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.

The Amazing Spider-Man #668

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Another day, another look in the Spider Island story. We pick up where we left off in issue 667 where The Avengers believe that Peter is one of the bad folks wrecking havoc on New York. Shang Chi arrives and lets The Avengers know that the one who’s ass they are kicking is actually Spider-Man himself. From there, Reed Richards tells him to hit the bricks.

I really dug page 4.

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That image kind of reminded me of the classic cover from issue 50 where Peter is walking down an alley in the distance and up close on the cover is a garbage can with the Spider-Man outfit hanging out of it. On that cover, Peter wanted to walk away from the responsibility that being Spider-Man had to offer. This image is just the opposite. Peter wants more than anything to be in on the action but realizes that Reed Richards is right when he told him he needed to sit out on this one.

From there he meets up with Norah with no sign of Phil Urich at all which kind of dismissed the previous issue I reviewed. Sure you could argue that this could have happened just before that issue but we need to have some sort of clue especially with the fact that Marvel wanted to put that story in chronological order before this.

There was also a nice little interaction I wish they could have spent a little more time on. When Peter is talking to Norah, Mary Jane arrives. Norah hints at the fact that Peter and Mary Jane used to be together but it’s never really addressed apart from an initial awkward interaction from the former power couple. She came across like she still cared for Peter and I didn’t get the hint of there being any sort of anger or sadness over the fact that they were not together anymore. Peter is a little awkward around her but there’s just no real explanation as to why they’re not together. Yeah, it’s detailed in another story but this is one instance where an editor’s note would have worked.

The rest of the issue details Peter going along with the situation and acting like he had the spider illness as well. He gets normal folks together to help defeat the bad guys which they ultimately do. New York is quarantined by the Mayor. And Peter gets sent by Horizon Labs to assist the police on reworking bad guy tech to help the Mayor’s spider task force. His liaison at the force? His girlfriend.

There was one bit I didn’t care for. Carlie reveals near the end that she knows The Jackal is behind everything. That’s great and all but it is never explained how she got the information. Peter is familiar with the guy so it’s understandable that he would know a thing or two about the guy but Carlie just magically knows who is causing all this. And her and Peter go alone to investigate. I am no expert on how government works but I can safely say that if there was a virus that was so severe that they had to quarantine a major city in this country, if anyone in law enforcement had any sort of clue as to who could have caused it, they would send every mother fucker they could to get the guy and give him the Guantanamo Bay treatment. They wouldn’t send a young lady in her mid-20’s along with her goofy scientist boyfriend. It’s like the end of The Silence of the Lambs where Clarice goes to Buffalo Bill’s house alone. She thought she was going on a wild goose chase but it turned out she caught the guy single handed. It just blows my mind though. At the very least you would think they would want to send a partner with her to make that scenario in the movie believable. The scenario in the comic is just not believable.

The art work was more of the sloppy anime nonsense that I didn’t care for. Some of the character designs were just off, making them look like melted action figures than actual people. Apart from the page I talked about earlier, the art is just bad. I almost expect Voltron to make an appearance in the comic.

Bottom Line:

Story wise, this was a pretty decent issue. They worked themselves into a corner with Peter wanting to help defeat the bad guys with spider powers but they found a good way to get out of that by having Peter lie and say he was affected by the virus as well. It does a decent job of wrapping up the first act of the Spider Island story and offering some clues for what the future of the story will bring us.

I do wish they could touch upon a couple of things. One, if they’re going to have stories in other issues detailing the actions of The Hobgoblin and show the reader that Phil Urich has deceived Norah into being his woman, the least they could do is acknowledge that that happened in another issue. Also, I want some sort of clue as to what happened between Peter and Mary Jane. An editor’s note would make me happy in this case even though in issue 667 I complained about the number of editor’s notes. There is a weird little dynamic going on between the two that is not really being addressed and I want more information. I think of it like this. Yeah, I know I can do a little research and dive into the Marvel Unlimited app and discover what happened. But I shouldn’t have to. Either give the reader some clue as to what happened between the two since they have established that they used to be a couple or simply don’t have her in the story. This ambiguous awkwardness between the two is frustrating because there doesn’t seem to be any reason for it. They both seem cool with each other apart from Peter being a little awkward because he doesn’t want to throw in her face the fact that he has another relationship. In the past, Peter and Mary Jane were married so to go from that to this, something happened. I want to know what since it appears the writer wants us to focus on this for this particular story.

