BEST OF WEEK: AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #700—Forget the death threats (much easier to do if your name isn’t Dan Slott). Forget the complaints that this kind of thing happens all the time and that this will be undone/Peter will be back/the status quo will be resumed/etc. The only thing that matters to me is a single question: was it a good story, a compelling narrative true unto itself? In this month, in this moment, are we not entertained? I am. Slott & Ramos guide Peter & Otto through territory as yet uncharted throughout fifty years of much-more-than-monthly publication, quite an accomplishment in and of itself. [Spoilers ensue] Even knowing that this was (for now) the last issue of the main title, I couldn’t help but follow every blind alley that the narrative led us down, sure that Peter was going to find a way to pull it off in the end, that there was some twist coming that would cast the adjective “superior” in a new light. But the twist turned out to be not the arrival but the journey, in a way that is dead-bang bull’s-eye spot-on in terms of Parker characterization. The brain swap wasn’t like a clean regulated thing with borders. Inevitable bleed between the emotional states caused by the sharing of two lives’ memories in totum of course leads to personalities starting to blur a bit. After jamming through 30+ years of memories, you can’t help but be a bit affected and soak up some of what they taught the other fella, once you get a chance to process. And so it is that even in total defeat, straight-up failure, Peter Parker has his greatest victory as he manages to find a vessel for the massive Uncle Ben guilt complex that has been driving this storytelling engine since 1962, and not only the guilt but the sense of great responsibility that makes him, and now Otto Octavius, choose to do the right thing every time. This suggests a compelling character study that should be fertile ground for Slott and company to explore in the months to come. As for the question of de facto rape that arises from Mary Jane having consensual relations with a body inhabited by a foreign mind unknown to her, that it is a pretty gray area, particularly as the months go by and Otto bleeds over into Peter a little bit more. Or what if, you know, she starts to prefer this guy? He’s more of a dick now, but maybe that’s her thing? She certainly seemed in no way put off by the straight supervillain lingo that started coming out of his mouth the moment the alarm sounded. All I know is that I’m glad I don’t have to write it or get it approved by editorial. I don’t know if old Dan Slott is a David Foster Wallace fan or not, but he has certainly gone where few have to mine a particular subset of reader and given himself the howling fanboys.
JUSTICE LEAGUE #15—Well, it is a very light week, so I figured I’d check back in with these A-listers, seeing as how I jumped ship with Mr. Lee, particularly in light of Mr. Daniel’s subsequent role in the proceedings. What we have here is nothing less than a war between Atlantis and the surface world. Tidal waves smashing cities! Aquaman and Mera in Gotham! Superman and Wonder Woman wearing glasses on a date and then saving Metropolis from an aircraft carrier falling from the sky! Ivan Reis’s art looks great, he’s been tearing it up long before this last run on AQUAMAN and he’s definitely ready for the big time. And there were no false character beats, nothing that really stuck out for me in a bad way in the character interactions, but also not enough to keep me coming back. No need to run out and get AQUAMAN #15. Solid but not compelling. Still love the Gary Frank art on the SHAZAM update, still can’t stand the way Johns writes Billy as a thug, no matter how much redemption is inevitably coming down the pike.
MARA #1—Wood sets us up with a decent initial hook here and the Doyle/Bellaire art is perfect, but this feels a little skinny for a first issue. I get that it’s a whole big thing that happened at the end there, but, maybe I’m just jaded with all of the other mega-powered #1s that have been getting launched lately (I mean, surely I am, good night, it is probably not a good idea to go back and count how many #1s I’ve hit here in just the past couple of months), but not enough time is spent establishing the mundanity of a future world in which athletes are linked to millions of viewers via tele-bravo uplink channel or what not, so that when something crazy happens at the end, it’s not nearly as flattening and potentially paradigm-shifting as I feel like it should be. Am certainly still interested enough to pick up the next issue, really dig the art, but hoping the story delivers something a bit more substantive.
BLAST FROM THE PAST! SPIDER-MAN’S TANGLED WEB #15—Well, I was home for Christmas, back in my very original local & friendly neighborhood comic shop and that dear ol’ Comic Bob was helping me look for an all-ages Spidey title that might be appropriate for a two-year-old reader (something on the near side of Kraven’s Last Hunt, faithful readers!) when this gem emerged from the back-issue bins. Paul Pope writing and drawing a Spidey story! What is not to there love? I am crazy for the Pope. And this is the perfect week to happen across such random wonderfulness. The story turns out to only have Ol’ dearly departed Webhead in it for a couple pages and really be all about a teenage girl who is a big fan and whose dad ignores his job as superintendent of a run-down tenement building to build super-villain armor. Like you do in the 616. The art is typical Pope, madcap and seemingly blasted out at super-speed but with an expert director’s sense of composition, camera placement, and shot movement, along with thousands of messy details that imbue all of Pope’s pages with a palpable sense of grainy grimy reality. The story doesn’t as much end as come crashing to a halt, exactly like the man ran out of pages, and the reader is left as breathless as the protagonist with at least as many questions. Strong material from the House of Ideas released under the watchful eye of Axel Alonso, freshly poached from Vertigo and bringing that independent aesthetic to mainstream Marvel in a big way. And a killer read for two dollars!