Spider-Man: Fever is quite the adventure. Brendan McCarthy pulls double duty and brings Spider-Man into the world of spider magic. According to McCarthy the book is an homage to Steve Ditko’s Doctor Strange stories from the 60’s, and boy is this book trippy. Spider-Man’s soul is abducted by a spider-demon who brings him to the ancient Webwaze, a dimension that all spiders call home. Doctor Strange goes in after him and it gets weird. Bipedal talking dogs, an aborigine with inter-dimensional walking shoes, a fly that used to be a man. Also, Doctor Strange rides along a river through space in a duck boat. That happens.
Spider-Man is also in this comic book! The King of the spiders wants to eat Spider-Man so he sends him off to the insect realm to prove whether or not he is a spider or a man. McCarthy explores the dual identity of Spider-Man as not just Peter Parker and Spider-Man, but as human and spider. In recent years there have been attempts to move Spider-Man’s origins towards something more to do with magic than science. We meet the spider who bit Peter all those years ago and discover its motives. It sought out Peter before and now it attempts to control him. Peter must decide if he is a man, free to make his own decisions, or a spider, with his destiny seemingly already decided.
Dark Horse’s licensing contract for Star Wars comics seems to be ending in 2015. Now that Disney owns Lucasfilm and Marvel Comics, it only makes sense that Disney would want Marvel to publish Star Wars comic books. 2015 sounds like it’s going to be the year of Star Wars, with Episode 7 due in theaters, but what about Dark Horse Comics? Star Wars comics have been a Dark Horse staple for twenty years and now they’ll have to find another way to make up for the business they’ll be losing in two years. Thankfully, their March solicitations prove that they have the ability to survive.
1. Hellboy. People love Hellboy. I love Hellboy. You’ve seen Hellboy, but you should probably also read Hellboy too because it’s a lot of fun! Just this month alone has four issues from the Hellboy universe. Hellboy’s journey through hell continues in Hellboy in Hell, while the B.P.R.D. has two titles out that month. An agent fights vampires in B.P.R.D.: Vampire, as a follow up to the 1948 mini-series and the Hell on Earth saga continues with the now ongoing series B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth #105. Sledgehammer 44 #1 introduces the Iron Man of the Hellboy universe, as a man in armor fights Nazis in France during World War II.
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.
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 came to Daredevil: End of Days reluctantly. I remember standing in my local comic book store, turning to the now infamous two-page spread in the beginning of the comic, feeling disgusted and angry, putting the comic back and thinking, “Fuck this.” As a devout Daredevil fan, Matt Murdock being murdered in the street by his nemesis, with his own baton, in such a gruesome fashion, seemed ignoble and unworthy. I felt betrayed. But the more I heard people talking about how brilliant it was, I decided I had dismissed it without knowing enough about it. So I gave it a second chance.
Second impressions are a hell of a thing. It’s quite possible that End of Days is a masterpiece in the making. It transcends the conventions and assumptions of comic books and what they can accomplish. This issue achieves a level of complexity, subtext, and characterization normally reserved for novels. And I mean classic novels, like The Sound and the Fury or To the Lighthouse. This comic is so much more than your standard “death of a superhero” story, which was my initial, uninformed opinion of it. No, this comic is a nuanced, subtle examination of “The Hero” archetype, the merging of news and entertainment, voyeurism, schadenfreude, the cheapening of any sense of justice in society, and the untenable dependence between hero and villain. In fact, there are probably layers of this story that I won’t even notice until I reread it multiple times.
