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 Amazing Spider-Man #673

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All good things, scratch that. All mediocre things must come to an end and we finally reach our end destination in the Spider Island story. To date I have been pretty critical but what would be the point if I just gushed over how amazing everything I read was? If people were honest, they would find something to critique in anything. And let’s not forget that most critiques involve purely subjective opinions. When I’ve written work and given it to others for their opinion, I realized that their opinion was simply what I was going to get. Said opinion may show me an insight to the story that I did not consider which would cause me to make changes to better reflect the new idea. Said opinion may have no bearing on the story whatsoever so I promptly discard it. Unless we’re talking about break the rules of modern English, grammar or spelling mistakes, how people create a story will be unique to each person. Add on to that an artist and the other members of the creative team and you have a whole group of folks who have input on the story at hand, much more than a simple novelist who apart from friends will have to deal with an editor and maybe an agent depending on how far along they are in their career.

So the epilogue to Spider Island, what did I think of it? Rushed would be a term that comes to mind. There were a number of elements that were still unresolved up to this point like the location of Carlie, Mary Jane still having the sickness, Kaine still being around, and the aftermath of the plague which were briefly resolved but not to any real satisfaction. The aftermath alone takes up all of three pages and the writer is more eager to whip out double entendres than going into any detail as to what it was like for so many people to get sick like that. Of course they’re not going to be able to do personal stories on each and every person but I really think there was a chance here to explore some of the human tragedy that most likely happened. How do I know this you may ask? Look at how J. Jonah Jameson almost killed a guy when the sickness transformed him. You cannot tell me that this was the only isolated case where that happened. Maybe they’re didn’t need much explanation but I do think they could have had a little more emotion than glibness and embarrassment over being suddenly naked.

Peter Parker apparently cares so much about Carlie that he promptly forgot about her the moment she turned into a spider. Once everyone was well he had time to go see his Aunt off at the airport and swing through town before heading home. Once he gets home, Carlie splits with him. She ends up revealing that duh, she knew he was Spider-Man. Seems the fact that once he claimed he was sick with the disease he suddenly know some kick ass karate while everyone else had to struggle a bit kind of blew his cover, even though like the old Lois Lane not knowing Clark Kent is Superman deal, you have to wonder what the hell is wrong with anyone that is close to Peter who he saves on a consistent basis doesn’t know he is Spider-Man. You would think that he would try changing his voice like Christian Bale did for the Batman movies but he’s always presented as talking just like himself. I don’t blame the writer for this one. It is a logic flaw in the character that’s never really been explored. We do have a bit of a back story of Doctor Strange putting a one time hex on everyone so they would not know that Peter is Spider-Man unless he reveals himself. But Peter is so careless with letting others know who he is despite his protestations otherwise that it amazes me that some inquiring reporter would not have been able to track him down. In the real world, much like Phoenix Jones in Seattle, there would come a time where the hero would make a mistake and be caught, having his identity revealed. Or someone would spot him and just follow him. He swings through the air. He may go at a decent clip but with the right vehicle you should be able to get an idea where his base is. But I digress.

The artwork was much better in this issue. What really stands out is the scene where Carlie splits up with Peter. That last shot where she has left the room and he’s standing there alone, we have a glimpse from above which just magnifies the sadness which is great. Despite not being in the story much, she was in enough that I ended up liking her. Yeah, Peter and Mary Jane are meant to be together which is why Peter screws this up but you feel bad for Carlie here because I get the impression that she really would have dug it if Peter had revealed the truth to her.

Bottom Line:

Spider Island has its flaws but it is still one hell of a read. I wish more time was given to some of the main characters in the story instead of spreading the available story so thin with sub plot after subplot. If they really wanted to focus on certain side characters, they should have given those characters free reign in other supplemental issues and not included them at all in this story. For the Venom subplot, if you took it out of the Spider-Man issue and simply left it all in the Venom comics, nothing would change. We’d still get a pretty decent story of a guy dealing with his past while juggling the responsibilities of the present. But tossing him into the main story just took away from time that could have been spent expanding the main story.

The Amazing Spider-Man #672

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We come to the ending, but not the ending if you can believe that, of Spider Island. The big bad of the story meets her apparent doom but thanks to some sloppy writing, I had no clue what the hell was going on with this particular issue. There was no logical reason why everything ended up resolving the way it did apart from the editors at Marvel telling the writer to wrap things up quick.

One part that annoyed me with this issue was Mary Jane’s involvement. She shows up out of nowhere at a facility a person in her position should not even have known about. Then they have her ask why she’s been so slow in developing the symptoms that everyone else had and the results are almost comic. Reed Richards pretty much comes out and tells her that with Peter Parker porking her for as long as he did, she was able to develop an immunity that others did not have. But this statement from Mr. Fantastic kind of goes against the earlier bit of business at the start of the story where Peter does his absolute best to keep his identity private from anyone, including people who would actually benefit from knowing like fellow super heroes. At this point, I get that Peter was a part of the Fantastic Four and his identity would be something that Mr. Fantastic would probably want to know before he joined. Long time readers also know that Peter and Johnny Storm have a long standing friendship so at some point you could see Peter letting slip his identity. Frankly, it makes no sense for him to trust Reed and not many other people. Can you really argue that he mistrusted Iron Man? He couldn’t trust Captain America with his identity? Nick Fury would go blabbing to everyone about that punk kid from Queens who dresses like a spider?

