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?
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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?

Previews and Portents, November 2012

Another month, another 3 month peek into the future of comics.  Let’s take a look at the first batch of 2013’s comic books.

Action Lab Entertainment

NFL Rush Zone: Season of the Guardians #1 – NFL SuperPro is back for the 21st century!  Or something.

ArtFX

DC Comics Aquaman New 52 Statue – I’m just glad they included the close-up shot of his belt buckle so I know they’re really and truly getting the core of the character right.

Dark Horse Comics

Eerie Comics #2 – Sure, the Mike (Madman) Allred story is going to be pretty, but I have to buy this because Brian (Atomic Robo) Clevenger has a story in it.  Oh yeah, I’m also going to be doing those old-school Superman secret identity parentheses.

Number 13 #2 – Hey guys, Carrot Top finally got his own comic book!

Star Wars #1 – I’m the rare sort of geek who loves Star Wars but doesn’t love EVERYTHING Star Wars…That is, if it happens in a movie it counts and if it’s in supplemental material I’m pretty happy to just ignore it.  That said, a new ongoing series written by Brian (DMZ) Wood with covers by Alex (Marvels, Kingdom Come) Ross is JUST the sort of thing to send my nerdometer off, so, yeah…I’m in.

DC Comics

Ame-Comi Girls #4 – Um…hey pencillers?  Look, I love a sexy girl in comics as much as the next guy, but you HAVE to think about your anatomy!  Take Power Girl’s chest window here, for example.  Where the hell are her nipples supposed to be???  If you can’t think about how a woman’s anatomy is supposed to exist then you’re just drawing breasts for their own sake.  And that’s very, very disturbing.

Superboy #16/Annual #1 – Let’s just get this straight.  SuperMAN is too cool to wear tights, so he’s rockin’ Levi’s, but SuperBOY has to show his junk off in spandex.  Unfair.

Superman vs Shazam – In further proof that DC has no singular vision of which version of their characters they want to represent, this collection goes back to PRE-Crisis.  Personally, I’ve never understood why Captain Marvel and Superman would ever wind up in a fight with each other.

Dynamic Forces

Masks #3 – I’m pretty excited about the pulp hero team-up Chris (Superman) Roberson is putting out, and this issue adds public domain heroes like Green Lama and Black Terror into the mix.  Will it all make sense or will it be too much of a good thing?  We’ll find out in 3 months.

Dynamite Entertainment

I just mention them because there are a TON of exceptionally expensive signed books in here.  Like Star Trek: TNG/Doctor Who #8 for $30 and Amazing Spider-Man #700 for $400.  Damn!

IDW

Mars Attacks every damn thing in January.  And while some of the covers should be cool, like Berke Breathed’s Opus or Dave Sim’s Cerebus, I just can’t figure out why in the world this is getting published.

Image Comics

Invincible #100 – Say what you will about Invincible — and there have been some pretty valid criticisms — these days it’s pretty remarkable for ANY comic to reach 100 issues, much less an indie title, so congratulations to Robert Kirkman and Ryan Ottley.

KaBOOM!

Adventure Time: Fionna & Cake #1 – Boom!’s kids line sure is making the most of it’s Adventure Time license with this mini-series about the gender-swapped characters.  But I’m at least going to check out the first issue, written by character creator and TV series artist Natasha Allegri.

Marvel Comics

Avengers vs Thanos TPB – All negativity aside, I’m going to have to buy this collection of all Thanos’ appearances in the 70’s.  Every issue is on my pull list but they are REALLY pricey, even for reading copies.  So while the single issues will stay on my pull list, at least I have a way to read the stories.  Well, once I find it on sale, because the $35 cover price is nuts.

Superior Spider-Man #1 – I’m inclined to think Marvel’s shaking up their Spidey status quo for no good reason — and maybe they are — but Dan Slott has been an excellent Spider-Man writer so I’m inclined to give him a little leeway here.  As they say in Law and Order, “I’ll allow it, but I want to see where you’re going with this counselor.”

Thor Movie Adaptation #1 – Just in time to capitalize on the hit 2011 movie!

Thunderbolts #3 – Wait, there are still Thunderbolts AND Dark Avengers?  Wait, RED Leader?  Just in case you wondered at which point I fell out, this is it.  I mean, it’s all just making a little too much sense.  Marvel and DC are basically just licensed-character generating machines at this point, but no creator with a brain wants to hand over their original creations to the corporate machine, so they just keep coming up with variations on a theme.

Uncanny X-Force #1 – I think anyone referring to “fan-favorite Puck” MIGHT be buying into the hype a bit too much.  That’s like reading only this blog and coming up with “fan-favorite Aquaman”.  In unrelated news: there are TWO X-Forces now???

NBM

Nancy Drew and the Clue Crew Volume 1 – It’s like they consulted Michael Kupperman on this cover.  Where is that eye coming from???

Shh! Productions

The Disturbingly Perverted Diary of Doktormentor: Jail Babe Surgeon Volume 1 – Thank god this is coming out, because there’s no Girls and Corpses this month!  And oh hey, there’s a signed DVD edition for only $40!  But seriously, this is messed up.

Toys

Gingerdead Man 1/1-Scale Replica –  This is weird and all, but my main question is for Matt: how the hell did we miss THIS gem?!?!?!

Orders must be in to your LCS by November 18, 2012 and are scheduled to arrive in January.

This Week’s Comics

Each week I eagerly pull up Diamond’s new releases page, and more and more frequently I’m frustrated by how little I’m picking up.  Again, I’m looking for good new titles, particularly for indie presses. Valiant Comics can’t carry me on their own!

  • ADVENTURE TIME #9
  • BRAVEST WARRIORS #1 – A new superhero title by Adventure Time creator Pendleton Ward, it’s probably a GOOD strategic move that it comes out the same week as Adventure Time’s book.  I imagine the target audience is probably a bit less regular in their trips to the comic shop so it’s good cross promotion.
  • FF #23 – Honestly?  At this point I’m so far behind on BOTH Fantastic Four titles I have no idea how to get caught up — that is, in what order to read them to get the whole thing.
  • GHOST #1 – I went ahead and snagged Ghost #0, but it didn’t really grab me so I’m going to let this one go.  It certainly wasn’t an origin — maybe the first part of one — and there was little forward momentum, so that was a wasted opportunity by Dark Horse.

On an unrelated note, this marks my 500th post here at Ye Olde L.E.M.U.R. Comics Blog, and it’s been my privilege to serve you every week.  That’s it for this week.  What looks good to you?