The writer is sitting in his room, reading comic books. His face contorts and he seems panicked. He stares at the clock and realises that he has to write a post.”Okay, it’s still Saturday, right?” he asks the ginger dog at his feet. She doesn’t answer, as dogs are wont to do.
He searches for the laptop and finds it sitting downstairs on the blue sofa, with the other computers, charging. He picks it up and heads back upstairs to his room. He reclines on his bed, turns the machine on, and begins to type, altering the truth to make for a better story, but keeping it close to the reality of a boring man’s life.
Why not start with something different? Anyway, onto the main event, a quick run-down of Spider-Men #1 and #2.
Spider-Men is the first cross-over event between the Ultimate Marvel Universe and the standard 616 Marvel Universe. Written Brian Michael Bendis and with art by Sara Pichelli, it details Peter Parker being transported into the Ultimate Universe and meeting his counterpart, Miles Morales. The standard miscommunication occurs and, perhaps inevitably, there is a fight between the two. Peter then meets Nick Fury and deduces that he is in an alternate universe. Peter and Miles climb into a helicopter, and Peter asks him if he is dead in this Universe. They are interrupted before Miles can answer, and Issue #2 ends with a bazooka aimed at the two Spider-Men.
While the book’s plot is, at least so far, slight, Bendis’ focus on characterisation shines through. His Peter Parker is a classical take on Spider-Man. He quips, hits bad guys, is hated by the public, and is clever enough to deduce what’s going on. I can’t really attest to whether this is his current characterisation in his on-going titles, but it definitely matches with the Spider-Man I remember from the cartoon and the 80s books. This is a Spider-Man who isn’t bogged down by angst, but one who lightens the mood considerably. The book is actually fun, a big change from the grimdark of current titles.
Miles, unfortunately, takes a back seat in this cross-over. Bendis seems more concerned with Peter. Fair enough, there is a movie to consider, and people would be confused about a black Spider-Man. The book’s clearly written for newcomers to Marvel, likely those brought in by the movie. This is not really a bad thing, it’s fairly organic. Peter doesn’t know anything about the Ultimate Universe, so it makes sense for the audience to learn things as he learns them. However, I would prefer to see more of Miles. He’s an interesting character in his own right, a child without training, who stumbled into superheroics, and who is still trying to work out the finer details. He’s more reserved than Peter, not quite as quick-witted, and far less talented. He seems a little star-struck in these first two issues, so I hope he takes a larger role in the next three.
Sara Pichelli’s art is universally great, perfectly conveying emotion and action. She has a great amount of talent, and while not J. H. Williams III, her consistently great art and punctuality make her one of the best artists in current comics. Her action scenes are always a joy to watch, and she draws makes a standard shot of Spider-Man swinging seem energetic.
However, the villain of the piece is really… dull. I’m not going to say who it is, but I will say they could be replaced by any other villain and the book would be the same.
The Good: Great art and characterisation, Bendis’ dialogue is mostly smart and quippy, and Pichelli can draw.
The Bad: Standard plot (Spider-Man stops crime, meets villain, fights super-hero, finds out hero is good…) and a boring villain. Not enough Miles Morales.
The piece I originally had scheduled for today, a MIB3 review, fell through. Why? I overslept and missed the showing. Whoops. So as a last-minute replacement, comic books!
At the moment, my favourite on-goings are almost all New 52. I try to say that I’m not a DC fanboy, but, well, I suppose I am. So without further ado (fun word, that):
ANIMAL MAN (New 52)
Jeff Lemire’s Animal Man is very good. Great, even. It outclasses almost every book put out by DC at the moment, and every book by Marvel.
What Makes It Good?
The book is filled with high concept ideas, The Red is the means by which all animal life is interconnected, The Rot is the antithesis of this, Death personified, but the book doesn’t feel preposterous. This is testament to the humanity evident in Lemire’s writing. Another writer could too easily make the book overly serious, but Lemire manages to inject humour into every issue while not undermining the threat of The Rot. The Hunter’s Three are effective villains, and are genuinely terrifying and powerful.
