Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Wednesdaybusiness: 1/30/13

So I've decided to start doing proper comic book reviews on this thing, instead of just ranting about stuff that happened years ago. Keeping shit CURRENT, y'all. So here's what I grabbed to read today.

(I should warn you guys: I don't give one single fuck about spoilers. I'll try not to do it, but if you feel cheated, just deal with it.)


Superior Spider-Man #2 by Dan Slott and Ryan Stegman



I went into this book with some expectations, as you can probably tell from my last few Spider-Man Rants. It's a book that I really, really wanted to like, but I found some aspects of the book a little... date-rapey. And then when they previewed the cover for Issue #2 I panicked a little. After my last rant, I received this comment...

...which threw me a little, as either one of my favorite Marvel writers has found my blog after only like four posts, or I've encountered the most polite troll ever. Either way, I was hoping that Issue #2 would indeed resolve things. And... I guess it did?

First, let me focus on some good things. Slott's writing is as sharp as ever; I still feel like he really gets what makes Spider-Man fun and interesting, he has a solid grasp on how to work a large supporting cast without making the main characters seem sidelined, and he can juggle both serious and silly topics in one book... All the things that made me initially fall in love with his She-Hulk run are still there, and I'm very glad for that.

Ryan Stegman is an artist that I'm honestly not very familiar with at all, but he's doing a very competent job on this book so far. His art is just cartoony enough to make me wish Humberto Ramos was still drawing Spider-Man, but Stegman seems like a good fit for this book.

One way in which Slott and Stegman are working very well together is in their depiction of a young hipster Doctor Octopus; whether he's fiddling with his iPad in a coffee shop, or cackling madly while building an army of spider robots, he's just oozing character. A gross, slimy character... but a mostly-fun one as well.

However, the slimier aspects of the character are what got under my skin last time, and I ought to spend some time on that. This entire issue is devoted to Otto/Peter trying everything short of Rohypnol to try and trick Mary Jane into having sex with him. His failure to seal the deal is described as "infuriating," in all caps and with an exclamation point. The above comment from [Dan Slott/Somebody Posing As Dan Slott] is only correct in the loosest of terms: Otto Octavius has not been turned into a rapist, technically, but it's not for a lack of trying. He's wearing his brand-new Spidey suit and trying to repeatedly to get MJ to fuck him through a series of "date experiments", while the real Peter Parker - appearing as a blue Obi-Wanesque spectre - looks on in absolute horror. So basically it comes down to a conflict between intent and action: Do you consider a failed rapist to still be a rapist? Because I do.

HOWEVER. Things do turn around at the end of the book. Just as Otto-Spidey is finally about to get to First Base with Mary Jane, he is hit with a wave of Peter Parker's memories and feelings, and decides to finally back off. A large part of this book is based on the fact that Peter Parker's overwhelming qualities of goodness and responsibility are winning out against Doc Ock's inclinations towards evil and mayhem, so this was actually a really welcome moment for me. Otto's turning against his own rapey ways isn't entirely his own doing; It's sort of like in Groundhog Day, where it took Bill Murray's character literally thousands of years to finally realize that tricking and/or forcing himself on women would never make him actually feel happiness (Jellybean Bonanza still wants me to write a full article about Phil Connors, the repentant date-rapist, which I may just go ahead and do. I wonder how much people are gonna' rage at me for taking a shot at Groundhog Day? Lulz!). But at any rate, it leads to Spidey fully breaking things off with Mary Jane, thus burying this icky consent issue and seemingly leaving the doors open for me to start fully enjoying this comic... so well-played, Mr. Slott. I sort of wish this hadn't even come up at all, and I still feel like Doctor Octopus was distinctly sleazed up in these past two issues, but having Peter Parker inside his head telling him what's right seems to have cleaned up this particular mess in a clear enough way.

