as can be seen from his excellent work on Dematteis' critically acclaimed Kraven's Last Hunt. However, his art here fails to capture the brutal, gritty tone of the story as well as John Romita Jr's did in the The Lost Years. While Zeck's linework is as solid as ever the colours appeared far too pale and washed out for me.

The strength of the story, as is typical with Dematteis is in its characterisation. Dematteis clearly has a great love for and understanding of the characters of Ben, Janine and Kaine and portrays them all realistically, capturing the complexities of their characters. Janine in particular is really allowed to shine here and it's a real shame that she will probably never be seen again. Dematteis is infamous for the psychological nature of his stories and this is no exception. While his style can appear overdone and unnecessary at times it is the perfect fit for Redemption.

Sadly the plot fails to match the depth of characterisation on show, often hinging on overly contrived and unbelievable elements. While Kaine is a good villain and is used effectively in the story his plans seemed very unconvincing and poorly defined at times. Also, while it isn't Dematteis' fault, the story now appears depressingly inconsequential. Ben's vow to watch over Janine at the stories conclusion seems somewhat hollow as he died shortly after and Janine has never even been mentioned since. This obviously has nothing to do with Dematteis but really harms the stories conclusion.

Sadly Dematteis' story is ultimately harmed by it's lack of impact. All three of the main characters disappeared from the Spider-Man universe shortly after this story and thus the emotional growth in this story seems almost redundant. Dematteis' characteristic strong emotional depth manages to rescue a weak and unconvincing plot, but this is ultimately a dissapointing sequel to a superb story.


I can't wrap up my review without congratulating Dematteis for sneaking in the most blatant sexual innuendo I have ever seen in a comic book. If this was unintentional then it is certainly a hilarious coincidence. If you missed then I'll give you a's in one of the flashback sequences.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Review: Sentry - Fallen Sun

Sentry: Fallen Sun by Jenkins / Raney

WARNING: This review contains spoilers for Siege #4

The Sentry is a strange character. Debuting in a critically acclaimed mini-series by Paul Jenkins, the general consensus seems to be that he should have been left well alone after that, and that Brian Michael Bendis' inclusion of him in his New Avengers team was a horrible mistake. I tend to disagree with this, his joining Bendis' team was an interesting move which led to some good stories (Jenkins' second Sentry series to name but one), the mistake was the cack handed handling of his origin. For roughly a three year period Marvel rammed SHOCKING new Sentry origins and powers down our throats until a once interesting, well defined character became a confusing mess. His death in Siege #4 seemed like a mercy killing if anything.

Luckily Paul Jenkins is the one man who has been able to write the Sentry consistently well, and he doesn't disappoint with this issue. Jenkins' strength has always been poignant, character driven issues, both descriptions that fit Fallen Sun perfectly. As in the original Sentry mini-series, Jenkins makes a convincing case for the Sentry's existence in the Marvel Universe, with the various heroes heartfelt tributes to him. Jenkins' characterisation's are consistently spot on, with his Tony Stark being particularly impressive. It was also a welcome surprise to see Sentry's sidekick Scout and his 'Watchdog'. This issues strengths mainly come from its ignoring of the more convoluted aspects of the character - Jenkins keeps it simple and it really works.There are minor complaints - it would have been nice to see the Hulk in some capacity and Rogue's revelations regarding her relationship with Sentry come slightly out of left-field but these are easily ignored.

Tom Raney's pencils are suitably understated - they didn't blow me away but what he had to do he did excellently, capturing the character's emotions well. I really liked his renditions of the heroes in street clothes with his Doctor Strange in particular being recognisable enough while still looking inappropriately dressed.

Silly name aside, this was a heartfelt, touching one-shot with a suitable tone - that said, if you aren't a fan of the Sentry stay well away from this, as it will most likely only fuel your hatred.


Sunday, 16 May 2010

News...Yes that's right, news!

