Monday, December 31, 2012

FB Re-Post: Why the Dying Wish Storyline Offends Me FAR Less Than One More Day Ever Did

Warning: This post has spoilers about the story arc leading up to Amazing Spider-Man #700.  If you don't want to be spoiled, then please don't read any further.  You have been warned.

In the aftermath of ASM #700, I've been hearing a lot of hate directed at the storyline, its writer Dan Slott, and the overall state of Spider-Man in general.  I've heard terms like "disrespectful," "lame," and "unfit" bandied around and lobbed like grenades in reference to the death Peter Parker endured.  A number of long-time Spider-Man fans and readers have declared they will not stick around for a Spider-Man title that doesn't include Peter Parker.  There have been unfavorable comparisons of this story to the Clone Saga and the egregious One More Day.  In other words, the reactions have been extreme, voluminous, and plenty.

As one of those long-time Spidey readers and a fan who considers the web-slinger my favorite among superheroes, I have to disagree with the large volume of negative chatter out there.  To be sure, I wasn't exactly thrilled at Peter's death, but I came away from this story far less offended than I had been by the end of One More Day (henceforth OMD).  

I've already reviewed the final issue of the series, but I didn't expand much on how this storyline, for me, bests OMD, another controversial storyline that bequeathed a huge change to the Spider-Man status quo.  I'd planned to do so as a follow-up post in this blog, but a friend's response to my review link on Facebook prompted me to write it there.  He had issues with the amount of disrespect he perceived in Peter's death,  as well as other loose plot ends, such as Octo-Spidey's (btw, PLEASE stop calling him Spock, people.  There's already a very popular character by that name in the Star Trek franchise) relationships to MJ and Aunt May.

I address those things, as well as make a direct comparison to OMD, in my re-posted response below:

We don't always get the ending we want for our heroes. I had this same debate with Alex during the whole "will Bruce die in DKR?" discussion many months ago. I think the moral victory is what becomes important in these cases, and I think that's where Peter won out in this conflict. Sometimes they have to win where they can in these kinds of situations, and I feel that's what happened.

What was important to Peter Parker at the end? Yes, getting his body back and beating Ock would have been best. An all-out sacrifice saving those he loved would have also worked. But neither of those things happened, because Octavius out-muscled and out-thought him on both fronts. Which makes sense, as they're both brilliant men who know how the other thinks.

When it became clear that neither of those things was going to happen, did Peter give up? No. At that point, it became paramount to not let Doctor Octopus run around in his body, using it to do evil as Spider-Man and Peter Parker. THAT ending would have been a huge middle finger to the character. Peter used their connection to show all of his most important memories to Octavius as Peter's life flashed before his eyes, in a sense bonding them to him, making Octavius really see things from another perspective.

Octavius, shaken and humbled, becomes a different man, and vows to carry on as best he can in Peter's name. He's still Octavius, of course--hence the "better than you ever were" moment at the end--but he's been diverted from his more sinister original intentions. He will try to be a hero. Peter wins, at least on that front, and it can be argued that's the most important one at this point.

And as for mourning, appreciation... Peter will get those things from Octavius. Not ideal, I admit, but it does work in an odd way, given everything that's gone down.

Regarding relations with MJ... well, I'm not sure how to feel about that, but it's been made clear that he's pursuing her on that front. I think it's less of a problem for me than it would have been if they were still married, but the OMD train wreck effectively nixes that. From that point to now, there's been the unspoken possibility of them getting together, but nothing solid--until, ironically, Octavius arrived. And while I get the squick factor in Octavius having sexy time with MJ, I'm thinking that this subplot is one of those tests for Superior Spidey's new character. I'm curious to see how it pans out, and really not sure what to think until then.

Regarding May... yeah. Weird. I'm pushing that out of my head. I'm sure Octavius will, too.

I think what makes this story much more palatable for me than OMD comes down to two points.

First and foremost, different and better choices were made by the hero. In OMD, Peter chooses to selfishly sacrifice his marriage to bring back his dying aunt, who by all measures should have been allowed to die. He just couldn't handle the guilt. It was one of the most un-heroic moments in the mythos, and was chiefly the result of a lack of testicles on the part of the editorial staff to tell some actually realistic Spider-Man stories in the wake of Civil War. It's what made me nerd-rage like I never have in the past.

