My Question for Stan Lee

Hey there. Wanted to post this video I made last year at Rose City Comic Con. Thanks to the efforts of Latino Review Media, I was able to obtain some press passes. Stan Lee was making his final visit to Portland and I wasn’t going to pass this up. I had a couple of beers and bolted for the microphone. Here is the result.

The Amazing Spider-Man #2

The second issue of The Amazing Spider-Man gives us two stories for the price of one. We meet up with one member of Spider-Man’s famous rogues gallery when we meet The Vulture. We also meet up with a lesser known villain in The Tinkerer.

Stories from this era and earlier tended to be more on the simpler side. Where as stories today tend to take place over multiple issues and sometimes multiple titles, we see stories begin and end in singular issues. The benefit of course is that you money for the issue is well spent. You don’t have to spend a fortune to or invest in titles you may not like just to finish a story you may be interested in. The drawback of course is that there isn’t much room for the story to grow. You have simplistic stories with simplistic characters who we don’t know much about doing things just cause.

The Vulture is an interesting case. While he may not have the name recognition of The Green Goblin or Doctor Octopus, he’s someone I would put in the top ten of Spider-Man’s most formidable opponents. Yet his introduction is pretty basic. The only thing separating him from the average villain is the getup he uses to fly. We don’t know his name, he’s just a guy who wants to make a dishonest living.

The Tinkerer is a shorter story without too much of a purpose. We get Peter discovering a radio repair man is working with some supposed aliens to install monitoring devices in the radios of very important people. We are told it’s because they’re looking to take over the world yet according to Marvel’s own wiki we find that those supposed space aliens were a ruse and the Tinkerer is just a guy who knows his way around electronics. Readers of this era would not know that and would probably have assumed that the supposed aliens were the same Skrulls that were introduced in the second issue of The Fantastic Four.

Stan Lee recounts in numerous issues that he hasn’t always been proud of his work in comics. When asked by others he would say he was a writer. A writer of what? they would ask. Children’s work. What children’s work? Work for comics he would reply. Then people would walk away. So it is safe to say that, while I think he may be over doing his embarrassment of his work because otherwise why would he be doing it if he didn’t have some pride in his work, I do feel that it is safe to say that he wasn’t exactly thinking long term about the characters he created. Hindsight being twenty twenty, how could he not see the importance of his work? I mean, the best thing about superhero comics are the fact that no matter what evil happens in the real world, we have a chance to escape into a fantasy world where heroes just like you or I are able to defeat the villains that are intent on wrecking havoc on our world. Yet he had no way of knowing the impact he was making on our society. His work at this point, while I’m sure he loved what he was doing, was just a job. He, like any other writer, and Steve Ditko, like any other artists, were essentially throwing what they could at the wall in regards to content hoping something would stick. Their batting average during this time was amazing of course, that goes without saying. The drawback comes with the fact that the stories during this time were single issue stories.

While I have lamented on here multi-issue stories that span through multiple titles, the benefit of these types of stories is that they can shine more light on the villains of the work. The best work, whether it’s books, comics, movies, whatever, are able to flesh out all the characters in the story. While we will, as readers, react viscerally to the actions of villains in a story, we’re going to be more involved in the story if we know why the character is doing what they are doing. Take The Vulture. In this issue we see he’s intent on stealing. He’s created an amazing device that allows him to harness magnetism in order to fly so it goes without saying he is a smart guy. Yet like a common hoodlum he resorts to stealing. I personally want to know why. (I’m only talking in regards to this particular issue. The Vulture is a long time villain in the Spider-Verse and his story has been fleshed out a long time ago.)

