People die. It happens. But why can legacies only be passed along after death? The old hero dies and a new one rises to take their place. It happens all the time, but what’s wrong with doing it a little differently? Why can’t the old hero just move on? Super-heroics is a dangerous business and people will ultimately die, but is it impossible to simply retire, to live? How does killing the hero do anything but hurt the franchise?
Barry Allen died so that Wally West could become the Flash, Ted Kord was murdered and Jaime Reyes replaced him as Blue Beetle, (almost) every single character ever named Manhunter was killed so that Kate Spencer could step up to be the brand new Manhunter. This goes beyond just legacy characters too. It seems that in order to introduce a new concept, you must first destroy an old one. Ed Brubaker brought Bucky back from the dead as the Winter Soldier, but in the process he kills off Jack Monroe, the hero known as Nomad. Obviously, not many people cared one way or the other about Nomad, but now that character is off the board forever (I highly doubt anyone will be attempting to resurrect him, ever). Whatever potential he may have had in the future is now gone. Scott Lang, the second Ant-Man was brought back to life during Avengers: The Children’s Crusade, but then his daughter, Stature, and Vision are killed in the same series. Creators often talk about world building, but too often the elimination of characters are used to launch that idea of world building at the reader. It seems that in order to build you must first destroy.
Dan Slott’s series-ending Amazing Spider-Man #700 is really two superhero stories in one: the death of a superhero and the origin story of another. From the time I discovered the ending of this story in the spoiler leak several days ago, to actually sitting down to read the issue, I’ve been trying to piece together what exactly frustrates me so much about this storyline. Is it that Peter Parker dies a horrible death? Actually, no. Superhero deaths are nothing new, and with the comic book industry’s illustrious history of retconning and bringing characters back to life, I imagine we haven’t seen the last of Peter Parker. Not to mention, superhero death stories can be genuine works of art. It wasn’t so simple as just being an irate fan who doesn’t want to see his childhood hero’s demise. So why did this disappoint me so much? After all, it is just a comic book. These aren’t real people. They’re characters in a story. But no. It is more than just a story. There is a philosophy in every comic book. People don’t read comics merely for the fireworks of two emotionally damaged people in leotards beating the hell out of each other. No, we read comics for what the stories tell us about ourselves and the world around us. And my problem with Amazing Spider-Man #700 is that in attempting to show how a villain might be redeemed and rise to the challenge of heroism, instead, Slott has written an origin story which thoroughly misunderstands what makes a hero.
In the interest of full disclosure, I’ll say at the outset that I’ve never liked Superman outside of the first two Christopher Reeve movies. At various times in my life, I’ve tested the Superman waters again, both on paper and film, and have been disappointed. My problem has generally been that you can’t relate to him. He’s perfect, really. If you’re a human villain trying to defeat Superman, you have to either find some kryptonite or become a magician (or realtor, apparently.) Otherwise, you have to be a super powerful alien or an alien robot. When someone pulls a gun on Superman, we yawn. Also, my impression of Clark Kent was that he’s a bit of a wiener. That’s mostly an act, because Superman (Kal-El) is quite confident and fearless. But the fact that either we see Clark as a fuddy-duddy weakling or Superman as an all-powerful half-god exemplar of interstellar perfection, there’s not much to relate to. Also, his method of hiding the fact that he’s Superman (thick-rimmed glasses) is stupid. The explanation I once received that he actually hides his identity by some kind of mind control (on everybody!?) is stupider.
Let’s face it. The average, everyday comic is not much unlike a soap opera. Drama unfolds, bizarre elements are thrown in and the stories continue on in a never ending serialization. Of course, comics have the potential to be so much better, and they have been, but they’re normally the same. People even make fun of them for the same things. In soap operas everyone has an evil twin, people fight over who gave birth to what baby, everyone has amnesia, and people come back from the dead.
These gimmicks are trademarks to the soap opera genre and these gimmicks are what keep the general population from seeing them as anything other than a joke. In comics, people are cloned, babies come in and out of continuity, there’s amnesia and comas, and people come back from the dead. Those are the gimmicks that make many people think comic books are a joke.