Here, Peter doesn't take the easy way out. He fights, and never gives up despite the overwhelming situation he's in. And even when he knows he'll die, he still fights on, trying to convert Octavius into a hero. It is, in my opinion, one of the most respectful ways to have your hero handle that kind of no-win scenario. That he does convert Octavius is what makes this his final victory.

Second, this story didn't come out of left field, like OMD did. In OMD, May gets shot, Peter tries desperately to save her (which he should), and is (quite literally) magically shown there's nothing he can do to save her. All is lost, and then ALONG COMES MEPHISTO, offering a deal. It's Diablo ex Machina, with all the magic trappings thrown in to emphasize it. The editors wanted Pete and MJ's marriage dissolved, and quickly, and it plainly shows here. No respect given to that at all.

Here, this story's been building for quite some time. Clues and red herrings have abounded for the last 100 issues, from when Ock returned. If you look back to Spider Island, Ends of the Earth, etc., you can see pieces of the puzzle, and shudder at how they've been used in the most recent storyline. There was planning that went into this story, and it shows. You can not say that for OMD.

The points I made above are pretty much what I would have said in a follow-up post, and are the primary reason I urge Spider-Man readers to give Dan Slott the benefit of the doubt here.  I know Octavius in Peter Parker's body is a controversial, unnerving, and distasteful proposition.  But it's also a huge opportunity to tell some very interesting stories that you couldn't have done with Peter Parker, and Slott has been all about the interesting stories in his run on this series.

I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt here.  I think true fans of Spider-Man will be, as well.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Comic Review -- Amazing Spider-Man #698: Dying Wish prelude: Day In the Life

Okay, I needed a couple days to write this review.  The big development was a lot to absorb, and I wanted to be sure I came at this piece with a clear head.

I know most fans have read the issue by now, and while I'd love very much to talk plainly about the plot of this issue, I don't plan on spoiling anything until at least next Wednesday.  So, with that in mind, I'll launch into what I hope is a mostly spoiler-free review.

The cover is a picture of Doc Ock, on his deathbed, and truly looking like he's at death's door.  He has two words on his lips that you know are going to mean big things for the issue: "Peter Parker."  Paolo Rivera does a great job of making Octavius look both sinister and pitiful, as the condition of his body clearly shows the abuse he's endured (and, it could be argued, inflicted) over time.  What do these words mean, coming from this man, at this time?  It's a compelling hook, and grabs the reader's interest from the get-go before you even open the issue.  Excellent job here.

It is the writing of this issue that will take center stage, as things are laid out in the form of a typical slice-of-life vignette from Spidey's point of view.  He starts off web-slinging through the city in a carefree manner, moves to intercept a small-time crook robbing a business, and then glides into the non-superhero aspects of Peter Parker's life.  We see that Aunt May, Mary Jane, and Horizon Labs occupy the lion's share of Peter's time, and he moves smoothly through each of them with newfound boldness and confidence until he receives a distress call from his teammates on the Avengers.

He meets them at the Raft, a prison for super-powered inmates administered by S.H.I.E.L.D.  When he's told that Doctor Octopus is moments away from finally dying, Spider-Man asks for a private moment with him.  In the final pages and panels of the issue, they have a brief exchange that changes the entire dynamic of the story and suddenly makes for a harrowing, if not outright horrifying realization.

This is one of those stories that will send you scurrying for your back issues, re-reading and searching for clues as to where the seeds of the current plot were planted.  That's a fun treat in and of itself, but what makes this issue even more noteworthy is that it truly is well written, and would function ably as a "day in the life of" story by itself, even without the big reveal at the end.  It's fluid and versatile, moving effortlessly through the myriad touchpoints in Peter Parker's life and making each of them important without getting clogged by any particular one.  There's humor, heart, and plenty of action that would make it a worthy glimpse into the web-slinger's life.  Dan Slott has always been good with Spider-Man, and it shows here, on several levels.