We interrupt your regularly scheduled blog to bring you some exciting news about Josh On Comics. I was recently asked to write reviews for popular comic book website True Believer Reviews. I will be reviewing the Avengers titles there, with my first review being Dark Avengers #16 followed by Avengers #1 this week. The webmaster Otomo is a great guy so go check it out if you like reading comic reviews, interviews or features! There's a link in the bottom right corner of this very page!

Also, for anyone who wants to keep up with my various comic book related projects or just my general thoughts, I recently caved and got a Twitter account. Search for joshoncomics and follow me to keep updated and informed about all the latest comic book reviews from me.

Thanks for your time guys!

Friday, 14 May 2010

Not-Quite-Retro Review: Daredevil - Golden Age

Daredevil (volume 2) #66-70 by Bendis / Maleev

I turn to the not yet distant past for my latest review, and one of the darker, more obscure corners of Brian Michael Bendis' critically acclaimed run on Daredevil.
Golden Age is an intriguingly paced look back at the man who was Kingpin before Wilson Fisk and what happens on his release from prison after decades behind bars.
The first thing I noticed about Golden Age was the art. Alex Maleev's work is beautiful, realistic and richly coloured by Dave Stewart. Maleev's work manages to be moody without being overly dark or grimy, a mistake made by many of his contemparies. He also switches effectively between the differing time periods, altering his artwork without it being jarring and creating a strong, consistent tone.
Thankfully Bendis is able to craft a story to match the sublime artwork. His dialogue is, as usual, smart and witty throughout, managing to fit the earlier time periods without being too cheesy. His characterisation is spot on as well. Matt Murdoch is a grim, isolated protagonist, obviously affected by the traumatic events of his recent past (recapped well for those who haven't read the stories) while Bendis effectively builds up a new villain in Alexander Bont over the course of the five issue arc. Bont's anger and bitterness are conveyed superbly well through Bendis' writing and Maleev's cinematic pencils as the reader is treated to a widescreen look at his rise, fall and return.
It could be argued that Bendis' epic falls down slightly in its final act and although I agree that it was a slight anticlimax, it was definitely in keeping with the tone of the rest of the story. One area that the story does dissapoint in is the gratuitious appearances of one of Bendis' slightly less successful 'pet' characters, in this case an ill-fated reworking of obscure 1970's superhero The White Tiger. The character is interesting enough in her civillian guise in the opening chapters but only serves to get in the way of the central plot after her flirting with heroism begins.
Nevertheless, despite having read very little of Bendis' run before this story I found myself thoroughly enjoying it. This generation spanning epic is the perfect fit for Bendis and Maleev's cinematic style.


Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Dark Reign: My Verdict

Before I embark upon this revision dodging Blog, let me first make it clear that I am in no way 'against' Marvel. I am about as close to a 'Marvel Zombie' as it gets and have loved a lot of what has come out of the company over the last few years (Civil War included).

Dark Reign was a great idea. Letting the villains 'win' is an often underused plot, particularly in the Marvel Universe. While it has been done before (Kurt Busieks' excellent Kang Dynasty story arc among others) this is the first time it has been truly attempted on a company wide scale, with the vast majority of Marvel's books tying into the central story. Did it work? In my opinion, not really...

The story started off brilliantly. Norman Osborn was a great choice of villain and it seemed fresh and interesting to see him in a position of such great power. The cabal were also great fun. I wasn't around for the 90's Acts of Vengeance crossover so I loved seeing some of Marvel's most well known villains (and the Hood) interacting with each other. The group had a great dynamic with the charismatic duo of Doom and Loki often upstaging Osborn.

The tie-ins were generally excellent as well. The Thunderbolts in particular worked very well in their new niche as Osborn's black ops squad. The Dark Avengers were also great as a grittier, modern day reworking of the original Thunderbolts concept and for me marks a high point in Bendis' modern day writings. It was cool seeing a total reversal in Tony Stark's fortunes in Matt Fraction's Invincible Iron Man as well. And as I detailed in an earlier post Dan Slott's Mighty Avengers served as an excellent tonic to the moodiness of the rest of the Marvel Universe, while still tying loosely into Dark Reign.