The Amazing Spider-Man #667

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First off, FUCK YEAH! In two minutes, they’ve done more to make me excited for this film than all the efforts of DC to get me happy for Batman vs. Superman. Well done. And perfectly made. It has enough to give you an idea of what is generally going on but doesn’t give so much away like the Titanic trailer did back in the day that it ended up telling the whole story. Off to the review.

The Spider Island story continues where the last issue leaves off where Peter’s girlfriend lets him know her secret, that she has spider powers. The story to this point has been pretty slow but in a good way. Not slow to the point where you’re wondering why the hell you’re reading the comic, slow in the sense that the story is building up, giving the characters enough chance to breath, grow, react to events around them. Too often in stories today, whether they be in comics, movies, books, etc., you see little to no characterization. No chance for characters to establish themselves for the reader in this case. You have no reason to care for them as they’re suddenly thrown into a torrent of action that has no tension because you could care less about what it happening to the people on the page.

I really like the relationship between Carlie and Peter. While there admittedly isn’t much time spent on their relationship this issue, their time together seems natural. It’s like being on the bus and seeing an old married couple board, sit next to each other, and start talking. There’s a familiarity between people that have been together for a while that you can’t just replicate unless you’ve been in a relationship yourself.

Madam Web annoys me. So far I hate her. She’s a telepath and knows everything that happens in the future and does everything she can to make sure people know this. More time is spent on her telling everyone that she knows what is going to happen than actually showing us what her purpose in the story is. The idea of the character is certainly intriguing and I reserve the right to change my opinion of her later in the story but now, she’s more annoying than anything as well as a hindrance to people that want to actually do something. Either have her contribute or stay the hell out of the story until you have something to do.

With everyone dressed like Spider-Man wreaking havoc in New York it is understandable that The Avengers would mistake Peter for one of the bad guys. This goes towards one point I have had a contention with in the Marvel Universe and that is the fact that some of the heroes will not reveal their identity for the life of them. You would think that for a situation just like this they’d have some sort of safe word or something that would let the other heroes know who they are. The chance of mistaken identity would be too great and the chance of a good guy doing something bad would be something I would think they would want to prevent. Why would they not want to tell each other their identities if they work with each other so closely?

The art in the story just threw me off. As I have said before I am not a fan of anime. It’s just not my tastes. I’m not someone who thinks that just because I don’t like something that it must be universally bad. I get that a lot of folks worldwide love and appreciate anime and everything it offers. I prefer art that’s more realistic. Sometimes I can take silly like Daniel Aruda’s work on Holy F*ck and Holy F*cked. That art is simplistic but it helps elevate the silliness of the story involved. In this issue, the art just takes away any emotion you could have felt and just makes the characters look grotesque. Mayor Jameson looks like a Play-Do figure that’s been put in the microware and cooked on high for twenty minutes. Just bad.

Bottom Line:

This is a nice piece of the Spider-Island puzzle. Unlike The Korvac Saga and Secret Invasion, the story is coming along slow but nice. It is coming along at a realistic pace. Along with the realistic relationships and characterization we’ve seen to date I am really enjoying what is happening so far. We’ve dived into the deep end here and the writer has made sure we’re swimming along quite nice. I am not a fan of the art so far but objectively speaking, I have seen much worse so there is not much to really complain about. You would do well to check out this comic.

