Sunday, December 11, 2005

Comics Recap: Dark Days

The Ultimates #9
Holy Joe! Massive airships falling from the sky! Hundreds of flying super soldiers wreaking havok! Epic scale, city-wide destruction! A super team fighting for their lives! A malevolent manipulating force! Bryan Hitch drawing the hell out of it all!

Weren't those first few issues of The Authority awesome?

What am I, an idiot? Look, a little Hitch goes a long way, but this is just rehash. All of the more intriguing aspects of The Ultimates seemed to have been dropped in favor of the comic book equivalent of the Hollywood car chase. It may be nice to look at, but I feel a little cheated. Shame on you, Millar!

Amazing Spider-Man #526
Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #3

The Other parts 6 + 7
Amazing Spider-Man wasn't initially what got me reading comics, but it sure got me collecting them. At the peak of my collection (most of which is long gone), my ASM library topped over 300 issues. A spattering of pre-100's and then from 100 right on up to 400 when I stopped. After reading "The Other" storyline I've been thinking alot about those old books and how great they were. Tons and tons of great story-lines that I remember fondly. As I thought where it was that ASM strted going downhill, it was the late 200's, most notably marked by the appearance of one Todd McFarlane at 298. The McFarlane issues themselves were pretty good, but the tone of the book certainly changed. He was followed of course by Erik Larsen, who was followed by the seemingly endless run of Mark Bagely. Stories were primarily by David Micheline and JM DeMatteis, but by 400 I was not feeling it anymore (and with some cursory glances after I quit, it only went downhill from there...). Occasionally an issue would catch my eye, but it wasn't until 500 when Straczynski and JRJR came on that 'ol Spidey was exciting again. Some of the 'Straz stories were out there, but I liked how he played with the mythos and managed to throw in some new ideas after all these years. And Romita Jr? Good books. But after JRJR left, so did my interest.

Why the walk down memory lane? Because with "The Other," Marvel is attempting to re-invent, I don't know, something with the Spider-Man world. As a well-versed Spider-Man reader, I find them to be failing miserably. Halfway through an extremely unnecessary 12 parts I still find myself at a loss as to what is going on. 'Straz is back writing in this unorthodox round robin they have going, but it's already a sloppy mess. What we know is that Peter Parker has a fatal malady, arch-nemesis Morlun wants to eat his soul (and his eyeball-- for realz! Morlun graphically pulls out Spidey's eye and eats it), and Parker's body is physically changing somehow. We still don't know what Peter was diagnosed with. If this was an issue say, in the 100's, the cliffhanger would have been Peter getting the news from the doctor,

"I'm sorry Mr. Parker, your condition is fatal!"

Then on the very first page of the next issue the diagnosis would have been announced,

"I'm afraid it's true Mr. Parker-- you have Necrotizing Fasciitis and there's nothing we can do about it!"

Hell, if Stan Lee was writing, Peter would have gotten the diagnosis, visited the Fantastic Four for a second opinion, lament on his fate while buying flowers for his date with Betty Brant, and stop a mugging in Central Park on the same goddamned page.

This issue is one drawn-out fight scene between Morlun and Spider-Man. It's violent and brutal (with aforementioned eyeball snacks), and features an entire page of just Morlun pummeling Spider-Man's face on the ground, then leaving him for dead.

As we move onto part 7 in Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man, death appears to be the case. But not before Morlun gets to smack Mary Jane around, harsh enough to wake Peter from his coma-- or not Peter, really, but some creepy Monster Peter with fangs and spikey hands that lead to Morlun's demise. Then the Avengers show up and Peter dies. Seems like such a waste at the launch of a new Spider-Man title, especially with Mike Weringo on art.

Spider-Man/Black Cat #4
I, like many other faithful readers, waited about 3 years for this book to get back on it's feet. For me the draw is primarily art by Terry Dodson, though Kevin Smith can usually write a good story. Usually. What I remembered as a generally fun team-up story turned into an unpleasant therapy session centered around the rape/not rape of Felicia Hardy. Weather it be tied to the current events or something in her past, the rape subject overshadowed the story on what read more like a bully pulpit than an actual plot point. I cant say that there isn't a medium more proper than another to use as a forum, but this issue just turned me sour. Rape seems to be showing up alot more in mainstream comics over the past few years, in case you haven't noticed. I'm sure there's some easy Freudian explanation to all this, bunch of middle aged guys writing out their power fantasies and whot not, I don't know. Like someone lit a lightbulb and everyone else went, "Oh, we can write rape into our stories now? Great!" As if chick's don't get a bad enough rap in comics as it is.


Unfortunately I read all four of these comics in one sitting, each more depressing than the last. By the end I was so depressed I wondered why I read comics at all. I took a serious moment to consider giving up comics altogether and what that would entail. Would I miss it? Nature abhors a vacuum, something would fill the void. Right now I don't know if I need to give up comics cold, I know there are still good books, wonderful, engaging books. Marvel, however, has seriously let me down. Something in the back of my head tells me their books wouldn't be hard to give up at all.

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