I'm very happy with the artwork on this issue.  Richard Elson does a remarkable job of matching Slott's storytelling style.  The lines are clean, and convey a kinesthetic confidence that makes it easy to imagine the action in between panels.  Costumes and characters look classic yet fresh, realistic yet dynamic.  Fabela's colors succeed in making both the characters and their environments vibrant and compelling, and round out an amazing visual depiction of a memorable issue.

If you've kept abreast of what's going on and what will be happening in Spidey's universe, you knew this issue would be the start of a harrowing ride.  For me personally, that still did nothing to help me prepare emotionally for the revelation that pops up here. With the #700 finale just around the corner and the new Superior Spider-Man title coming out soon, this final arc has my full attention.  I'm sure the rest of Spidey's readers will agree.  Highly recommended.

I'll have a more spoiler-y video review/reaction next week.

Photos of my Spider-Man Costume!

I know these are about a month overdue, but this is one of the costumes I got delivered to me, the day before Halloween, and of course it's the one I chose to wear to work.  Black suit Spider-Man was well received by co-workers and the general public alike at my library, and it was great fun to wear.

It's a full-body zentai suit, for anyone curious.  I specified that the mask be removable, so I was able to take it off when needed (like whenever I was eating).  Another zipper was also put in so I could use the restroom without too much trouble.

Typing through the gloves was

interesting.  Not something you 
want to try every day though!
Strike a pose... at the library!
One thing I ended up asking myself at the end of the day was, how does Spidey make it through all that web-slinging and wall-crawling and crimefighting without any shoes on?!  Seriously, by the end of the day, my feet were not happy with me!

In any case, I can guarantee you I've got plenty of cosplay material for future cons now--not to mention, future Halloweens!

Hey, who's this dude in the
poster next to me?

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Christmas Time on All Hallows' Eve

So, I can't help but feel like the holidays have already started for me, personally, as a bit of a miracle happened today.

For those of you who've read my posts from earlier in the year, I've basically put forth two goals for this year, my comics and cosplay New Year's resolutions, if you will.  They were:

  1. Attend a comic convention outside of Houston; and
  2. Get my cosplay together!  Essentially get a couple of costumes this year, for both Halloween and cosplay purposes.
For the sake of timeliness, I won't say here what costumes I've been working on.  I will say, however, that I finally had to break down and just order them, as I'm lousy at assembling costumes, and expect I always will be.  So, I did.  In the middle of this month.

Ideally, I would have gotten them in time to wear to Wizard World Austin, which I was just at this weekend (and which I will talk about in more detail later.  In short, it was AWESOME!).  That, however, didn't happen, and I wasn't surprised about it.  I was secretly hoping, however, that they would arrive in time for Halloween.  I wasn't optimistic about it, given how late in the game I'd waited, and the likelihood that most costume companies are probably backlogged with last-minute or semi-last-minute orders like mine.

And then, score!

I got a call today from someone trying to deliver a package.  My heart virtually skipped a beat, and I went home far more excited and upbeat than I'd expected.  The package ended up being BOTH of my costumes, and with Halloween tomorrow, it was a Christmas story for the annals of Halloween.  I tried them both on, and they both fit great and look great.

Expect pics tomorrow.

In the mean time, I'm just happy. :-)

Monday, September 24, 2012

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Comic Review -- Avengers vs. X-Men #11 / Brian Michael Bendis, Olivier Coipel, Mark Morales, & Laura Martin

SPOILER WARNING!!  This review contains a BIG SPOILER about a character's fate in the Marvel Universe!  Please DON'T view if you don't know what it is and don't want it spoiled!

Overall, a good issue, though not without its flaws.  Still, it's heartening to see how this story has improved from its less than stellar beginning.  Hope you enjoy!

This video can also be found on my Youtube page!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

My Video Review Background

Wanted to add a quick picture of my video review background to this place, as it's one of the easier and more successful projects I've attempted this year.

If you saw my first video review for Hawkeye #2, I had a hastily draped sheet over a hinged set of wooden panels.  It didn't cover my viewing area nearly enough, but I figured it was better to do *something* immediately, with the resolution to work on it soon after, or I might have chickened out and not even started the reviews.  So, that's what I did.  The picture below represents the first such effort at making things a little more catchy while I talk about comics.