So where did it go wrong? For me, Dark Reign was almost doomed from the start. Even in the early months as Osborn's fragile sanity began to collapse it became clear that it was a case of when, not if he would be deposed. Osborn was ultimately an unconvincing figurehead for the cabal. There were some hints that Doom would take over but they came to nothing and he now appears to have been shunted off into his own corner of the Marvel Universe in Doomwar. The inevitability of Osborn's collapse robbed the story of much needed feelings of hopeless and dread.

The tie-ins gradually decreased in quality as well. Thunderbolts seemed for the latter half of Dark Reign to be in a constant struggle to validate its existence, with even fan favourite writer Jeff Parker unable to give the title a point. Mighty Avengers collapsed as well, Slott's bizarre insistence on 'redeeming Hank Pym reaching ridiculous levels by the books increasingly silly conclusion. Dark Avengers was a very well written core book but suffered from Bendis' lamentable insistence that every team that he writes needs to be dismantled within a handful of story-arcs. The Dark Avengers seemed to have barely got started before they had been jettisoned (a shame too - it's probably been my favourite Marvel book for the duration of Dark Reign).

And Siege. Ah...Siege. Hyped as a story seven years in the making Siege has been acclaimed as the best 'event book' since House of M started the trend. I agree, it's been a solid series, but as a conclusion to a status quo as promising as Dark Reign was it seems little more than a predictable four issue long slugfest. I won't even go into the effect it's had on Thor, one of my favourite books. Kieron Gillon has done an admirable job under difficult circumstances but Siege has sadly made the title's plot seem irrelevant.

I would like to reiterate, this was not a post intended to bash Marvel. I actually thought they got a lot right during Dark Reign and it let to some enjoyable stories . For me though, it fell some way short of being classed as a classic era of Marvel Comics. If you enjoyed it more than I did...I'm happy for you, and I would love to hear why, leave a comment!


Thursday, 22 April 2010

Retro Review: Spider-Man: Torment

With the American comic book market currently in a somewhat precarious state, it seems ludicrous that once upon a time a single issue could sell in excess of two million copies. Yet once upon a time, in 1990 (funnily enough the year of my birth) Todd McFarlane managed just that with the debut issue of a fourth ongoing Spider-Man series, titled simply 'Spider-Man'. The issue kicked off a five part arc entitled 'Torment', but was this story worth its lofty sales figures? The short answer is probably not.

Torment has little plot for a five issue storyline. Basically, Spider-Man heads out to investigate a serial killer that he suspects to be old foe the Lizard. After finding the Lizard Spideyengages himself in one of the more brutal fights in the characters history, being drugged by a voodoo priestess along the way.

This stories greatest strength, by a long shot is its presentation. The issues have a very dark, almost gothic style, with the panels laid out in an abstract way never before seen in a Spider-Man book. The art, while clearly not being to everyones taste is spectacular, dynamic and vibrantly coloured. While his anatomy is not always spot on Mcfarlane draws Spider-Man very well, retaining the creepiness brought to the character by Steve Ditko while adding more modern sensibilities. His redesign of the Lizard is inspired as well and is as terrifying as any comic book villain has ever looked. However, McFarlane's storytelling is fairly weak. while individually his panels look great it is often unclear what is actually happening.

It is sadly indicative of McFarlane's priorities with this story that the first thing I discussed was its presentation. As I said before, Torment looks great but there is never that much going on below the surface. It definitely shows that this was McFarlane's first assignment as a writer, as he makes some amateurish decisions, most notoriously the ludicariously pretensious narrative captions that run throughout the story. McFarlane seems to be going for a 'Stan Lee for the 90's vibe' but sadly falls flat on his face. Torment is also very decompressed. While this has become quite the trend in recent years this does not make it excusable. Torment was clearly influenced by JM Dematteis' classic six part storyline 'Kraven's Last Hunt', but that story actually had the substance to justify its extended length, something that Torment is lacking.