Bottom Line:

While this issue won’t go down as the all time greatest Spider-Man story, it is a fine example of Lee and Ditko’s work during this era. As I have mentioned in my reviews of some of Brian Bendis’ work, with the sheer amount of content Stan Lee and Steve Ditko put out over their careers, not everything will be a winner. I could have done without the story of The Tinkerer myself but an issue that details the debut of a major villain like The Vulture will sure go down as a must read for me. Similar to listening to the first major songs of your favorite musicians, it’s interesting seeing where folks start out because you can see the glimpses of what made them great. While they were not firing on all cylinders at this point, more so for Lee than Ditko but I contend that is simply due to how comics were written at the time, the foundation of an amazing universe was being created and more often than not, they were doing more right than wrong. Probably my only real complaint would be the fact that the comic is so verbose. Like I said in my review of The Avengers #1, the writing comes across like it was being written for a radio play. Everything was described, almost like Stan was creating closed captioning for a comic book. The drawback of this approach is that it crowds out some amazing artwork from Steve Ditko. It seems superfluous to have a character state what they are doing when the artwork is showing the reader the same thing. As the old saying for writers goes, show your audience what you want to show them, don’t tell them about it. Less is more, especially in comics when the art can do so much of the storytelling for you.

The Avengers #1

I’ve decided to change things up a bit. For a while I tried reading the first thing that interested me on a particular day. Then I went through the Spider-Island story. From there I’ve been reviewing Ultimate Spider-Man. While I am loving the Ultimate run, I do see the need to kind of have some variety. As the old saying goes, you can’t live on bread, or just Spider-Man alone. So with that, I’m going to have a schedule.

  1. Sunday-The Amazing Spider-Man
  2. Monday-Civil War
  3. Tuesday-Age of Apocalypse
  4. Wednesday-Death of Wolverine
  5. Thursday-Ultimate Spider-Man
  6. Friday-Fear Itself
  7. Saturday-The Avengers

This of course will be subject to change. Whether it be boredom or finishing up a particular story line, there will be times I shift to another series or event story. In the end, I think this will give me the variety I want plus more exposure to more writers and artists.

So what is there to say about The Avengers? For one, I really enjoyed how the backbone of the story has stayed pretty consistent throughout the years. There have been changes of personnel and relationships among the group have changed over time but the basic premise for the story has stayed surprisingly consistent. Contrast that with DC Comics titles from this time the you’d be hard pressed to find a story that bears any resemblance to their modern counterparts.

To me this speaks well to the genius of Stan Lee and the other contributors at Marvel. The only reason I single Stan out of course is that he’s pretty much the figure head for the writers and artists that Marvel have employed throughout the years. And for the longest time Stan was the man behind the words in all the comics Marvel put out which, even using the Marvel Method (where Stan would provide an artist a basic story outline, the artist would draw the entire comic, then Stan would furnish the story for the written work), is an amazing feat we won’t see from a major comics publisher again.

So what works in this issue? To me, it boils down to simplicity. A bad guy, Loki, wants to fight Thor, frames the Hulk for a crime he didn’t commit, and inadvertently gets a number of other heroes on his case before he is ultimately defeated. While it goes without saying that you would probably get a much deeper appreciation for the story if you have read the stand alone issues for each of these characters, another wonderful part about The Avengers is that the story for the most part stands alone. Prior knowledge of events that happened in other comics is not needed to enjoy what is happening, yet you will find plenty of editor’s notes indicating which comics in question you can read to find out the back story you may be interested in.

One character I haven’t really gotten used to is The Hulk. I will admit that this is because I grew up on the old Incredible Hulk television show which for my money is still one of the best comic book shows ever made. Since getting back into reading comics, I have found it quite strange to see the Hulk more cantankerous than I remember him to be. And the Hulk talking? Come on. To be clear, that doesn’t mean I don’t like the Hulk in this. Apart from him suddenly joining the team after being hounded by them all issue, he’s a wonderful character that I want to see more of in this story.

The only real complaint I have about this issue is Stan’s penchant for filling the pages up with as much text as possible. I fully appreciate that this story was written at a time where most folks were still used to radios being the main form of entertainment even though by this time radios were pretty much being regulated to a secondary entertainment tool in the home. The story comes across like a radio play. I found myself annoyed at some instances where Stan is describing what is going on when there was no need to do so because the art clearly showed what was going on. Again, this comic was a product of its age. If the comic were written today it would be much different. (As evidenced by this great reimagining from Joe Casey and Phil Noto.) Despite that, the story holds up incredibly well. The flaws for the most part add charm to the story because it is very much the type of feeling you get when a team gets together for the first time.