The sheer amount of heroes in the story was too much of an overkill. Every character in the Marvel Universe shares the same world (for the most part) so I get that it would be unrealistic if an event of this magnitude occurred without a response from anyone other than Spider-Man. The problem I see lies in the fact that they have so many people in the story that they haven’t found a way to give each character a reason to be there. Take The Thing. He has some really funny moments in the story. I enjoyed his part in the comic but honestly, if he were removed from the story nothing would be lost. The same could be said for The Avengers. You know they would be fighting a threat like this but did we need to see pages devoted to them when they’re not really a part of the story at all? There are some supplemental stories that go along with Spider Island. If they wanted to include The Avengers, they really should have given them more than a silly cameo.

The Mary Jane arc actually ends with something interesting. Long time readers know that Peter and MJ had to divorce thanks to a deal Peter made with Mephisto in order to save Aunt May’s life. They’d been teasing that Mary Jane was a lot more comfortable with Peter than he was with her at this point. Peter had another girlfriend and everything, who is still missing at this point. What a great guy for trying to look for her. At the end of the issue, while Peter is concentrating on defeating The Queen, she tells him she loves him. Knowing how they were forced to split, it was great that they were still able to show the reading world that Peter and Mary Jane still had feelings for each other. Granted, they have their arms around each other like old friends so maybe this isn’t a love that will rekindle back into marriage. But it is a scenario that makes you feel like all is right with the world.

Bottom Line:

There are still two issues left in the suggested reading order for Spider Island but this really ends the threat. I have to imagine that at this point, the other two issues will involve more cleaning up of loose ends than anything else. I have real issues with this story but I don’t think it’s a bad story. It is something I would slightly recommend with the understanding that this will frustrate you to no end. There are so many places that this story could have went but it seems like the writer, Dan Slott, was forced to include story elements for the sake of including them. They didn’t have any real impact on the story at all. Even the Mary Jane subplot, if you take it out of the story, bears no impact whatsoever on what is going on. Also, while I have no problem with Peter getting back together with Mary Jane, showing him having no concern for his current girlfriend who mutated into a spider and followed The Queen’s bidding is just so damn callous. They should have had him more concerned than not at all.

The artwork I am still not a fan of. The last panel, where Peter and Mary Jane sit on top of the Empire State Building looking at New York was a great end to the story but again, the rest is just too sloppy and distracting for me to have any interest.

The Amazing Spider-Man #669

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To start off, I really enjoy the beginning pages of these comics. Like any comic with a multi-issue arc, they have a Previously In…page that sums up the story to date. I like how instead of current Marvel titles that have one picture and a page of text to sum up the story, they incorporate a summary along with shots of action from previous issues. I would honestly love to see more of this.

We pick up the main story with a shot of a villain named White Rabbit showing us more than you would think a Marvel comic would want to show. Being a red blooded heterosexual male, I have no problem with women dressing sexy. But there’s sexy and there’s just being wrong. Her outfit, or what little there was of it, is about as subtle as a brick to the face. Maybe it’s because I am older and have a daughter but the shot they had of her was just wrong. It wasn’t flattering in the least and is frankly the type of stereotypical nonsense you would expect from an older era of comics, not something written close to five years ago.

This issue focuses on Peter and the dilemma he has in terms of whether he should reveal his secret identity to his girlfriend or not. Admittedly I don’t know how their relationship worked before I started reading this series so I don’t know how often Peter had to pretend he was off doing whatever when he was really off being Spider-Man. This goes off the rails fast just like any other relationship you see in comics because in the end you just don’t believe that the hero in question can pull off the double life without either the other partner discovering who they are or suspecting they are cheating and leaving them. There is a scene near the end where Peter encounters Carlie while dressed as Spider-Man but she has no clue who he is. She suspects that is the case but never confronts him about it. In fact, before it was mentioned directly in the story I immediately thought of John Ritter in Three’s Company in regards to the stunts Peter has to pull in order to prevent his girlfriend from discovering who he is. The sad part is, based on how her character is presented in the story you get the impression that she would go nuts with happiness if she found out. Once she got her spider powers the first them she did was head out on the town to fight crime. You’d think she’d want to join Peter and then end the night with some hard core spider lovin’. It’s sad if you think about it. The story is showing us as the reader that Peter would be better off trusting some people with the fact that he is Spider-Man. It would make his life so much easier. I get why he would be hesitant to be telling folks what with the danger they could be in but the fact that he won’t even tell The Avengers who he is is just silly. It is referenced that Doctor Strange put some sort of spell on him that would prevent people from recognizing him unless he intentionally revealed who he is which explains somewhat why he is no longer with Mary Jane but again, you’d think Peter would be a little more trusting.

One thing I didn’t care for in this issue was the jumping around the writer Dan Slott did in trying to address multiple story lines at once. There were two instances this issue where for three or four pages in a row you were treated with a new development for a new group of characters on each page. It was a little tough to follow in the end. That is the danger of course when writing a story with so any characters involved which I understand but this issue at least leaves us confused as to what is going on with some of the characters like Mayor Jameson, Venom, Anti-Venom, and others. You can’t keep track of a story when there is so much jumping around. I couldn’t get my bearings.

Bottom Line:

This issue is not perfect but it does move the story along so I recommend it. It won’t go down as the greatest comic in history but it had some points it needed to hit and it performed its job fine. What I wish I would have seen this issue was for the writer to slow down some. He wants to hit the points you would expect in the story but he’s going too fast. It comes across like reading a story by flipping through a much longer story and stopping on every third page. You end up getting the gist of what is happening but you feel like a lot is being left out that you need to know about. I want to know more of the dynamic between Peter and his girlfriend for example. I want to see Flash Thompson be involved in the story more than he is. I want the women in the story not to be drawn in a way that porn stars would look at them and think they look disgusting.

