Ultimate Spider-Man #10

Peter Parker sure learns a lot in this issue. When you’re handed the ass whipping he gets you’d either tuck your tail between your legs and run or learn what the hell whipped you so bad and figure out another way to beat it. Peter thankfully chose the latter option.

Kingpin is damned dangerous in this issue but I do question how someone who can be as rash as he is has been able to stay on top for as long as he has. The setting where the action takes place is an office in the high rise penthouse he lives in which is currently having a party for charity that he is hosting. He’s trying to do the Michael Corleone role in trying to be master of two worlds, the world of crime and the world of legitimacy. While I could see him being pissed that Peter broke into his office, the lengths he goes to get rid of him are just too extreme for a character that is trying to romance the regular world. Especially with the security system he has in place, why wouldn’t he just call the cops, get Peter arrested, and sell the video of their encounter to the Daily Bugle or something in an effort to make people sympathetic towards him?

Instead he has Electro shock the hell out of him before he tosses him out the window to plunge to his apparent death. All on a taping system he had installed in his own residence. Now it could be argued that there is historical precedence for this occurring. Richard Nixon famously taped tons of conversations in the White House that ended up burning his back side quite crisply during the whole Watergate mess. He was either too stupid to remember the taping was going on which ended up incriminating him and members of his staff on their various crimes or he was so drunk with power that he thought there was no reason to be worried because he had all the power. Maybe that’s what Brian Bendis had in mind for this particular scene (since Watergate is directly mentioned at the later in the story when Peter is at school.) but it doesn’t really play out so well in my book.

I really enjoyed the scene where Peter and Aunt May have a heart to heart. Not much attention has been spent on her up to this point. You like her as a character and everything but that like is general at best. This scene really does a lot to introduce you more to the character more in depth.

One issue I have had with Aunt May in the traditional Spider-Man comics was how one dimensional she is. While I’m sure someone who’s read far more Spider-Man comics than me will come up with example after example of how she did more than fret about poor Peter Parker and bake him cookies, I contend that with the general public’s view of the character as one dimensional as it is, efforts in the original comics to broaden her character have mainly not been effective.

Aunt May is wondering about her place in the world since Ben was brutally murdered. With Peter growing up and discovering his powers, he’s more and more finding himself living life outside the house. May is alone. Yeah she may have friends, I don’t doubt that but up until Ben was murdered, her life was her home and now she doesn’t have that. She questions if Peter even likes her as a person which will pull on the old heart strings but does a lot to add some much needed characterization to her. The original Aunt May would never have done that. If she even thought of it, she’d bake cookies just to drown that thought out. I loved this scene. It packs as much of an emotional wallop as any action scene Peter has been in to date. And the art really brings you into the scene quite intimately.

Bottom Line:

Peter is getting it. While I still think he is quite brash and stupid for how naive he is, he is learning that brute strength will not take out someone like the Kingpin. The learning curve he’s going through is smartening him up fast. Hell, if I were thrown out of a high rise window just cause, I’d learn real quick that whatever I did that caused said person to toss my sorry ass out the window was the wrong way to handle what I was doing.

This comic is a great read but it does have some problems, namely how Kingpin is portrayed. For someone who is set up to be such a bad ass throughout the story to day, when we actually meet him, apart from his brute strength he’s not the smart guy he’s been portrayed to be. Yeah, there is a Nixon comparison here but Bendis misses his mark here by not giving us as the reader more examples of Kingpin actually being smart. I certainly wouldn’t want to piss the guy off but I don’t see him at this point being smart enough to tie his own shoes unless he had an instruction manual.

What I would have liked was some more of the approach that was used in the Netflix show Daredevil. Wilson Fisk in that show is not Kingpin until literally the last twenty minutes. Throughout the show you see how, through brain power and physical strength, he manipulates everything to his favor. Only until Matt Murdock beats him at his own game does he lose it. There could have been more interactions between Spider-Man and Kingpin before a showdown like what appears in this issue occurs. For that, the story does suffer.

