Sunnytime Game Tape: Amazing Spider-Man #700

It’s been quite a while since we tag-teamed a review, but there’s been a pretty significant recent release for our ONE THOUSANDTH POST!  (Please read that in a loud booming voice with plenty of reverb.)  Yes friends, it’s taken Matt and I almost three and a half years but we’ve reached a pretty significant milestone, so I hope you’ll forgive us if we indulge in a little self-congratulation.

Amazing!What could bring the Blue and Gold team out of retirement?  Amazing Spider-Man #700, a book promising such major shocks that writer Dan Slott received DEATH THREATS at just the PROMISE of the story, before anyone even had an opportunity to buy the book on the stands.  And sure, maybe it’s a bit of an irregular change to the Spider-Man status quo, but the same jaded cynic in me that rejects Marvel NOW!, New 52, or the latest life-changing event of the season also makes me realize that This Too Shall Pass.  While in times past a big change like this might be have lasted 6 months and a couple one-shots, now we get new series, relaunched books, and a handful of new ongoing titles.  I’ve been collecting through the Death of Superman, Breaking of the Bat, Clone Saga, Civil War, Secret Invasion and deaths too numerous to count, and the reset button is always — ALWAYS — hit at the end.  I’m not saying that’s good or bad, but it’s the cycle of things.  With that in mind, let’s keep in mind that this is just the next chapter of Spider-Man (and Peter Parker’s) adventures.
I loved this book. From the numerous variant covers (I picked up the winter diner cover) to the three stories and the Stan Lee helmed letters page, this single issue managed to pay due respect to the character’s history and give the readers something novel (for better or worse) and wholly worth their money.
Of the three stories, my favorite was the second. Written by J.M. DeMatteis, this story features an old man reflecting on the life and times of Spider-Man. Between the inaccuracies in the story told and the visions we see through the art, this has a nice mythic feel. Until the last page, the reader is left wondering whether the story-teller is delusional, sentimental, or looking back through the fog of decades past. I could write a thousand words or more on this, but I’d rather not.
I don’t know if this was my favorite, but it was especially well done.  It captures the fuzzy, conclusive feel of “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow” in a way that doesn’t seem like a direct reference but more of a spiritual decedent.  Did it happen?  Is it misremembered? 
Oh, and calling back to the whole “Dan Slott received death threats” component of ASM #700, it’s worth pointing out that THE VERY NEXT STORY OF THE BOOK REVOLVES AROUND PETER PARKER AS AN OLD MAN!  For crying out loud, if nothing else speaks to the relative impermanence of the story, it’s this.
The third and final story is cute in a less than annoying sort of way. Jen Van Meter shows us a date between Spider-Man and Black Cat. Stephanie Buscema’s UPA inspired style works well in this fast paced tale of romance and robot fighting.
Regarding the main story, I’m going to jump in and say that this is how Peter Parker’s story had to end. A happy ending with Mary Jane or some other love interest would have cheapened everything that Stan Lee, Steve Ditko, the Romitas, and countless others created and shepherded through 50 years of comic book stories.
The fairy tale ending doesn’t work for Spider-Man/ Peter Parker for a couple of reasons.
  1. The proverbial Parker Luck. From his genesis, Peter Parker has been unlucky. Nerdy outcast gains phenomenal super powers only to be ostracized and persecuted for being a hero, and writers haven’t really changed that character aspect in the last 50 years. Between family deaths, deals with one devil or another, clones, and having to wash that NYC garbage can/ dumpster smell out of his costume too many times to count, he’s basically been life’s punching bag. Within this context, every gift/ boon/ bright spot has had a price or a caveat. 50 years of evidence would indicate that Peter Parker’s lasting legacy in the mythic tradition is to remind us that life isn’t fair.
  2. Peter Parker and the comic book version of Bruce Wayne have one great character aspect in common. Death will ultimately be the only thing that keeps them from fulfilling their solemn vow. If a competent writer/ editor decides to surprise everyone and end Peter Parker’s career as a web-slinger, he’s got to end Peter Parker’s life or his ability to be Spider-Man. To remain true to the essence of the character, the one that suffers from the omnipotent child of Jewish Guilt and Catholic Guilt in the form of his oft repeated mantra, Parker can’t leave the suit in a garbage can and walk of into the sunset with his best girl by his side. Instead he lives the life of most protagonists in Russian literature: he suffers through life to ultimately die for Justice, Love, Virtue, or Guilt. Dan Slott killed Peter Parker because anything else would feel cheap. I’d bet the farm that if Peter Parker had been given a happy ending an equal nerd rage would have ensued and/or the cynicism that runs rampant in comicdom would have been still been counting down the months until Peter’s return.
