The Amazing Spider-Man #9 – Comic Review

At the beginning of a large scale story arc, showing off multiple parallel universes, The Amazing Spider-Man #9 offers:

  • Balanced, large scale artwork, that effectively uses comedy, darkness, and light
  • Credible characters from parallel worlds that do not appear as shallow copies of mainstream marvel universe Peter Parker
  • Themes of slavery and silence introduced through the villains.
  • High science fiction: Spider-man as the centre of a character web that spans infinite parallel worlds.

The artwork embraces scale, with several select splash pages. These pages are balanced with comedic moments. Colour and inking is powerful.

In the opening pages of this comic, and once again halfway through, splash pages that capture motion and scale appear. Across the panels, a Spider-man from a distant, parallel reality swings through New York. In another scene, Peter Parker of the mainstream Marvel Universe also swings between buildings alongside new character Silk – Cindy Moon. Colour and ink in theses pages are powerful. Balancing these scenes, the artwork embraces comedy. A spider-man called “Peter Porker” (a human pig) Knocks out a villain’s peon. His punch produces stars, while the lettering reads “Ker Smak!”.

Light and dark are also balanced. A scene where multiple spider heroes from a vast array of parallel universes appear in dazzling bright light arrives moments before a dark, rain drenched graveyard. Here, young Spider-man Miles Morales (Marvel’s Ultimate Universe) visits the grave of his deceased mother. It’s a one of several key moments in the comic’s story that points out how each character has their own unique story. They have people they love, the loved ones they have lost, or the places they live.

Individual characters from several different parallel worlds live their own diverse and deep lives. The comic draws story threads from across Spider-man history to build up the credibility.

The approach brought to characters in this large scale comic book story arc presents each version of Spider-man or Spider-woman as an interesting character. Rather than disposable copies of the mainstream Marvel Universe Peter Parker, these characters have their own lives. Efforts are made to establish them as unique.

To create the sensation of well-rounded lives, the comic pulls together threads from Marvel’s extensive Spider-Man history, both older and recent.

Gwen Stacey, for example, returns as the Spider-Woman of Earth 65.

Another example is the Cosmic Spider-Man. A key moment from Spider-man history: Peter Parker once received, but ultimately gave up, god-like powers from the “Enigma Force”. This version of Spider-Man retained these abilities.

The Inheritors, villains of the comic, show off themes of slavery and silence. References to threads, skeins, and looms also appear throughout the comic, which associates a spider’s ability to spin thread with storytelling.

Through the villains – the arrogant, aristocratic Inheritors – themes of slavery and silence emerge. They have humans enslaved as their pets. They regard Spider-men and Spider-women as food. They tell several characters that they are not allowed to speak in their presence.

Threads, skeins, and looming also appear repeatedly throughout the comic. The phrase “to spin a tale” is relevant here. Spiders spin threads. The idea of a thread as a way to describe linear storytelling ties together spiders with storytelling. An example of this storytelling theme is the god Anansi: a storyteller who takes the form of a spider.

Spider-man appearing at the centre of a web of interwoven but different stories makes sense from this perspective. Peter Parker’s life is tied to each of these diverse characters.

If there is a bigger theme emerging here, the complete story would reveal it. The first issues establishes Peter Parker from the mainstream Marvel Universe as the centre of a vast web that spreads out to encompass infinite parallel universes. It’s a high-science fiction concept.

The Amazing Spider-man #9 is published by Marvel Comics ($4.99 USD). Dan Slott (W.) Olivier Coipel (P.) Justin Ponsor (C.) Chris Eliopoulos (L.) Cover Artwork by Olivier Coipel.

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The Amazing Spider-Man #1 – Comic Review

In a comic book filled with several stories, Peter Parker makes a bright and brash return to the Marvel Universe.

What The Amazing Spider-Man #1 offers:

  • Artwork that makes use of perspective – close and long distance artwork – and builds tension across panels.
  • Humor and Banter between characters makes the comic entertaining.
  • Rated T for teen readers, some of the content is not suitable for younger readers, with Spider-man‘s costume dissolved and medium violence.
  • A short, three page comic called “How My Stuff Works” included that is pitched at younger readers
  • Themes of renewed  life.

This Review covers the story “Lucky to be Alive”, which is the first, and longest, of the Spider-man stories within the comic book.

Early pages use gold light effectively. The artwork eases transitions between scenes, captures movement, and guides readers past the consequences of Superior Spider-Man

Art found on the first page recaptures the art of the 1960’s Spider-man comics. Scenes are recreated in detail and cast in a warm, gold light. It’s a tone that implies good memories of times gone by.

