Posts Tagged ‘The Superior Spider-Man’

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So — just a couple of short weeks after I write about , as the title of my piece stated, “Why I Don’t Miss Peter Parker,” and how we should enjoy the comparable “good times” we’re living through vis a vis the “Spider-Man” franchise right now while we can, along comes the inevitable announcement from Marvel that April will see (another) Spidey relaunch, this time bringing back the series’ original title of The Amazing Spider-Man with all-new numbering and ushering in a new era of Peter Parker doing, presumably, the same old thing — namely feeling sorry for himself for not getting every single think he wants all the fucking time despite having the power to do so.

Yawn. You knew it couldn’t last forever.

For a minute there the idea of a new Marvel “Infinite Comics” web series, written by regular Spidey-scribe Dan Slott in tandem with Joshua Hale Fialkov that purportedly features and amnesiac Parker putting his life back together and having no idea who he is or why he does what he does apart from what he reads in the heavily-slanted pages of The Daily Bugle sounded like at least the possibility for a new “wrinkle” in how the Wall-Crawler was depicted was at hand, but you can rest assured that particular plot contrivance probably won’t even last as long as Otto Octavius ensconcing his mind in Pete’s body.

In other words, it’s all going to be the “same old, same old” all over again, and probably sooner rather than later if the wanna-be-joyous (and, let’s be honest, positively awful) cover for the new Amazing Spider-Man #1 by Humberto Ramos (who will also be illustrating the interior of the Slott-scripted book) is anything to go by.  Oh well, at least Jerome Opena’s variant, as pictured below, is a lot less taxing on the eyes —

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And so it’s come to pass that the entire “Marvel Now!” relaunch is already “Marvel Then!,” with all the dramatic and interesting changes to Spider-Man’s life presumably going by the wayside, the brief Wolverine re-launch from Paul Cornell and Alan Davis giving way to yet another re-launch of said character from Cornell (again) and Ryan Stegman, and all the other “Now!” books getting a fresh “.1” numbering system to mark their entry into something called, get this, “All-New Marvel Now!”

Oh, and you can bet all of these new “changes”  will, in turn,  be subjected to the editorial whims “necessitated” by the already-in-the-planning-stages -if-recent-trends-are-anything-to-go-by  “Even All-Newer Marvel Now!” —  or whatever — that we’ll be talking about come this same time next year.

And since the absolute best of the “Now!,” books, namely Young Avengers, wrapped up last week after a mere 15 issues,  I guess  it’s fair to assume that “Now!” probably means “Right Now!” more than anything else.

I’m also afraid that this nower version of “Now!” will probably mean the end of The Superior Foes Of Spider-Man, a genuinely unique, interesting, and dare I say even fun series that deserves much more time to find its audience amidst all the manufactured hype and hoopla the current comics marketplace is positively drowning in. So that’s a real bummer waiting to happen, as well.

Am I pissed off? Obviously. Am I unsurprised? Even more obviously. Am I bemused at the bald-faced hucksterism of Marvel and the disrespect, even disdain, it has for its readership and their apparently-quite-short attention spans? Sure, I guess so.

But here’s what genuinely concerns me above all else — “Superior” Spidey, and “Marvel Now!” in general, biting the dust so quickly is proof positive that marketing trumps everything else in mainstream comics right now — savvy salesmanship holds sway not just over quality writing and art (we always knew that), but apparently  over even basic human decency itself. Consider the following quote from Slott when he talks about how he dealt with little kids he met at comics conventions who were upset about the (cynical and short-lived) “death” of Peter Parker : “To do that for a solid year of my life, that’s the hardest thing I’ve had to do — to look small children in the eye at a convention and lie to them.”