I completely agree with Matt’s conclusions here.  Both Peter and Spider-Man are born out of tragedy, and it’s the never-ending fight in spite of overwhelming odds that makes the character who he is.  The Batman comparison is also particularly apt.  In fact, the main reason Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy doesn’t work as a comic adaptation so much as Nolan’s personal version of the character is because Bruce Wayne DOES get that happy ending in the end.  While there are as many valid interpretations of the characters as there are creators working on them, it’s been pretty well established over the last 40 years that as far as the “canon” version of the character is concerned he’s married to the job until something forces a divorce.
But enough of myNot the first final chapter. Bat Man-love.  The point of that digression is that same thing is true for Peter Parker.  He can’t stop, he won’t stop, until someone or something forces him.  Much as Spider-Man is always able to lift those tons off his back, I can’t call ASM #700 a loss for him.  By converting Octavius, Peter gets the ultimate win.
I’m of two minds on the execution of Peter Parker’s death. On the one hand, I like that his final act was to turn a sworn enemy into an inspired do-gooder. On the other hand, it is a little hokey when you get right down to it.
A sacrifice and a rehabilitation are a fantastic combination for a hero’s death. I love that Peter Parker’s dying breath and thoughts are bent on inspiring a villain to become a better (dare I say superior?) man and a hero. It is nothing short of a heroic miracle. It’s a deed far more heroic than simply punching a villain into unconsciousness.  This ending adds a nice weight of meaning to the death.
Definitely.  And though I admired the hell out of Peter’s last act, it’s truly Otto Octavius’s conversion that feels like the most heroic act of the book.  His slow realization at the end was worth the cover price alone, and his new mission feels true to Otto, Peter, and Spider-Man.
Still, seeing Otto Octavius living Peter’s Tragedies and triumphs was a little goofy in that sweet and innocent 1950’s sort of way.
There are a few areas of the book I feel don’t hold up as well as the writing. The biggest is the artwork.  Humberto Ramos’s hyper-stylized artwork creates energy but sacrifices readability.   There are moments in the fight scenes where it’s impossible to tell what’s going on, as sections of armor do things to sections of people, leaving me to wonder what the hell I’m being shown.  The other is the relative lack of subtlety in the story structure.  I can easily picture Dan Slott working backward from his ending: he knows Octavius’ mind must end up in Peter’s body and he must be a hero at the conclusion.  The brain swap is an easy one, but the conversion is a little more problematic.  I shouldn’t look too closely at comic book science, I know, but a straight-up swap would make sense.  A copy, though, wherein the main mind takes backseat Professor Stein-style rather than becoming brain soup feels like it’s serving the plot more than making sense as part of the story’s logical progression.
I feel confident that this new status quo will give rise to many interesting new story direction, but I won’t stick around to see them. I take my leave of Spider-Man comics now. I like the ending. It’s perfect, and a return (inevitable?) of Peter Parker would tarnish it for me.In point of fact, I’m drastically cutting down on my monthly comics intake as a whole. Whether it is for good or for now remains to be seen. If you’ve followed the blog, you’ve read time and again how I don’t care for Johns’ DC. Marvel’s constant state of flux and event has also worn thin for me. Here’s my vote with my wallet.
Meet the new boss.Surprisingly, as the cynic of the two of us, I was actually motivated to keep going a bit further.  Slott wrote such a touching ending I wanted to see where it would go next, which brings us to Avenging Spider-Man #15.1, by Chris Yost and Paco Medina, covering the gap between ASM #700 and Superior Spider-Man #1.  It was a slight book to be sure, and proved something interesting: Dan Slott really captured the characters’ motivations in a way that other writers may not be able to follow.  Much as I was convinced a few years back that the introduction of rainbow lantern corps by Geoff Johns would lose some nuance as other writers took over and didn’t have the characters as internalized, Avenging was essentially the generic “Otto as Spider-Man” story everyone expected, without the subtlety of character that Slott was able to get across so well.  Which is a long-winded way of saying I think Superior Spider-Man will be a good book and character as long as he’s behind the wheel, and probably less so as his role expands across the Marvel Universe.
So, Amazing Spider-Man #700: an all-around success, and an interesting contradiction in terms as a feel-good defeat.  Which brings us back to our own little anniversary issue here.  It’s not much of a secret that our output has dramatically declined lately, and after some discussions behind the scenes we’ve both decided with so much going on in our lives it’s better to come to a definite conclusion than waste away.  
We’ll still be around, of course.  Matt is re-entering the real world.  I’ve gotten tired of complaining how there aren’t enough good comics with fewer corporate stunts and have decided to bet that other people will want to see the same type of comics I do.  I’ve launched my own publishing company, 8th Wonder Press, and our first book is scheduled to come out in May.  I’ll continue writing over there, although with a different mission statement and the perspective of a publisher. 
It’s truly been an honor to write for you these last three and a half years.  The Internet is jam-packed with comic book blogs, and you certainly have your choice of sites.  Matt and I are both so glad you chose us.
This is an imaginary story.  Aren't they all?