Spider-Man doesn’t help that image. Spider-Man is a gimmick. Not Spider-Man himself, but the stories he appears in. Think about the most well known Spider-Man stories in the last 20 years. The ones that got either a lot of attention from the media, or just stick out like sore thumbs in the ongoing story of Peter Parker. There was “the Clone Saga”, where Peter was cloned and a new character, Ben Reilly took his place for a time. That went on for several years during the ’90s. Then a few years later, with the release of Spider-Man in theaters, there was “The Other”, where Peter Parker was turned into a giant spider, died, and gave birth to himself just so he’d have organic web shooters like in the movie.
If you’re a fan of comic books and you use the internet, which I think is likely given that you’re reading a comic book blog right now, you’ve probably already seen that the ending of Amazing Spider-Man #700 was leaked today and anyone who has seen the spoiler now knows who becomes the Superior Spider-Man, a plot point which has been shrouded in secrecy for months now.
Again, SPOILERS AHEAD!
If you’re curious, if you don’t care about spoilers, or if, like me, you are so fed up with Dan Slott and his shitty shitty oh so shitty Amazing Spider-Man stories and don’t care anymore, here is the link.
Of course, since this is a spoiler preceding even the release of advance copies, either it’s fake or some sneaky intern at Marvel (or Dan Slott, for all we know, given his track record of fucking with readers) took pictures of the actual book and posted it on 4chan. Now, I am pretty confident this is real, since I saw on Dan Slott’s Facebook page today that he wrote a post saying that ASM 700 had leaked and everyone should be careful if they don’t want it ruined for them. Plus, the leak isn’t just a plot description; there are actual pictures there, and the images are clearly Humberto Ramos’s penciling.
I finally saw Avengers and I very much enjoyed it. But, it took me a while to realize what the movie’s biggest flaw was, the one thing that could have made everything else go away and allow me to thoroughly enjoy the movie. I did enjoy it, but at the same time, I didn’t. That one thing was emotion. Avengers lacked a compelling amount of emotion to get me to care about these characters, beyond the fact that they’re Captain America and Thor. A movie is a movie and you need empathy, and a sign of emotion would have solved that.
Most of the movie felt like actors who were acting. Literally. The scene where Black Widow goes down to Loki to make a deal in order to save Hawkeye could have been a great scene. She feels a certain bond with him and will do whatever it takes to save him. Whether it’s love or a sense of honor you can tell she has her own priorities and her own convictions. Just when you get the sense that we’re peeking into who she really is, when Loki explains how he’s going to kill the two of them and she begins to cry, it all turns out to be a ruse. There are no tears, no emotion, no feelings. You’re supposed to feel like it was clever, but for me it felt like we were cheated out of a moment to connect with someone, even if we didn’t agree with her logic or methods.
The March solicitations for DC Comics have been released. Check it out. Here are my thoughts about what we’ve been shown this month.
1. Reintroductions. Several titles for the month of March focus on the reintroduction and reinterpretation of old characters from the pre-New 52 era. Some of the seem to be All New All Different and other look to be about the same. Still, they say they’re brand new, so maybe we’re still missing something.
The H.I.V.E. has traditionally been an enemy of the Teen Titans, however it appears to be focusing on Metropolis and therefore will come to blows with Superman. The H.I.V.E. has been subject to several changes to its core concept over the many years. It was originally a group of unnamed villains brought together to fight the Teen Titans, then it became a much bigger organization, until finally being taken over by the Queen Bee and becoming her actual ‘hive’. Time will tell how the group will be portrayed here. It could be something completely new.
Zealot will be joining Stormwatch in issue #18 and she appears to be creating problems for the group’s dynamic duo of Apollo and Midnighter. Zealot is a Kherubim, an alien race that has been at war with the Daemonites for thousands of years. If the conflict between these two races is still canon I think it’s likely that DC is building up to the introduction of the Wildcats. Grifter is now without a title and now that Spartan and possibly something to do with Mr. Majestic are being introduced in February, I think once Zealot plays her part in Stormwatch she could be showing up elsewhere.