Bottom Line:

This is a must read. That goes without saying. This issue is one of a few issues in comics history that stand as a true corner stone of what make comics great. While Joss Whedon didn’t follow this comic at all when he created the first Avengers movie, I was surprised at how much of a spiritual remake of the comic that movie was.

The art work is crude by today’s standards but make no mistake, most artists wish they could achieve a tenth of what Jack Kirby created. While images have gotten more streamlined and outfits of our heroes have changed over time, you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who wouldn’t say these characters are the same as the ones in the comics today.

Interestingly, you can also say this was the time where the Fantastic Four handed over the mantle of Marvel’s most important team. Spider-Man and to a lesser extent Wolverine and The Punisher, may be the money cows of Marvel. For my money, The Avengers teaming up was the most important act Marvel could have made during this time even though admittedly if it weren’t for a little team at DC called The Justice League, who knows if The Avengers, Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, would have heeded the call and joined together.

Ultimate Spider-Man #21

We come to the end of the Double Trouble story featuring Peter facing off against Doctor Octopus and Kraven the Hunter. At this point Doc Ock has been handled and is ready for the police to take him off to wherever super villains are held. The battle with Kraven starts now.

That is if you can call it a battle. I’ve been holding back on Kraven because I knew where his story was going and that was really nowhere. Kraven is built up as some sort of bad ass hunter, a Steve Irwin meets Dolph Lundgren type, over eight issues of this story and within three pages and one punch to the face Kraven is down for the count.

If you are going to include a character as a villain and build him up as an unstoppable force you have to deliver on the promises you’re giving your readers. The introduction to Kraven in the Ultimate universe was a huge failure. Not that the character is bad mind you. I rather dug Kraven in the original comics and know that he will come back in the Ultimate line a little more dangerous than he is presented as now. First impressions mean everything though and the chance to have a truly modern bad ass Kraven hunting Spider-Man through the streets of New York was wasted on a scene that was more fitting in a Three Stooges film than anything else.

There are times where a failed buildup can be good for the story. I think of Iron Man 2 where Justin Hammer spent most of the movie talking about how great the improvements to the War Machine suit would make it. He talked on and on about various upgrades and the moment they actually get used in the film, they fail miserably. That was perfect for the story because it showed the audience how much of an utter failure Justin Hammer was. It also led to a great comedic moment when War Machine and Iron Man were fighting together and he attempts to shoot one of Hammer’s missiles to no effect whatsoever. The buildup and the subsequent failure of that buildup actually contributed positively to the story.

This issue is the textbook way on how you not to build up to something you’re not going to properly follow through. I would have no issue with Kraven being defeated. That’s the point of comics after all, the bad guy gets his due in the end. The issue all boils down to him being defeated so quickly as well as having him try to slink off before getting arrested. Kraven getting arrested had the same feel of King Arthur getting arrested at the end of Monty Python and the Holy Grail. You laugh at both resolutions but the Monty Python ending was intentionally meant to be funny.

The issue is not a total loss. Peter gets caught by Aunt May after the battle. He arrives home at three o’clock in the morning and Aunt May is up waiting for him. She has no clue he’s Spider-Man. She just has no clue what the hell kept a good kid like Peter out for so long into the night with no explanation. The emotions in the scene were quite real, making Aunt May a more fleshed out character in the process compared to the original version of her. It also goes to show how naive Peter is when it comes to his new powers.

One thing comics don’t do a good job with is how the heroes in question can live full, normal lives on top of fighting crime for hours or days on end. For a fifteen year old boy, how can he fight villains until three o’clock in the morning as well as going to school and having an after school job? The next issue shows Peter in school none the worse for wear. Not even one mention of being tired or needing a coffee. High school for me was my introduction to massive amounts of coffee. Why can’t Peter be sore or tired more often? Like Aunt May, why don’t more people notice that Peter is acting much different than he normally does? I think the only comic I’ve read that has a somewhat believable account of someone able to pull off a normal life and the life of a superhero is Iron Man. Tony Stark was already quite flighty in the comics, locking himself in a room to focus on his latest project so for him to disappear for long periods of time is very much understandable. How Peter is able to pull off Spider-Man without too many people noticing needs a little more explanation as to how he pulls it off.