I like the developments the story leaves us with in regards to the virus. The Shocker ends up with multiple arms and eyes like a spider. Carlie ends up becoming disfigured in the story which was a bit of a shock, just as the writer intended. We also get the reveal that the big bad for this series is not The Jackal but The Queen, who according to what I have read is a contemporary of Captain America which explains the events of Venom #6. The next issue awaits.

Venom #6

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The next entry in the Spider Island story brings up a solo Venom story. The story revolves around Venom’s search for one of the creature’s The Jackal sets loose upon New York.

Flash Thompson was a bully at school. He’d goofed on plenty of kids in school including one Peter Parker. But as life would have it, the bully learns the error of his ways. Thanks to his worship of Spider-Man, he makes every effort to try and be a positive force in the world. He ends up joining the military where during the course of action he loses his legs. But the military isn’t done with him. They’ve captured the symbiote suit that Eddie Brock had used and want Flash to use the suit.

Everyone has dealt with bullies. Everyone. Sure, some folks dealings with bullies pales in comparison to others but we’ve all experienced the people who felt compelled to make our lives a living hell. What makes them tick? Most importantly, what makes them change? I remember this guy that I felt was a bully when I was a kid. Granted, all he did was goof on me, nothing compared to what kids have to experience today. Even with that I felt more annoyed than anything else. But it happened. So years past. When I was working at a gas station guess who walks in one day but the guy who goofed on me. He remembers me and strikes up conversation. I pretend for a bit that I was still pissed but end up laughing it off. We had a good conversation and that was that.

I thought of that guy when I read this comic. What would someone do if they felt that their actions as a bully demanded them to make penance somehow? When it comes to Flash Thompson, I never thought he was anything more than an insecure dumb jock. I never got the impression that he was even much of a nuisance to Peter. So it begs to question what the hell happened in Flash Thompson’s life that caused him to feel he needed to pay back life for the mistakes he made?

The story itself hints at such a back story. Flash’s father is in the hospital with kidney failure. The hospital is being evacuated due to the threat of everyone with spider powers but doctors don’t evacuate his father because the move will kill him. Flash’s girlfriend Betty Brant, the report who initially broke the story of the spider power people, decides to stay with his father. Flash goes from not caring about whether his father dies or not to wanting to be with his father to deciding that he has more important work to do. What the hell kind of tyrant was his father that caused him to act the way he did?

Later in the story we have Venom capture the creature The Jackal had set loose and brought him to a secret location to keep him prisoner. Once held captive, the creature spits up thousands of baby spiders that look to infect everyone in the building. Seems the reason the creature was allowed to be captured was because it would allow these baby spiders to infect everyone. But there’s a problem. It’s soon discovered by the folks that the creature is in fact Mr. Steve Rogers, Captain America himself. This was a confusing bit here because while we as the reader have already had it confirmed from the bad guy and from Peter Parker and his girlfriend that the evil cloner The Jackal is behind this, why should we believe that this creature is in fact the real Captain America? We’ve been given every reason to believe that this is a smoke screen of some sort. I don’t buy for a minute that with New York being quarantined that the authorities and the military would not be communicating with each other. Like I said in the last review, why would people just assume their hunch is correct?

The art work was quite sloppy. It comes off like the artist accidentally spilled a bottle of black ink on the page and ended up trying to work with the Rorschach ink blot on the page into something resembling a story. The final battle between Flash and the supposed Steve Rogers is incomprehensible. You don’t know what the hell is going on and that really kills any excitement you have with this story.

Bottom Line:

There is a good story in this issue somewhere. It’s not bad so I do recommend it but it leaves you wanting to know more but in a bad way. There is information that we as the reader should have known that could have made a pretty decent story turn into an amazing story. I want to know more about Flash Thompson. I’d only really seen him during his time with Peter Parker in school so seeing him years later with his legs missing was a bit of a shock. Based on the other issues in the story I was shocked when I got to this issue because Flash’s appearance in the story showed him walking around in the Venom suit just fine. What is the relationship between him and his father that caused him to be the type of person he was and became today?

The art work was just a mess. You couldn’t make heads or tails of what the hell was happening on the page. They also failed to give the scenes any depth. The rooms at the military establishment where the creature was kept seems as small as a crappy motel room. I am not asking for artistic perfection here, just a sense of sanity when it comes to what is on the page. I don’t ask for much. I just want to know who is fighting who on the page. By the end I just gave up trying to make sense of what was on the page. This was painful to watch.

The Avengers #176

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Starhawk arrives at the mansion and asks Iron Man why he was summoned. Iron Man gives him the Cliff’s Notes version of the story so far and enlists his help. When he’s done telling the story, Starhawk says something that’s on the mind of everyone reading the story by saying he feels the ultimate bad guy in all this is Korvac but hey, for shits and giggles he’d be happy to help The Avengers. You would think that when a group arrives in the 20th Century claiming that an all powerful being has arrived in their time and is out to get someone that maybe someone in The Avengers would put two and two together and think about maybe seeing whether the threat the Guardians face could be the threat they are facing. You would think that would be someone that someone would consider but naw, not when there are city buses to destroy!