McFarlane's characterisation of Peter Parker, Mary-Jane and their relationship is actually one of Torment's strengths in my opinion. McFarlane has a good handle idea of Peter Parker's 'voice', and while many have criticised the Mary-Jane focused sections of the story I enjoyed them and felt that they gave an interesting insight into MJ's character development since settling down with Peter and how events echoing Kraven's Last Hunt have become all too commonplace for her.

Overall Torment is a solid story, very well presented and perhaps only hampered by McFarlane's inexperience as a writer and the lofty expectations placed upon it


Saturday, 17 April 2010

Tpb Review: Madrox - Multiple Choice

Madrox #1-5 by David / Raimondi

A fair criticism levelled at this blog could be that it is too Spider-Man centric. Yes, the webhead is easily my favourite character but 100% of my 2010 posts being Spider-Man related is perhaps overkill. With that in mind, I thought I would review a recently bought graphic novel that while being penned by a renowned Spider-Man writer is far from related to the webhead. first non-Spider-Man post of the year and I have talked about nothing else so far. I'll move on.

Madrox stars Jamie Madrox aka the Multiple Man, a former member of Peter David's X-Factor team with the power to create duplicates or 'dupes' of himself. Handily prior knowledge of the character is not a requirement for enjoying this story, and David does an excellent job of getting new readers (of which I am one) up to speed with the character. The plot, while not being Multiple Choice's main strength, is adequate enough and features Jamie Madrox investigating the murder of one of his 'dupes' and its potential links to organised crime. Where the book really shines however, is in Madrox's characterisation and David's interesting and original use of his power. Madrox, logically enough, is portrayed here as an increasingly fractured individual, unsure of which direction to take his life in and thus taking it in every direction at once through his dupes. David also raises some interesting, if slightly vague questions about the nature of his powers and a new foe for him, both of which I hope are followed up on.

Interestingly enough Madrox is also given a strong if slightly small supporting cast and a slightly superfluous subplot, giving this series the mark of the opening of an ongoing series rather than a finite mini. As Madrox was ultimately spun into an X-Factor ongoing based around his private detectives agency this seems like a good move. Nevertheless, the supporting characters bounce off Madrox well and I look forward to seeing them given an extended role in X-Factor.

Raimondi's art is solid enough and a good fit for the story. While the storytelling is a little clumsy in places he has a very likeable style, realistic enough yet zany when necessary. The colouring is top notch as well and fits with the mock-noirish theme of the story.

Overall an excellent mini-series from a more than capable writer, that leads very well into the X-Factor ongoing.


Sunday, 28 March 2010

Spider-Man's Top Ten Villains: Best of the Rest

Solid villains who weren't quite memorable enough to make it onto my list...Sorry guys! In no particular order...


First Appearance: Amazing Spider-Man #361

Recommended Reading: Amazing Spider-Man #361-363

The Scorpion

First Appearance: Amazing Spider-Man #20

Recommended Reading: Spectacular Spider-Man #215-216

The Vulture

First Appearance: Amazing Spider-Man #2

Recommended Reading: Friendly Neighbourhood Spider-Man #14-16.


First Appearance: Amazing Spider-Man #9

Recommended Reading: Spider-Man #38-40


First Appearance: Amazing Spider-Man #471

Recommended Reading: Amazing Spider-Man #471-476

The Lizard

First Appearance: Amazing Spider-Man #6

Recommended Reading: Spectacular Spider-Man (volume 2) #11-13

Sunday, 21 March 2010

Spider-Man's Top Ten Villains: Part Two

Hey comic fans, hope everyone is well. I will waste no further time in introducing my fifth favourite Spider-Man villain...