Later, as the artwork shifts to the present day, where plot threads are picked up: Scenes that move rapidly from close up perspectives to long range capture the debris leftover from Superior Spider-Man’s conclusion. It’s a bit bewildering early on. Close ups build tension and capture movement across panels, however. Clear artwork with great use of full page work make these transitions flow with ease.

Peter’s body shape seems to be rendered in a different size and shape compared to earlier stories. There’s something older about his face also. The war of minds between Parker and Otto Octavius has taxed Spider-Man’s health. The pencil work, and inking depict an older and slightly thinner man.

Characters banter and the sense of humor in this comic are first class. Peter returns to new responsibilities, and a new thread is woven into the Spider-man mythos

Readers looking for answers (how did Peter return? What about the Avengers?) might find the large scale text difficult to read through. The comic opens with a calm tone, however. Answers unfold slowly. Marvel comics deftly weaves a new thread into the Spider-man myth: another person received a radioactive spider bite from the same spider that bit Parker. She wears an ankle bracelet with a tiny, green crescent moon attached.

One Page in this comic is devoted to J. Jonah Jameson. It’s like a miniature, one page version of J. Jonah Jameson’s own comic. The character is large and loud enough that this page feels like a miniature comic of its own.

The humor and smart remarks between characters in this issue is first class. Banter between villains White Rabbit and the villain formerly know as Gypsy Moth – now called “Skein” – is excellent. They argue over the need for a ‘motif’: an animal theme in this case.

One hard fact remains. After Otto Octavius finished being a Superior Spider-man, his reputation as a friendly hero was warped into a dictatorial commander complete with thugs and giant stomping robots.

A large theme of returning to life – resurrection – appears. Spider-man’s costume damage is a plot point, and represents his tarnished reputation.

There’s a theme of returning to life – Peter’s return is somewhat of a resurrection. White Rabbit’s appearance prompts one character to make an Easter reference. Since Easter is a festival that celebrates renewed life, it makes sense to add this theme to Peter Parker’s return.

Spider-man’s loss of costume raises several points:  The damaged suit, unraveled, makes a point of Peter’s damaged reputation and identity. No costume emphasises Spider-Man’s vulnerability. He’s emerged into a dangerous new world.

His disrobing also plays into the plot effectively. Spider Woman sees footage of “Skein” attacking Peter on a live television feed. She believes that Spider-man has run into such bad luck for this to happen, that there is no way he is a dictator or commander any longer.

The plot point also reveals a closer relationship with Anna Maria Marconi – a science student Otto Octavius dated while in control of Spider-man’s body. Marconi recognises Peter is Spider-man when she spots freckles on his stomach normally concealed by the red and blue costume.

A popular culture reference: A passerby on the street references Miley Cyrus when Spider-Man’s costume is destroyed by the “Skein”. She compares Spider-Man to Miley Cyrus from her “Wrecking Ball” music video.

The Amazing Spider-man #1 is published by Marvel Comics ($5.99 USD). Dan Slott (W.) Humberto Ramos (P.) Victor Olazaba (I.) Edgar Delgado (C.) Chris Eliopoulos (L.) Cover Artwork by Humberto Ramos.

Superior Spider-Man #30 – Comic Review

Superior Spider-man #30 reaches the summit of a long running story arc. Peter Parker’s character is depicted from a new point of view.

I’ve written before about Superior Spider-Man. First in a review of issue #18, and later again on issue #26. If you are not up to date on the current plot, the opening paragraph of the second review has a summary of the current problems facing Spider-man.

What Superior Spider-man #30 offers:

  • Artwork depicting milestones in Spider-man history.
  • Consistent use of broken bonds builds themes of breaking out, and escape.
  • A major turning point in the Superior Spider-man story arc.

A large splash page shows off a turning point – Parker reclaims all his lost memories – in addition to artwork milestones from decades past.

A great moment for the comic book art occurs at the halfway point. I mentioned previously that Peter Parker forced his way out of a trap set by Otto Octavius (The villain Doctor Octopus – think mechanical arms and goggles).

A two page splash page shows off Peter in his blue and red costume. He remembers who he is. All his lost and scattered memories back in order. Pencils, inks, and colours mesh together. A web patter fills the background. The web creates a grid. within each cell of the grid, is a reprint of past artwork. Artwork that has defined Spider-man comic books spanning past decades receives acknowledgement.