The Amazing Spider-Man #666

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Another day in the life of Peter Park starts out with him swinging through town contemplating how life has changed for him. I liked how it goes back over his history of how he would inadvertently stumble onto a crime scene or have a crime fall into his lap. You get a sense of the history of the character without having to have a PhD in Spider-Man history. He hears a call of a robbery in progress and proceeds to the scene where two robbers are fleeing a local shop. He takes care of them in due order with his usual quips. The police arrive and thank him for his work.

One of the cops mentioned ol’ Flat Top cutting the budget for the police since Spider-Man is taking care of crime in town. Turns out the Flat Top he was talking about was J. Jonah Jameson himself, the Mayor of New York. Seems the Mayor is seeing his poll numbers plummet because he is using city finances toward a Spider-Man task force which the general public doesn’t like. Then he has the nerve to complain about The Daily Bugle calling him out for doing this, once again blaming Spider-Man for all his troubles. I get that JJJ is a bit of a one note character. There are some shades to the character which can at times make him interesting but this was just too cliche. This was like how he was presented in Spider-Man 3, a joke. Whereas in the original Spider-Man movie, he’s a bombastic ass but he still does the right thing. We’ll probably get a little more JJJ in the story what with him being Mayor and all but this is not a good start for the character.

Next up we see Hydro-Man battling a trio of heroes, Gravity, Spider-Woman, and Firestar. Growing up a fan of Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends, I geeked out when I saw Firestar. Especially when she name dropped the show.

Anyway, Spider-Man makes quick work of Hydro-Man by using a special freezing device he made up at his job at Horizon Laboratories. Then it’s off to work where he showcases the freezing device to his co-workers who congratulate him. I found his female co-worker quite annoying. I am sure there are animal activists who would freak out over the well being of earthworms but man are they annoying as all hell. Reminds me of an episode of The Howard Stern Show where he got two female members of PETA to make out with each when he threatened to kill some bugs or something. Just stupid. Priorities people.

Next, we have Peter Parker’s girlfriend Carlie calling him to speak with him. I never knew this character existed before reading this issue but I liked how someone in my position doesn’t feel like her character is wedged into the story. I don’t know her history but she feels like she belongs which is a good job from the writer. When Peter inquires as to what she would want to talk about, we see one of the criminals that he had webbed up earlier break free from the webs, which one of the cops mentions that that is something even Rhino could not do. The bugs have bit a lot of people…including Carlie who takes down the criminal with a clothesline John Bradshaw Layfield from the WWE would be proud of.

After the phone call Peter is walking, oblivious to everything around him when a bus barrels down on him. Phil Urich and Norah Winters pull him to safety. Thanks to an editor’s note, we discover that Peter lost his spider sense. I have no problem with editor’s notes but one annoyance with this issue is that it seems every other panel had an editor’s note. I am all for filling in the reader on events they may not have read but when they become obnoxious like this issue, you have to ask yourself whether there was another way for the writer to talk about past events without annoying the reader. I did enjoy the panel where Phil gets pissed at a comment Peter made and you see the image of Phil’s alter ego, Hobgoblin. It was an amazing way to show the character having a dark side without making them rattle off a monologue.

We have a quick little scene of Jay and May Jameson in a hotel. It’s a quick way to show that the bed bugs making everyone like Spider-Man. It’s a nice tease towards the disease spreading across the country.

The scene turns towards a criminal about to be attacked for not being able to pay a mobster. Just when two bad guys are about to break his knees, he breaks out with some spider moves and escapes. That is one thing I never liked about Spider-Man. I get that he gets the strength of a spider but nothing was ever said about him, or anyone else like him with similar powers, becoming a martial arts expert. Show the character taking a beating or two but overcoming the bad guys. Show them learning to fight over time, not breaking out the Bruce Lee gymnastics. Once he escapes he runs across The Jackal, Miles Warren, who invites him to a get together of like minded criminals. Something big is planned.