5. The Sandman

Perhaps a surprising choice for inclusion in my top five, I consider The Sandman to be one of Spider-Man's most underrated foes. Despite being one of the first villains he ever faced, as with many the bulk of his earlier foes Sandman's characterisation has occurred in more recent years, with the villain enjoying a ten year spell of reformation during which he even appeared as an Avenger! Since then he has inexplicibly returned to the side of villainy, but is still a highly morally ambiguous character with an intriguing moral compass. And of course I can't fail to mention his inspired design. Perhaps one of Ditko's more realistic costumes, the Sandman's striped shirt has survived it's fair share of attempted revamps to become one of the most iconic designs among Spidey's enemies.

First Appearance: Amazing Spider-Man #4

Recommended Reading: Friendly Neighbourhood Spider-Man Annual #1, Amazing Spider-Man #302.

4. Venom (Eddie Brock)

Since his introduction in the classic ASM #300 Venom's popularity has exploded, and he is arguably the only modern Spider-Man foe to earn a place on the A-List of villainy. Venom is a classic 'mirror image' villain, of which Spider-Man always lacked in his early days, and his relentless style and almost frightening design was a start contrast with some of the more outdated (but still cool) Ditko villains. Perhaps would have placed higher but the character has stagnated in recent years, from the ill advised move of turning him into an anti-hero to the pointless one of replacing Eddie Brock with Mac Gargan aka the Scorpion, turning two solid villains into one average one.

First Appearance: Amazing Spider-Man #300

Recommended Reading: Amazing Spider-Man #300

3. The Hobgoblin (Roderick Kingsley)

The Hobgoblin was originally creating to fill the hole in Spider-Man's rogues gallery left by the absence of a Green Goblin, yet has become an inspired villain in his own right. A superb modernisation of the Green Goblin's costume coupled with an intriguing mystery (albeit one that perhaps went on too long) made Kingsley one of Spider-Man's most popular foes in the 1980s. Part of his appeal as a villain also lies in his status as perhaps the one foe that Spider-Man has never truly defeated...Kingsley is currently enjoying a relaxing retirement on an unnamed Caribbean island. Will he ever return? Most Spider-fans would love to see Kingsley again, but either way he will surely go down as one of Spider-Man's most persistent, intelligent adversarys of all time.

First Appearance: Spectacular Spider-Man #43 (As Kingsley) Amazing Spider-Man #238 (As Hobgoblin)

Recommended Reading: Amazing Spider-Man #238-239, 249-251.

2. Doctor Octopus

This man had to be in the top two. From his very earliest appearances 'Doc Ock' has tormented Spider-Man time after time, from handing the teenager a humiliating defeat in his first appearance to causing him to be partly responsible for the death of Gwen Stacey's father Captain Stacy, a man who had become something of a father figure to Peter. Doctor Octopus conjures up images of the sort of man Peter Parker may have become had he not had the guiding figure of his uncle Ben and aunt May in his life, a man twisted by his love of science and the lack of affection of those around him. Recently revealed to be terminally ill in Amazing Spider-Man #600, I sincerely doubt we have seen the last of Doctor Otto Octavius.

First Appearance: Amazing Spider-Man #3

Recommended Reading: Amazing Spider-Man #31-33 Spider-Man Unlimited #3.

1. The Green Goblin (Norman/Harry Osborn)

I would like to say that I had a tough time choosing the number one spot on this list, but in reality this couldn't be further from the truth. The Green Goblin is Spider-Man's deadliest foe, there is no question about that. Whether we are talking about Norman Osborn or his son Harry, there is no other villain which such a long lasting legacy of misery over the lives of both Peter Parker and Spider-Man. Heralded by Norman becoming the first villain to learn that Peter Parker and Spider-Man are one and the same and cemented by Norman's death driving a wedge between former best friends Peter Parker and Harry Osborn, the conflict between the Green Goblin and Spider-Man is nothing if not personal. From killing his first love, Gwen Stacy, to faking the return of his parents, to engineering the Clone Saga there is little that the father and son duo haven't done to terrorise Spidey. And with Harry recently returned to life it is a sure thing that you will see more diabolical plots from them in the future.