Thinking Out Loud About Digital Comic Codes

It’s been a long, long while since I’ve written at any length about collecting-related issues, and while I’m a firm believer in reading the comics I buy, I’m still a comic COLLECTOR at heart. Sure I won’t read comics I hate on any principle, but there have definitely been a few shameful instances in my past where I’ve bought two copies of a polybagged book so one can stay “Mint”. (And before you judge me too harshly, ask yourself what state your Superman #75 is in.)
Marvel’s launched an admirable new venture wherein their $3.99 titles* all contain “free” digital download codes so you can use the Marvel app or ComiXology to read the issue on your computer or mobile device. This is smart marketing on Marvel’s part: it costs virtually nothing, acts as a pretty great goodwill gesture, and gives you some lagniappe for your extra dollar (that they would have gotten anyway).
The problem comes in with the presentation, though. Most likely to guard against theft, the digital download code comes covered with a small sticker and lasts for about a year, depending on when you purchase that comic. Anyone who’s read the blog for more than about a week is well aware of my unwillingness to spend $4 for a “Big Two” comic, but now we’re getting to the point where these $3.99 books are making their way to discount bins and this leaves me with a dilemma: what do I do with these codes?
Because I AM a collector I have an (admittedly lame) problem with ripping the stickers off because then the book can no longer be considered complete. Yet the part of me who wants to get the full value for my dollar — and likes digital comics! — says it’s stupid, after a year the code will be invalidated anyway, so there’s nothing to gain by ignoring the code. We’ve seen this before with Marvel Value Stamps and Image #0 coupons, where if someone cuts a piece out of the comic it legitimately affects the condition of the book, and even though this is a tag clearly designed to be easily removed, there’s still some…modification to the book.
Mike Sterling brings up some good points in his Progressive Ruin blog, mainly about the headache of validating whether a comic is still “intact”. And even though I’m not trying to be the retailer’s advocate here, I can definitely see how that’s unnecessary overhead for them. But as a buyer — whether a comic shop customer or a retailer buying back issues — you should definitely have the right to know if the tag has been pulled and the code used, at least if the book is less than a year old. That gives the owner the right to make up their own mind about whether or not they want to deface their comics.
So what the hell are we supposed to do?
I’ve done way too much thinking about this (read: ANY thinking about this) and loath as I am to admit it, that sticker is a part of the published book in the same way those Image coupons were. Even though they were designed and intended to be pulled, I find it hard to still consider a book “Mint” without it. Not that it’s worth dropping a comic by a grade, I just think they should be identified as “with” or “without” the tag, in the same way Marvel had newsstand and direct market versions of their books in the 90’s. (Again, sorry retailers. I know that’s an unfair burden on you, but it’s got to be done.  Maybe it’s just safest to assume that code is gone at all times.)
That said, I still want my digital comic!  I’ve lost track of the link at this point, but I found a post by an astute reader who realized that if you shine a bright light through the tag and squint, you can make out the code underneath.  This allows you to redeem the code without defacing your books.  And since said code expires in a year, you keep a pristine copy of your book and still get a digital copy.  You can even resell your book and keep the digital copy (as long as you’re honest with the seller, which you will be, right?).
But I want to give the last word to Mr. Sterling, who’s best insight is right in his headline: “This is all assuming there’ll eventually be a back issue market for anything coming out right now.”
 *It’s worth mentioning that Dark Horse’s new Star Wars #1, even at $2.99, had a free digital download code.