Although Lemire’s writing is on a grand scale, but he also manages to write the small-scale events of Buddy Baker’s life. The day-to-day interactions between his family members and he are as completely realised as the universe threatening conflict between The Red and The Rot.
Travel Foreman’s, and from #9, Steve Pugh’s art conveys body horror and the concept of the red expertly. It’s “trippy”.
All-Star Western (New 52)
A fun (albeit adult) book that revels in DC history and explores the Victorian-era Gotham and the death of the Old West.
What Makes It Good?
It’s a pulpy comic book starring an ex-Confederate Soldier who happens to be a ruthless Bounty Hunter! It’s a ridiculous, though self-aware, adventure book that never takes itself too seriously, despite the grimness of the storylines. The action is solidly drawn and Hex makes an intriguing character, despite his irritating phonetic accent. Amadeus Arkham affords an amusing point-of-view character that is mostly ineffectual, but gives the series a comedic element to counter-point the darkness of Hex.
The book effortlessly creates the 19th Century DC Universe on its own, with its back-up story serving to introduce characters and build a believable world. The back-up stories do tend to be weaker than the main story, but they are still a good addition in an industry that (currently) mostly avoids back-ups.
The art for the main comic is great, Moritat solidly conveys violence and gives great characterisation in his art and his design is universally excellent. The art in the back-up ranges from unimpressive (the art for the current Nighthawk and Cinnamon story is serviceable yet uninspired) to fun and blocky (the art for the El Diablo story is a cross between Guy Davis and Jack Kirby).
Batwoman is a solid crime comic that incorporated magical elements, it is inspired but highly decompressed.
What Makes It Good?
Lots of things! Although, mainly the influence of J.H. Williams III. His writing is surprisingly fantastic, a great continuation from Rucka, and his incorporation of magical elements distinguishes this from the other Bat titles. The art for the first arc (Hydrology, issues #1-5) is some of the best of William’s career, almost as good as his work on Seven Soldiers #0 and equal to his work on Detective Comics #854-860. While, Reeder’s artwork is much weaker and almost cartoonish, it is still competent and only bad in comparison to the J.H. Williams, who I personally consider the best artist working in modern comics.
The series deserves praise for portraying a lesbian relationship that never feels cheap or exploitative. It feels like a genuine loving relationship, and Kate clearly shows regret over having to keep her life hidden. Kate and Maggie are written like any other couple and this works really well and is a positive sign for the future.
Warning, the comic declines in quality a little after the first arc, mostly due to the non-chronological aspects of the story. Williams is writing for the trade, not the single issue.
Ultimate Comics: All New Spider-Man
So many things could have went wrong here. Killing off Peter Parker and replacing him with a half-black, half-hispanic character could have been cheap and exploitative. Brian Michael Bendis’s writing, whose Avengers work is almost universally awful (excluding Civil War: The Confession), was a warning light for me.
However, I took a chance on it when the first trade came out. Imagine my surprise when I discovered it was
Brian Eno fantastic.
What Makes It Good? Bendis’s writing is surprisingly great. He genuinely loves the character of Miles Morales/Spider-Man and the lighter nature of this series, while touching on heavy themes (the homosexual subtext is strong, yet not overbearing) makes it a refreshing alternative to Post-OMD 616 Spider-Man. Characterisation is well-executed, with Miles becoming more confident in his role, his Uncle becoming a better defined villain, and his father becoming less sympathetic as the series continues. It’s a series about the difficulties of growing up, Miles has just hit puberty and is entering Middle School (I think, I don’t know how the American school system works) and the responsibility of being Spider-Man is effective symbolism for his growing responsibility in life.
The art is fun and cartoonish, but also really good at conveying little emotions and character moments. The series is a fun comic in an otherwise dreary sea of Marvel published works. It’s a definite recommendation for anyone who enjoys light-hearted works.