We cut to Moondragon who is contemplating events when she feels a disturbance and sets about getting the team together to tell them what she sensed. She witnesses Quicksilver and Hawkeye having an argument about Jocasta and The Vision. Moondragon zaps Quicksilver after he says something quite bigoted which causes him to get some clarity. You would think that someone who in the story is the offspring of one of the most notorious mutants alive would know a thing or two about bigotry of people that are different but what do I know? Then she walks in on Wonder Man and Black Panther having an argument about not being able to do anything. Then Thor busts through a wall as he and Hercules are fighting. Black Widow chews out Hercules which is so damn out of character for her. I could see her putting him in a choke hold but not talking to him like they were on the set of a daytime talk show.

So Moondragon gets everyone together only to tell them that she has to get ALL The Avengers to show up so she sends a message with her mind to the others who quickly arrive. Comics from this era were horrible in regards to a sense of time. It’s like the television show 24. When they needed to get a character from one side of one of the largest cities in America to the other, it would take all of ten minutes, sooner if they were on a chopper. The comics from this era were worse. They’d have characters travel great distances and the caption at the top of the next panel would be ‘Seconds Later…’ It is frustrating to see things like this because it takes you out of the story. When you’re shaking your head telling yourself that something is dumb, you’re not enjoying the story. There have been stories set in the most bizarre of locations and with the most unique characters. But if written well, you don’t notice it because you’re lost in that world. The writer here is his own worst enemy.

So after two pages of time killing filler, Moondragon has the grand plan of everyone putting the clues they found into a computer and have the computer give out the common denominator of everything. Good idea especially for a situation like this if everyone seems to be lost. But Iron Man has to be a dick here and assert his manhood to the woman who dared come up with an idea that could potentially solve their problem. He might as well have told her to help Jarvis do the dishes and have Black Widow do the laundry. He admittedly had no clue where the big bad guy was but when someone actually steps up with a possible solution, he does his best to show that he doesn’t like the fact that they stepped up with an opinion. What a great leader.

We cut to Michael Korvac sensing that Iron Man and the team are getting closer to sensing his presence. Korvac recounts how he killed and raised Starhawk back to life as well as removing the ability to sense him from Starhawk’s mind. What I question is, if he has the power that the comic is presenting, why would he be pretending to be just an average middle class joe in a suburb of New York? Wouldn’t he want to be moving around to different locations so that a team like The Avengers would not be able to do what they’re doing? Would Doctor Doom pretend to be an insurance salesman in Boise, Idaho in order to fulfill his evil schemes? Staying in one spot just screams of lazy writing. Especially when, after 11 issues to get us here, the team that are presented as so horribly in equipped to deal with a being of this magnitude so easily finds his location.

From there, the single dumbest scene I have ever read in comics occurs when the team head outside and after realizing they all can’t hop into a quinjet to get to Forrest Hills, they commandeer a city bus. Once they board, they mention that Tony Stark would pay for cabs for all of them which begs to question why the hell they couldn’t just call a bunch of cabs? And why wouldn’t one of the richest men alive have a fleet of cars at the ready that could take them where they needed to go? If Jay Fucking Leno can have an airplane hanger full of cars, Tony Stark has to have much more! The lack of logic in this scene is mind blowing. George Lucas after he wrote the prequel trilogy of Star Wars would say this was written horribly.

So they arrive. The residents worry for a moment about their homes being wrecked but than someone says that the team is probably there to open a 7-11. That puts great confidence in the reader. They find the house they were looking for, knock on the door, and are invited in by Michael Korvac himself who invites them in. They inspect the house, finding nothing. Tony Stark asks the psychics of the group to do a sweep and they find nothing. The only clue they have as to something being wrong is when Starhawk acts like the rest of them are cuckoo bananas because he doesn’t see Korvac. While you as the reader would assume that Korvac, when he mentioned that Starhawk would not be able to sense him referred to him being sensed with mind powers, seems ol’ Korvac meant sensing him period.

Korvac  gives them the usual bad guy spiel that he had great things in plan for the human race but now he would have to destroy them. They banter among each other wondering what they should do next when Korvac attacks.

Bottom Line:

It seems The Korvac Saga is anything but. Korvac has not been in the story much and when you have someone presented as being all powerful doing such stupid things you can’t take him seriously. The only reason Starhawk was kept alive by Korvac was apparently to set up this scene. There was no other reason for it. Korvac is not presented as a reasonable guy with compassion. Even if he was, we’ve hardly seen him in the story. His actions so far have been self serving and bad. It was a stupid mistake. Also staying in the suburbs when he should have been roaming about was another decision made by either the dumbest supreme being ever or by lazy writing. I vote for the later. Thankfully we have one more issue to go because this so far has been a painful read. It didn’t have to be because the ideas presented make for an intriguing idea of a story. It’s just written so horribly my nine year old son would think it’s written bad.

 

The Avengers #175

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The Avengers stare at the ash that was The Collector wondering about the powerful being that would be able to do something of this nature to another powerful being. For a moment some of the team thinks they are in danger but Iron Man points out that with a being that powerful, if that being wanted them dead they’d be dead. Iron Man decides they need to check out the ship to find some clue to to who they may be facing. Any computer system that had information on it is promptly destroyed. At this point Iron Man decides they need to find a way to leave, ignoring the fact that Vance Astro is still on the Guardians of the Galaxy ship and could easily transport them home. Don’t you love it when a writer forgets what happened previously in a story?