If you listen really closely, you’ll hear the world’s smallest violin playing somewhere in the background here for Dan Slott. Talk about nerve. He’s begging for sympathy from the comics-reading public because he “had to” lie to little kids, when, in fact, he “had  to”  do no such thing. He chose to do it when he chose to play along with the editorial mandate, more than likely initiated by suits in the marketing department, that he “kill” Parker in order to give the Spidey books a temporary sales boost. If his conscience bothered him that much — if he knew that he would lose sleep over lying to kids for a year the way you or I probably would do — he could have quit the book, plain and simple, and refused to play along with this stunt. He didn’t. And now he’s asking for pity from the very same readership he was openly bullshitting? Please.

Obviously, I don’t support the vitriol — even death threats — that Slott was receiving when he “killed”  Parker off , but his own actions show he’s as divorced from reality as those who threatened and berated him were. Nobody forced Dan Slott to play along with this charade anymore than anyone believed it would be permanent. Why go the the extent of lying in the first place, one must wonder, when pretty much everyone knew what the outcome of this whole Superior hustle was going to be, anyway? The only real “debate” going on was over what the timetable for Parker’s return would be.

So here we are again — one failed title reboot that’s part of a wider failed cross-company reboot gives rise to another reboot that will probably run out of gas even sooner than this one did. Spider-Man will slink back into its decades-long post-Ditko creative lethargy, and Marvel will immediately begin angling for the next idea to bump up interest in this and its other books on a  (very) temporary basis. Maybe the Vulture or the Hobgoblin or the Scorpion or Kraven will be the next to don the Spidey-suit. Hell, maybe it’ll be Aunt May. Maybe we can even rotate and let every single character that’s ever appeared in the book become the “new” Spider-Man for a month, complete with their own issue #1.

And maybe it’s high time we all stopped playing along with this nonsense and let Marvel know how we feel about their snide corporate cynicism by keeping our money in our wallets and refusing to play along with their stupid, shameful, sorry  little shell game.

 

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So Marvel has finally bowed to the incessant fan whining going on out there and brought back Peter Parker — sort of.

A year after purportedly “killing” Parker off in The Amazing Spider-Man #700 and re-launching the Spidey comic franchise as The Superior Spider-Man, a new series based on the remarkable, if easily reversible, gimmick of Pete’s body being taken over by the mind of one of his greatest foes, Dr. Octopus (a.k.a. Otto Octavius), the original Spider-Man is back, albeit in flashback form, in a new five-part mini-series continuing the numbering of the old title, but with a twist — rather than going out with the straight-forward numerical designations that would have seen these books being The Amazing Spider-Man  701, 702, etc., they’re instead being issued as numbers 700.1, 700.2, etc. I know, I know, say it with me — whatever.

Anyway, I plunked down eight bucks for the first couple issues of this revolving-creative-team fiasco, which are written by Hollywood screenwriter David Morrell and illustrated by comics veteran Klaus Janson, and even though more or less nothing happens here story-wise — New York is blanketed in a massive snowstorm, the power goes out, and Spidey is trying to get over to Aunt May’s place to make sure she’s okay (seriously, that’s it — no villains to fight, nothin’) — one thing became crystal clear as I read these sparsely-dialogued, if competently-enough-illustrtated issues : it’s a damn good thing that Peter Parker is dead and we might as well enjoy it while it lasts (because, let’s face it, no “death” in comics is permanent).

Blasphemy, you say? I beg to differ. Think about it : sure, the new Octavius-Spidey is a d-bag and something of a fascist, with spy-cam Spider-bots literally stalking every inch of the city, an island fortress headquarters, and a blackmailed Mayor J. Jonah Jameson under his thumb, but shit — at least he’s a somewhat interesting character, and that’s something Peter Parker stopped being a loooooonnnnngggg time ago.