This Week’s Comics

Happy New Year folks!  As we here at the L.E.M.U.R. Comics Blog orbiting space station settle in for a night of sorting comics, we’d like to wish you and yours the happiest of 2013’s.  New Comics Wednesday is still Wednesday this week, so let’s take a look at this week’s new and noteworthy titles.

  • There are six characters on this cover.  Care to count how many feet are drawn?

    There are six characters on this cover. Care to count how many feet are drawn?

    BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER WILLOW WONDERLAND #3- I really took a gamble here, betting that Jeff Parker would be able to tell a good story to someone who knows less than nothing about Buffy or their cast of characters.  He’s really done a great job getting to the core of the character (Willow is a witch looking to bring Magic back to Earth, nuff said) without burdening the book with needless continuity.  MAYBE there’s shoutouts to the diehards in here, but it’s nothing that prevents me from enjoying a really solid fantasy title.

  • GLORY #31
  • PUNK ROCK JESUS #6 – PRJ has been the one of the biggest surprises of 2012 for me.  Sean Murphy has just knocked this book out of the park and even as I’m looking forward to the end of the extraordinary comic I know we’re going to continue to see great work from him.
  • YOUNGBLOOD #75 – Perhaps the “Extremest” of the Extreme relaunch titles, as it was The Rob’s initial book when he started at Image, and it’s the one that holds closest to its original vision as Glory becomes a fantasy title and Prophet is now lo-fi sci-fi (not that there’s anything wrong with that!).  Youngblood sticks to the core idea of government-sanctioned heroes, does it well, and even has some solid Liefeldian art thanks to Jon Malin.  And despite all MY predictions, at least, several issues have some out on schedule.  They’re doing things right over in the Extreme offices, folks.

That’s it for this week, and see you in 2013. 

This Week’s Comics

Man, the Christmas holiday must have destroyed my brain’s ability to determine what day of the week it is, because we’re at New Comic Day and I think it’s Monday. So with a week so light I thought Diamond’s web site loaded incorrectly, here’s a look at this week’s new and noteworthy titles.

  • AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #700Behind this cover is a graphic designer who had to read a LOT of bad Venom comics. I have OCD price points, it’s one of my least endearing qualities, and yet $8 for over 100 pages of material is an terrific deal. Factor in that this is a huge anniversary issue and the “last” issue of Amazing, I’m definitely on-board here.
  • AVENGING SPIDER-MAN #15.1 – The “missing link” between Amazing and Superior, for three bucks on a light week I’ll definitely pick this up.

And aside from some Justice League, that’s just about all that’s even coming out this week, so I’ll just take the opportunity to wish everyone happy holidays and good reading.

This Week’s Comics

A week with new issues of Daredevil and Hawkeye MIGHT just be the greatest Festivus miracle of all. Here are this week’s new and noteworthy releases.
  • DAREDEVIL #21I hope Rob Schneider shows up.  Wait, no I don't.
  • HAPPY #3
  • HAWKEYE #6
  • JUDGE DREDD #2 – IDW’s new Dredd series so far seems to be more of the same, in terms of the Judge. That is, short dark 80’s-style takes of law and order designed to unnerve and usually with some sort of twist at the end. So if you’re looking for a Dredd series that’s current and American but keeps the feel of the original strips from 2000 AD, this is a good choice.
  • JUDGE DREDD GARTH ENNIS COLL TP – As I’ve said, I’m no Judge Dredd connoisseur, but I DO love Garth Ennis’s work, so I’m going to snag this.
  • MASKS #2 – As much as I’ve been talking this series up, I somehow missed the first issue! My LCS was completely sold out by the time I got there on Saturday and I haven’t found a print copy yet. That said, ComiXology is releasing a free digital comic every day until Christmas, so I was able to snag one for my iPad.
  • SAGA #8
  • SUPREME #67 – This is the penultimate or last issue of Erik Larsen’s run, and even though it’s been a while I find myself REALLY missing it. That’s pretty surprising given how put off I was by his first solo issue after taking over from Alan Moore. But to his credit he DIDN’T burn the playhouse down, he worked within the established framework and has gone his own way, creating something that relies on what came before but has his unique touch.
  • THUNDERBOLTS #2 – Man, Thunderbolts is a tough one. Much like Rick Remender’s excellent Frankencastle, this story works great on it’s own but not as well if you stop to think about outside continuity at all. Not for a second can I really see these characters working together (ESPECIALLY any of these people and Deadpool) so it really feels like an attempt to build a team of anti-heroes, a far cry from the original mission statement of villains masquerading as heroes or it’s longest raison d’etre of villains seeking redemption. That said, this is a well-written book by Daniel Way, which taken in a vacuum is a a nice “building the team” issue. Will it hold on? I can’t say, but it’s an interesting shift in the T-Bolts concept.