Daredevil #168

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When 20th Century Fox lost the rights to Daredevil not many people cared. While the Daredevil movie wasn’t the worst comic book movie ever made, it was also one that didn’t have much in the way of passion. It was a by the colors movie that just had no soul. While the studio was able to push out a spin off based on Elektra, no one really cared. (Even though they wasted the talents of both Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner in doing so.) While there were attempts by others to get another Daredevil film off the ground, including a sizzle reel by Joe Carnahan to attempt to generate interest from the studio…

…Fox chose to let the rights go back to Marvel.

Marvel announced that Daredevil, alone with Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist would not only have their own individual shows on Netflix, they would also come together similar to The Avengers in a show called The Defenders. Again, not many people really cared. Sure, Marvel Studios had earned a lot of good will and people were definitely interested in seeing what the studio would be but speaking for myself, I didn’t expect much.

Then the show debuted and blew everyone’s expectations as to what made a comic book show great out of the water. Similar to Batman, it was a superhero story about a guy with no superpowers. His powers simply occurred due to exposure to radioactive material. It was a show that even my wife would end up enjoying. It had a love of the source material without solely relying upon that to give us a good story. Soon after the first season hit they announced there would be a second season. In that season we would be introduced to Frank Castle, The Punisher, and one Elektra Natchios.

As readers of the comics will know, much of the Daredevil show has been taken from Frank Miller’s run on the comic. One such issue involves the debut of one Elektra. She met Matt Murdock in college. She was the daughter of a Greek ambassador, he a bumbling law student. They start to date and fall in love. About a year into their romance, Elektra and her father are held hostage. During the crisis, Matt ends up saving her but in the melee, cops murder her father. She is understandably upset and chooses to break up with Matt. Years later, well after Matt has become Daredevil, he is tracking someone down only to be knocked unconscious by a woman. That woman? Elektra.

When he wakes, he gets info on where Elektra may be headed. He discovers that she was in over her head and about to be executed. He drives an airplane at the bad guys and ends up whipping ass, saving her in the process where she, after realizing he is Matt Murdock, breaks down in tears.

The story was understandably amazing. This is comic book storytelling 101. The character of Elektra, while we don’t get too much of a grasp of her history, is fully fleshed out in the pages that Mr. Miller puts together. We not only see why Matt would have such strong feelings for her, we see that even as an international bounty hunter and killer, she still has heart and loves Matt Murdock. Frank Miller, from every story I’ve ever read from him, has always beautifully written characters in wonderful shades of grey. Take Batman: Year One. Jim Gordon, the future Commissioner of Police that for years we as readers have held in high esteem, has an affair with his wife and ends up getting caught. While that is a disgusting act, we still see him as very much a hero in the story.

If you think about it, what hero doesn’t have moments where they could be considered scum by others? No one is perfect. Everyone I have ever held in high esteem has ended up doing something stupid that made me doubt everything they’ve done. But after reflection, I’ve been able to sort the bad from the good. Because in the end, good people by their actions will always end up redeeming themselves. Some make take longer than others but they will. Hell, if Anakin Skywalker could do it, anyone can.

With Elektra, we see in this story why she chose to end up in a life of crime. With her father being accidentally murdered by the police, who child wouldn’t have issues with authority after that? It’s understandable that she would take the actions that she does. It doesn’t make it right of course but you understand it which makes her arc in this issue a thing of beauty. Too often in comics even today, women don’t have much depth. They’re either really good people or evil bitches. There’s no grey to their characters. Frank Miller though finds a way to find the proverbial diamond in the rough. Like Nancy Callahan from Sin City. A stripper by trade, she’s still someone you would have no issue taking home to mother. (Maybe after a few drinks first but still.)

The art for this issue was good but I think it did suffer from one thing. The color. Maybe it’s because I’m used to his work on Sin City but to me Frank Miller’s best stories, including this one, work best in black and white. If Humphry Bogart were alive in the 1980’s, Frank Miller would have written a movie just for him. Each panel is like a caterpillar compared to the butterfly his later work visually becomes. You can see how the visuals in Sin City came about from issues like this but the color in the story ultimately is just not needed.