So with all that being said, I'm quite looking forward to Issue #3. When this book is fun, it's REALLY fun; and with the queasy-making stuff settled for the moment, I suspect the book will soon be taking a turn for the awesome. Because at the end of the day, this is a really novel take on the old supervillain mind-switch, and there's a lot to be mined there, and Slott's got the talent to pull it off.


Hawkeye #7 by Matt Fraction, Steve Lieber, and Jesse Hamm


I am a really bighuge fan of this book, everybody. If you haven't started reading it, you need to get off your asses.

The whole series so far can be summed up in one sentence: "It ain't easy being Hawkeye."

This issue is based around Hurricane Sandy, and the pretty intense toll it took on New York and New Jersey. Fraction did a really fantastic job of avoiding the sort of heavy-handedness that could have accompanied a story like this, and he instead opted to follow his two Hawkeyes as they attempt to go about their goofy lives during the disaster. Clint Barton is trying to help one of his neighbors - who calls him "Hawkguy", which I don't think I'll ever stop finding hilarious - secure the house of his elderly father. Kate Bishop is off attending a high-society gala in New Jersey (an idea that Fraction succeeds in making fun of in just the right amounts), but of course she quickly ends up having to steal an usher's shoes so she can go fight off looters and retrieve a vague life-saving medicine for somebody's mom.

With this issue being a sort of one-off, it may be a good place to hop on the train if you haven't been keeping up. It maintains the status quo of Clint being a lovable schlub of an ex-carnie who never seems totally comfortable telling people he's one of Earth's Mightiest Heroes™, and his plucky young ward being actually quite a bit smarter and savvier than he is. I liked Kate Bishop alright in Young Avengers, but I absolutely LOVE her in this comic. Her constant mocking of Clint's trick-arrows, and the way he occasionally gets to teach her their value ("BOOMERANG. ARROW."), is one of my favorite things in the series. It's a great book, both in writing and visuals, and I definitely recommend it... if you think you can handle a superhero comic where there are occasionally no superheroics.

And I damn near choked up when Clint's car got washed away. Dude loved that car. Poor, poor Hawkeye. At least he still has Lucky the Dog, who is legit one of my favorite characters of Marvel NOW!


Avengers #4 by Jonathan Hickman and Adam Kubert


Hickman is treating the Avengers the same way he treated the Fantastic Four: as a good place to explore all sorts of Big Ideas. His writing always gives the impression that he's got everything planned out for the next ten years, and given how well that played out in FF, I hope Marvel actually lets him stretch his legs and run with the Avengers.

The first three issues revolved around massive cosmic craziness, along with a team-recruitment montage. I'm sure other people have written more extensive reviews, but essentially some cosmic bigwigs started creating life on Mars, the Avengers bulked their ranks up to a few dozen heroes (including Cannonball and Sunspot, which I think is great, because it furthers the newfound blending of Avengers and X-Men while shedding light on a couple characters I've always had a soft spot for), and then Thor and Captain Universe clunked everybody's heads together and things were okay again.

Issue #4 is working with the premise that a few godly super-science MacGuffins landed on the Earth, and the Avengers are trying to gather them up before they inevitably fall into the wrong hands. However, one them landed on A.I.M. Island (which I feel like they created just for me), and a bunch of mad scientists in beekeeper costumes (with a slick new design!) are already splicing and injecting things to see what'll cook up the best M.O.D.O.K.

The issue also took some time to focus on one of the new Avengers recruits, Hyperion. I think Hyperion is a very interesting choice for a mainstream Avengers book, as he is basically Tortured Superman. But not in a crappy and annoying way like The Sentry was, because he really ought to have just stuck to miniseries and flashback stories. Throwing characters like Hyperion onto the team definitely implies that there is going to be some BIG stuff happening... Hickman's not the kind of writer who'd waste a character like that on bank robberies.

I feel like this series hasn't built up to full speed yet, but once it does, it very well may be amazing.