Bottom Line:

This story has been tough to get through. It has some good moments to be sure, moments that will feature in future issues of this comic series. Yet the fact that we had at least two mistakes that are very much rookie mistakes, the failure to establish a back story between Doctor Octopus and Justin Hammer as well as the failure to follow up on the build to Kraven, lead me as the reader with a bad taste in my mouth. This eight issue story is really a what could have been type of story.

What can writers learn from this issue? For one, it’s important to establish relationships between characters you wish to have some sort of conflict with. You can’t write a comic book series or a book series and just expect to have two characters that are already established in a world to suddenly have a conflict with each other without establishing that they have some sort of connection. Secondly, follow through with your buildup. If you’re going to build up a character as some unstoppable force, you have to either follow through with that buildup or have a way through actions showing that the buildup was all a lie just like the Justin Hammer buildup in Iron Man 2.

The art for this issue was great during the scene with Aunt May and Peter. Mark Bagly is able to express so much emotion in her face during their argument. Concern, anger, despair, sadness, she runs the full gambit of emotions without the dialogue having to tell you how she is feeling.

Ultimate Spider-Man #20

As they say, the second time is the charm. Spider-Man faces off against Doctor Octopus again, this time in front of the eyes of the media.

What I digged in this issue was Doctor Octopus bringing attention to Justin Hammer’s evil experiments at his laboratory. It was quite unsuspected but I liked where it brought the story. I do have to ask though why the media would be dealing with a guy who has been established is a cold blooded killer as carelessly as they are. We’re not talking about an OJ Simpson type of criminal here, someone who despite being accused of a horrible crime still early on had a reputation as someone that you weren’t going to be scared around. Doctor Octopus brutally murdered a lab full of people on live television and the reporters here are treating him as if he were a celebrity. While I can see the reporters wanting to get that big scoop to help their careers, I would think they would at least call the cops too.

While having Doc Ock hold a press conference is definitely an out of left field idea that I find interesting, I have to ask what the end game for him was. While the first reaction as a reader would be that he was hoping to destroy Hammer through the power of the press, up until this point Doctor Octopus has been shown as a dangerous psychotic who has had no hesitations to kill people for his goal. He’s also shown that his memory is not what it once used to be. We also have the situation that up until this storyline we previously had no idea Justin Hammer existed and that he and Doctor Octopus had interactions with each other when Doc Ock was spilling corporate secrets to him.

What is Doctor Octopus trying to accomplish here? Is he someone that through his insanity is finally doing something good albeit in a very bad, messy way? Or is this a storyline that was pulled out of the ether and tried to fit into the existing universe? I choose the latter.

In a comic or book series, you will encounter situations like this further down the line of your creation where you have to create a story that had its seeds sown much earlier in the story. Whether it be one line that could seem throwaway at the time or the inclusion of a scene that details a history between characters that will be explained later, it is important for a writer to establish relationships as early as possible. The importance of doing this is twofold. One, you don’t confuse your reader by having characters that never met seem like the best of friends or the worst of enemies. Two, you’re rewarding the reader that has stuck through from the beginning by diving deeper into a world that the reader has invested themselves in. The reader benefits because it shows them that you’re just as invested in giving them a great story as you the reader are in reading it.

Comics are a unique beast in that especially with the big companies like Marvel and DC, they have to come out with material every month, if not quicker for titles that are released every two weeks. I am quite confident that if this were the second book in a series that Brian Bendis would have found the fact that a story he was looking to create did not have the seeds sown for it in previous issues. The fact that it isn’t addressed really makes this particular story quite difficult to get through.

Bottom Line:

These have been some real tough issues to get through. Maybe it’s because I am looking at this with a more critical eye instead of just as an average reader but the whole issue with the relationship between Otto Octavius and Justin Hammer is disappointing. It could have been one sentence by Norman Osborn expressing concern about a mole in his organization in a previous issue. Something would have been better than nothing. And let’s take into consideration the fact that maybe there is a throwaway line someone in a previous issue that I have simply forgotten about. I’ll admit it. I’m not perfect. If I missed said line, fine. But I still contend that the establishment of a relationship between two characters that are pretty big players in this universe deserves some sort of mention that will be memorable to the reader. Let’s say there is a line for argument’s sake explaining that there was a mole in Osborn Laboratories. The fact that twenty issues in I forgot it tells me that it was not a well done line explaining this history that this particular story hinges on.