They look around for something that could get them home. Iron Man discovers the time travel device that The Collector used in order to gather the specimens for his collection. From there, he discovers the little mystery that the writer was kind of, sort of hinting at when it came to Thor. It seems that Thor had been taken in and out of time with the help from The Collector to help battle the little brush fires to help keep The Avengers safe since he wanted the team intact. With that explanation everyone breaths a sigh of relief and moves on. I have a problem with this. To me, it seems like a big deal that a member of the team was taken so easily. The fact that there was doubts that he could be who he is should have been something that caused them to quarantine Thor from the rest of the group just to make sure he is no threat. As I mentioned before, the Marvel Universe has already established Life Model Decoys as a thing so to not act on suspicions that Thor is not who he says he is as well as take the explanation from the security tapes of a ship that was owned by a villain that kidnapped them was just plain frightening. I would do a lot more than absolutely nothing to make sure that Thor was on the up and up.

From there, a character who’d been in a total of maybe five panels decides he wants to use the time machine to go back to his own time. Bye bye Two Gun Kid. I get that in the Marvel Universe, he had a lot more adventures than what is presented in this issue. My problem with this development has to do with the fact that in regards to this particular story, the Two Gun Kid had no point being there. If they really wanted to retire the character or something by sending him back to his own time they should have done that in a comic where he had more involvement in the story. Doing it here was pointless because in this scene we’re supposed to be sad that a member of the team is saying his final goodbye when in reality I could have cared less because he was barely in the story.

Next up, The Vision finds a teleportation machine they can use to get back to Earth. Why have the Guardians of the Galaxy in the story, a team that has the ability to teleport them wherever they want to go, if you’re not going to use them? They’re presented as almost an after thought when at the beginning of the story their mission was of the highest importance. Logically I can see where a writer would hesitate having that many people actively involved in a story because when you’re dealing with the limited real estate that comics give you, you have to use each page wisely. At that point though, you should be asking yourself as a writer whether those characters are really going to be needed if you don’t plan on using them. Not every character is going to be needed for every page, every scene but you have to have a plan for them.

So from there The Vision transports the team back to Earth. Seems his aim is off because Wonder Man ends up in traffic, the Scarlet Witch appears in the sky and plunges to the ground, and Hawkeye ends up on a flagpole. Captain Marvel ends up saving the day, rescuing the members of the team that need his help. Another pointless scene if you ask me. What really bothers me is that there is no mention of any sort of communication disturbance to Vance Astro. If they simply had one line about the lines of contact to the Guardians ship were cut off, I could buy this scene. They would have to rely on a technology they had no clue how to use in order to get home. As it stands, this scene is presented as a bad attempt at comedy. We’re talking Jar Jar Binks level of bad here.

From there, we head to the home of Michael and Carina where we finally discover that Michael is Korvac, the being we met all the way in Thor Annual #6. Seems after Thor defeated him he escaped in time to our present day where he came across an empty ship that used to be owned by Galactus. From there, he used his computer circuitry to learn everything he could, in the process becoming a god! Seems the level of knowledge Galactus had on his ship was infinite so Korvac ended up with more power than he ever contemplated having. From there he turned himself human again and decided on a new mission, ending injustice throughout the world. Apparently on his terms which makes him the bad guy.

I’ve found that the best bad guys are ones that at least in their head think they’re the good guys. What they’re doing has to make sense to them. The flaw of course in bad guys for stories like this has to do with the means they use to achieve their goals. Regardless of their intentions, they’re going to run through anyone and everyone who gets in their way. The Daredevil television show illustrated this brilliantly with Wilson Fisk. Wilson was very much a bad guy in this story but his goals, if you sat back and thought about it were actually to make Hell’s Kitchen a good place to live. It’s literally not until the last twenty minutes of the last episode where he says fuck it and becomes a bad guy. Villains that are there to just cause destruction and chaos are not as interesting over the long term. There may be some enjoyment seeing them wreck havoc but once they’re stopped you promptly ignore them. The best villains have that little shade of gray which allows you on some level to relate to them. For Korvac, his effort to make the galaxy a better place is certainly a goal I would hope most of us shares. The fact that he’ll straight up murder the faces of anyone who gets in his way is the trait that makes him the villain.

Back to the story. The Avengers make it back to the mansion where they discuss tactics. We have an interesting bit where Quicksilver questions whether they should have Jocasta help and whether she can even be considered alive being that she’s an android. From there, The Vision gets in his face like they’re about to throw down. You almost expect Jerry Springer to pop out of somewhere while Quicksilver and The Vision fight while the Scarlet Witch takes off her top and pole dances for the reader. From there you see Wonder Man attempt to impress Ms. Marvel with a show of strength that back fires. Because we’re all ten year old boys and we all know that the way to impress the ladies is by lifting things in the air, not trying to treat them like human beings and getting to know them as people. Iron Man attempts to use some of The Avengers equipment to look for the force that is behind what happened to The Collector only to find out that Gyrich from the NSA took the machines. From there, Jarvis casually mentions the Guardians in a conversation where he’s bitching about having to help so many people and it’s at this point that Iron Man thinks to have them help with their cause. They may already be looking for an incredibly powerful creature that is looking to kill a member of the Guardians but there is no way at all that those two events could somehow be related. There’s no reason to even consider that question because you know, science.

Iron Man contacts the Guardians in the home he bought for them for their mission and gets Starhawk’s assistance to help look for the being behind their problem. All the while, Michael Korvac sees what is happening and smiles, knowing that after his earlier battle with Starhawk, Starhawk will not know where to look for him.