There’s a panel near the end that explains what I mean. It’s just one panel where Matt discovers the main bad guy has a gun to Elektra’s head. With color you see the emotion in his face but it almost takes you out of the mood. When I turned gray scale on my iPad, the emotions went from blunt by muted to almost exploding off the page. Again, maybe I’ve been exposed to too much late era Frank Miller but I really think this would have worked so much better in black and white, not that it is bad now.

Bottom Line:

Yet another Mighty Marvel story from the early 80’s golden age. It’s also a great read to get under your belt before the new season of Daredevil appears in February. The show has used so much from Frank Miller’s run with the character so far, it only goes to suspect they may use this story pretty much verbatim. Even if they pick and choose what they use, it will be great to see what they ultimately use and what they don’t. You will be doing yourself a favor to read this issue.

The Amazing Spider-Man #51

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First off a little free advertisement. My wife loves little hole in the wall places. While she has no problem heading to a chain restaurant or coffee shop, she’s the type of person who would much rather pay a little more money to keep a mom and pop place in business. One such place in Portland is a place called The Spritely Bean. It’s a beautifully run place run by a nice couple that really appeals to both ladies and gentlemen out there. The coffee and pastries they offer second to none. My wife loved the egg nog latte she ordered. They also offer comics from independent companies. While they did offer selections from companies comic fans know of like Image Comics and Valiant Comics (they also had Spawn #2 on sale. If they had a #1 I would have squealed like a little girl.), they also offered selections from local comic book makers that I will be posting reviews on in the coming days. To top it off, once my wife mentioned that I had reviewed Holy F*ck, Addam Poole, the owner along with his wife, mentioned that he knew of the series and had actually had communication with Nick Marino. Anyone who likes Holy F*ck is tops in my book! If you are in Portland and want to not only support local coffee shops but the local comic book scene in the area, this is THE place to go to.

Now on to the review. The Amazing Spider-Man #51, which had the second ever appearance of Kingpin, Mr. Wilson Fisk. One of my favorite shows of late has been Daredevil on Netflix. Vincent D’Onofrio did a fabulous job as the Kingpin. What I love about the character is the fact that he’s smart as a whip. Looking like he does you wouldn’t expect it but the Kingpin is someone who has thought twelve moves ahead of you. He is a cold blooded mother who has thought about every possible way to grasp and maintain power. He realizes as well that he can use his appearance to give people the false impression of weakness.

When you think of fat guys you don’t think of them as particularly scary. Sometimes they can be jolly like Santa. Sometimes they can be pathetic like Val Kilmer. But never do you think of hefty guys as vicious. Run twelve steps ahead of them and they’ll have a heart attack trying to keep up. Toss a jelly donut their way and you’ve successfully distracted them like showing a dog a card trick. But Kingpin is pure muscle, whether it be physical or mental muscle.

This is the issue after the famous story of Peter Parker contemplating hanging up the tights forever. Peter Parker has changed his mind and is now Spider-Man again. When he comes back he foils the Kingpin’s plans. Thanks to an editorial from J. Jonah Jameson, he’s looking for the man who is behind a recent crime wave in the city. The Kingpin is aware of the articles and hatches a plan to kidnap JJJ to either convince him to lay off the story or else.

The story in this issue is light in terms of content but that’s not a bad thing. The goal of the issue which I think Stan Lee accomplished amazingly well was to showcase the viciousness of Wilson Fisk. We get a showcase of how a man was able to unite the crime families of New York. He knows that these people are not loyal to him so he keeps a cane that could instantly kill anyone who disobeys him. The fact alone that by the end of the issue he was able to subdue Spider-Man speaks volumes as to how strong this guy is. Other characters when they made their debut against Spider-Man were easily defeated by the end of the issue. But the last thing we see if Spider-Man and J. Jonah Jameson surrounded by Kingpin and this thugs.

Speaking of JJJ, I’ve always found his character fascinating. On the surface you think he is quite one dimensional. He hates Spider-Man and will go to any length to let people know. But every now and then they show little glimpses into his mind as to why he hates Spider-Man. In a previous issue, I happen to forget which one specifically at the moment, we find that he is jealous of Spider-Man because he wishes his son had the same level of adoration from people. He knows Spider-Man does good but due to petty jealousy he wants to stop him. But as this issue shows, while he very much wants Spider-Man stopped, when it comes to someone looking to actually kill him, he draws a line. He may be jealous but that doesn’t involve murder. It’s little moments like these that pop up occasionally which go towards making JJJ such a fascinating character.

