Saturday, 2 June 2012

It's not a review. It's just my opinion! #2 - SPIDER-MAN

I read a lot of graphic novels, more so than floppies. So I have decided to tell you all what I am reading and what I thought about those particular books. I want to stress though that I am not looking to review these books in the style of a critic, or to give them a rating, only to express my opinions as a fan of what I personally thought of what I have read. Please do not let my opinion sway you in any way, as I have always lived by the credo that I will make my own mind up about something and so should you. Plus, they say that critics are people that can't actually create themselves and that aint me.
Finally, this is my actual reading pile. All the books I have bought myself for the purpose of my enjoyment and as I am not tieing myself down to any kind of formulated structure, you may notice that I read whatever takes my fancy, rather than switching characters or publishers etc...

Anyhoo... SPIDER-MAN!!!

This won't be the last time I read and write about everybodies favourite webslinger. As my all time favourite comic book character, I have a passion for his adventures and intend on owning and devouring every graphic novel that he stars in. At some point soon I will write a blog that goes in depth on my discovery and subsequent falling head-over-heels for the guy in the red and blue webbed pyjamas, but for now I am just going to tell you about the few Spider-Man graphic novels I have read this week.

The Death of Jean DeWolff - (w) Peter David (a) Rich Buckler & Sal Buscema

This book contains Spectacular Spider-Man issues #107-110 and #134-136. These are the Death of Jean DeWolff and the Death of the Sin Eater story arcs.
In the first story, we open with the shocking death of NYPD Captain Jean DeWolff. She has been shot point blank in the chest with a shotgun, by persons unknown. This sends shock waves through the NYPD who assign Detective Stan Carter, a former agent of SHIELD, to coordinate the investigation. Spidey, on hearing the news of DeWolff's death, offers Detective Carter his assistance if needed, but doesn't actively join the hunt for the killer until a second victim, Judge Horace Rosenthal, is murdered and the killer reveals himself as the masked Sin Eater. The comic quickly becomes a whodunit, as Police and Spider-Man race to discover the true identity of the Sin Eater before he takes another victim.
Daredevil also co-stars in this saga, which is a pleasant surprise as he doesn't appear on the covers of the individual issues until the final chapter, something that would be unheard of today where crossovers are always exploited for increased sales. His role is as Devils Advocate as Spidey, incensed by the killing, decides to take the law into his own hands by coercing information from the criminal underworld and taking out the Sin Eater before he murders again. In a sub-plot featuring Aunt May's new boarding house tenant, Ernie Popchick, who has been mugged by a gang of young thugs, Peter David shows us the difference between what society deems as fair against what the individual would by using Matt Murdock as the voice of reason and guiding Spider-Man through the story as his personal Jimminy Cricket.
After the shocking revelation of the Sin Eaters true identity, we are given witness to the reactions of the people across New York, from the Cops, the Robbers, the Super-Heroes and the almost victims of the Sin Eater, in an incredibly sobering way. Peter David is a master story teller and this tale is a prime example of why and is brilliantly complimented by Rich Bucklers beautiful artwork. This chapter in Spidey's life is a must read for anyone calling themselves a true Spider-Man fan.
One final note, this is also the story in which Matt Murdock realises that Peter and Spidey are one and the same and reveals himself as Daredevil to him. On a personal note, we also see Peter wearing a New York Jets sweater, which is a relief to me, as it would break my heart to find out that Spider-Man is a Giants fan.

The Death of the Sin Eater, which is the second arc in this book, was one of the first Spider-Man stories I had the pleasure of reading as a kid. It was also my introduction to the incredible art of Sal Buscema, who to this day is one of my all time favourite Spider-Man artists.
The story begins with the Sin Eater (I'll keep his identity secret to save from spoiling the previous story) being released from prison after doctors diagnose him as mentally ill. An enraged Spidey confronts Sin Eater only to find that he is a crippled wreck after Spider-Man battered him in their last fight. Guilt ridden, Spidey runs into a battle with an escaped Electro and holds back from fighting too hard for fear of repeating his mistake and injuring him too. Electro takes advantage and embarrasses Spider-Man. The rest of the story is a brilliant character piece that sees Spider-Man struggling with a crisis of conscience, Electro becoming a confident nemesis and Sin Eater fighting his inner demons. The thing that blows me away about this story is that Peter David writes Spider-Man, a character that is twenty five years old at this point, in a way that is able to show you new sides to his personality previously unexplored. I admit that there is an air of nostalgia when I read this particular arc, but I genuinely recommend this book to any and all Spider-Man fans.

Spider-Man Fairy Tales - (w) C.B. Cebulski & Mindy Owens (a) Ricardo Tercio, Niko Henrichon, Kei Kobayashi, Nick Dragotta & Mike Allred

This book is a collection of four separate stories that blend the mythos of Spider-Man and mix it in with legend and fairy tale. It offers us Marvel Universe interpretations of Little Red Riding Hood, Anansi the Spider, Tsuchigumo the Japanese Spider Spirit and Cinderella.
A fun graphic novel for a sunny Sunday afternoon, this book doesn't offer anything revelatory or insightful into the 616 Spider-Man that we all know and love, but is an intelligent mix of styles that mesh in a flawless way. Cebulski's writing is clever and funny and I never felt as if the book was dragging or lolling in pace. But what really sets this book apart is the beautiful artwork. Four different styles that compliment each tale wonderfully. My personal favourite of the four is the tale of Anansi, a fable that I have loved since childhood and this one in particular has the least Spidey influence of the bunch.
If you are a Spidey fan that is looking for something a bit different, or just a fan of fables and fairy tales, then check out this book.

