Thursday, January 10, 2008

Amazing Spider-Man #546 Review

I have probably bought about three non-Ultimate universe Spider-Man comics in the past 10 years (although I do own that Spider-Man DVD comic collection thing, which I haven't looked at hardly at all--someday I'll read every issue of Amazing Spider-Man in order, so I, too, can be pissed when Pete and MJ get married, and pissed when they get unmarried).

I was really tempted to buy Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man when that launched, but before the first issue hit the stands, I read that the series would soon crossover as part of "The Other" storyline, and that sounded like bad news (and I assume I was right--didn't One More Day erase anything "Other" related?). Honestly, Ultimate Spider-Man has been the only Spidey comic I've been reading regularly, since, probably Erik Larsen took over for Todd McFarlane on Amazing, and that was 15 years ago. I've written a bit about why I like Ultimate Spider-Man, and I guess this whole One More Day/Brand New Day stuff is intended for readers like me.

I don't necessarily have a problem with the Peter/MJ marriage. I thought Matt Fraction's annual from last year was a great defense of their relationship, and gave direction on how it could be written well. Yet, I've certainly gravitated toward the non-married Spider-Man stories, even though I hadn't thought of it that way. I wasn't thinking, "Yes! ULTIMATE Spider-Man, because I totally don't want to read about a married dude. That's lame." In fact, I would love to read well-written comics about married dudes. I'm a happily married dude, and I have been for 10 years, and as much as I love the coming-of-age stuff in a series like Blue Beetle, a nice, mature married couple could make for great stories too. They usually don't though, or they haven't in the past. Other than Ralph and Sue Dinby (and look what was done to THEM), what other married couples in comics have worked? I don't even think Reed and Sue work, completely, as a married couple. Clark Kent and Lois Lane don't become more interesting as a married couple. Not that they're less interesting, but it's just kind of a wash. Because the fact is that drama is built on conflict, and a happily married couple is not the foundation of great drama. I'm not talking just about comics here--I'm talking any sort of dramatic narrative. Look at Nora and Torvald Helmer; look at Anna and Alexei Karenin; look at Susan Alexander and Charles Foster Kane. Great drama often derives from UNHAPPY marriages, but you don't want your super-heroes being jackasses to their wives, and you don't want their wives throwing themselves under trains. So, Spider-Man is stuck with Mephisto.

I didn't read One More Day, I probably never will. I'm about 10% curious, but not enough to pay for the issues or the trades. But, I, like everyone else, knows what happened. I've seen the highlights everywhere. And I do have a MAJOR issue with Peter Parker willingly giving up his marriage and all knowledge of the marriage to save his elderly aunt. No happily married person would ever do that. It's just inconsistent with the character--inconsistent drama. It's bad writing.

BUT, goddamn if Quesada's plan hasn't worked. I am a perfect example. By removing the marriage AND (and this is a key AND) bringing on some excellent creative teams to basically relauch Amazing Spider-Man, I'm now buying it, and based on what I saw in the first issue of Brand New Day, I intend to buy it regularly for a while. Quesada's evil, inconsistent plan has suckered me into becoming a regular reader, and that was clearly his goal. Well, not to sucker me, personally, but all of the clones of me running around, not buying Amazing.

I didn't want to buy it, you know. I actually didn't buy it on Wednesday. I intentionally avoided it, picked up 15 other comics, and refused to get Amazing Spider-Man #546. I was too annoyed at what I had read about the way they got rid of the marriage and the stupid mind-wipe plot which is no different that House of M, except "permanent." Primarily, though, I am making a concerted effort to cut back on weekly purchases, and spend more money on trades and hardcovers. So, I figured I would wait and maybe, MAYBE get the Dan Slott/Steve McNiven arc in trade paperback.

But as I read my comics Wednesday night, I kept thinking about that Spider-Man issue. Slott and McNiven are always worth a look, I thought to myself. Why didn't I pick it up? And then, I was listening to some podcasts on the way to work, some stuff I'd downloaded a day or two before, and on Fanboy Radio, Dan Slott spends 45 minutes geeking out about Brand New Day, and his enthusiasm makes me even more impatient.

How can you wait for the trade, people?!?! You are stronger than I.

Because on my way home Thursday, I had to swing by the comic shop and buy Amazing Spider-Man #546. And I'm glad I did.

I think it's still too close to One More Day to be a great comic, and the stuff about Peter's age is weird. Slott goes overboard trying to establish that he's a young guy, even though he's gotta be early 30s at least, based on any sort of "established" continuity, such as it is. But, Pete keeps saying, "hey, I'm young. I'm hip. I've got my cellphone and my iPod." It's more than a bit awkward.

YET, the art is fantastic. The fact that Spider-Man has some serious struggles to deal with, financial, personal, super-villainy--that's all great. And I'm going to give Brand New Day a chance to make me enjoy Spider-Man in the Marvel universe. It's going to take some getting used to, even for a guy who hadn't been reading the series in years, but I think Slott, Wells, Guggenheim, and (sigh) Gale can make Spider-Man worth reading again. The artists scheduled to work on the series helps, as does the three-times a month release plan, but for me, it's all about the potential for interesting stories, and damn it, this Brand New Day stuff is interesting. I'm curious to see where it goes.