The art. A John Romita classic. John Romita, along with Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, and others, pretty much set the template for these types of stories. The fight scenes were great in this issue. While they ended up being filler to be quite honest, you do not get bored or distracted. The action makes sense. I’ve noticed in some comics that when fight scenes happen, they want to throw in as much action as they can so it ends up getting to be a garbled mess. You don’t know what is really going on apart from punches and kicks. The action in this issue is quite clear and well drawn. Little things like the impact lines when Kingpin hits people showcase the power of the character. Who would have thought that simple lines could showcase such power?

Bottom Line:

This is a must read issue of The Amazing Spider-Man. While admittedly the previous issue is more well known and for obvious reasons, this goes a long way towards establishing the character of Kingpin.  A person could judge the story based on way stories are told now but they would be missing out on one hell of a story. I would be the first to admit that some of Stan Lee’s writing doesn’t stand the test of time. Granted, with the sheer amount of content him and others have to put out not everything is going to be a gem. But the foundations he laid for modern comic book stories should never, ever, be diminished because some of the stories may seem a little corny by today’s standards. We have today’s standards because of stories like this. This is the type of story that any comic book writer would study to see what works so they can either apply it to their own work or find a way to do something different that would still give you the same results. I compare Stan Lee’s stories to The Beatles. While I do find some of their songs quite simple by today’s standards, without The Beatles, popular music as a whole would sound much different. To become a master of anything, you have to learn from the masters that came before you. Stan Lee and John Romita are two such masters that any comic creator would do well to study.

Marvel’s Jessica Jones #1

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Steven Spielberg recently talked about superhero movies and said that they will go the way of the western eventually. If you read his comment in full, and respect his status in Hollywood, you’d know that he is absolutely right. Something new will eventually come along that will entrance the public and superhero movies will take a much needed break. Everything has a saturation point. Too much of it and you will get tired of it. Like when I had my free trial to Apple Music and used Siri to make a playlist based on the top twenty hits from the year I was born. I had to explain to my kids what disco when they were taking a breath from laughing. Disco music in and of itself is not bad. There are some real gems that are still great to listen to, plus it helped influence The Rolling Stones with one of their biggest hits off their Some Girls album, Miss You. But much like Disco had its day where people finally had enough (and then the songwriters of disco went to work with country pop singers like Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton but that’s another story.), superhero movies will slow to a crawl in terms of being made.

Until then, we’re still in a golden age of story telling if you like comic book stories. Once technology caught up with the imagination of comic book creators, it really opened the flood gate as to what could be done with movies. DC had massive hits in the 70’s and 80’s with Superman and Batman. Those two stories though could reasonably be told without too much in the way of special effects. Marvel for the longest time couldn’t catch a break. Apart from The Incredible Hulk and their cartoon line ups, they couldn’t get Hollywood to really use their stories in the right way. If you ever caught the 70’s Spider-Man television show you’d see how right I was. Or the Captain America movie starring JD Salinger’s son.

That movie alone was probably the death knell of a company that had no business making comic book movies. 21st Century Film Corporation made the film, that company being run by the former owner of Cannon Films, the makers of cinematic classics like Masters of the Universe, Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (You know a movie is bad when on the director’s commentary for the movie, the first thing the writer of the film does is apologize to the audience for making a bad movie.) I remember watching a movie at the local theater when I was a kid and saw this teaser.

By today’s standards, yeah it’s cheesy. But in late 1989 this was a pretty bad ass way to get a young kid excited for a movie. Then…the movie never came to theaters in my town. I should thank them for that.

It wasn’t until Blade and X-Men that Marvel stories were finally translated to the screen in all their glory. Some movies may not stand the test of time (I’m looking at you all iterations of Fantastic Four) but they’re better than Captain America from 1990 or other earlier attempts at making cinematic Marvel movies.