Bottom Line:

We’re nearing the finished line. This particular issue was not as bad as others but it still left a lot to be desired in terms of quality. It’s not that this is a bad story. I think it’s a great idea for a story, it’s just horribly written. There are way too many lapses in logic that make you question the editing standards at Marvel during this time. It’s like it is written by a fifth grader. They want to throw everything into the mix and then promptly get distracted at the slightest whim. They’ve also had elements introduced in one comic and promptly forgotten in the next. Writing a long form story is tough, believe me. Writing my novel Time to Play the Game was by far the toughest bit of writing I have ever done. It’s like a big puzzle that you have to put together while blindfolded. I think I did pretty good in my case but I am also sure that if I went back to that novel now I would find some pieces that are missing which detract from the story much like I’ve seen in every issue in this story. That does not excuse it from happening. I get the idea that while Marvel wanted a story that was told over many issues they did not properly plan it out. They winged it which would explain all of the lapses in logic you encounter in this story. If you’re going to tackle a story of this size, there has to be SOME planning. If you fail to do that, the story, and your reader, suffers.

The Avengers #172

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First off, to fail to address a major terrorist incident in the world today and just plow on without comment would be silly and wrong. Helplessness floods through you like pouring ink into a glass of water when you see images of violence on this scale. Who knows at this point what caused some nut jobs in Paris, France to pull off a killing spree like they did today but the survivors sure do have my sympathy. The perfect response on my part is to give the review. I think back to 9/13/2001, two days after the worst images I have ever seen. Every channel had the news. You couldn’t escape the sadness. Then UPN, the precursor to the CW, decided they were going to continue with the latest episode of WWE’s Smackdown television show. That was the first night I smiled since 9/11. I was able to momentarily forget what I just witnessed and was able to have a little fun. I am under no illusions that anyone in France is thinking about checking out my blog tonight. I do this more for myself than anything really. But life goes on, even in the midst of unspeakable tragedy. While we’re here, it’s best to make the most of it.

So we start off with Hawkeye arriving at the Avenger’s Mansion like he was just coming home from a hard day’s work at the local factory. It’s a real ‘Honey, I’m home!’ moment that seems so out of place in a superhero comic. Right after he arrives, the NSA adviser who had previously warned The Avengers to focus more on security shows up and notices the front door to the mansion open because apparently while Hawkeye is a great shot with a bow and arrow, he can’t close a fucking door. The adviser gets rightfully pissed at seeing a building that has so much classified material and equipment in it just left open for anyone to stroll into and retrieve that he goes inside to have a word with the team.

Next up we head back to the final scene from the last issue where Beast tells everyone that Jocasta and Captain America have disappeared. From there, a nun appears and tells them to leave and they will clean up the mess. They do. They were fools to do so. Like any comic book villain, Ultron has found many creative ways over the years to come back to haunt The Avengers. Yet at the urging of a nun, they decide leaving the metallic remains of a machine that was hell bent on destroying the world was a ok. It’s scenes like this which make me agree more and more with the NSA adviser that The Avengers should not have any sort of official backing from the government. They’re making mistakes left and right that, if something similar happened in real life with a real military or spy organization, the country would be up in arms over. I’m all for characters doing something out of left field only if the author in question has a reason for them to do so. That is not happening in this story.

Once they leave they head back to the mansion where they meet up with Hawkeye. After greeting them, Hawkeye casually mentions that he had captured an intruder. After describing him, the team realizes who it is and rushes to free him. Once freed, Gyrich informs them that they no longer have government backing and lose access to all the fun toys and secret files they previously had access to. The writer at this point wants us to have sympathy for the team but frankly they deserved it. They deserved to be put in prison for being so haphazard with important material and just plain being bad at their jobs at this point. Maybe it’s the 39 year old in me coming out. The comics had a different audience at this time but that is still no excuse for bad writing.

Once Gyrich leaves, two things happen. One, Quicksilver’s girlfriend contacts The Avengers to let them know he disappeared and two, Jarvis appears suddenly to tell them that Tyrak is loose and wrecking havoc on New York. Despite the restrictions placed upon them by Gyrich, the writer promptly ignores that and sends the team out, apart from Iron Man, to fight Tyrak. Iron Man stays behind to continue a search for their missing comrades. Why put restrictions on the team if they’re immediately going to ignore them? It reminds me of a dog I used to own that would constantly get out of the yard. We would do everything we could to get him to stay in the damn yard because the last thing we wanted was him crapping in the house but the moment we opened the door, he bolted outside, slid under the fence, and ran off to get some tail. There is no point in placing restrictions on a character if those restrictions are promptly ignored. A good writer, not a great one but a good one, would be a little creative and find a way to get the heroes to solve the problem without relying on their usual powers that why do that when you think your readers have the attention span of a fish?

From there the team fights Tyrak for many, many, MANY pages. The Vision is able to stop him by applying heat to Tyrak’s body. Tyrak is a deep ocean creature so I can accept that he would not be able to handle extreme heat. Once defeated, The Avengers realize that those restrictions they ignored somehow magically came back which prevents them from getting Tyrak into custody before he dies. Their solution? Wonder Man throws him back into the water. Yes, a villain that just tried to kill them and others is treated like a fish that is too small to keep when you’re on a fishing trip. When three of the heroes on hand have the ability of flight yet they decide it’s best to just let the bad guy who tried to kill them go, you realize that the Mighty Marvel Bullpen didn’t take too long when it came to editing the story properly. At the end of the scene though, The Vision promptly disappears and Wanda, The Scarlet Witch, freaks out. Interesting development.