It has been nearly ten years since Fox released the poorly-received Ben Affleck vehicle Daredevil to theaters. Though much of the criticism of that film was justified, it was certainly exaggerated. Yes, it was far from perfect, but much of the hostility about that film had more to do with Bennifer “Gigli” Affleck’s shaky career and tabloid popularity at the time, and less to do with the actual quality of the film. Given Affleck’s meteoric rise in the director’s chair in the last few years, if Daredevil were made with Affleck today, I doubt very much it would have been panned so harshly. It still would have received its fair share of deserved criticism, but Affleck wouldn’t have gotten a Razzie for it. Daredevil definitely had its problems, but many of those were remedied in the 2004 Director’s Cut version of the film. If you’re a Daredevil fan and were disappointed with the theatrical release, then you need to check out the R-rated Director’s Cut. It’s darker, more violent, and includes an interesting subplot that was entirely cut from the theatrical version. Yes, some unforgivable problems still remain, such as the atrocious soundtrack where the orchestral score would have sufficed, and the unintentionally funny fight scene in the park still made the cut. But in general, it’s a vast improvement over the original, and certainly worth two hours of your time. It’s a very fun movie, and it looks great. And frankly, I think Ben Affleck looks the part and did a good job playing it too.
This title, that you didn’t buy, is cancelled with issue #8
Creator owned comics are dead. Literally. But maybe it’s more than that. Maybe no one wants to buy anything new anymore and with that reality the industry dies a little more. New characters have always had a hard time finding an audience. Everyone wants a new #1, but no one wants to buy a comic about someone they don’t already know. On top of that, the recent trends within mainstream comics has moved towards stifling creative endeavors in favor of proven successes. All this is leading comic book creators to shy away from creating new concepts for mainstream comics, but their independent creative owned books never find the sales for success. In essence we’re being robbed of so much potential.
The sudden cancellation of a comic book NAMED Creator-Owned Heroes tells a lot about what comic book fans are looking for. A book starring characters created by the likes of Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray, Steve Niles, Phil Noto, Darwyn Cooke and others is a big deal, and yet people weren’t buying it. Sales were in the 5,000 range and they were asking for only a little bit more than that. Palmiotti and Gray have a loyal following from writing Jonah Hex and now All-Star Western, Steve Niles created 30 Days of Night and so many other things, Phil Noto is a popular cover artist at Marvel and DC, and Darwyn Cooke is the type of creator that you follow religiously. It was thought that all these creators’ fans would come together in order to support the book. Apparently not. Creator-owned concepts don’t always make it at Image Comics, but what about Marvel or DC, the companies that everyone wants to read and make the most money.
The criticisms one might hurl at Punisher MAX could be responded to with, “Well, what did you expect?” No reasonable individual is going to approach this book unless they have already steeled themselves for cranium explosions and frequent disembowelment. Not only is The Punisher arguably Marvel’s most violent antihero, but this is Punisher within the MAX imprint, which includes an “Explicit Content” warning on the covers, and prides itself on said cranium explosions. I honestly lost count of how many people in this book lost their heads to point-blank shotgun fire. I think it’s likely that most people come to Punisher MAX (and other MAX books) precisely to experience the ultra-violence, for whatever reason. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. From Robocop to death metal, ultra-violence can be an interesting, even valuable way to explore the reaches of human brutality, and its meaning and nuances. I’m still not convinced that Punisher MAX achieves that as effectively as other mediums. But there is a discernible part of me that was drawn into this book; a dark part of me that couldn’t put it down.
Story – Brian Michael Bendis
Art – Stuart Immonen
As someone who never read an X-Men title with any consistency, and as someone who always felt at a loss where to jump into this world, I am thrilled that Marvel Now! has given us newbies All-New X-Men. In this third installment of the new series, Brian Michael Bendis is in complete control of this story, and based on the perfect pace and terrific plotting and dialogue, my hopes for this book are now astronomical. The first two issues were predominantly set-up; filling in readers about Cyclops’s budding revolution with Magneto, the death of Professor X, the Phoenix Force, and Beast’s time-bending retrieval of the original X-Men from the distant past. This issue is where I feel we’re getting down to the nitty-gritty, the implications and consequences of the remarkable set-up of the first two issues.
This book is positively cinematic. The dialogue is snappy and believable and drives the story forward effectively. The characters are lush, fully-realized, and fascinating. The art is gorgeous and lucid, and the action scenes are stunning. It’s a bit disorienting to see Cyclops and Magneto on the same team, and even stranger when Magneto asks Cyclops, “What do we do now?” That’s not really a question I’d expect from Magneto, but it just goes to show how high Cyclops’s star has risen in the mutant revolution, whether you find it a just cause or not.