First Appearances: Norman - Amazing Spider-Man #14, Harry - Amazing Spider-Man #31, Amazing Spider-Man #136 (As Green Goblin)

Recommended Reading: Amazing Spider-Man #39-40,121-122. Spectacular Spider-Man #189, 200. Peter Parker: Spider-Man #75

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

The Spider-Man Movie Reboot: My Thoughts

Well, it seems that Sam Raimi's hugely successful Spider-Man film series is finally at an end, and the franchise will be rebooted, with a new film tentatively due for release in 2012. As a huge Spider-fan I feel duty bound to comment on this shocking news, and give my thoughts on which direction the series needs to take. I realise that this post is appearing some time after the news actually broke, but I felt like taking a bit more time to collect my thoughts about the matter.

Firstly I should make it clear that I have no problem whatsoever with the Raimi films. The first two are great, the third less so, but they are all enjoyable enough. The cast is pretty much perfect as it is. Maguire isn't perfect, he still has yet to nail the wisecracking elements of the character and struggled with some of the more emotional scenes but I think apart from that he was pretty much perfect. However, he is possibly getting a little too old for the role so I'm not too dissapointed with the idea of a recast. A lot of people had major problems with Kirsten Dunst as Mary-Jane, but I can't say I agree with them. Dunst is a good actress and deserves little of the abuse that she gets for her portrayal of MJ, the vast majority of the problems with the character come from her characterisation, and overuse as a damsel in distress. There is little that any actress could do to overcome that. The villains were all perfectly cast in my opinion (Yes even Venom and Sandman), as were most members of the supporting cast. I would have no problems whatsover with the likes of JK Simmons and Rosemary Harris returning as Jonah Jameson and Aunt May respectively.

In terms of story, I can't see the reboot dealing with Spidey's origin. For starters, it is one of the most iconic origin stories in comic book history. Beyond a brief recap the vast majority of the audience will not need to see it again, particularly as the original Spider-Man was released less than a decade ago. Raimi as far as I'm concerned also told as good an adaption of the origin as I have ever seen, and I'm unsure of how it could be improved upon, something that is only going to harm the film.

It has been confirmed that the Reboot will deal with Peter Parker's time at High School, something that gets a big thumbs up from me. The High School setting was notably underused in Raimi's trilogy, and a Reboot will give potential directors a chance to explore it, hopefully giving more screentime and development to the likes of Betty Brant, Flash Thompson and Liz Allen, who comprised the bulk of the Webhead's supporting cast in his early years. In fact, I would not be totally adverse to leaving out Mary Jane and Gwen Stacy entirely, instead using Liz Allen and Betty Brant as love interests. Mary Jane was originally a mystery character in the comics, who was seen many times in silhouette or with her face obscured before finally making an appearance. This is an approach that I think a Reboot could easily take. In terms of supporting cast, I would be fine with limiting it to those that were actually around when Peter was at High School in the comics, leaving out Harry Osborn for one. It is often forgotten that the Peter Parker of these stories was a loner who had very few, if any friends. It could be interesting to see this sort of take on the character on screen, perhaps eventually introducing Betty and Liz as friends or love interests as he grows in confidence. However, Harry, Gwen and MJ are integral parts of the Spider-Man mythos and it would take a very brave man to leave the trio out entirely.

Villainwise I would be dissapointed to see any villains that have already appeared, with the possible exception of Dr. Octopus. While I loved the character in Spider-Man 2, it was a much more sympathetic portrayal than in the comics, with the good doctor actually befriending Peter shortly before his accident, and then saving the day at the films climax. I think it would be interesting to see him as more of a straight villain, perhaps an adaption of the critically acclaimed Master Planner storyline? However there are still a number of classic villains that haven't been seen on film, and the likes of Electro, the Chameleon and Mysterio would all be solid choices. Either way I think that Norman Osborn needs to play a part in the movie, perhaps as a man in the shadows behind the films main villain? This was an approach taken by both Spider-Man: The Animated Series and the Spectacular Spider-Man show, very successfully in both cases!

