Ultimate Spider-Man #14

Contrast. Showcasing the differences between two different scenarios. This issue we see Peter becoming comfortable being Peter with the contrasting story of the birth of one of his newest antagonists.

The new villain in question is Doctor Octopus. We’d briefly met him when he was one of Norman Osborne’s scientists sneaking a blood sample from Peter when Harry brought him on a tour of his father’s facility. Now he wakes up in an anonymous government facility (SHIELD maybe?) with the tool he used for experiments permanently attached to his body.

One part of the birth of Doctor Octopus that I enjoyed was the fact that there is some sympathy on our part as readers for his plight. The government agency in question that had been keeping him apparently had the ability to remove the device that was fused to his body but thought it would be more interesting to see what would happen if it stayed there. I like the fact that in this run you see that the creation of some villains like Doc Ock are caused by forces that would normally be considered the good guys. If a government agency were to pull you from an industrial accident and experiment on you, would you think all was all right or would you be rightfully pissed and looking for the first neck to snap? It doesn’t excuse the behavior of these folks after the fact but seeing that they have some reason for being as angry and evil as they are is refreshing to see.

I think the best advice I ever received in regards to antagonists was to have a bad guy who truly believes he is right in what he is doing. Objectively, they may be handling things the wrong way but there has to be some level of truth in why the bad guy is pissed. In this case, Doctor Octopus is very much upset that the government, instead of saving him, decided it was a ok to experiment on him, turning him into a mutation of humanity. This is a strong set up for the character. You have just a little bit of sympathy added into the bad guy mix which makes him a much more nuanced character than the mustache twirling bad guy.

I also enjoyed the scenes with Peter. He’s enjoying himself more at school it seems and is not the habitual loser he once was. He may not be captain of the team or that level of high school cool but people dig him.

His time at school did start a discussion that will be an ongoing thread in the Ultimate line of books when it comes to mutants. People are scared of them despite there being evidence that apart from a few bad seeds, mutants are there to help and are just regular people with a little bit of extra something added in. They get into a discussion as to whether they should watch the mutants just in case they decided to rise up or something.

Being that this series was born right around the time of 9/11, there are some definite parallels between mutants in this story and how Muslims have been treated in this country since that horrible day. Like the mutants in the story, Muslims have had to deal with an obscene amount of scrutiny from people due to the actions of a small group of people that really don’t represent Muslims as a whole. Yet due to people in power using Muslims and the Islamic religion as a scapegoat to maintain their level of power, you have incident after incident around the world today where honest, average practitioners of the Islamic faith are being targeted and attacked, whether it be through their Mosque’s being burned to the ground, physical attacks from unruly mobs, or the recent news of an Islamic family from the UK denied access to America when all they wanted to do was visit Disneyland for a vacation.

Wanting to stop bad people from doing bad things is not a bad thing. When your definition of bad people includes entire religions, you’re taking everything over the line. It makes me think of people that are suddenly experts on Islam after reading a meme on Facebook that was all of three sentences long. What we’re seeing today is reminiscent of what Jews had to go through during World War Two, what African Americans had to deal with in this country since they pretty much forcibly set feet here. When people get scared they want someone to blame for their problems. When you see someone that is different from you, different simply because they look different or have different beliefs than you, it is easy to marginalize them, make them less human. If people actually took the time to realize that when it comes to Islam and terrorism that there are people very much like your Jim Jones’s of the world who would more than love to manipulate a religious text for their own nefarious means, they may step back and look at everything more objectively. We would see what is really going on with a small group of douche bags that are no more representative of their faith than the Ku Klux Klan or the Westboro Baptist Church are representative of Christianity and offer our support and care for people that are just looking to live their lives and raise their families in peace. When you do the polar opposite and think every member of that group beliefs the ramblings of a small group of madmen, you sow the seeds of animosity and anger that will lead to much worse than we’ve seen today and frankly with how the United States has treated people of the Islamic faith over the past 14 plus years, we will deserve any bit of anger that comes our way.

Bottom Line:

We’re past the growing pains. Peter Parker has pretty much all the kinks out of his system and he is ready to be the Spider-Man we all know and love. Little does he know that he has a threat coming his way that will test every bit of strength he thinks he has. I can’t wait.

I also can’t wait for more Gwen Stacy. Gwen was Peter’s first major love in the original comics so it was only a matter of time before she arrived. She had one scene where she offered her thoughts on the discussion Peter and Kong were having but she definitely made an impact. With the outfit she was wearing alone, folks will not forget her anytime soon. Her father already had a small cameo when he interviewed Peter after Uncle Ben’s death so rest assured we will see him again.