(The back-up stories in Amazing Spider-Man #546, which give a taste of the rest of the writing team, are far weaker than the main story. Bob Gale's short is especially cringe-worthy, and he looks to be the real weak link in keeping me as a long-term reader. I just think he's a poor comic book writer, based on this little story, and the work he did on Daredevil. He's got that Steve Gerber kind of weird, street-level grunginess going on, but without any ideas behind it. I really hope Gale proves me wrong when he writes his full arc.)


Chad Nevett said...

I won't be buying any of the new Amazing Spider-Man issues. Not because of OMD, but because it just doesn't interest me. None of the writers do anything for me and I rarely buy books for the art (although, MicNiven's art bugs the crap out of me with its damn plastic people). Nothing about it makes me feel compelled to pick it up. Especially when nearly every review I've seen points to the fact that this issue would fit perfectly into Essential Spider-Man Vol. 7--why not just go out and buy that instead, you know?

Actually, that's something that really bothers me: Joe Quesada has said a few times that one of the reasons for this little retcon/reboot is to allow new generations of readers to experience a single Spider-Man, which was a great argument before collections became so widespread. There's so much material from that period in print now that I can't see that as a valid argument. Same for keeping characters alive just for the sake of future generations getting to see Batman fight the Joker... what's the point when nine times out of ten, the new story sucks and the truly great stories can still be read? Of course, there are other good reasons for doing these things, I just can't stand that "future generations" argument, because it's bullshit--unless you mean future generations of creators get to tell the story they've wanted to since they were kids, which always works out great, no?

But, really, McNiven's art... why is everyone made of plastic?

Marc Caputo said...

Timothy, I was in the same place you are until earlier this week. I, too, give all my Spidey-love to USM because it captures the pure, true essence of the character. And I was prepared to jump in to "Brand New Day".

Until I read some of the crap they're giving as explanations.

I'll mail you the "One More Day" issues - no one should have to pay for that. But I wouldn't be as pissed if they didn't do some stupid stuff. Essentially, they made alot of mistakes with the retcon. Mistakes that I think will make this reboot MORE difficult to read, especially in the initial issues.

I think the creative teams are great, with the exception of Gale, as well. I, too, read those Daredevils - no one, including Marvel's reprint department, think anything of them. They're the only pages of DD, v.2 that aren't collected. But I love BTTF like nothing else, so I'm open. Structurally, this is a radical paradigm and I'm wishing them good luck getting it off the ground.

BUT - everything with Spider-Man over the last few years has been, "This will change the wall-crawler forever!" and "open up brand-new storytelling possibilities." Yeah, well, they haven't. The Other, the unmasking - all canceled without ever trying to explore its possibilities because they were rushing to the next big thing.

If after a year, they're still following this line of progression, I'll gladly buy the HC, the tpbs, whatever. But they've burned me badly. And a great deal of people feel the same. Marvel's come a long way this year of regaining my faith (and DC's done almost as much to lose it), but not with this one. I'll continue to keep tabs, but for now, it'll be easy to trade-wait.

Timothy Callahan said...

Chad: I'm not defending the editorial decision of One More Day/Brand New Day, but I do think that there's something gained, dramatically, by this new status quo. And, as for McNiven, you don't like plastic superheroes? Doesn't every kid dream about their action figures coming alive???

Marc: I think the big difference here is Steve Wacker. Plus, I haven't been burned by Spider-Man in the past because I assumed they were lying the other times. This time I think they mean it.

Marc Caputo said...

And I hope they DO carry out an intended plan of action for more than ...well, more than they have in the past.

I dig McMiven's work, too. Artwise, they're all solid, but all differently specialized, if you can follow that. All of the artists (except Bachalo) have done Spider-Man at length before, so that's good. But I'm most excited to see Bachalo's work. On a quick look-see, I might break my wait-a-year plan. I also hope that the arcs play to the strengths of both the writer AND artist.

Chad Nevett said...

I think there's something that can be gained as well--it's just that everything I've seen/read/heard suggests that they're more interested in recreating a status quo from 30 years ago than actually pushing forward. I hope that's a wrong way to look at it and it somehow turns around to be some fantastic comics, but... not holding my breath either.

Cuzzino said...

Hey there Tim.

I don't know, maybe it's because I HAVE been reading ASM on a regular basis, but I thought this was horrid. Nothing wrong with the STORY per se, but the foundation for all this is so wrong-headed that it just undermines everything about it. I wrote a really long essay about why I despise this "Brand New Day" thing here:

feel free to check it out... I think it pretty much explains why I'm fed up with Spider-Man. I had never considered dropping ASM in all my years... not during the clone saga, not the other, not anything. BUT THIS... I'm really considering dropping the title. And if you knew me, you'd know that's no small feat...

marcwrz said...

Actually I've been buying Spidey on and off for the past few years, Ult Spidey beig consistent...and Spider-Girl actually.

OMD was quite possibly one of the most painful things to read in years...everyone was so out of character and terrible and it compltely was a slap in the face to the character of Aunt May who months earlier whwile in her coma is psychically connected to Peter by Madame Web...and SHE TELLS HIM TO LER HER GO.

Peter Parker as by editorial edict is a painfully immature and selfish child.

So yes, Dan Slott on Spidey intrigues me..but Brand New Day...nope, not happening, far as I'm concerned, One More Day, My Last Day.

So mainstream spidey, unless you're in New Avengers from now till whenever...we're done.

How ironic that Bendis writes a 15 year old Peter Parker that is 1000 times more mature than the mid 20s one?