In a place called “The Mindscape” Parker overcomes the last fragments of a trap. Otto Octavius expresses some startling and new insights. The Avengers also appear briefly.

Despite his arrogance and bluster, Otto Octavius takes a huge step in an unexpected direction. What’s unusual, I thought, was an arch villain in popular culture admitting that they have failed to achieve their plans, without moving blame to a meddlesome hero.

The comic book investigates Peter Parker’s character. I mentioned that Peter Parker struggles to regain control of his body. These struggles of the mind take place inside “The Mindscape”.

A quiet, green coloured place that represents the mind currently shared by Peter Parker and Otto Octavius. Here, Parker relieves the brutal and violent memories of Doctor Octopus. A trap where the memories replay in loops, with Parker in the starring role.

When Parker finally frees himself from the last bonds of this trap, the deeper investigation into his character begins.

Otto makes more admissions. He is arrogant because he knows about his flaws. Low self esteem leads to over compensation.

Now two minds share one body. When faced with each other, Octavius implores Parker:

“You’re guilt-ridden because, deep down, you know you are smarter than than others. Better. But it comes at a painful  price. You sabotage yourself…you must accept that you are superior.”

Parker’s talents, his intelligence and skills, combined with his bravery, receives some attention. This is a step in a new direction: traditionally, Spider-man comics focus on what  Parker fails to achieve, rather than his potential, and his strengths.

Marvels’s Avengers return for a few pages. The harsh judgment on Captain America’s face speaks about the approaching consequences the Superior Spider-man will face when this fight is over. That is, if he can defeat the Green Goblin. And the army of Goblin soldiers and anarchists.

A theme supported by consistent references is the breaking of bonds and ties. Breaking out is a large, overarching theme for this comic

Breaking ties, or things unraveling appear repeatedly throughout this comic. Ropes and webs fray. Wires, machines, and even aggreements made between people are torn up and thrown out. This unraveling repeatedly lays down a larger theme: Breaking bonds and broken ties.

Unfortunately, New York itself slides toward chaos. Fires burn, and goblins storm the city.  Rules of law and order that kept the streets relatively free of violence and danger are broken and burned away.

Alongside the city breaking down, characters within the city express comments about breaking or destroying things consistently throughout the issue. The Spider-man of 2099 breaks down a fleet of robots by targeting their weak points. Liz Allen severs all ties with New York Mayor, J. Jonah Jameson. A young girl named Amy Chen is freed from ropes that bind her.

Breaking out of bonds consistently reappears. And for good reason.

Superior Spider-man #30 offers readers a big, Spider-man event. Without plot spoilers, themes building for several issues pay-off here.

A popular culture reference appears early in the comic when the Green Goblin imitates the scene from The Wizard of OZ where The Witch of the West taunts Dorothy with an image of Auntie Em in her crystal globe.

Superior Spider-man #30 is published by Marvel Comics ($3.99 USD). Dan Slott & Christos Gage(W.) Giuseppe Camuncoli (P.) john Dell & Terry Pallot (I.) Antonio Fabela (C.) Chris Eliopoulos (L.) Cover Artwork by Giuseppe Camuncoli.

Superior Spider-man #26 – Comic Review

What Superior Spider-Man #26 offers

Spider man comics tell a heroic story with a clear set of ethics. To understand the current story offered by Superior Spider-Man #26, however, requires a jaunty bit of information:

Only moments for death, the villain Doctor Octopus – Otto Octavius – uses a science fiction device to swap bodies with Peter Parker – Spider-Man. Otto experiences all of Peter’s memories, learning that with great power comes great responsibility. He carries on Peter’s role as Spider-Man.

Keeping this plot point in mind is the only obstacle that prevents this Spider-Man comic book becoming an accessible reading experience. What Superior Spider-Man #26 offers is:

  • a Literature resources – references to the German novel All Quiet on the Western Front
  • War and Anti-war themes
  • Resilience themes
  • Critical reading opportunities
  • A story that contrasts and compares Heroes and Villains

Art

One page depicts Marvel’s Avengers arriving at a battle between Spider-man, his personal army of minions, and the criminal organisation AIM.

Captain America throws his shield. The star in the centre of the shield is overlayed with gradually fading white stars. This creates the illusion of movement. Like a spinning wheel. On the next page, Captain America catches the shield, and the star centre is sharp and still, ending the illusion.

It’s a clever art choice that enhances the energy of Superior Spider Man #26.

