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Subj: Amazing #546 Thoughts [SPOILERS]
Posted: Thu Jan 10, 2008 at 01:40:50 pm EST (Viewed 3 times)
Reply Subj: An Old Marvel Hero Returns In The Pages Of ASM! [SPOILERS]
Posted: Thu Jan 10, 2008 at 01:44:29 pm EST
Well, that was...okay. It's nicely paced, and Slott clearly loves writing the classic cast (albeit that this wacky playboy take on Harry may as well be a brand new character), and the pacing is impeccable. The issue has a lightness and a bounce to it that just shout "Spider-Man!"
McNiven's art is...well, it's good, but it's not superstar quality, really. It tells the story, it never gets in the way, but neither does it do anything amazing or spectacular along the way. It's lucid and unobtrusive, and basically exactly the sort of art you want on this sort of an issue -- it does its job while the writing sets up the new status quo.
The backups have sonme nice art, but they're really negligible, and read like some of the lesser annual backup tales from the 1990s. Aunt May gets a cutesy bit, Harry gets a plot setup with exposition drip-feed regarding his revised history, and Jackpot...well, Jackpot doesn't do much of anything interesting, really, other than remind Newsarama readers that "Menace" is one of the upcoming villains.
The issue has two real problems, though: its lead character, and its insubstantiality. I'll start with the second problem first, as it strikes me as an artifact of the burden this issue has to carry. It's all buildup, in the way of most revamps and reboots, and it really doesn't hit the ground running in quite the way it needed to. Instead of, say, throwing the read in headfirst and letting the status quo reveal itself through the action, what we get is a fairly talky story with characters all but introducing themselves to one another.
And what this means is that plot is sacrificed to exposition; we get some background plot setups and a big moment at the end, but there's an odd sense in which this issue makes its central mistake in so carefully introducing everyone. Spider-Man is not a character who needs much in the way of introduction. With three blockbuster films, loads of licensing and cross-media tie-ins, and the rest, he's not a character the casual or non-comics reader needs eased into in quite this way, especially not with so "classic" and movie-friendly a status quo. Longtime readers may argue that they needed new bearings after OMD, but let's face it; there's nothing in this issue's exposition that would take that long to work out. It's a standard Bronze Age Spider-Man cast, setting, and character situation with a mild twist regarding the Bugle at the end.
The issue, frankly, wastes a lot of time explaining things that next to no one should need explained. And if they d need it explained, they have something like four backup features to do the work for them.
The second part of the problem is a little graver, and it's why I won't be a regular buyer of this title -- which is not to say I won't be buying it, but rather that I won't be following the whole serial at three issues a month.
And that problem is Peter. Peter's a loser. He's not a loser because of "Parker luck," though: he's a loser because he's a passve-aggressve whiner. Those negative traits were always there, of course, but there was also a sense of ennobling grace in Peter's hard, unforgiving morality as he applied it to himself. This Peter, though...he doesn't really seem to believe in the "responsibility" part of the "great power" tagline. He's willing to screw up and let a mugger escape to spite JJJ, to just stop being Spider-Man when the heat comes down in Civil War and stay quit as long as it hurts the Bugle, to take a massive "loan" (which we're told is but one in a long series) to cover rent, and the like. He's not socially inept so much as he's a leech and a bit of a moral coward. The one bit of assertiveness he shows in the issue is of course instantly and severely punished, which suggests we won't be seeing its like again anytime soon.
I realize he's supposed to be a bit crap at his personal life and he's supposed to have lousy fortune, but taken to this extent he stops being a protagonist I want to identify with or read about. This version of Peter just isn't a particularly dynamic or interesting guy. His torments are petty, not soul-searing, and his relationships with his Aunt and his friends come off as shallow and utilitarian. And if there was one problem Peter Parker never had in past incarnations, it was caring too little; the exceptions, like his treatment of Deb Whitman, were treated like troubling exceptions, and were meant to reflect badly on the character. When he lapsed into self-pity, it was generally because he had a real reason to -- the death of a loved one, a serious failure with a woman he loved or was close to loving, and so on. This guy, in ASM #546? The strongest feelings he has are about J. Jonah Jameson, and they amount to careless spite.
I don't get a sense that this Peter really cares about any of these people who are so desperately trying to save him from himself. This is an entire issue of people trying to bail Peter out or get him motivated, and Peter's response is to run in place. The result is that I also don't get the sense that he cares much about his own life anywhere nearly as he cares about the minor embarrassments he encounters. He's Larry David in a Spider-suit, only much less funny than that should be.
Sorry, guys, but this issue just felt anemic, and Peter Parker felt especially so.
I'll probably check back in a few months down the line to see if the book has a bit more chops, a few more deep hooks once this awkward "setting up" phase is over. And I'll keep an eye here and elsewhere in case there's some drastic leap in plot density or a jumpstart of Peter's personality in here.
- Omar Karindu
"A Renoir. I have three, myself. I had four, but ordered one burned...It displeased me." -- Doctor Doom
"It's not, 'Oh, they killed Sue Dibney and I always loved that character,' it's 'Oh, they broke a story engine that could have told a thousand stories in order to publish a single 'important' one.'" -- John Seavey
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