I'll be adding this one to my profile pic here.  And maybe on Facebook.  Enjoy!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Comic Review -- Avenging Spider-Man #11

I think I look more pixelated in this review, and I can't figure out why.  :-/  If anyone has any ideas, please let me know!  Enjoy!

This video review is also on my Youtube page!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Comic Review -- Hawkeye #2 / Matt Fraction, David Aja, and Matt Hollingsworth

Quick note: I meant that Clint thinks of Kate as his protege, NOT his mentor, despite what I say towards the end of the review!  Stupid brainlock!

This video is also on my Youtube!  Thanks for viewing!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Marvel NOW! Marvel, What?

Okay, I gotta say: little raccoon with a
minigun is pretty sweet!
Over the summer, a lot happened while I wasn't writing.  Yesterday I mentioned the recent kiss between Superman and Wonder Woman.  Superhero films The Amazing Spider-Man and The Dark Knight Rises came out and caused long lines at theaters (reviews in the near future).  Some big names at DC jumped ship from the New 52 titles.  Oh yeah, and Avengers vs. X-Men is still going on, though it's apparently due to wrap up soon (ish).

AvX has gotten better as it's gone along over the summer, and I'm both eager and apprehensive about its impending conclusion.  I want to see what comes out of such a vicious struggle between these two groups, as it at least in part stemmed from their relative insularity from one another.  Both Emma Frost and Cyclops have made comments that the Avengers have never bothered to help the X-Men with any of their major problems, and the X-Men have responded by often remaining neutral and getting minimally involved in events where the Avengers have had a large stake in matters, such as Marvel's Civil War from a few years ago.  After AvX, this appears to be getting addressed, and I'm interested to see what shape this takes and where it goes.

Yep.  "Nick Fury's" getting a "new
But what makes me more than a little nervous is the sheer number of canceled, new, and "revamped" titles coming out under this new marketing initiative, Marvel NOW!  Characterized as NOT a reboot, but instead a major shifting of the Marvel Universe due to the events from AvX, there will be new teams, new status quos, and new perspectives explored by Marvel's stalwart heroes.  Some of the noteworthy changes I've observed so far seem to be a new regular team that consists of both Avengers and X-Men; a new "version" of Nick Fury who closely resembles the Nick Fury from the Marvel Cinematic Universe (who, as it happens, resembled Ultimate Marvel's interpretation of the character); and the return of Jean Grey, who's deaths in comics have never been permanent, though often well-thought out.

It's all very exciting, but it's also confusing.  To cancel so many long-standing titles like The Fantastic Four and Invincible Iron Man and immediately do another volume of the same title certainly feels like a reboot, or at the very least an unnecessary change.  And you can't argue that this is "just another phase" Marvel's going through, like Civil War, then Secret Invasion, then Dark Reign, then Heroic Age.  To my knowledge, those arcs didn't have anywhere near this scale of canceled and new titles, nor the number of fundamental changes.  Something's going on that's clearly bigger than the storylines of previous years, but not quite as sweeping as an overall reboot like the New 52 was.

It feels like Marvel saw how successful New 52 was, and decided, "We need to do something big and sweeping!  But, er, not quite a 'reboot,' per se.  Let's see what we can come up with!"

Now (pun intended), we're still a few weeks from this, and of course, I'm going to give it a shot.  Despite the reactionary feel to it, I know to give the minds at Marvel some leeway for the most part (except for Quesada.  I will never forgive One More Day.  You better not screw this up, man!).  And it does look interesting.  I'm just feeling a little unnerved by the scale and timing of this particular change.

Bring it, Marvel.  I'm apprehensive, but still eager to see what you do with this one.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

The Kiss That Sort of Shook the Comics World

Okay.  Back in earnest.  Here we go.

So by now you've probably at least heard the news that Superman and Wonder Woman share a passionate kiss at the end of Justice League #12.  It's certainly been making the rounds in comics circles, and major news outlets are at least taking note of the fact that Superman is kissing someone other than Lois Lane.  Images of Jim Lee's cover have flooded the Internet, and the hardcore fanboys and fangirls are lining up on both sides of the "Will it last?" question.