Journey Into Mystery #648 by Kathryn Immonen and Valerio Schiti


I actually don't have a whole lot to say about this comic, except that I fucking love the shit out of it.

Kathryn Immonen. Sif learning the way of the Berserker. Oldschool Marvel Monsters. SHANK!

Friday, January 25, 2013


You guys, I'm going to be posting a lot of reviews and stuff really soon, but I just quickly want to let you know something:

I am extremely disappointed that none of my friends let me know this was happening. And written by Kathryn Immonen, no less. I know a lot of y'all don't approve of my tastes in comics but... I am practically vibrating with excitement over this thing, you guys.

I just felt I needed to post this image (lovingly stolen from Stuart Immonen's Tumblr) so that we could all bask in the glory of Kung-Fu Doop.


Sunday, January 20, 2013

Why "Brand New Day" Was Great, Part Two: Things Were Great For A Few Years...

Check out Part One HERE.

H'okay. So I really was planning on writing a very long follow-up article here. I'd already broken down why I felt that Spider-Man had been completely whizzed as a character and was in major need of the full reboot he received. I'd established exactly where Spidey and I had been standing, and it was NOT the solid ground he and I had enjoyed for most of my life. I'd even made a header image for this that I thought looked pretty cool. And then... I got distracted. Marvel Comics launched its Marvel NOW! initiative and suddenly I had a ton of things I wanted to read, a ton of things to catch up on, and... Spider-Man wasn't on that list, because REASONS. Which I'll get to in a bit.

So anyway, the story of Spider-Man: One More Day, in brief: Aunt May is dying, and Spider-Man wants to stop it. He goes to everyone he knows for help - from the superscience of Reed Richards and Iron Man to the supersorcery of Doctor Strange and Doctor Doom. Everyone basically tells him to go fuck himself. So finally he runs into Mephisto (Marvel's sort-of Satan. The actual Satan shows up in some comics nowadays too, which makes the whole thing a bit more confusing.). Mephisto is all like "Yeah, bro, I can heal a gunshot wound. This is COMICS, my man!" But deals with devils have their price, and Mephisto demands that Peter give up his marriage. Then there's a lot of talking because J. Michael Straczynski is kind of a boring writer, and Peter & MJ decide that Aunt May's important enough for them to make the sacrifice.

Now, I'm not going to front like this was a good comic. I can't stand the shit JMS writes, and Joe Quesada's art is like getting smacked in the forehead with the entire concept of the 1990s. But the key objection a lot of critics had to this whole thing seemed to be that they should have handled divorce in a mature fashion... and this shit was never about divorce. This was about magically making Spider-Man act like Spider-Man again. So Mephisto lays down his demonic whammy and hey presto, we're on to Spider-Man: Brand New Day.

Here's where I need to get really real for a second: I am SO SICK of fighting about this comic with people who are totally misinformed about this comic. I wrote this in my last article...

This argument, and literally dozens of previous arguments, was with somebody who claimed to have stopped reading Marvel Comics altogether because of the release of Spider-Man: Brand New Day in 2008, despite never having actually READ Spider-Man: Brand New Day and having many of the details wrong; whether that's by ignorance, misinformation, or stubbornness is hard to say.
 ...and it remains totally true. This is based on purely anecdotal evidence; but from where I'm standing there are literally thousands of comic fans who have spent the last five years incessantly hating on Marvel Comics for reasons that aren't even accurate. They think Spider-Man got de-aged, or that Mephisto owns his soul now, or that MJ got killed off, or all sorts of other weird things.