Readers will probably have noticed that I haven’t mentioned much of Kraven in the reviews for this storyline much. There is a reason for that which I will address next issue. The buildup to the ultimate showdown between Kraven and Spider-Man is fine. The payoff is about as successful as my first attempts at dating.

One thing that really stands out this issue is the art. A majority of the pages are devoted to the big battle between Doctor Octopus and Spider-Man. With a character that has multiple arms, I can imagine it would be hell for the artist to create fight scenes that don’t get the reader lost. You want to have some semblance of reality when you’re going into a big fight. If Spider-Man is getting hit with one of Doc Ock’s arm’s, which arm did the hitting and from what direction? Mark Bagly does a masterful job of not only being an amazing artist but a good stage director. While it could be argued that Peter defeated Doctor Octopus a little too quickly, the fact that you can follow a multipage fight scene and not be lost as to what is going on says a lot for the art. Plus the little bits of humor Bendis and Bagly toss in during the fight breaks up the monotony with some laughs.

Ultimate Spider-Man #19

We pick up where we left off last issue with Peter close to being discovered by Aunt May. While he finds a way to get out of the situation without being discovered by his Aunt, it begs to question the big step he took to avoid being caught. He bolts outside and climbs up the side of his house without a mask and the pants he uses while he is Spider-Man with no mask. If he were truly looking to keep people in the dark about his identity, a move like this would be the dumbest thing you can do simply due to nosy neighbors. While it could be argued that he only did what he did to get out of his current situation, that he didn’t have time to think long term, the problem I see with that is little things like this are bound to happen again. And again. And again. If this is the life Peter Parker wants, he has to be able to react at a moments notice for situations like this to arise.

Now we get an explanation as to what motivates Doctor Octopus. Seems he’s confronting Justin Hammer because he thinks Hammer is to blame for him being in the metal device that gave him the extra arms. While there is no truth to that thought, at least it is something. What I would have liked to see in previous issues was some actual ground work establishing Justin Hammer and Otto Octavius’s relationship prior to the explosion at Osborn Labs. There was really no hint that Doc Ock was spilling corporate secrets so having this story kind of shoe horned into the story like it has been is the sign of poor planning. As a writer, if you’re going to be establishing a story like this somewhere down the road, whether that be in further chapters, further issues, or further books, you have to plant the seeds for that story somehow. Whether it’s one line, one scene, something to introduce the fact that two people have a relationship that you will be exploring somewhere down the line is important for the story to ultimately make sense. If you’re not taking the time to do this, you’ll be sitting back like I was during a couple issues this run wondering how the hell people who’ve never met before now suddenly have a long standing relationship.

Also, if Doctor Octopus really feels that Justin Hammer is the cause of his disfigurement, we don’t know the reason why he feels this way. If there had been some scene establishing a link between Justin Hammer, Doctor Octopus, and the metal contraption which is fused to Doc Ock’s body then I’d have no issue with the story. We don’t have that here. Justin Hammer to date has been established as making Norman Osborn look like the most compassionate billionaire in human history. He’s an evil man who deserves everything that is coming his way. Yet when it comes to the story at hand we have no history of this guy. We’re basically at a point where we don’t like him simply due to some of the experiments his company have created, not due to any direct actions to characters already established in the story. This would be a non issue again if there had been some basic setup, a line, a scene, something establishing Hammer and Octavius. Without that foreshadowing we have two people fighting just cause.

