Ultimate Spider-Man #14

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bottom Line:

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

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

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

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

Ms. Marvel #14

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I’ve been waiting every week for new issues of Ms. Marvel. This is my new favorite comic from Marvel today. The story just keeps getting better and better each issue. This one is no different.

This picks up from last issue when Kamala discovers the boy she has a crush on is an Inhuman as well. Before they really have a chance to commiserate about everything Kamala’s brother catches up with them. At this point he is their chaperone. I really appreciated how Kamala’s brother was portrayed in this issue. In the hands of a less skilled writer he could have come across as heavy handed and stern for the sake of being stern. Yet in G. Willow Wilson’s hands he comes across as nothing more than a brother who loves his sister and is concerned about her well being.

The beauty of this comic is the light it shines on an average American Islamic family. Guess what? They’re just like every other family out there. Kamala, like any teenager, goes through the same insecurities anyone else would go through. And like many folks, her faith helps guide her decisions. It also helps her realize that sometimes the decisions she makes may not be the best decisions but her heart forces her to go through it anyway. Like when Kamran, the boy she is interested in who is also an Inhuman, shows up at her window in the middle of the night and takes her out to talk.

Kamala has struggled through the series to balance both her duties as a superhero, as someone with power who owes it to the public to protect them from threats they may not be able to face on their own, as well as her duty to her family and her faith. So when she encounters a boy she is interested in she struggles like anyone would with the new feelings that rush over her like a tidal wave.

I remember being in love for the first time. The girl was nice enough and all and deep down I think I knew we had no future but I fell head over heels for her and got smacked in the head with reality quite quick. It was just…a relationship that should not have happened. I am glad it did in the grand scheme of things because this particular relationship I feel helped me wisen up and eventually find the right woman for me (Almost 13 years of marriage!). But again, I overlooked things that if they were happening to a friend I would have been screaming my voice hoarse that they were getting screwed over and making a horrible mistake.

Over the course of the issue we discover that Kamran is not all he is cracked up to be. By issues end he’s revealed himself to be in league with other Inhumans who, similar to Magneto in X-Men, feel that they deserve to be rulers of humanity, not its savior like Kamala is trying to be.

Kamala’s brother has another great scene when he tries his best to let Bruno, another boy who has a crush on Kamala down by telling him that he should not try and pursue a relationship with her. Whether you agree with what Aamir has to say or not is irrelevant. The issue is not trying to be a pamphlet for Islam. It’s just stating what immigrant families the world over would consider to be fact. I don’t see Aamir’s actions as being negative. I see him trying to do what Italian families or Irish families said to their kin back in the day. As immigrants, they want to be able to keep their culture alive despite being in a new country. I never got the sense that Aamir was trying to insult Bruno. Apart from religion, I think Kamala’s family would probably not have much of a problem with Bruno. But immigrant families can be quite protective. Being in a new country, they still find themselves wanting to keep their old ways and traditions. Hell, I’m originally from Michigan and am now living in Oregon and I find myself feeling similar feelings. While I am a citizen of Oregon, my home will always be Michigan. It pains me a bit for my kids to not like the same sports teams or call Pepsi Pop (when they call it soda I want to send them to the door. It’s not soda. It’s POP damn it!) You don’t want your vision of home to disappear. If you added in religion into that mix, I am quite sure that my feelings of sadness would probably border on despair. The future can be a harsh bitch. Not knowing how things turn out can be a motherfucker for control freaks like me.

The art was pretty solid. One feature I really liked was one little feature they dealt with in regards to Kamran. Throughout the story when he exhibits his powers the action lines on his powers show themselves to be white. Yet when he reveals himself to be not as nice as Kamala thought he was, he knocks her out with his powers. The action lines for his powers are drawn black. I know, a very small detail. But it’s little things like this that make this comic so good. As I stated in a review I wrote for the previous issue, I love how this comic really does come across as if Kamala is drawing it herself. It has that simplistic quality you expect from a beginning artist but it has such power in the small things like the action lines that you know there is real skill at work here. Well done.

Bottom Line:

If you are not reading Ms. Marvel you are missing out on one of the best comics going today. The characters are all well done and quite realistic. You can picture these people actually existing. In fact, I said it before that the superhero parts of the story end up being more of a distraction from the real story at hand which is a wonderful story about a young girl from an immigrant family trying to adjust to life in a new country while her family is trying their best to raise her in the old traditions. This is an important comic too because it portrays Muslims as people. Nothing more, nothing less. You don’t have the Afterschool Special type of lecturing some stories can give when they’re trying to create an “important” story. I think of 80’s sitcoms that had that very special episode. That one episode that dealt with a very serious topic but was dealt with in such a ham fisted way that the point they were trying to make was lost in the cheesiness of the garbage you were seeing. (Like Diff’rent Strokes and the bike molester episode.)

The reason I bring this up is this. America has a problem with Islam. Stoked like a campfire by pieces of shit politicians, the actions of a small group of Saudi Arabian men have now turned into a silly religious crusade that is simply being used by big corporations to make money off the lives off poor people around the world. I am not naive in thinking that there are not Muslims in the world who have done and plan to do very bad things. But the fact that I am more likely to die from a white guy who has one too many guns when he should be locked away being fed his medication through an IV instead of at the hands of a terrorist says a lot about our countries priorities. We want to demonize people just for the hell of it. The ONLY way that demonization will come to an end is when folks open their damn eyes and see the world for what it is. It’s filled with people who want to simply live their lives in peace. We may all have different philosophies on how to live life. In the end, most of us just want to be happy. This is a comic about just such a family. You have to read this series.

The art again is beautiful. Drawn as if Kamala herself drew it in a journal, the power in the details really brings out the emotions of the story. Like when Kamala holds Kamran’s hand for the first time. When she almost kisses him. This entire work is so alive. You are reading a series that will be studied for years to come. I love Ms. Marvel.