Once Marvel got their act together they decided it would be wise to be the controlling destiny behind the movies based on their intellectual properties. And why not. For every Spider-Man that was made, there was an Ang Lee Hulk movie that didn’t quite get it right. So they made their own production company and movie history was born. They have been able to seamlessly blend their characters into one shared universe. While you don’t have to watch every single movie to get what is going on, you can get more from your experience if you do so. Now they’ve branched into television. That started with Agents of SHIELD. Then they made the bold move to make Netflix shows.

Daredevil is the first of a planned group of shows that will culminated in an Avengers like television show called The Defenders. We’re going to get Daredevil (and The Punisher which I am squealing like a little girl about!), Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist. There’s already talk of more shows on the way as well. Maybe a Fantastic Four television show anyone?

Jessica Jones in the second show from them which will debut in November. The trailers have been great, especially this one.

Everything you need to know about the character is in that teaser. And you don’t even see her face.

This comic is a brief teaser for the new show. It’s really just a scene, a study of her character. She meets up with Turk, who was a minor bad guy in Season 1 of Daredevil who is recuperating from a beating he took at the hands of Daredevil. Jessica sneaks her way past the police and confronts him about back child support and tells him he should be more of an influence in his children’s lives. Yeah, she’s not delusional and doesn’t think for a minute he will listen. Which is why she steals the money he had left in his wallet and takes off. Simple scene really. But it goes a long way to show what motivates her.

I am really excited for the show and can’t wait for November to get here. Marvel has done some amazing work in getting lesser known characters into the public eye. While big names will always rule the roost, for Marvel to continue to be successful they have to make their entire catalog palatable for the public. Before Guardians of the Galaxy came out internet message boards were claiming that would be the first Marvel failure because who would want to see a movie involving characters you know nothing about? Marvel’s secret? Make a damn good story with characters people can relate. Easier said than done to be sure but Marvel has done a fantastic job in using their lesser known characters than DC which still wants to rely upon the big two, Batman and Superman, to get people into the movie theater.

This issue is a must read. It’s another great tease on what I am sure will be a great show. And hey, we’ll finally have an American made show that will allow folks to see David Tennant show his acting chops on that people will actually watch.

 

Daredevil #183

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Summary:

http://marvel.wikia.com/wiki/Daredevil_Vol_1_183

The Good:

Frank Miller. Frank Miller, along with Alan Moore and others, are responsible for comics as they are today. How so you may be asking? Well, people like Mr. Miller are responsible for taking comics from the adolescent adventure stories that Stan Lee and others created to the hardened adventures that adults could enjoy and love without looking creepy doing it.

This story is about Matt Murdock investigating who was responsible for selling a little girl the drug angel dust. The girl thought snakes were attacking her and decided she would rather jump out of a window than deal with them. During his investigation his crosses paths with The Punisher who tries to enlist his help in taking down criminals in Frank Castle’s very special, tender way.

Much like the tv show that Marvel produced for Netflix, the great thing about Daredevil in this particular story at least is the fact that the story is based in a realism you don’t really get in other comics. Daredevil is like Batman in a lot of ways in how he cares for his city of Hell’s Kitchen and does what he can to clean up the place from the top criminals down to the lowliest scum that he crosses paths with. Matt Murdock is someone you could imagine could actually exist whereas someone like Iron Man or Captain America, while great heroes and characters you love to read about, come across as more idealized versions of what someone imagines a hero could be.

I like the fact that the story deals in a somewhat realistic was the issue of drug abuse. The fact that a comic that came out in 1982 was dealing with such a heavy issue is pretty amazing in and of itself. The fact that it didn’t come across like a very special episode of a 1980’s sitcom is even more amazing. Back in the 80’s, the entertainment industry was a little ham handed to say the least in how they presented drugs and drug abuse. For the most part they were unrealistic in how they presented it giving people the impression that the issue of drug abuse was much more of a black and white issue than it is in real life. In real life good people take drugs not necessarily to escape life because they have such horrible lives. They try it for fun and get hooked without realizing it. While this issue was a little on the formulaic side I think it was as realistic as 1982 comics could be in regards to this topic.