That’s it for this week.  What looks good to you?

This Week’s Comics

Not just a BUNCH of fun releases this week, but spanning the widest range of styles and genres I can recall recently.  Here are this week’s new and noteworthy titles.
  • ATOMIC ROBO FLYING SHE DEVILS O/T PACIFIC #5 – This is somewhat new to me: an Atomic Robo series I’ve had a hard time getting in to.  But it’s still better than a majority of comics on the market, even if you’re trade-waiting for this one.
  • BLOODSHOT (ONGOING) #6 Consider that crow skinned, son.
  • BRAVEST WARRIORS #1 3RD PTG – It’s science-hero Adventure Time!  And if that appeals to you, hit up Bravest Warriors before it’s too late.
  • CROW SKINNING THE WOLVES #1 – James O’Barr, creator of the Crow, returns to his creation here.  And though new takes on the concept have all dropped like soggy noodles, I’ve got to give him the benefit of the doubt.
  • IMAGE FIRSTS – Image success stories Chew, Fatale, Manhattan Projects, Revival, Saga, Thief of Thieves, Walking Dead all get ONE DOLLAR reprints of their first issues this week.  EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM is well worth a buck and represents something NEW in the comic market — or the storytelling market in general.  Look at your New 52 or Marvel NOW budget, then see if you have seven measly dollars to support creator-owned comics.
  • LOVE AND CAPES WHAT TO EXPECT #5 – A Matt favorite, out this week.  Maybe we can get him to talk up this series soon.
That’s it for this week.  Expect reviews later in the week for Avengers #1, Thunderbolts #1, and Adventure Time #10, a comic SO FREAKING good I can’t decide if it’s better than #5, which I absolutely fell in love with.  What looks good to you?

Previews and Portents, December 2012

Man, I have such a love/hate relationship with Previews.  It brings me the things I love each month, but it also subjects me to the most blindingly insane objects our type of fandom has to offer.  Still, it’s time to roll through 1700 pages of ads to bring you, the L.E.M.U.R. Comics Blog superfan, a three-month glimpse into the future.

Dark Horse Comics

  • Dark Horse Presents #21 – Among some quite noteworthy comic creators in this issue, Neil Gaiman and Paul Chadwick join forces for “The Day the Saucers Came.”  And that, friends, is worth 8 bucks.

