The Amazing Spider-Man #529

Definition: Civil War. A war between citizens of the same country. When thinking of Civil War, you think of the Civil War that almost tore the United States apart. Brother against brother. Friends against friend. People that were one day friends were suddenly enemies and looking to murder each other.

Marvel Comics had their own Civil War. What started as a move by politicians to have superheroes in that universe to register if they wished to fight crime turned into one of the most notorious battles in Marvel’s history. It’s also the inspiration for the new Marvel movie coming out this year, Captain America: Civil War. With that, I wanted to explore the series that gave the film its inspiration with the hopes of seeing what works, what doesn’t, and what the filmmakers end up incorporating into the final product.

This issue is a pretty straight forward Spider-Man adventure. We find Peter Parker working for Tony Stark. This issue gives us the birth of the Iron Spider outfit that is making its presence known in the Ultimate Spider-Man show on The Disney Channel. Tony makes the suit for him as a way to entice him to go along with his plan of going against Washington against a proposed Superhero Registration Act.

The story was pretty short but sweet. Think of it like the comic version of the opening of a James Bond film. Most of the action involves Peter trying out the suit by taking out a couple car jackers who have a hostage. Peter is able to take them out with relative ease thanks to some new tools the suit offers.

I really liked Peter’s quips throughout the story. While the story feels pretty short, you get a definite feel for the characters. Peter and Mary Jane feel very much like a regular couple. Tony feels just like a supportive older brother type. The problem I find is that I only feel this way because I have such familiarity with the characters. This is a minor quibble because I think it is safe to say, especially after the success of Marvel movies since Blade, most folks have at least a general familiarity with the characters in such a way that they would probably feel the same way I do. The fear I see is someone coming into this world cold, starting with this issue, and not getting a real sense of the characters. To be clear, I very much accept that my opinion here is just that, an opinion. It is simply my opinion of the story I read. Others may read it and feel differently. Admittedly I may just be over thinking things. Writing a review after a long week of work can lead to me being a little cranky at times.

The art work was pretty solid this issue. The only issue I had, again a minor quibble, comes with the exterior scenes in the story. The scenes where Spider-Man is fighting the car jackers just doesn’t feel like an exterior scene to me. Yeah, I know. It’s a drawing. It’s not meant to replicate reality. If it were trying to do that, it would be a photograph. I contend that while these stories are meant to be fantasies, since they are mostly set in locations that are real, those locations should be drawn in such a way as to feel like you’re there. Does that mean they have to be drawn like photographs? No. But add some depth to the exterior shots. I’ve not been close to a highway anywhere in this country that feel as small and closed in as the highway that is presented in this story. Does Spider-Man have to appear an inch tall to showcase the depth and distance of the exterior scenes? No. But there has to be a better way to show depth and it’s not this.

Bottom Line:

I was surprised at how low key an event like Civil War started. That’s not a bad thing at all. All too often, big issues between people end up starting over the smallest things. I was also surprised to see Tony start off the story very much on the side that Captain America eventually takes. He didn’t start off this story believing in the Superhero Registration Act. He tried to settle this on his terms of course which obviously failed. I can’t wait to see how Tony went from how we see him in this issue to the supporter of the act in future issues.

Knowing how Spider-Man ends up switching sides during the course of the war, it was interesting seeing how his affiliations were so much tied with Tony Stark at the beginning of this story. I want to see what causes his affiliations to change.

The Avengers #223

avengers223B

Summary:

http://marvel.wikia.com/wiki/Avengers_Vol_1_223

The Good:

Time to go to the circus with Clint Barton and Scott Lang. Hawkeye gets a letter from an old friend asking for his help. He arrives to find that his friend is being held hostage by The Taskmaster in order to use the circus that she owns as a training ground for future terrorists. Scott Lang happens to be at the circus at the same time and, spotting Hawkeye needing help, decides to join in on the fun.