One enjoyable part of the issue was how things are wrapping up nicely. The final scenes of this issue played out quite nicely and you really got the feeling that Act 2 of the story is wrapping up and you’re heading into Act 3, the grand finale. Stories like superhero comics, action adventure stories, science fiction epics, work best when they follow the traditional three act format. Does that mean everyone needs to follow the same formula? Of course not. The problem I see comes when you have writers that aren’t exactly masters of the craft trying to break the formula to do something else altogether. Writing is an awful lot like music in the sense that you get better with practice. To try a complicated piece of music, to try something that breaks the rules of music in a way to try and create something different, you have to know the rules going in. You have to start with what works before you move on to something more complex. Being a fan of Brian Bendis, he is quite capable of breaking the rules to make a much better, complex story than the standard yarn. Not every story needs that treatment though and you roll with whatever story comes your way. For this story, I’ve appreciated that it is wrapping up quite nice.

Bottom Line:

We’re reaching the end of our time with Doctor Octopus. The story has been pretty enjoyable so far but not without some major flaws. Overall we’re seeing Peter learn more from his mistakes which is making him better at his job so for that I can’t be too harsh with this issue. This is a mediocre issue at best. It’s easily forgettable but not Punisher/Eminem level bad. I really think this story had some major potential that was squandered by poor planning from the outset. Writing comics is hard work. You’re not going to be perfect when it comes to long term story planning and continuity. When elements of story are not explained or missed completely during this process it does make the story suffer. In this case that is sad because it’s not a bad story at all. With just a little bit of work it goes from frustrating to a pretty intriguing story.

Ultimate Spider-Man #15

What we learned in this issue is that you don’t fuck with Gwen Stacy. Kong had been having a conversation with Flash Thompson and Liz Allen about his revelation that Peter is Spider-Man. In an effort to prove that he was right, Kong decides to take advantage of a situation even I would want to take advantage of when Peter is putting books into his locker. Kong heads over and kicks him right in the ass. Peter realized this was happening and let him do it to keep up the illusion. From there, Miss Stacy gets in Kong’s face and pulls a knife on him.

Talk about over reaction. I get that Gwen is coming in as the stereotypical troubled student with a heart of gold but I simply didn’t buy her pulling a knife to defend someone they have never met. Ever. I will make it clear that I am not dismissing the possibility of this ever happening mind you but I just don’t buy it as presented in the story. Gwen is a hot teenage girl. You would think she’d have more power with a wave of her hair than she would ever need pulling a knife on some guy who would probably cut off a limb just to spend time with her.

I am also amazed that Kong is the only one in the school so far that has put two and two together. If Kong is able to think of everything that has happened since Peter got bit by the spider, there has to be someone else in the school who has to have thought the same thing as well. I am not buying that only one student at the school wouldn’t discover the truth.

The main focus of the story has to do with Doctor Octopus going nuts after his escape. While we don’t really see him, we see the end results of his actions after brutally murdering the resident of his old apartment. They don’t even go into why he went back to the place apart from giving him a reason to murder the young lady. He’s crazy, sure, but there should have been some reason why he arrived at his old apartment other than no reason at all.

Bottom Line:

I don’t have much to say about this issue. I just didn’t care for it. It’s not a failure in the sense that it’s a total loss because it does set up future issues quite well but this is the first issue in the Ultimate Spider-Man run that didn’t feel complete. Characters ended up doing stuff just for the sake of doing it and I just have to shake my head at the missed opportunities. You need to read this issue in order to understand what happens in future issues in the story so it’s not something you can really miss but it really is a disappointment.

Ultimate Spider-Man #7

You will never forget your first time with that special someone. That someone who ends up taking over all aspects of your life, that someone whose every movement you memorize. The yin to your yang. This issue brings us the introduction of Spider-Man to his special one. No, not Mary Jane Watson or Gwen Stacy. This is the first major battle Peter has with The Green Goblin.

While the previous issue saw Peter Parker spring into action as Spider-Man for the first time, this is the first time we really get a chance to see him test his skills out under pretty stressful situations. This is like Luke Skywalker in Episode 4 when he’s in the X-Wing fighter battling against the Death Star and Obi-Wan Kenobi through the power of the force guides him to do the right thing and blow up the evil fortress of the Empire. He takes the first step from ordinary joe to hero and frankly he does pretty darn good.