Hi-yo silver!DC Comics

  • Batman: The Dark Knight Returns: A Call to Arms Statue – Because hells yeah.  This looks AWESOME!
  • Before Watchmen: Dollar Bill #1 – I thought the BW concept was just a one-of group of projects, and that was bad enough, but to then go throwing in MORE one-offs helter skelter just shows that DC will keep going to this well as long as it keeps producing milk.  Wait.  That’s a metaphor, right?  Yeah, sure it is.
  • DC Universe by Alan Moore TP – This is a TERRIFIC collection that DC has had the wisdom to kep in print all these years.  Even Moore’s throwaway ideas like for the Green Lantern Corps issues prove to be pretty clever, and a huge jumping-off point for Geoff Johns in recent years.  But what REALLY makes this interesting is that, with the official DC/WildStorm merger, the latest edition now includes Moore’s miniseries for Voodoo and Deathblow.
  • Green Arrow #17 – Jeff Lemire starts a run on the Emerald Archer and I’ve got to say, that’s an amazing draw for the title.
  • Hellblazer #300 – The final issue!  I’ve only been a casual reIt was time to quit anyway.ader of John Constantine’s adventures, but now that he’s skulking around the DCU proper, it doesn’t really seem to be necessary any longer.  And it’s strange, because DC seems to have completely ceded the dark adult creator-owned market to Image these days.  Grant Morrison’s Happy, Andy Diggle and Jock’s Snapshot, Jonathan Hickman’s Manhattan Projects, and many, many more are all perfectly suited for Vertigo and yet they’re all at Image.  And with the most recent news that Karen Berger has stepped down from her role…well, it just feels like the final nail for a storied comic imprint.  Once Fables goes, I suspect the line will go completely.
  • Justice League of America #1 – Finally — FINALLY — DC is proving that it will not be beaten by Marvel in the race to the bottom of Good Taste, by producing FIFTY-TWO covers, one for each state in the union plus Washington, DC and Puerto Rico.  Oh yeah, Vibe is on the team, too.
  • Justice League of America’s Vibe #1 – Don’t worry, he’s just gonna get kakked again.  I promise.


  • Red Team – Dynamite offers a new series by Garth Ennis, and since it’s not being put out by Avatar, odds are better than average that I’ll be able to read it without projectile vomiting into my mylar bag.  Which is nice.



  • Rocketeer: Holywood Horror #1 – Oh hey, Roger Langridge is writing a Rocketeer book!  IDW is really doing Dave Stevens proud with the level of talent they’ve been booking for this title, and Roger Langridge guarantees the L.E.M.U.R. Comics Blog seal of approval.  Art by J. Bone means it’ll be super-pretty, too.  Can’t wait for this one!

Image Comics

  • Glory #33 – The penultimate issue, and the first book of the Extreme relaunch to go away, but credit to The Rob, he’s letting it go quietly rather than filling it with a new creative team just to keep the book coming out.
  • Snapshot #1 – Loser geniuses (this is a compliment!) Andy Diggle and Jock re-team for a new 4-issue miniseries.  With that on their resume, they could do just about anything and I’d buy it.

Marvel Comics

  • A+X #5 – With Doop and Iron Fist, it’s like Marvel is putting this out specifically for FotB Andrew.
  • Nova #1 – The cartoonification of the 616 hits, as Jeph Loeb and Ed McGuinness slap Sam Alexander (from the Ultimate Spider-Man cartoon) into the Nova Corps helmet.  Which is fine, just not really for me.
  • Red She-Hulk #62 – I only mention this because Jeff Parker has started referring to Betty Banner’s alter-ego as Cinnamon Hulk, which I totally approve of!
  • Uncanny Avengers #5 – It feels like a gimmick, but Rick Remender writing, Olivier Coipel drawing, and THIS great line-up?  I just wish it was only $3.

To me, my Avengers!

Top Shelf

  • Nemo: Heart of Ice HC – I haven’t read anything Wasn't that a Blondie song?from the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen universe in quite some time, but it’s cool they’re still coming out by the original creators rather than being handed off and forgotten.  And the 56 page hardcover is spendy, but an interesting format.  Top Shelf DOES have notoriously high print quality on their books.

Wow, there’s not nearly as much this time around; maybe the indies are biding their time to compete for January dollars? 

Before wrapping up for this month, I’d like to draw your attention to Brian Hibbs’ most recent “Tilting at Windmills” column over at CBR.  The whole thing is worth reading, but if there’s anything worth taking away it’s this, and he says it far better than I have been:

A lot of people think “digital” is going to kill comics. I really don’t — I believe in the physical objects that I sell, and in talking my customers, not a one of them says they’re looking to make a move to digital. No, I think what’s going to “kill comics” is ultimately the quarterly-driven decisions of Warner Bros and Disney that will try to incrementally squeeze more profit until the point that entire thing collapses. Whether it’s $4 bi-weekly comics at one or this type of poisonous lying at the other, the writing is on the wall: they’re going to wring it until it breaks.

That’s it for this month!  Orders must be in to your LCS by December 18, 2012 and are scheduled to arrive in February.