The art work was pretty good. It was simply designed, showcasing the shadows and the darkness of the streets the blind hero is trying to change. When the little girl’s brother is caught on the roof with a gun in his hands the expression on his face is priceless. You feel the kids pain. You see he feels horrible his sister died at the result of remorseless drug dealers and while it is later revealed that he did not kill the drug dealer, you see that he is not quite sad the guy is dead. While there could have been more depth to the scenery when the art required the scene to be emotional it brought its A game.

The Bad:

The cover for this comic is quite famous and rightfully so. It says a lot about the two characters that words would fail to express. But one thing the story did not do was give us the real Frank Castle. While The Punisher was fighting people who know are bad guys, not once is he ever shown to be the sympathetic character he is. The Punisher sympathetic you may ask?

Yes. The main pull about why we care about The Punisher is the WHY of his crusade against crime. If we are not given the why than Frank Castle is just as much a thug as the people he kills. No doubt about it the people that The Punisher kill are bad people and deserved death a long time ago. This is not about trying to feel sorry for people that have intentionally made bad choices in their lives. But we need to care about Frank and the fact that due to his family’s death he’s making the wrong choice for the right reasons. Yet this comic does nothing more than portray Frank Castle as just as much a thug as the drug dealers in the story. It would have been nice to have Matt dig a little deeper into The Punisher’s history and discover what happened with his family. While the two would still be at odds we would at least see that Daredevil understands the motivation for what makes Frank Castle tick despite the fact that what he does sickens him.

The story also suffered from the fact that it didn’t feel self contained. A number of things happened that had no relevance to the main story of this issue, the main issue being Matt Murdock proposing marriage to Heather Glenn at the end of the issue. It’s great and all that Matt has found love but this came out of nowhere especially for someone like me who picked up the story at this particular issue. While I should feel impelled to want to know more of what is going on to the point that I investigate the back issues to read more about what is going on, the story itself should have been much more self contained than it was.

I also didn’t like the fact that what started as a story about the dangers of drugs quickly turned to murder. Granted, this was 1982. I can imagine this story would have come across much different if it were made today. It just made the story seem silly and trite when you barely talk about a twelve year old girl who girls herself while high on angel dust but you have no problem deal with page after page of the consequences of her brother who is not much older than her having to deal with being accused of murder. This country of ours, America. We can show people getting killed and maimed left and right but when it comes to dealing with serious issues like drug abuse and heaven forbid sex and boobies, we must cover our eyes and ears while yelling LALALALALA as loud as we can. We have certainly evolved enough over the years in that I think we can now deal with issues like drug abuse and what not but we’re still quite prudish and ignorant on other issues. I won’t blame the comic for failing to get into more detail about the drug use because frankly that is our society here in America even today. We ignore shit like this until it affects pretty young white girls than it’s a BIG FUCKING DEAL that we must deal with yesterday.

The one complaint I have about the artwork is that it is too minimalist for my tastes. Now being that this is a Frank Miller story, the guy who in Sin City had quite the time with black and white drawings, I should have expected it. While it does have its moments of brilliance, there are times where I wanted more, especially in the external location shots. It comes across like the play Our Town were filmed as an action movie. Too much is going on in such stark empty locations. It was distracting more than it elevated the story.

Bottom Line:

The cover is brilliant. This is like album covers from bands you may never have any interest in listening to but still put out amazing album covers. The violence implied in this cover is great but it really isn’t addressed in the story. The story itself is all right but it’s lacking in the sense that the story is not self contained in any way, shape, or form. I guess that’s how Frank Miller wanted to present the story but I did find myself lost in regards to what was going on. Too much was going on that required you to know enough back story to really appreciate the story. If you didn’t read the previous issues than you really can’t appreciate what this story was trying to do. For that I have to give the story a 4.

The art work could have been better. Being that it was 1982, we’re dealing with a young Frank Miller here. He hadn’t found his style yet, the style that exploded in your face with The Dark Knight Returns and Sin City. While there are moments of brilliance in this issue the art does more to detract from your enjoyment than anything else. I have to give it a 3.

Again, another harsh review. Don’t let that keep you from reading this comic. It’s great to see how great artists evolve. This is a great example of early Frank Miller work. The worst of Frank Miller is better than a lot of great work that is out today.