We get a quick scene at The Baxter Building where Reed Richards is sending Sue and others to The Negative Zone for their protection. I wasn’t sure why they were being sent there. While I have to assume it has something to do with the bedbug outbreak, it could have had something to do with an event from a previous Fantastic Four issue that I am not aware. I have to dock points for this because I had no clue what the hell was going on. We did see Peter speak with Mary Jane on the phone. The Thing makes a funny comment to her on the phone. Nothing consequential but it’s a great little showcase of his character, how someone looking like a monster deep down is a lovable guy.

The next scene shows Flash Thompson as Venom fighting against agents of AIM. How or why he became Venom I don’t know. It’s not really explained, just presented as something we should already know. He’s talking to his girlfriend Betty Brant at the hospital where she is a patient. He’s telling her she needs to stay in bed but being a reporter, when she sees the emergency room filled with people who are freaked out they have spider powers, her eyes spread wide in happiness. This is a scene that will probably make more sense the further I get into the story but their inclusion made no sense. ‘Read the other comics,’ you might say. I shouldn’t have to. Not that I need to know the complete life history of every character. Some of the best stories are stories that throw you into the deep end and expect you to swim. Star Wars is a perfect example. For Episode 4, you’re suddenly involved in a fight between two sides that you don’t know anything about. Yet the movie does a great job of acclimating you to what is going on quickly. You care for the characters without quite knowing where they fit at first. Once you get used to the story you care for them even more. The only reason I knew about Flash Thompson and Betty Brant was their places in Spider-Man history. If I started reading Spider-Man with this issue I would not have known what was going on.

We go next to Avenger’s Mansion where Spider-Man is just finishing a hand in a poker game the team is playing. He leaves quickly to go to karate practice. Once there, Shang finally introduces him to Ms. Carpenter who is Madam Web. She tells Spider-Man that she can see into the future, knows what is going on, and knows he will help. But she wants him to prepare to kill if need be. Spider-Man says that will never happen. I didn’t really care for Madam Web. I get that she is a telepath and can see the future but the writer could have done a better job in having her give the exposition she is there to give. Anyway, Spider-Man takes off, being followed by strangers who are swinging through the air themselves. I get that Peter doesn’t have spider sense but he looks like a fool not seeing stuff like this. He arrives at his apartment with his girlfriend waiting for him, ready to tell him the fact that she has powers now.

The Jackal is arriving at a laboratory where some clones of himself are at work. He meets up with a strange woman who tells him about a new ‘plaything’ she made for him, a Peter Parker clone. The woman transforms the clone into a monster. It comes out of a tube, following her orders. She then alludes to an island of spiders. The last panel is great where we see average citizens flying in the sky like Spider-Man.

Bottom Line:

Another good read. While it is not as good as the previous issue, it does enough to advance the story for me to want to read more. It has its flaws, such as the over usage of editor’s notes and minor scenes with characters doing things we need a little more explanation for, but it is still a pretty good setup for future issues in the story. The artwork was pretty solid throughout, especially the little scenes like the image of the Hobgoblin when Phil was pissed at Peter for the quick retort. Peter was also a little too oblivious to events happening in the story that you would think anyone else would at least have raised an eye over. But overall, it’s a good start to a story, unlike the chaos that was The Korvac Saga. My how much a difference twenty years makes.

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.

Marvel’s Jessica Jones #1

Jessica Jones

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.

 

Secret Invasion #2

Secret_Invasion_Vol_1_2

The Secret Invasion continues as we dive into another issue of the Secret Invasion story via the Marvel Comics suggested reading order.

Summary:

http://marvel.wikia.com/wiki/Secret_Invasion_Vol_1_2

The Good:

We pick up where the last issue of Secret Invasion left off where the Avengers team encounters the Skrull invasion force that came off the ship looking like the heroes from our world. The tension is high as the creatures that come off the ship act as if they are the actual people they appear to be which makes for some uncomfortable encounters when Spider-Man encounters Spider-Man and Luke Cage encounters the 70’s version of Luke Cage.