Spider-Man/Dr Strange: Fever - by Brendan McCarthy

In a glorious homage to the Steve Ditko Spidey and Doc Strange comics of the sixties, Fever is a brilliant three issue mini-series that took me, as a Spidey fan, out of my comfort zone for an hour of abstract weirdness.
The story begins when Dr Stephen Strange, Sorcerer Supreme, receives a book in the post that is booby trapped with a mystical web that links New York City to another dimension. Meanwhile, after being dazed in battle with The Vulture, our Friendly Neighbourhood Spider-Man finds himself convalescing in Doc Strange's bathroom, where he is promptly attacked by a Spider-Demon member of The Arachnix race. Before Strange can help his comrade in arms, the Arachnix steals Spider-Man's soul and carries it back to its dimension to sate the hunger of its king. But the soul of Spidey seems almost arachnid in nature and so is sent on a quest to capture a Sorror-Fly to prove that he is not human and to avoid being devourered. And whilst on this quest, Dr Strange is on an adventure of his own trying to find and rescue his Web Headed friend.

In a mark of great story telling, I fell into this adventure with ease and found the tale taking me off to this kooky dimension inhabited by insects and canine humanoids in the most delightful way. The dialogue is fresh and flows freely and is sometimes poetic in nature. At one point, Spider-Man is reminded of the fateful night that he let the criminal, who would later be responsible for the murder of his Uncle, escape without lifting a finger and the death of Ben is now reflected in the point of view of Aunt May. This is some of the most beautiful writing I have ever read, as we have been exposed to the death of Uncle Ben from Spidey's POV so often, that we take for granted how it affected Aunt May that very night and what went on between the two of them as they said "goodbye" to each other for the last time.
I am not usually a fan of abstract or weird adventures, but I am also not afraid to try new things and hope to be proven wrong, and this book has done just that. I thoroughly enjoyed it from cover to cover and would recommend it to my fellow Spidey fans.

Identity Wars - (w) John Layman (a) Lee Garbett, Juan Doe & Al Barrionuevo

This Marvel Team-Up, featuring Spider-Man, Hulk and Deadpool, is a dimension hoping affair that is almost a tale of these three 616 characters visiting a "What If?" universe.
Originally published in the three title characters respective Annuals from 2010, Identity Wars begins in Horizon Labs where Peter Parker and Bruce Banner are both hard at work. Enter Deadpool, who has been hired to break in with a team of criminals who are using him as a tool to cross over into another dimension and raid it for its riches. Chaos ensues as Spidey and the Hulk join the fray and the three costumed adventurers find themselves sucked into an alternate reality, face to face with their counterparts. Each counterpart is different from the heroes that we are so familiar with and as the story progresses we discover which point in their lives caused a divergence in their destinies.

This story is a fun yarn, especially if you are a fan of the three title heroes or if you enjoy the What If? and Marvel-Team Up books of the past, as it hearkens back to these very well. Each chapter has a different penciller, but the tone of the book flows nicely across the issues and all look very impressive. It doesn't affect the main continuity of the main books and there isn't anything new or different about this book that allowed me to learn from it, but it wasn't a chore to read either and killed an hour nicely. I would recommend this more to old school fans for its old school feel.

Spider-Man: Season One - (w) Cullen Bunn (a) Neil Edwards

Finally there is Spider-Man Season One, of Marvels new Season One initiative that showcases it's hero's origins for a contemporary audience, all in a lovely hardback tome.
It is hard to believe that the origin of Spider-Man, a tale that is deeply ingrained in my consciousness, was only eleven pages of content in his Amazing Fantasy #15 debut. So much story in so few pages. Well now the story is expanded upon in a full size original graphic novel all its own.
Writer, Cullen Bunn, is one of the next big writers on the scene at Marvel and certainly one to look out for in the future. He seems to have a decent grasp on the Spidey Origin and tells the story with good pace and excellent dialogue. The story never seems to drag and even though this is a tale that we have read or seen a million and one times before, Bunn adds enough new material to keep the story fresh and appealing.
Neil Edwards art is a visual joy. I wasn't familiar with his work up to this point, but his art is beautiful and has an air of familiar when it comes to Spidey. His work to me is reminiscent of Pat Olliffe's, which is most certainly not a bad thing.

There isn't a whole lot I can say about the story itself as it stays pretty loyal to the origin, but I do have one complaint. To me, the entire Spider-Man mythos is built upon the mantra of "With Great Power, Comes Great Responsibility". Spider-Man's failure to capture the crook that ultimately killed his Uncle Ben is the reason he does what he does. He is paying a penance on his soul, trying to right the one wrong that will curse him till the day he dies. But in this interpretation of his beginnings, there isn't a whole lot of emphasis put onto the Power and Responsibility. After Ben passes, Peter is going to quit being Spidey. He only dons the costume to take pictures of the Vulture to sell to J. Jonah Jameson so that he can help Aunt May with the bills. Him becoming Spider-Man as a full time hero is almost an afterthought and his motives seem as though they stem from the rush he got defeating the Vulture.
This book is indeed a fun read and it does look gorgeous, both within the pages and on the shelf, I just worry about the up and coming Spidey fans that grow up reading this or watching Spider-Man 3 (shudder) and not realising the gravitas of the fact that With Great Power, There Must Also Come Great Responsibility.


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