Regardless of how one may feel about this development--which, thus far, consists of a single kiss--I find it more than a little shocking that this is such a big deal.  It's not even like it's never happened before.  Since at least the 1980s, there have been stories and indications that show how Superman and Wonder Woman could be a good match.  In the alternate reality story Kingdom Come (which, by the way, is excellent, and I can't believe I haven't reviewed yet), Superman and Wonder Woman not only get together, but she is pregnant with Superman's child.

I suppose another factor in the shock and discomfiture of this pairing has a lot to do with the fact that this is NOT Lois Lane, who we are taught to think is "The One And Only True Love" Superman is supposed to be with.  This may be true in the movies--which, despite their popularity, are not real source material--but the comics tell a very different story.  Aside from Lois Lane, Superman has had other, admittedly more minor or less timely love interests--Lana Lang admittedly being the only one who jumps readily to my mind (my knowledge of Superman trivia is not as extensive as other areas).  Superman fans, feel free to help round out the list for me.

Our cultural obsession with the "one true love" thing is something I find off-putting, particularly in a necessarily timeless (and time-bending) medium such as comics.  I don't know how many articles I've already read where people are essentially saying, "Superman and Lois WILL get together eventually.  I know it will happen.  This is just a temporary thing."  It's like they can't stand the idea of ANY OTHER romance working, simply because the Lois Lane one worked so well, and nothing else will possibly compare.

Little question:  How do you know it won't compare as well if you don't explore the other possibilities?

I've said it before and I'll say it again: superheroes are one of our modern mythologies.  Mythologies are necessarily open to reinterpretation, revision, and re-telling.  Things should happen in a more or less organic way and be respectful of the audience, but aside from that, anything goes.

And a little thing about the New 52: it's a perfect point to reinterpret it characters' lives.  We've already seen quite a few controversial changes, such as Victor Fries's motivation for becoming Mr. Freeze, Bruce Wayne possibly having a sibling (!), and so forth.  If these things are fair game, then so are relationships and who loves who.

I've also personally felt superhero relationships with "civilians" were too contrived to work.  I've never been a huge fan of Spider-Man's marriage to Mary Jane, and have usually longed for him to have companionship who could survive on the same level as he could.  This is many times as true with Superman and Lois Lane.  I mean, Spider-Man's arch nemeses are supervillains, like the Green Goblin, Doc Ock and the Kingpin.  Superman's arch enemies include Lex Luthor, Brainiac, Darkseid, other pissed-off Kryptonians... basically cosmic-scale adversaries, for the most part.  How the hell is Lois supposed to be kept safe against them?  Wonder Woman is not only able to defend herself against these threats ably, but she has her own rogues gallery to contend with.  She'll be likely saving Superman's hide once in a while.

I've never been a huge fan of either of these heroes individually, but I find myself saluting Geoff Johns and Jim Lee for this development.  Only time will tell, of course, but I think there's the potential for a lot of awesome, creative, and fresh storytelling with these two as a potential couple.  They can play on each other's level, and they are both outsiders within the Justice League.  And in this new interpretation of the DC Universe, I think this is a promising glimpse of things to come.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

I'm Back!... Well, Sort of...

Summer really took me away from my regular writing, and forced me to consider other ways of doing comic reviews and continuing to post here on a consistent basis.  In effect, I had to take a "vacation" from writing.  Well, vacation's over!

... sort of.

While I can't promise to write every day--I've been devoting some of my writing energies to my fiction, and will continue doing so--I will be experimenting with other ways to keep doing these posts, from writing to video reviews... who knows, I might even consider podcasting down the line.

At any rate, the video here is my first attempt at setting up *some* kind of background for doing comic reviews that doesn't look entirely like I'm filming in my room (which, of course, I totally am).  Have a look, feel free to laugh at my n00bishness, and most importantly, feel free to send any tips my way, so that when I next do this, things will look a little better.

It's good to be back!  Thanks for bearing with me the last couple months while I've been away!