Bendis did a great job sowing doubt as to whether everyone that came off that ship was a Skrull. Could it possibly be that some of the people are who they say they are? Things quickly devolve and the heroes start fighting. From there some characters are revealed to be Skrulls after they are killed. The impostor Spider-Man is killed as well as the impostor Hawkeye. We get a scene though where the real Hawkeye, now known as Ronin, encounters who they believe to be the Skrull version of Mockingbird, asks her a question that he feels only she would know the answer to, and when she answers the way he thinks she would, he decides that she is the real article. We as the reader though have to question whether that is the case. How much are the Skrull’s able to get from the minds of humans before they impersonate them? They have to be pretty convincing otherwise the invasion would fail rather quickly no matter how much they look like the people they hope to impersonate.

We quickly switch back to New York where the effects of the fake Sue Storm destroying the gate to the Negative Zone is quickly breaking apart the Baxter Building and more. A group called the Young Avengers witness everything and just as they decide that maybe they should do something, guess what appears in the sky? Skrull invasion ships! In a scene that I’m sure was on Joss Whedon’s mind when he was writing the script to the first Avengers film, the last image we see is an army of Skrulls as they descend upon New York. (In the movies and the Ultimate comic book line created my Brian Bendis, the aliens are referred to as the Chitauri. They are established as being a separate from the Skrulls simply because the Skrulls movie rights do not lie with Marvel but with 20th Century Fox I believe. Marvel has been making it a point of lessening the focus of characters they no longer have the movie rights to so they don’t give money away to other companies.)

Now this issue will not win comic of the century awards. It is a groundwork laying issue more than anything. The story really doesn’t advance any more than it did with the last issue I reviewed. However I think this issue did pretty good in establishing the levels of distrust the heroes are going to go through. The Skrulls have been quite thorough in their invasion plans. The impersonations of the humans is so complete that Wolverine for example cannot smell them where it had been established that he had been previously been able to do so. Just how deep the impersonation has gone is as yet unknown. The Mockingbird story that I mentioned above shows that right now we really cannot trust who may or may not be a Skrull. If Spider-Woman has been revealed to be the Skrull queen and yet still is able to get the confidence of everyone, who’s to say that Mockingbird is not a Skrull?

The artwork was pretty good this issue. The scope of the locations was well done. I really got the feeling that the action was taking please in a real location and not some Hollywood set. The characters were well done too. You really got the sense of the struggle they were going through in the issue. For example, the look on the faces of the Young Avengers of shock made you really get into what was going on. That is the sign of a good artist, someone who believes in the work he is creating and someone who is able to make simple drawings become actors of a sort in the story that is being created.

The Bad:

While I enjoyed the story, as noted not much really happens this issue and that is frustrating. I get that each issue I read is a chapter in a story and not every chapter can be as thrilling as the final chapter of a book because the job of any writer is to build to the climax of the story. But I wanted to feel like something was moving forward. It’s already been established that Skrulls are on Earth. We know that mistrust will happen among people that are friends. We don’t need to spend so long on establishing said mistrust. Bendis is almost beating the reader over the head with the fact that you can’t trust anything you see when all you really want him to do is get to the next part of the story. Maybe I’m approaching this too much like a traditional book. Maybe I need to be the one to adjust how I view the story. But I can’t see the logic in creating a long form story with no real coherence. Stories have a beginning, middle, and end. For a story to succeed, you have to follow the formula of establishing what is going on, showing how the protagonist reacts, and how they resolve the issue at hand. While comics do have tons of backstory that can be referred to, treating a comic as if it were a day in the life of someone is just distracting. I want my stories to have a beginning, middle, and end. This so far has come across like I got a glimpse of a camera that was recording these people’s lives right in the middle of something that was happening to them. I know a little of what is going on but too much is assumed that the beginning so far of this particular story, the Secret Invasion of the Skrulls, has been kind of lost in the background.

