Friday, January 11, 2008

Spider-Man? Me?

I like Spider-Man as a character, but I don't buy his comics. I find them angst-filled affairs too caught up in their own byzantine history to be inviting or appealing, and the recent string of editorial stunts has replaced real storytelling and character growth with cosmetic changes.

So why did I buy The Amazing Spider-Man #546, the first issue of "Brand New Day"?

Dan Slott.

What can I say, I love the way the man writes Spider-Man. Whether it the riotous guest appearance in She-Hulk or the the Free Comic Book Day issue (you know, the one with the Spider-Man-obsessed supervillain, a perfectly healthy Aunt May, and new superhero named Jackpot who calls everyone Tiger?), Slott's Spider-Man is upbeat, resourceful, and actually FUNNY. Screaming about the lemon cake he is missing while being dragged through the streets of New York was one of the best moments in comics last year!

So I figured, what the heck, let's try it out! And the results are...

...okay? Slott's writing is still good. The dialog is clever and the results of Peter's misguided attempt to catch a crook in his plainclothes is a wonderful "wah wah wah" moment, and even the melodramatic cliffhanger seems there only to set up a mind-blowingly awesome splash page next issue. The art's okay. Steve McNiven's photo-realistic style is pretty but lends the affair a serious the writing doesn't back up. A more cartoonish style might have been more appropriate.

But the real problem is the new status-quo, which Dan Slott basically admits, was handed to the entire creative team before any of them (including editor Steve Wacker) was hired. And it's not that I have problem that it is a new status quo (I wasn't terribly invested in the old one), or that the new status quo was created in one of the worst ways possible (that's a complaint for another day...).

The problem is that the new status quo is so relentlessly... old. Peter's back living with Aunt May? Peter still doesn't have a steady job? Harry Osborn's back from the dead? But everyone else in the world has moved on? It's like they stuck a 22 year old in a 30 years old body.

And it doesn't help that Peter actually thinks about how unfunny it is to still be living with his aunt. Usually hanging a lantern on the problem helps the reader acknowledge it and move on, but in this case I just found myself nodding my head and asking what Slott was going to do about it.

The worst part is the return of Harry Osborn, acting for all the world like Michael Rosenbaum on Smallville. Harry being back drives home the point that this IS your father's Spider-Man, exactly as he remembers it.

Harry represents a giant plot hole in the current storyline (if Peter needs a place to stay and Harry wants to help, like his company, AND has a giant apartment, why doesn't Peter move in with Harry?). He also represents a problem with the general plotline. His missing years are a mystery, and trying to explain them reminds readers of One More Day, and no one wants to think about that anymore.*

But I'm going to stick around for the next two issues because a) Dan Slott, and b) I'm hoping by the end of the first storyline, we'll have a new, workable status quo to go forward with. Because I like Spider-Man. I like comics.

It'd be nice if I could like Spider-Man comics.

*I keep typing "One Day More". Guess I got a little Cosette in me.


Sleestak said...

I guess it was inevitable that the first page of that issue had Petey makin' it with a disco-skank.

I can't figure out what demographic they are going for.

Unknown said...

I'm trying to decide if that opening splash was more of a jab at Quesada or the rabid marriage fans. Either something like, "Is this what you want, Quesada? IS SPIDER-MAN COOL AGAIN YET?!" or "Ha! Here's the new status quo IN YOUR FACE, fanboys!"

I think Sims said it best, though - the things that are good about the reboot are in no way connected to Peter being a single man about town again - instead, it's just a consequence of competent writing. Unfortunately, since the ending of the marriage was the catalyst for this new era of non-suckitude, it will certainly be the thing that's cited as what "fixed" the Spider-book(s), which I think is ridiculous.


Anonymous said...

I read Spider man, some years ago...