Most importantly, I want to be able to judge the new film on its own merits, and not to have it compared to the Raimi trilogy. Yes it was generally good, but I would love the relaunch to go in a completely different, exciting direction, showing us aspects of Spider-Man's life never before captured on the silver screen.

NEXT: FINALLY - My rundown of Spider-Man's top five foes

Monday, 11 January 2010

Spider-Man's Top Ten Villains - Part One

Most people would agree that Spider-Man has one of the best rogues gallerys in comics, most of which created by the genius team of Stan Lee and Steve Ditko. I thought it would be fun to count down my top ten! If you disagree with my list...Tell me why!

10. Kraven the Hunter

Initially Kraven was probably one of the least impressive of the Lee/Ditko created villains. Overly camp with somewhat lame powers, he was never a credible threat for the webhead in his early appearances. All of this changed with JM Dematteis' groundbreaking storyline 'Kraven's Last Hunt', a deep, dramatic storyline that delved into Kraven's motivations and just nudges him into the top 10. Just try to ignore his increasingly lame offspring that keep getting introduced.

First Appearance: Amazing Spider-Man #15

Recommended Reading: Kraven's Last Hunt (Web of Spider-Man #31-32,Amazing Spider-Man#293-294, Spectacular Spider-Man #131-132)

9. The Kingpin

Although he was introduced in Amazing Spider-Man, Kingpin has since evolved into a more persistant adversary for Daredevil after his successful use in Frank Miller's run. Nonetheless his initial battles with Spider-Man are among the best in the characters history. Before his introduction Spider-Man had mainly faced off against colourful costumed villains (with a few exceptions), The besuited Kingpin's debut was a welcome contrast to this, and heralded many future gang based storylines.

First Appearance: Amazing Spider-Man #50

Recommended Reading: Amazing Spider-Man #50-52

8. The Chameleon

The Chameleon was the first ever villain to battle Spider-Man, and despite being physically inferior to many of Spider-Man's other enemies he has been a consistent danger to the wallcrawler since. Favouring carefully laid out schemes rather than the knock-out brawls of other villains, among his devious plans have been kidnapping and replacing Jonah Jameson and convincing Peter Parker that his parents were alive through the use of androids. The master of disguise has recently been revamped by writer Fred Van Lente in the 'Red Headed Stranger' arc of Amazing Spider-Man.

First Appearance: Amazing Spider-Man #1

Recommended Reading: Webspinners Tales of Spider-Man #10-12

7. Kaine

On first glance a typical 90's 'mystery villain', Kaine is actually able to boast more depth than the vast majority of Spidey's rogues gallery. A failed, twisted clone of Peter Parker has also struck me as being a fantastic concept for a villain, a concept which has arguably never reached it's full potential (Beyond JM Demetteis' excellent Mini-series The Lost Years). Nonetheless, Kaine has recently been reintroduced to the Spider-titles, and appears consistently in Tom Defalco's Clone Saga loveletter Spider-Girl. He remains a huge threat to the Web-Slinger.

First Appearance: Web of Spider-Man #119

Recommended Reading: Spider-Man: The Lost Years #1-3

6. Mysterio
Blessed with one of Steve Ditko's most gloriously goofy costumes (and that's saying something), the master of illusion has become one of Spidey's most persistent antagonists, even joining every iteration of the Sinister Six! While often being regarded as a joke, partly due to his rather silly name and appearance, when taken seriously by writers Mysterio has proven to be one of the more colourful, wacky member of Spidey's rogues gallery, while more recently being given some much needed emotional depth.

First Appearance: Amazing Spider-Man #13

Recommended Reading: Amazing Spider-Man #198-199, Webspinners Tales of Spider-Man #1-3.

That's all for now folks, tune in next time for my top five Spider-Man villains of all time!