The TW Review – If Spider-man could finally get his shit together …

I feel the sudden urge to write random, short reviews of new(ish) comic books.

When in all reality there exists a more than sufficient amount of review material on the weekly paper chase of the direct market, I in this instance lack concern and will contribute. Mark me up with the majority of comic book bloggery! I shall write quick hit segments that few will read and fewer will remember beyond this day of “publishing.”

This past week consisted of my mission to catch up on the monthly fodder, and I feel I should produce at least something with the probably lack luster thoughts and opinions I now possess.

So, yeah, here’s some bullshit I spent a night typing …

The Amazing Spider-man #666 – Spider-Island Prologue
Writer: Dan “the excited” Slott, Artists: Stefano Caselli, Marte Gracia, Joe Caramagna

I’m a huge (not literally) Spider-man fan, in case you didn’t know. This particular fictional figure really was my first point of interest in comics. As we all begin, we’re in it for the 2-D gladiators and their excursions.  Spider-man was and still remains my dude, and there’s been plenty of, I hate to say “discussion” but I guess, discussion on the character lately – there’s a film reboot on the way and Glenn Beck suddenly gives a fuck what color the kid from Queens is. My own personal spider-sense tingles from all this talk and a new found enthusiasm for the web head boils inside me. The time is now. Let’s see what Peter Parker’s up to these days in his pulpy home of  ‘The Amazing Spider-man.’

Dan Slott writes the exact kind of comics I yearn to stay away from. Stupid recesses on why such fictional things are cool, along with useless plot updates, seem to be this scribes money making characteristic. Every time I’ve read his Spider-man, the book devolves into some mess of, “hey, let’s see what The Thing is up to! You know why? Cause Spider-man KNOWS The Thing!”.  Just stupid shit like that. He’s the type of writer who invests a little too much in the fictional world he’s left to curate a.k.a. the purest example of a fan writer. This results in a constant parade of subplot catch up.

I’m sure the dude really is nice and all sorts of fun to drink with and I totally understand the need to incorporate the supporting cast in a title such as ‘The Amazing Spider-man,’ but Jesus, God I don’t give a fuck what the reason is for Peter’s costume change between his time with the new found Future Foundation and The Avengers. I’m sure that was a run on sentence, but it’s how I going to express the point.

OK, now that I’m finished with my poor attempt at sounding like Tucker Stone, who’s a great writer by the way, let me break down and review the issue how I normally would.

The first few pages satisfy me, surprisingly. One of my biggest beefs  as a “fan” of the Spider-man character lays in Marvel’s inability to allow Peter Parker to grow up. His story, along with the core of the Spider-concept, stands most potent in the years of youth. Ditko and Lee engineered this hormonal mess of hero as a Shakespearean observation, and his saga works throughout all time as well as in the culture change and teenage uprising of the 1960s. Youth is important to the character, but I guess the fanboy connection I possess wants me to witness a changing or aging Peter Parker. I carry this urge to watch a fictional being learn and grow as if he were real rather than living a trap of repetition. Peter’s always fucking up, losing his job, not getting laid, or letting someone die. He so lacks efficiency. Again, the core, I know, but you can only read so many stories about a fuck up. You know why? Because at some point you learn this dude is always going to fuck up, and that grows so old so fast. I’d rather not read.

Slott progresses Peter Parker for a few pages, though. Right in this issue.  Peter’s recent deal is that he’s sitting comfortably with a new, fancy science research job, the gig he’s always wanted since implied way back when in 1963. Along with the gig, Parker keeps the company of a new lady friend, acts as a member of two super-teams, and kicks ass as a solo crime fighter.  This Peter Parker represents the efficient, responsible character that Marvel has potential to publish. Granted, the conflict of fucking up is lost, but maybe a responsible, non-fuck up Spider-man would encourage a little more creativity in the House of Ideas? It could pull Peter Parker in a new, interesting direction. And, for a few pages, that direction wafts hopefully before my beady, spider-loving eyes until Dan Slott progresses to suddenly make me not want such a thing.

We the readers understand perfectly well that Spider-man jams efficient, but Slott feels the need to shove it down our throats. The expected subplot, continuity parade storms on by with Slott leading the damn thing as King Same-and-Stuck. The pages flip on by. J. Jonah Jameson shouts his concern and damns the arachnid. Norah Winters, cast member and friend of Peter’s, has a douche bag boyfriend who’s secretly a villain with a goblin persuasion. Aunt May still lives. Flash “the venom” Thomspon stops by because he lives in New York. Betty Brant uses a cell phone. The Avengers play cards only after the Future Foundation hit the wardrobe. Spider-man fights in a dojo for his daily workout.