Bottom Line:

This is not a bad issue. While not much really happens to advance the story apart from the last page, I think what it does well is lay more foundation for the fact that no one can be trusted. We as the reader should not assume anyone is who they say they are. Bendis has done a wonderful job in laying the groundwork for what we will encounter later in the story. In doing so, he is making the start of the story a little tedious. I give the story a 5.

The art work has been some of the best in this story so far. It really screams as an homage of the old Steve Ditko or Jack Kirby drawings in classic Marvel stories while still feeling very much based in modern times. This is well done and honestly it makes me want to look for more work from this artist Leinil Yu. I give the art an 8.

New Avengers #34

New Avengers 34

Summary:

http://marvel.wikia.com/wiki/New_Avengers_Vol_1_34

The Good:

The Secret Invasion continues. This issue is concerned with the group dynamic of the renegade Avengers that we met when they faced off against The Hand. Trust is nowhere to be found what with the possibility one of them could be a Skrull infiltrator. I really dug how Bendis went about sowing the mistrust among the team while still keeping them clinging to the hope that the people they’d treated like family were just that, family.

The best part of this issue was Jessica Jones and Luke Cage. It reminded me of my wife and I when she blurts out something that I may be thinking but am not talking openly about. Luke Cage suspects his wife and daughter are Skrulls. He has nothing to base this on but pure paranoia. She calls him out on his shit in front of everyone and with the assistance of Doctor Strange, proves that she and their daughter are who they say they are.

Bendis did a wonderful job with the ending, kind of tying it up with the previous issue in the Secret Invasion that I reviewed where Tony Stark’s version of The Avengers went off to fight a city full of Venom clones. In what could be the unifying factor of the two teams since the superhero Civil War, they both arrive to begin battle. Just as they arrive, a cliff hanger occurs when Echo is attacked with some of the Venom formula.

The art was reminiscent at least to me of Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns. On face value it appears to be hastily put together but in doing so at times it brings out characterization that may not have happened with a more cleaner approach.

I also liked that there felt like there was more scope to the drawing in this issue. Things felt bigger even when we were in an interior location. My previous complaints of scope we more than resolved in this issue.

The Bad:

The opening scenes did not make much sense in regards to the story line at hand. Yes, if I had looked back an issue I could have found out what The Hood was doing fighting Wolverine but being that this particular issue was third in line in the suggested reading order for the Secret Invasion story line, I expected a little more follow up but that particular part of the story was not followed up on. Maybe it’s because I am coming to this with a more traditional sense of story in terms of stories having a definitive beginning, middle, and end. Comics are traditionally more snapshots into the life of particular characters and like life, you don’t always have the definitive starting point to follow. Being that this is the suggested reading order however, I do wish more consideration was taken into account for readers like myself who don’t subscribe to every single issue of every comic they put out. If you are going to have a story that is told over multiple issues and multiple titles of comics, it has to be a little more cohesive than this story is. And we’re only on issue three.

While the art was good in a lot of respects, it was a little too sloppy for my tastes. This is just personal preference here but the art was a bit of an annoyance more than it helped the story. As I stated, I liked that it added more scope as well as adding more to certain moments when it came to characterization but I found myself more than anything just wanting to get through the issue. It just looked ugly.

Bottom Line:

As an individual issue, this really didn’t do much for me. It had some really good moments no doubt, especially between Luke Cage and Jessica Jones but that was the wheat among a LOT of chaff. In a long form story, not every chapter will be a winner. You can’t have moments that contain tons of action of tons of reveals, just meat to the story that people crave. Sometimes you need exposition to set you up for greater things down the road. I do believe this issue did that in terms of hinting at a possible reconciliation among the two Avengers teams but as a stand alone work, I have to give this a 4.

The art I’m conflicted on. What was done well was done really well. But the overall darkness and sloppiness is just something that I couldn’t overcome the further I got into the story. I’m not saying that Leinil Yu is a bad artist. I just didn’t care for the material as presented in this work. It felt like an amateur trying their best to copy Frank Miller. There can only be one Frank Miller and it’s not this person. I give the art a 5.