Artwork of two villains clashing through the air is supernatural. There is an otherworldly darkness about these scenes. Fire illuminates them. The Goblin masks transform them from humans into monsters. Depicted in eye-catching orange, purple, and green colours, these scenes are impossible to look away from.

Only one panel has questionable art. The Goblin Knight stands over a fallen enemy. Depth and perspective are missing in this panel. The art immediately returns to the energetic and detailed standard, however, by the next panel.

Cast

A quote from German Literature appears in this issue, and it’s a stunning written message coming from the villain Green Goblin. Violence and death define Green Goblin’s – Norman Osborn’s – life achievments. There is irony that an anti-war message would come from Osborn.

Peter Parker struggles against a trap set by Otto Octavius, and regain control of his body. Norman has a similar struggle against a rival villain. Explicitly, the hero and the villain share similarities in this issue.

Another ironic moment is Otto/Spider-Man complaining that the Avengers are invading his privacy. Captain America and Iron Man ask Spider-man to justify his outrageous behaviour (raising an army of spider-themed minions, for example). They ask for medical tests to confirm he is fit to be an Avenger. Otto sees their concern as an invasion and unwanted.

What’s ironic about Otto’s complaints lies in his surveillance system. Otto sent thousands of tiny spider robots to spy on the streets of New York City. While he has innovated in his battle against crime, his disregard for privacy makes his reaction to the Avengers request for information ironic.

Themes, Ethics, Values

The clear ethic expressed in Superior Spider-Man #26 is resilience. The comic book addresses this theme directly at two separate moments:

“Anyone can fight when the odds are easy! It’s when the going’s tough – when there seems to be no chance – that’s when it counts…I am the man who never gives up! That’s who I am! And I will find a way to win!”

-Peter Parker, Superior Spider-Man #26

A similar statement appears again. This time, from Green Goblin:

“Nothing keeps me down…Not death. Betrayal. Even the entire world against me! Every time I rise back up! Stronger than before! Every time!”

-Green Goblin, Superior Spider-Man #26

Both the hero and the villain have this character trait in common. It’s not unusual for a hero and villain to share characteristics. Spider man comics at Marvel are approaching another upheaval – it’s possible that drawing a comparison between Peter Parker and his nemesis Norman Osborn fits into a large set of themes and values that are about to emerge in future issues.

Norman Osborn raises an interesting point with his overtures of peace. He quotes from All Quiet on the Western Front: a book written in Germany following World War I.   Osborn selectively quotes from the German text, showcasing a small item of world literature in the comic. He uses the reading to achieve his goal: lure his opponent into a fight he cannot win.

It’s a good moment for exploring critical reading: when a dubious speaker, like the Green Goblin, will use a credible source to prop up an agenda.

Superior Spider-Man #26 is published by Marvel Comics. ($3.99 USD).

Dan Slott (W.) Humberto Ramos, Javier Rodriguez, Marcos Martin (P.) Victor Olazaba, Alvaro Lopez, Marcos Martin (I.) Edgar Delgado, Javier Rodriguez, Marcos Martin (C.) Chris Eliopoulos (L.) Cover artwork by Ryan Stegman and Jason Howard.

Superior Spider-Man #18 – Comics Review

Superior Spider-Man #18: Smack to the Future

Time travel themes are acting as the backbone, and main source of drama and conflict in several, current Marvel Comics: The X-men are playing time travel games, and Thor recently concluded a time travel story arc. Superior Spider-Man faces a time traveling puzzle in issue eighteen when the Spider-Man of the future (from the year 2099) arrives in 2013 New York.

Superior Spider-Man himself leads a complicated and busy life. He trips over an endless barrage of pressure: there’s pressure from his work, pressure to complete his thesis, and pressure from his friends in addition to a rising tide of goblin themed villains. It’s worth pointing out that Superior Spider-Man is also a stranger. Peter Parker is not behind the mask.

Variant Cover by J. G. Jones and Dave Stewart

Superior Spider-Man was created from mashing up the personality of Otto Octavius – Dr. Octopus – with the memories of Peter Parker. In a science fiction themed story late last year, Otto Octavius forced his psyche into Parker’s body, and took complete control over his life. Quickly, Otto quarantined Peter, and deleted him from his own body, which means no more Peter Parker. As a side effect, Parker’s memories shuffled into Otto’s own past. The process essentially reworked Otto’s criminal personality into a heroic one.