One little knock I have against her outfit was that how Mark Bagly drew her, I thought of this Olivia Newton John from Grease. I almost expected Peter to break out in song and they both drive off into the sunset together.

One other neat little piece of business had to do with Kong. The last couple pages of the comic deal with him simply sitting back on his couch thinking about past events. His mind turns to Peter Parker and after some deep thought of recent events he comes to the realization that Peter Parker is Spider-Man. I liked seeing this because what I didn’t want in the Ultimate line of comics was the Lois Lane effect. When you have characters that normally should be smart as a whip yet don’t see the obvious that is right in front of their faces about the identity of of someone really is, it makes you question the intelligence of everyone involved. I am definitely excited to see where this goes in future issues.

The Amazing Spider-Man #670

Amazing_Spider-Man_Vol_1_670

The spider plague is getting worse. People are going from infection to spider powers to turning into actual spiders. Things are getting to the point where there may be no turning back for our heroes. What happens from here?

The story so far has done a good job of showing the feeling of hopelessness you have to imagine goes through the heads of actual heroes in everyday life when they’re presented with a scenario that seems like is insurmountable. The story opens with Spider-Man witnessing his girlfriend Carlie, The Shocker, and the Mayor’s Spider Task Force all turning into actual spiders. Think about it for a moment. How would you react if you were in a situation where a loved one went through a physical change and you had no way of stopping it? The helplessness you would feel could be overwhelming. How in the hell do you help? But I think that is the key to this story and to super hero comics as a whole. When you’re presented with a bad scenario, no matter how bad it may seem or how bad things get, you just keep fighting.

I forgot to mention something that happened last issue. The last few pages were illustrations made by Marvel artists which honored the tenth anniversary of 9/11. (They’re hauntingly beautiful pictures. Well worth the read of that issue alone.) What I remember most vividly from that day were all the cops and firefighters who, despite being frightened out of their fucking minds, ran into hell to save people. Cops and firefighters that survived told you that they knew pretty quickly that they were looking at a situation that was pretty hopeless. Instead of turning tail and running, they saved who they could. I think that is the key when it comes to why people come back to comic books. What is it about these heroes that we like? I would have to say that it’s the escapist thrill. When you watch the news and see war and strife everywhere, you see political candidates saying more and more the most bat shit crazy things you never imagined hearing a candidate say (Fuck the Republican Presidential Candidates. End rant!), knowing that in some world, even if that is the world of imagination, there is a hero that will defeat the bad guy and make the world a better place makes going through your day much easier. I think this can also explain why we’ve seen superhero films capture our imaginations like never before. Machinations in the world are in place that are making our lives less safe everyday. What better way to get a break from that by spending two hours in a movie theater seeing Superman defeating Doomsday.

(I had to include that trailer. I didn’t care for the start of it but once Doomsday hits and Wonder Woman saves Batman and Superman, I geeked out. The gauntlet has been thrown.)

Back to the story. The issue starts off great but goes off the rails in the middle just like pretty much every other issues in this story. Too much is happening that can be addressed effectively with the real estate the comic book is offered. You’re switching from scene to scene without any real idea of what is happening. It’s like a story being told in Morse code and you’re only getting the gist of what is happening. You have a scene where Flash discovers that Eddie Brock is saving people. He’s undercover with The Queen as the Spider King and is dispatched to kill Eddie. Flash wants to save people but the Venom suit wants to kill it’s former host. This is a good story element but it’s not really addressed. You may argue that we have a few more issues left in the story including two specifically dealing with Venom and while that is true, I think it was poor form to have a story include something big like the conflict Flash Thompson is having with the Venom suit when he’s supposed to be capturing Anti-Venom in order to save New York. We also get Mayor Jameson getting the Spider Slayer out of Rykers to help with the problem. According to exposition, the Spider Slayer was responsible for the death of Jameson’s wife. Fine. Great story element to explore. But they waste that opportunity by having Jameson quickly enter stage three of the virus by turning into a spider. He even ends up killing the Spider Slayer by the end of the issue when he is completely transformed.

That’s another thing I hope is addressed. The human body, if it were to make a sudden physical change as described in the story would not suddenly just go back to normal once you found a cure. You grow extra eyes. Once you’re given a cure those eyes don’t pop out of your head and dissolve into dust. You would still have extra fucking eyes. I want to see how it’s addressed but I have the sneaking submission that they’re not going to have a decent explanation as to why and how people are brought back to their normal selves.