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While I have little doubt that The Amazing Spider-Man .-whatever-the-fuck probably improves as a series with its third installment when Joe Casey takes over the writing chores, it’s not something I bothered to hang around to find out, simply because Morrell and Janson have, inadvertently, reminded me just what a dead end Parker is as a character. All he’s really good for is acting like a self-absorbed prick and then feeling sorry for himself because he is, in fact, such a self-absorbed prick. Yeah, fair enough, the supposedly “Superior” version of Spidey is even more of a self-absorbed prick, but at least he’s set his sights higher than blowing off Aunt May for a date with Mary Jane Watson or somesuch. He seems to be out to pretty much take over New York by any mean necessary, and doesn’t bother to slow down enough to have an internal debate with himself about the legal or moral ramifications of what he’s doing, much less take a cold, hard look at why he’s even doing so in the first place. In short, he’s a man of action, and Peter Parker had pretty much been doing nothing but tread water as a character for the last 50 years. Otto-Spidey even shows some signs of moral complexity — he’s dating a dwarf (or “little person,” if you prefer) and genuinely cares about her, even though he’s pretty much nothing but an arrogant bastard the rest of the time. Peter Parker wouldn’t have the guts to do that — he’d simply reject her advances, feel sorry for her, and then feel guilty for breaking the poor girl’s heart while he’s out with some supermodel-type.  He’d have some pity for her (whether she wanted it or not), but you can bet he’d have even more  pity for himself.

Okay, you can fairly argue that Pete “advanced” as a character by  doing  things like, I dunno,  aging at maybe one-tenth (at most) the normal human rate, quitting his job at the Daily Bugle and becoming a full-time scientist, getingt married, reverssing time and undoing his marriage to save Mary Jane from no less than Satan himself, etc., but that’s all circumstantial window dressing — basically, he’s always been the same boring blowhard he’s been since Steve Ditko quit drawing (and, let’s not kid ourselves, writing) the book back in 1967. Ditko’s interation of Parker was, in fact, compelling and interesting :Pete always seemed to be the slightest nudge away from a complete nervous breakdown, and shit almost never went his way — he lost out on love with Betty Brant and Liz Allen, got picked on by Flash Thompson, inadvertently got his Uncle Ben killed — you know the drill. He was a genuinely tortured soul. It was melodramatic as all get-go, sure, but at least it was fun stuff to read.

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The minute Ditko flew the coop, though, it all went south — Peter Parker went from being a thin, mousy, bookworm to being a rugged, square-jawed, stereotypically-rendered “hero.” He started to get the girl every time. And Flash Thompson became his best friend.

Oh, sure, he still sat there and fretted about what a shallow, egotistical dweeb he was, but that didn’t stop him from continuing to be a shallow, egotistical dweeb, and we as readers were asked to continue feeling sorry for him not because he never got anything he wanted, but because he sometimes  didn’t get every single thing he wanted. I’m sorry, but screw that. This is a character that deserved to get killed years ago!

Morrell’s interminably lazy script for Amazing issues 700.1 and 700.2 seems to serve no other purpose than to lay on the Parker-nostalgia as thick as possible. Wow, isn’t Pete selfless for trying to make sure the woman who raised him isn’t freezing to death; isn’t he heroic for stopping on the way to her house to rescue people from various storm-induced calamities; and gosh, more than anything and everything, isn’t he just the most noble and awesome guy who ever lived?

Well, no — he’s not. He’s just plain boring. And he has been since the one creator who understood what made him unique in the first place left.

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There hasn’t been any genuine angst in any of the Spidey books since Ditko’s departure — there’s just been one phony attempt at interjecting angst after another, all ofwwhich have fallen completely flat and resulted in Peter Parker becoming less and less likable as time went on. Dan Slott’s take on Otto/Spidey in Superior may be far from perfect, but at least he’s not treading water, which is all that Marvel was willing to let other creators do for nearly a half century now. I have no doubt — nor should you — that all this will be undone within the next year or two, but damn — at least Spider-Man is worth reading again for the time being, and that’s at least worth a little something, isn’t it?

I’ll grant you, at the end of the day the folks who say The Superior Spider-Man is an asshole are right — but The Amazing Spider-Man was a boring, pouty asshole with a martyr complex. I know which I prefer.