Egotistical, arrogant, and ruthless would be the most accurate way to describe Otto’s transformation and subsequent “heroics”, however.

Spider-man comic’s showed-off this controversial character change, and promised stories near-impossible to predict as Otto – the Superior Spider-Man – started work on his zero-tolerance, ruthless, and efficient crime fighting bent. Otto can’t escape the fact that he is a deeply flawed man, however. Despite Otto’s flaws, Marvel Comics want to stick to this new Superior Spider-Man. Andrew Wheeler reported on Comics Alliance.com, after a visit to the Superior Spider-Man panel at San Diego Comic Con 2013, that Peter Parker will not return.

(This review of Superior Spider-Man #18 is spoiler free)

Art

Use of Blur gives a sense of power and motion, and is used sparingly – only when characters throw punches. Sparing use of an effect that simulates force and power reminds the audience that Superior Spider-Man and 2099 Spider-Man have the proportionate strength of a spider the size of an adult human. Echoes of Spider-Man’s mantra of power and responsibility no doubt underlie this art choice. Great power causes great damage if the powerful person is unwieldy and careless.

What’s terrific about the comic book’s artwork are several scenes of Superior Spider-Man using his web acrobatics, and the conflict between the Spider-Man of two different era’s meeting. The penciling for these scenes is detailed, with ink work that accentuates the lines of characters costumes and faces. Colours are vibrant, and there are two key settings that showcase the colour of this comic book: look out for bright costumes in full sunlight during the opening pages, and the glowing, orange interior of Horizon labs, where a time travel experiment has scattered luminescent spheres all around the building. The only spots where the artwork is let down are one or two panels where characters facial expressions are cut out by the bleed, which is the margin of space around the edge of the page.

Cast

The Superior Spider-Man indulges in ego, and places himself, and the fame he believes will follow from his scientific research and invention, above other people. Loyalty and empathy mean little to this new character. It’s too the credit of the writing behind the comic that Superior Spider-Man‘s voice is unique: a different man is behind the mask. Readers can tell at a glance that the tone and word choices have shifted from Parker’s way of speaking.

Travel in time eighty years into the past, and the way people talk, the words they use, would be completely different to our present conversations. 2099 Spider-Man’s dialogue has words and phrases that make sense to him, but are incomprehensible to the people of the present day (2013, November, according to the comic book). Again, the dialog impresses by consistently including this “Future-speak” for 2099 Spider-Man’s speech patterns. Max Modell and Mary Jane Watson, two powerful, positive influences in Superior Spider-Man‘s life make small, but essential appearances – the anti-hero Otto treats them without respect. A man named Tiberius Stone also does some damage.

Themes, Ethics, Values.

In Superior Spider-Man, there is exploration of good and evil, where we see a flawed and ego-driven man attempting to do good. Superior Spider-Man puts his own needs above everyone else. The consequences are that people lives are endangered, and his workplace is threatened. There’s not a lot of depth here, however. Character’s behave selfishly, and there are consequence. The discussion does not expand beyond this point. Spider-Man transforming into the ruthless Superior Spider-Man offers an opportunity to explore themes such as redemption and memory. A long-term story arc across more issues would allow exploration. This issue deals only with surface-level conflicts.

An ethical discussion about the possibilities of time travel take place in the comic, tying together ideas about privacy and justice. Characters at Horizon labs have the opportunity to go back in time and spy on the events of the recent past. They are invisible, and inaudible. They are out of synch, only being able to observe, which is an interesting science fiction idea. The ethical question is, can time travel be used as an evidence gathering technique? Or is this an invasion of privacy since the time traveler is undetectable, and can travel anywhere, anytime, without restraint? In this comic book, gathering evidence from the past is acceptable under dire circumstances, where Horizon labs is under threat of forced closure by criminal coercion.

 A bit more on Superior Spider-Man #18

I mentioned above that Superior Spider-man places his needs above others. Justice, to the Superior Spider-Man, is an achievement for him to add to a long list of accolades. Because the character has shifted from an optimistic hero, to a selfish one, the tone is darker and far less hopeful, despite the Superior Spider-Man’s belief he is safeguarding the community around him. What disaster might follow is unknown, since the Superior Spider-Man has become unpredictable.

Superior Spider-Man #18 is Published by Marvel Comics. ($3.99 USD). Dan Slott (W.) Ryan Stegman (A.) Livesay (I.) Edgar Delgado (C.) Chris Eliopoulos (L.) Cover art by Ryan Stegman and Jason Howard.