From there you get a short interlude with The Wasp calling Black Panther on the phone enlisting his support. Then you have Yellow Jacket and The Wasp commiserate with Iron Man about not being able to find their missing friends. They talk about The Beast and Thor being off on their own adventures which editor notes point out are detailed in other comics. From there we get a frame FINALLY bringing us back into The Korvac Saga officially. We see our missing heroes encased in glass tubes while a figure, who’s hand is the only part we can see, spies on Iron Man, Yellow Jacket, and The Wasp. He tells himself that Iron Man should already know who did all this and that they will eventually meet. Nice hook to end the story.

Bottom Line:

The writing is becoming intolerable. As a writer myself, I do find it helpful to read stuff like this because you get a firm reminder of why it’s important to keep track of all the little details in a story. Characters have to act in a logical fashion, whether they’re protagonist or antagonist. They also have to have obstacles they have to overcome. If they just do whatever the hell they want or if they simply ignore the obstacles placed in front of them, there is no tension in the story. The concept for this story is not bad at all. They’re just executing it horribly.

One bright mark once again has been the artwork which has been getting better each issue. It’s timelessness is quite refreshing to see especially since this was the start of an era in comics where they did everything they could to visually tag the stories in the era the story was written which can make an otherwise enjoyable story not so exciting to read thirty years later. They also did a great job this issue with addressing the elephant in the room when it comes to how women are treated in comics. Wonder Man tries to be the valiant knight in shining armor for Ms. Marvel but she proceeds to save his ass while kicking her fair share. It was great to see an actual woman in the story, not a caricature of one.

Overall, this is an easily forgettable issue. For every good thing this comic accomplishes, it has ten errors which make reading the story quite unbearable.

The Avengers #170

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Back to the Korvac saga! We see Captain America working out and Beast pops in to have a conversation with him. They talk a bit about an interaction that Cap had with the Scarlet Witch where she called him out for not contributing to the team. He’s playing the macho role of working out his anger and embarrassment by some sort of physical activity.

From there Iron Man shows up and asks to speak with Cap alone. Cap talks a moment about a machine that Tony Stark had built before they discuss the argument they had in issue #168. Iron Man ends up apologizing for his distracted loyalties and promises to be better. Cap also apologizes a bit. An interesting bit of action here was Tony Stark coming close, oh so close, to admitting to Captain America his identity which under the circumstances would have resolved so much unnecessary tension that hiding their identities have caused. Why they couldn’t pull the trigger and have him reveal his identity is beyond me.

From there we get another glimpse of Hawkeye as he calls the mansion to tell The Scarlet Witch what happened with him and the Two Gun Kid on the train. He says he’s in Colorado at this point. Scarlet Witch says they can be there within an hour which is laughable even with access to a private jet. Hawkeye says no, he wants to be back at the mansion to have Tony Stark’s computers aid in finding him. That’s all well and good but they do mention later in the comic that Hawkeye would be back at the mansion soon. Maybe the late 70’s were different but I cannot imagine a regular airplane getting from Colorado to New York City in under an hour even when traveling in first class. The sense of time the Might Marvel writers have in regards to travel is ludicrous at its best.

Next we’re off to Attilan, home of the InHumans, where Pietro Maximoff, Quicksilver is enjoying a moonlit night with the woman of his dreams. While they talk about his happiness, he disappears. These disappearances of characters is definitely an intriguing aspect of the story and something I want to see followed up on but the scenes themselves are so short that you’re in and out of it before you have a chance to know what the hell is going on. Yeah, you know that Korvac must have something to do with it but at this point we’re just seeing them disappear in a page of action, in this particular case just a couple of panels, and you’re expected to know what is happening. This is just wrong on so many levels. It doesn’t have to take a whole comic to explain it but some shot of a bad guy looking on a collection of our heroes after he transported them would be enough to keep me quiet on this. You know it must have SOMETHING to do with the story. The point it WHAT does it have to do with it?

Yellow Jacket, the former Ant-Man, and The Wasp arrive at the mansion with a special delivery. Jocasta, the android completed by Ultron to be his bride. Seems in a previous issue, The Avengers stopped Ultron from taking Janet Pym’s life force and placing it into Jocasta’s metal frame. Well, turns out all that action was for no real reason because Jocasta wakes up and has the voice of The Wasp anyway. There a mad rush to stop her but out of nowhere Iron Man and Captain America let her escape. Then Thor arrives talking about being away for a long time and getting back just in time which throws others for a loop because they’d recently seen him when the Guardians of the Galaxy first arrived. Iron Man and Captain America seem to already know about Jocasta and what her plans are and are simply looking to track her. Which is all fine and good if there had been some scene, even a simple panel, describing how Iron Man and Captain America know she is in the building and what her purpose was. SOMETHING would have been nice. Just showing up acting like they know everything just felt more convenient than anything. Now the Thor revelation is a little more intriguing. Thor was just there with them two issues ago. Why is he talking about being away for awhile? Is he a life model decoy? Is he simply an impostor sent by Korvac? I want to know more.

You’re left with a lot more questions than answers when you finish this issue. That’s not a bad thing when it’s executed well. In this case, most of the questions resolve around what the hell is going on. We see once again characters suddenly knowing everything that is going on when previously they were not even in the scene. We have definitely intriguing scenes of major characters that are disappearing but they’re so short in execution that we have no real emotion apart from confusion to experience. There are some definite good events happening in the story that make me want to read the next issue, the execution of it is so damn poor that it’s taking the fun out of reading the story. While some may argue that this is how comics were written back in the day, I counter with the fact that bad writing is bad writing, no matter the era. While books my not be written like Oliver Twist in today’s day and age, there is no denying the fact that Oliver Twist is a classic book. From first page to last you have a compelling story where everything is done for a reason and everything makes sense. Here, while you have a good idea for a story, there’s not been a lot of thought in making sure that it’s put on paper correctly.