Bottom Line:

This issue has its weak points but when it’s working, it works well. As I mentioned, it did a great job detailing the determination you expect heroes to go through when encountered with a scenario that may seem hopeless. I really wish more time was given to let the story breath. The writer is going way too fast for my liking which is giving me a case of whiplash when you’re going from scene to scene to scene. This is definitely an example of the dangers of stories that have too many characters. Trust me. With my novel Time to Play the Game one critique I would offer myself was that when I faced a scenario where I had major characters tied up in another bit of action I would throw new characters at the scene I was writing. While I don’t think the results are bad by any means if I do say so myself (I don’t want to toot my own horn but…toot toot), I have to be honest that my work had major problems. But any writer is going to have them. Whether they be a no name author like me or a major writer like Anne Rice, you will find any writer that will find problems with their work each time they pick it up. With that in mind, it’s wise for any writer worth their weight in salt to remember that when working on their current pieces. When it comes to the number of characters in your story you should never feel inhibited to including a cast of millions if you want to but the more people you add the more business you have to give them in order to justify their place in the story. That is what the big weakness is here. We’re having scenes introduced with some characters that could be great but aren’t totally fleshed out.

The art work is just not to my liking. My apologies to the artists involved on this piece Humberto Ramos, Victor Olazaba, and Edgar Delgado. It’s too anime for my tastes and is frankly sloppy. The opening scene for example was rough to get an idea to start in regards to placement of the dialogue. If it wasn’t for guided view on the Marvel Unlimited App, I never would have guessed the path I was supposed to take to read the dialogue in order. The characters are drawn just slightly off which is just taking me out of the story when it shouldn’t be. Not a fan.

One more bit of business. As I mentioned I have a book. I want you to read it. If you want a free copy of it in e-book format, you can email me at gameauthor@gmail.com and I will send you a free copy. The offer lasts till the end of the month, 12/31/2015.

Ms. Marvel #13

Ms. Marvel

I wanted to take a quick break from the Secret Invasion to talk about a comic that I fell in love with from issue 1. Ms. Marvel. When I first heard of what they had planned for this comic my first instinct was to cringe. Sometimes entertainment companies, in an effort to try and widen their audience, will set about creating something that appeals to a specific audience and in doing so create something that no one will like. But the creators of this comic have done their homework and have done it quite well. All the characters in the story feel real and are quite well created. The latest issue (from six months ago) was just released on the Marvel Unlimited app so here is my review.

Summary:

http://marvel.wikia.com/wiki/Ms._Marvel_Vol_3_13

The Good:

This issue was kind of low key in a good way. The traditional comic book aspects of it are actually more distraction to the human story at hand which is not a bad thing. You start off at home with Kamala Khan and her family. They tell her some friends will be coming over with their son and she instantly reacts with scorn. Seems she feels her parents want to set her up with a boy of their choosing and like any kid she instantly rejects the idea.

Once she meets the guy however her opinion changes thanks to video games. They play the same game and discover they have other shared interests. The connection between the two seems quite real and I really enjoyed how the writer, G. Willow Wilson, made the instant connection seem real as well as making the reaction of the family quite real as well. Kamala and her family are Islamic and I absolutely LOVE (I had to go teenager girl internety with my writing there) how they’ve seamlessly blended their faith into the story without it seeming forced. It actually leads Kamala to continue as Ms. Marvel in earlier issues when her Imam pretty much comes out and tells her that as long as what she is doing does not break the rules of the Quran and is actually helping people than she should continue what she is doing.

If there is one group in our country that has been shit upon continuously without let up since 9/11 it has been the Islamic community. No group should have to suffer for the actions of a few bad apples but apparently in our country politicians feel it’s ok to demonize a group as long as it gets them votes and helps the military industrial complex continue their unending war effort to keep profits up. No Christian would want to have the whole of their religion to be mixed in with the acts of someone like a Jim Jones. The same goes with members of the Islamic faith, contrary to what douchebags like Bill Maher and Sam Harris believe.

This comic does a wonderful job showing that an Islamic family is no different than a Christian Family, a Hindu family, an Atheist family. They are good people looking to make their way in life without hurting people. They want to raise their children to be good people and want to make sure they find the right people to marry so they can lead happy lives as well. You can argue about the tenants of anyone’s belief all you want but at the end of the day people should be judged on their actions, not the actions of other douchebags who give a bad name to a mutual shared belief.

The end of the issue was great because the boy that Kamala ends up with a crush on is revealed to be an Inhuman as well. The start of this series involved what was called a Terrigan Mist being released over New York and certain people ended up having latent alien DNA become awakened in them. Kamala had her powers activated and is under the watch of the Inhumans. Kamran, her new crush, catches Kamala after she made an appearance as Ms. Marvel, and reveals to her that the mist affected him as well. Yet one more thing that brings them both together. I can’t wait for the next issue.