So here's the extent of Mephisto's meddling in the life of Peter Parker, in order of importance:
  1. Spider-Man's powers are back to normal. Does whatever a spider can... Is he strong? Listen bub, he's got radioactive blood! Et cetera. He's also back on his wrist-mounted web-shooters instead of just excreting goo on folks.
  2. Peter Parker's secret identity is secret again. There's some fiddly magic stuff in that deal, but to the general populace, Peter Parker is just a regular dude.
  3. Aunt May's fine (as well she should be; that was the whole thing after all). She's actually a bit more active than in the past, as she's volunteering at a local homeless shelter instead of just sitting around in her little house in Queens cooking dinners that nobody eats.
  4. Peter and Mary Jane dated seriously for years and lived together for a while, but ended up splitting. The comics weren't totally clear on the when or the why, but it seemed recent enough to still hurt.
  5. Harry Osborn is alive again; he'd just been in Europe for a while going to rehab.
That's it. That's all. The only other key difference is that the story starts with Peter jobless, but considering that he'd been a fugitive for like a year, that wasn't really a change to the status quo. Pete quickly is able to get his job back at The Daily Bugle, and restores his supporting cast. And that leads into a major pet peeve of mine:

I've had multiple people say to me that it is a step backward for the character to return to the Daily Bugle. That as a highschool teacher he had achieved a Real Job™ and it was indicative of some kind of character growth. Now, as I said in Part One of this thing, I didn't think it was any sort of character growth: The teacher thing was just an excuse for one of the heavy-handed school shooting stories that were popular in all forms of media at the time. But I've legit heard people claim that being a freelance photographer for a major New York City newspaper is a "kid job"... and I fucking call bullshit. That is some seriously difficult, grown-up business. If anything, it was unrealistic to have him doing that for work when he was still a teenager.

So okay, everything got all fixed up for Spidey. A team of writers set about crafting new stories for him, introducing new supporting cast, new villains, and new situations. The writing was light and fun, the art was colorful, and there was a pervasive sense of experimentation throughout BND. After the initial push, the writing staff was whittled down to just Dan Slott, and he continued apace, writing years worth of really fun Spidey comics. They were nostalgic yet original, palatable to kids and adults, brought back old characters in new interesting ways, and they were able to be funny without becoming a joke. They slowly brought MJ back due to fan demand, but in an organic way, over time. Years of really fun stories, folks. Spider Island? Everyone in Manhattan getting superpowers because of genetically-engineered bedbugs? That shit is fucking golden, and if you don't think so you are both wrong and an idiot.

However, I'm actually having a hard time singing all these praises now that Dan Slott has fallen off the truck. In the past few months, Peter Parker died, Doctor Octopus transferred his mind into Spider-Man's body, and is currently trying his damnedest to fuck Mary Jane in the pages of his new book, The Superior Spider-Man.

I don't really care that they killed Peter Parker's brain off. That's comic-book shit, and Slott's already dropping hints that OMG PETER'S STILL IN THERE FIGHTING! And I don't give a shit that they're changing the status quo, because that's the sort of thing that sells comics. I am fine with almost everything about the comic.

But turning Doctor Octopus into a rapist is Not Okay.

I hate the trend of the last decade to have supervillains committing rape (and I am repulsed when the creators and fans come out with all the fucking "No, see, it wasn't RAPE-rape!" bullshit, too). I am a dude who happens to like supervillains, and I really don't like seeing them taken to that level.

Because you know what? Not every criminal is willing to commit rape. You know what else? Plenty of "good" people TOTALLY ARE willing to commit rape.

It just sucks all the fun out of what could be a potentially entertaining story. The idea of Doctor Octopus in Spider-Man's body is great. Seeing him square off against a new Sinister Six and getting to be the hero for once could be a really fun angle for me... but it's colored by the fact that every five pages or so there's a shot of Peter/Ock staring down Mary Jane's shirt, or referring to her as one of the "perks" of his "new life", or just straight-up trying to force himself on her.

I doubt Dan Slott will ever read this, but because he's a writer I have/had a lot of respect for, I'm going to address this directly to him anyway: Homie, I don't want to have to throw down a Trigger Warning on my blog before I talk about Spider-Man comics.


So now I guess I'll just have to get by on Stan Lee's newspaper Spider-Man comics... And Newspaper Spider-Man is the absolute worst superhero of all time.