Bottom Line:

There are some intriguing elements in regards to the Korvac Saga in this issue but once again we have a weak story. There are good moments for sure but you’re expected to just accept a lot of stuff that once you think about it makes no damn sense. While you could argue that it is one chapter in a longer story, they could still make sure this chapter was able to properly advance the story which this one did not. You have to get through this and it will be over quick but man, James Shooter and George Perez should have known better.

The Avengers #169

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A little side mission brings us to the next issue of The Avengers. Captain America, Iron Man, and Black Panther are killing time at Avenger’s Mansion when a crazy guy in a green metal suit arrives looking to get The Avengers to kill him. Because he explicitly says this, The Avengers incapacitate him and knock him unconscious. Turns out that the man is Jason Beere. We learn that like Tony Stark, he is an industrialist. He’s learned two things. One, his family is leaving him. Two, that he only has a few months to live. So he does what any sane person would do and sets up four neutron bombs around the world that are connected to his heartbeat. When his heart stops, the world stops with it. So the three Avengers decide to travel the world in hopes of finding the bombs.

Captain America heads to South America. He quickly discovers the location of the bomb but is attacked by locals. During the battle one of them attempts to shoot a poison dart at Captain America but he forces the dart to hit the local instead. Captain America decides to say the dumbest thing I’ve ever read in comics when he says to himself that he is aware of these bird worshiping locals and he knows that they have a cure for whatever poison they tried to shoot him with. Now I wouldn’t have had a problem with this if there were a little foreshadowing in the story. If they had shown the three going over the files of the locations they were going and Captain America reading about the tribe. But that scene doesn’t happen for one and two, Captain America seems completely surprised that these people arrived out of nowhere. Yes, I can understand that Captain America is a soldier and understands tactics so I could see him studying up before going somewhere. The way it’s presented is horrible. One moment he has no idea who these people are, the next he is an expert and knows the types of weapons they use.

Next up, Black Panther finds himself in the Arctic Circle. A man dressed in leather…finds himself in the coldest place on Earth. Maybe Iron Man was hitting the sauce too hard when he sent people out on their missions. Anyway, Black Panther finds the bomb easy but is attacked by a polar bear. Not only a polar bear, but a big ass polar bear looking to kill him some Black Panther. Black Panther as presented in the comics is a reasonable fighter against wild animals. That I can believe. What I can’t believe is a man dressed in leather in the middle of the Arctic falling through the ice into freezing cold waters with a gigantic wild animal would not die instantly. Not only does he live, he escapes without even getting the sniffles.

Iron Man is last up. He finds himself in Russia where the Soviets think he is there to attack him. They spring a trap on him which he escapes but from there uses diplomacy to tell them what is going on and get their support. Nothing wrong with that mind you but tell me, do you think another country would take the word of a famous super soldier of their enemy that he’s simply there to pick up a bomb that could destroy their civilization? And for the sake of argument, if the Russians were as agreeable as they are presented this issue in regards to allowing Iron Man to do his thing and take away the neutron bomb, why couldn’t he just radio ahead and tell them what was going on? You can’t paint people as your enemy one minute and as totally agreeable nice guys the next. What would have been more appropriate would be an appearance from Black Widow. At this time she was a defector from the Soviet Union but she would still have connections with the right people there and could have given the Soviets a heads up as to what was going on. Granted, there would be no reason to include that because there is no conflict with that scenario but the conflict presented in this story ends up being for no reason anyway so you end up not caring.

They bring anything back only to discover that what they found was a tape recorder telling them that the bomb was in Jason Beere all along. So they freeze him with cryogenics…and do nothing else. Maybe I’m a heartless dick but my next step would have been putting him in a manless rocket and shooting him into the sun. The Avengers essentially freeze the guy, leave him in the freezer, and just wash their hands of the whole affair.

Now having a little break in the Korvac affair was not a bad idea but man, when you get to the end of this issue you just feel stupid. It’s not a bad premise mind you, they just execute it so poorly that any story elements that are actually entertaining lose their value the further you read. Not that they had to have forty pages of back story to send us on the mission but something as simple as a throw away line about each character doing some research on the locations they are going would have been nice. Yes, they mention Jason Beere left some notes but that doesn’t give them info on the locals they are going. It’s especially bad when Captain America, who is supposed to be a noted soldier, just haphazardly goes into battle without appearing to know where he’s at until giving a throwaway line at the end.

Bottom Line:

I don’t mind having a little breather from the Korvac saga but this was the equivalent of sprinting one hundred yards while holding your breath than immediately jumping into a lake. Again, the premise is fine. It is a basic premise that works well in action adventure stories. Take the movie Speed. The story is so simplistic that it almost doesn’t even qualify as a story but a mere premise. A madman plants a bomb on a bus and it’s up to the good guys to defuse the bomb and catch the guy. But the way they execute it in the movie is ingenious. Each challenge the protagonists faces is presented in as logical a way as that world presents it. This story just goes to sabotage itself from the start with silly mistakes that could have easily been fixed. I shake my head at this issue because the premise was good but it was just bad.

The artwork is common for work of this era and that’s not a bad thing. While it’s not classic work by any means, it does well to show the action on the page and showcase the emotions of the characters involved. But it doesn’t matter if you had the Picasso of comic book artists drawing this piece, when you have a story that is as bad as this one, any good the art gives to the story is flushed away. What a waste. This is not a part of the Korvac saga and should just be avoided.