The artwork is crude but for this comic I think it actually benefits the story. It feels like a fifteen year old drawing the stories of her life which I like. It has a charm you don’t see in other comics that feel that being sloppy is the new way to show action. My favorite piece of work in the issue was the nod to the original Superman movie where Kamala reveals she has her uniform on under her shirt. It has the feel of anime as well in that image but again, it adds to the charm of the story because you could imagine a fifteen year old girl drawing herself like that.

Bottom Line:

I usually include what I didn’t like in my reviews because honestly you can nitpick and everything. A painter could look at the Mona Lisa and see some strokes that are off or something else to show that a master painter like Da Vinci was human like the rest of us. But that still doesn’t take away from the fact that the Mona Lisa is a classic painting.

I could take the time to find something wrong with that issue but I feel that would be taking away from everything good this comic had. This is a comic series that I hope we’ll see honored on the big screen someday. This is a comic series I think has a real chance of being the next Spider-Man in the sense that thirty, forty, fifty years from now we’ll still be talking about it. When you have a series that is written and drawn as well as this series is, you enjoy it for what it is. What flaws it may have actually make the piece greater. If you have not done so yet, find an issue of Ms. Marvel, read it and enjoy. This is what makes comic books so great to read.

Spider-Man 9/11 Issue

Spider-Man

On a day like 9/11 you have to take a minute to sit back and reflective not only on the tragedy that everyone alive witnessed that day but on life itself. Now you may ask what the hell does a site dedicated to reviewing comic books have to do with thoughts about one of the worst attacks on American soil? Because like anyone, comic artists and writers had to find a way to rationalize the horrific events they had seen. With Marvel Comics especially, New York City is just as much a character in all of their work that simply ignoring it would have been offensive.

Which brings us to The Amazing Spider-Man #36. Written by J. Michael Straczynski and beautifully drawn by John Romita Jr., it’s a piece about Spider-Man feeling incredibly guilty about the events he has to see.

911spidey

The first image, for anyone alive that day and witnessed the tragedy, will kick you in the gut. You’re numb and brought back to that day. Each panel afterwards you get closer and closer to Ground Zero. Spider-Man witnesses the scene as people too afraid to comprehend much of what is going on ask where he and other heroes were. “How could you let this happen?” is asked over and over. While it’s addressed to the heroes in this story, people were asking that of government in real life. How could this happen? How?

I remember that day. I was living with my Mom at the time because she had discovered earlier in the year that she had a brain tumor and needed some in home help after the first of her many surgeries. I woke up at 11:28 am that day. While the television was on in my room I didn’t glance at it. I stepped into the living room to see my Mother crying. Being that she was a couple weeks past a major surgery I asked what was going on and she pointed to the television. NBC News was on and Tom Brokaw was talking over the rubble of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Numbness spread over me. When you’re encountered with such evil you don’t know how to respond. You wish there was someone like Superman that could rip off his shirt and grab the planes, force them to the ground, and fly the terrorists to prison without anyone losing their life but that is just fantasy. Throughout the rest of that day I witnessed the images on the screen, trying futilely to hold back tears until 8:00 pm on the dot when CBS News showed the first images I saw of people that had jumped from the buildings to avoid the fires. My mother and I wept for what seemed like hours.

As the days passed life slowly got back to normal, as normal as we all could make it. The country had to find ways to deal with everything we saw that day. Comic books had to find ways to deal with what happened as well. One thing some entertainment companies tried to do was erase the image of the World Trade Center from future movies, much like the first Spider-Man movie did.

While I get why they removed it, I think in hindsight it was a bad move. You can’t either ignore or forget that something like that happened. (Now granted for the Spider-Man movie they did have some images from Ground Zero where they interviewed people in the montage where people were talking about Spider-Man.)

The most haunting image from the comic is the brief encounter Spider-Man has with a little boy who is waiting for his Father. Spider-Man tries to get him to safety but the boy says he must stay because then his Father will be ok. Then this.

daddy

The only issue I had with the comic was the inclusion of Magneto and Doctor Doom. I get where they were going by adding those characters, trying to show that even folks we consider bad deep down know that the loss of innocent people is just wrong but they chose the two most unlikely characters that would honestly care. And having Doctor Doom shed a tear when in his native Latveria he’s a brutal dictator doesn’t make much sense. Magneto is a complicated character for sure, not a bad guy in the traditional sense, but he could care less about humans who he views as inferior. I don’t think he’d much care this event happened.

Is this comic a bit corny? Yes. Is it a bit syrupy in terms of the message it is trying to convey? Yes. But we needed to hear this message at the time the comic came out. Marvel did an amazing job in showcasing how their characters would react to a real world tragedy. This issue is why comic books are made, flaws and all. There is no reason to rate this issue because of it’s importance to the industry. I’ll just leave with this thought.

stand tall