I appreciated Peter’s inner dialogue during his fight with Goblin. While he was his usual smart mouth self with the villain, his internal reactions to what was happening at any particular time felt quite realistic under the circumstances. When Goblin drops him high in the air and Peter, in an effort to save himself, uses his web shooters to build a trampoline, he’s hoping to all that is holy that his plan will work because one wrong move and he’s a street pancake.

One thing I didn’t care for was how the webbing was used in this issue. Yeah, I know. What a thing to complain about. For something that is supposed to be quite sticky and can hold the weight of multiple men at once at least during an hour period before it dissolves, when Peter creates the webbing to save himself he bounces off like it’s nothing. Similar to Doctor Who and the Sonic Screwdriver, I’ve begun to notice that the webbing has no consistent use apart from what the writer, Brian Bendis, has for whatever is going on at the moment. Again, this is not that big of a deal in the grand scheme of things but not staying consistent in a story can throw some people off. Doing it once or twice is forgivable especially in the heat of action. The more you do it however, the more your audience will begin to notice that you as the writer had to pull something out of your ass to get our of a corner you put yourself in.

My other complaint about this issue has to do with Harry Osborn. We dive a little further into his whiny story here. But hey, you may be saying, he saw his mother brutally murdered by a big green guy and now that same creature is attacking his schools. How would you react?

For one I wouldn’t head back to school in what seems like the day after my Mother was brutally murdered. Two, I would be doing what I could to tell the appropriate authorities what the hell happened and to search for a big bad green bastard who must have shown up on security footage in the home of a Fortune 500 CEO who runs a military armament company. If this were some kid of a local grocer who stole some money and beat his wife, that’d be one thing. I could take the level of hysteria Harry has in this issue. For everything he’d gone through, I just don’t buy it. I admit, this opinion is purely subjective. This is not a comment on the writing at all, more of the writing not really hitting me where Mr. Bendis intended it to.

One thing I really enjoyed was the last page. Comic book movies, up until Marvel had the good sense to start making their own, had a bad habit of killing off the one person who got people into the theater to see get their asses kicked. The bad guy. Similar to pro wrestling, without an effective bad guy, it doesn’t matter how great the hero of the story is, you can’t take him or the story seriously. He’ll either defeat the weak bad guy so fast that you feel stupid for actually watching the movie or you sit there questioning yourself as to why you sat through the exploits of the world’s dumbest hero for having to deal with such an ignorant villain. It also ruins the fun when, after watching a great movie you see the hero take out the villain for good. You think about all the wasted opportunities that the two characters could have had in future films. The original Batman from 1989 was ludicrously stupid for killing off The Joker. Imagine the Joker breaking out of Arkham and making Michael Keaton’s Batman go through hell to defeat him again? That would have been much better than the putrid garbage we got in Batman Returns. (Michelle Pheiffer in a leather outfit was a pretty good consolation prize.)

Comic books however don’t have to worry about future films in a franchise. While I would have loved to see Jack Nicholson play the Joker over and over again, when he had a contract that ended up netting him over $50 Million Dollars for one movie, it’s hard not to see why producers went with another villain. Nicholson was far too expensive to bring back. In comics, the only thing keeping a villain out of a story is low ink in an artist’s well or lack of story ideas from a writer. When The Green Goblin fell into the river, the authorities presumed he was dead. Bubbles coming from the water indicated otherwise which more than teases a future return which I am already excited about.

Bottom Line:

I was harsh with this issue at least on the surface but don’t take that for dislike of the story. This is an important story in the Ultimate Spider-Man universe. This is Peter Parker’s first major fight in public against a villain and the seeds are already in place for his legend to grow and prosper. While there is admittedly not much going on this issue, you’d be a damn fool to miss it.

What can I say about the art work? Fight scenes are really hard to draw. Sometimes there is a lot going on, so much in fact that the artist ends up having a tough time telling the story in a way that will be totally clear to the reader. The artist in question here, Mark Bagly, does a wonderful job in visually telling the story, which can get pretty complicated at times, in a way that allows us as the readers to fully understand what is happening. This is another issue you can’t miss.

Ultimate Spider-Man #6

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We are six issues in and Spider-Man as we know him from the original series makes his true debut here. The previous issues have built up to this point of course and for the most part have done so quite beautifully. Once Spider-Man leaps into action for the first time with his mission to honor his Uncle Ben’s words fully intact, you know that Peter has very much traveled a long road to get here. He deserves it.