Slott literally shows us every fucking thing Peter Parker now does as well as showing us everything his cast does. And he doesn’t just show us, he takes an entire issue to show us these bland explanations continuity nerds eat up. God help me.

The issue eventually finds an end where it manages to introduce this “event” known as Spider-Island. The idea? The Jackal, spider-villain known for the infamous “Clone Saga,” desires to clone once more but this time create an entire “island of spiders!” Honestly, I’m not sure how I feel about this concept. Part of me says, “repetitive” and “why care,” but I hate to blow off a concept before it’s really used. I believe there’s potential in an “island of spiders.” We will see, I suppose.

The artwork is wonderful, though. Caselli captures a great sense of motion in this issue. Images feel kinetic, and Spider-man appears truly super as he swings across the landscape. The line work appears clean and distinct, and the figures drawn convey a real sense of acting. Along with the fresh colors provided by Gracia, I found the visual aspect of this issue quite satisfying.

Will I continue with Spider-Island? I must enjoy torture, because I might. Might. I’m still interested in how this concept finds use by the creative team, and I am experiencing a new found interest in Spider-man. So, yeah, I’ll go hang out with the only dude crying over the demise of Wizard, and we’ll discuss how much we hate these hero comics and how they ignore what want even though we continue to purchase them.

Spider-Island Part 2 will, most likely, be mine.

Batman: Knight of Vengeance #2
Writer: Brian Azzarello, Artists: Eduardo Risso, Patricia Mulvihill, and some dude named Robbins

Now I can type with a positive tap.

Azzarello and Risso impressed me with 100 Bullets by not only its striking narrative but its master craft. That comic book, ladies and gentlemen, hits every fucking note, and it exemplifies a collaboration where both sides truly contribute to the world building. Azzarello brought the language and tone while Risso defined the style and flow. The case remains the same on this Batman comic that, I have to keep telling myself, is an event tie-in.

Most artists portray some sort of style, and that style usually manages to label that artist’s drawings. Like, you know, John Romita Jr’s New York City stands clearly distinct from Alex Maleev’s New York City. Each artist, by way of style, possesses their own and belongs to their own artistic sphere. Risso really pulls that idea to another level where his style not just stands for “Eduardo Risso” but rather a “Risso Universe.” I get the feeling that Risso’s drawings all exist on the same plane. Not many artists communicate this idea to me. Plenty of artists have distinct styles and define looks of certain objects or figures, but only Risso strings his depictions across one common field of existence. How he does this, I could honestly make no case. Maybe it has something to do with his attention to style, whether it be people’s dress or the styling of his settings, but digging into art that far lays beyond me. Simply said, I can’t help but wander into this comic and feel right back at home in the world of 100 Bullets.

Call me stupid, but that’s how I connect to this comic. It makes sense to me, though. 100 Bullets encourages you to wonder what lies beyond its gutters, and in my wondering I stumble upon an alternate version of Gotham City.

I love how Azzarello, when on his game, tells his stories. While most comic scribes today worry about sufficient word count, Azzarello comes off as a minimalist. I mean, flipping through this issue, I guess there are the standard number of word balloons, but the content of said word balloons express far from standard.  His dialogue acts the opposite of most comic dialogue. It’s not slow or exposition influenced but rather comes off as self-existent. What the fuck does that mean? OK, most dialogue feels like its meant to be read, like somehow the dialogue itself is self-aware and knows its part of a story. Azzarello’s dialogue makes the reader feel like he or she is a true fly on the wall. The characters know what’s what, and that’s all that matters as they act out their parts. As a reader, you truly watch and piece the story together by what you see and “hear” rather than being fed everything.

A grand example of such writing resides in Azzarello’s characterization of one Thomas Wayne. Not once have we witnessed a flash back nor has Wayne directly addressed us, but from observing character interactions and the simple fact of a Bat costume we understand Thomas Wayne as an angry old man with family issues and strong memories of failure. And it’s all we need.

For its premise of alternate Earth Batman, Azzarello and Risso knock it out the park. It remains unfinished and could lose steam, but the team has gone above and beyond. Their Gotham sits clearly distinct along with it inhabitants. The comic feels more like a goddamn Elseworlds than some event tie-in. Oh, and with the addition of this issue’s cliffhanger, I can safely say I actually feel the fear and conflict of this story. Something feels at stake, and it’s refreshing for a DC cape comic.

Next: Another Batman comic and a character everyone loathes. 

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