This was a fun simple issue. While some older comics can be tough to read, the beauty in them is that for the most part the stories are self contained little gems that don’t ask too much from you as the reader. Too often comics today want you to know the details of tons of details that in the grand scheme of things don’t matter to the story the writer is trying to tell. They want to have the next grand epic that will last over dozens of issues in order to get interest in stories that really don’t need too much complication for them to be fun. I compare Brian Bendis’ work on the Ultimate Spider-Man line to his work on the Secret Invasion story. While the Spider-Man stories ended up being a grand world that had a lot going on he still did one hell of a job in making the issue you purchased its own self contained story that enticed you to WANT to buy the next issue. You are rewarded with a good story and more to come.

The Secret Invasion was the opposite. Too much was happening for you as the reader to really get a read as to what was going on and what loyalties people had. That’s not a knock on Bendis since he didn’t write every single issue of that series for one and two, when you have to put out the sheer volume of work he has put out over the years, not everything is a gem.

This story fit into the former. While you definitely felt that the characters were a part of a much larger world, that back story was icing on a very good cake. You didn’t have to know the fact that Hawkeye knew the young lady who now owned the circus to know that he cared for her and ended up being sexually attracted to her as well. The same goes for Scott Lang. You knew he cared for his daughter and that he was excited to be Ant-Man but his past had no bearing on the story and hand. While this story was a little simplistic compared to comics today, I wish more comic artists could take some of the rules they followed back in the day to heart.

The art, while feeling aged, was pretty good. The cover alone is classic with Hawkeye ready to shoot an arrow that Ant-Man it hitching a ride on the arrow. Marvel had a habit in the 80’s it seems of wanting to add cultural references at that time into the story to be hip. That included the hair style which today can look silly. When the going gets tough though, the action is well drawn.

The Bad:

As I mentioned Marvel had a nasty habit of trying to be hip by including cultural references of the day into the story. While that can’t always be avoided, for stories that are simple like superhero stories there should be as little to remind you of when the story is taking place as possible. Now apart from Superman at this time, comics weren’t quite the cultural icons they are today. Marvel had one show, The Incredible Hulk, that was a hit but that, apart from the characters, was completely different than how Hulk was in the comics. That doesn’t mean the show was bad. I love that show. For the Hulk character, copying Les Miserables was a brilliant idea because while it allowed the producers of that show to have the action scenes that would interest the kiddies like me, it had enough dramatic meat for the adult viewers to really get into. Comics were still kids stuff though. Things were definitely changing mind you but Marvel and DC were not marketing to 39 year old guys like myself just yet.

I would have liked to have seen more locations than a tent and just outside that tent. They could have done more to spread the action out to other parts of the circus. While circuses don’t cover miles upon miles of space, they are large enough that they could have had a little variety in where the action took place.

The art was a little sloppy when it came to details in the locations where the action took place. It’s not that I demand that comic drawings replicate photos and come across as realistic as possible. These types of stories are fantasy mind you. There is meant to be some element of the fantastic in what we are seeing. What we should not be seeing is sloppiness and that’s what I was seeing throughout the story.

Bottom Line:

You would think that based on my criticisms that I didn’t like the story. That could be farther from the truth. Yes it was a simplistic story and you definitely knew the story took place in the 1980’s but sometimes the simplest of stories can be the best. Take sitcoms. I love Everybody Loves Raymond. There is NOTHING about that show that is original. Nothing. No innovation whatsoever. But they took very familiar sitcom elements and wrote and performed them well. That’s where this comic falls in my thinking. Could it be released today? No. But it’s still a damned good story. I give the story an 8.

The art was pretty good. While I do have some issues with it, the cover alone is worth the price of admission. In fact, I love the cover so much that Kevin Feige and the folks at Marvel would be damn foolish if they don’t do that same Ant-Man on the arrow bit in either Captain America: Civil War or The Avengers: Infinity War. While the movies should mostly use the comics as inspiration and look to adapt them to the movies, if there is no other image in comics that deserves to be on the silver screen it is this cover. I give the art a 7.

Now because I loved The Incredible Hulk, here is the tv show theme song.