One critique you can have of the original story was how quickly Peter became Spider-Man. It’s like one day after getting the powers he decides ‘Hey, I think I’m going to kick some ass as a hero’ and went out into the world with his powers fully formed. In this series there is very much a training period for him to get through before he becomes the hero we know.

Take his spider sense. In the original story, he pretty much recognizes it for what it is right away. Here, it takes him a while to understand that that tingling he is feeling is warning him of danger. This issue is the first time where he reacts accordingly when danger is at hand with the Green Goblin attacks Peter’s school.

His webs were a work in progress as well. It was alluded to in an earlier issue that Peter’s father had created the formula for them but never got around to finishing it before he and his wife died. Peter for the longest time couldn’t make heads or tails of it but viola, he suddenly finds a way to get it working and he has webbing.

For all the strengths of the issue one thing has really crept into my head about Spider-Man. Maybe it’s the father in me but I just can’t see how Peter always pulls off the disappearing act. How does a fifteen year old find himself fighting the level of criminals he does without being tired as hell the next day? How can he go out and fight crime at night without his Aunt not Spider-Man is still in high school they try to have him doing much more than a kid his age would be able to actually do. Even if you gave a fifteen year old all the powers Peter has, that doesn’t mean he’s going to have a guardian who will be so absent minded as to not notice a teenage boy is not home. Hell, how does he have time to do homework if he’s off battling villains?

Is that too critical a thought for a comic? I guess. For some forms of entertainment you do have to have a certain level of disbelief. Take pro wrestling. One of the greatest stories of all time entailed the battle between Stone Cold Steve Austin verses his boss, the evil Vince McMahon. In the story, McMahon loathed Austin and wanted to do everything in his power to get a champion in place that he approved of. If you applied logic to that, you’d wonder what type of business person would care what type of champion his company had as long as that worker was making him tons of money. Yet for how it was presented on television each week, it ended up working. You could talk yourself into thinking that McMahon was so overtaken with hatred that all logic escaped his mind in his quest to rid his company of Stone Cold. So maybe I need to refocus on finding that type of logic for this story. I do know this is touched upon later when Brian Bendis gives Aunt May more to do in this comic than she ever really had in the original story. This will be resolved but I wish they addressed how he’s able to pull this off more than having him sleeping in class.

There was also a bit of business in the story which I loved. After the Goblin pumpkin bombs the school, we see Peter’s classmates freak out. Being kids, you see them all freaking out, looking for whatever exit they can to escape the danger. All but Kong. Kong to this point has kind of taken a bit of the mantle that Flash Thompson took in the original story. He’s a bit of a dick when you first meet him but you find out over the course of the story that he is not such a bad guy after all. Bendis doesn’t even really touch upon it. You just see a panel where Kong is grabbing a couple people and escaping the fire. When an explosion like that happens, to have the foresight of grabbing folks and saving them from danger is a real admirable thing to do and speaks volumes on how writers can show the audience the real character of a person without even having them speak.

Bottom Line:

This issue does have some flaws. The scenes with Harry Osborne at school are particularly weak and cringe worthy to get through. But for all those flaws, the strengths far outweigh any sort of weakness this story has. As I have stated over and over, anyone can look at any artistic work out there with a critical eye and find something wrong with it. While that critical eye may bring up some legitimate issues, nine times out of ten they bring up stuff that in the grand scheme of things boils down to subjective opinion. I will be the first to admit that the Harry Osborne scenes just don’t do it for me. They are important for the story as a whole for not only what it does in setting up the Green Goblin but it also gives us some interesting bits from Harry in the future. I simply didn’t care for it.

The art was spot on. A good portion of the issue boiled down to the action between Peter and the Goblin. At no time did I find myself lost in the action. The word panels were placed perfectly on the page with no confusion as to where to read next. When Spider-Man literally leaps into action for the first time, you feel his excitement mingled with terror just leaping at you from the page. This is a pure, unadulterated read from start to finish. The art makes the story better and vice versa.