FIVE YEARS LATER

Well, it feels like it, anyway. The last post was a link to that City Paper interview and even then, that came out like…two weeks ago?

Stuff has really conspired to keep me from updating the blog. House-sitting a couple of weeks back combined with my new 5 day a week work schedule at the temp job I’m at (OsCorp, basically). But I need to keep up with this. So real content will come, I promise. In the mean time, let’s catch up.

  • Got the first three Scott Pilgrim collections in preparation for the movie and holy crap I have been missing out. I’m ordering the last three off Amazon as soon as I get my next paycheck. I really love how O’Malley perfectly merges the insane cartoon stuff with the beautiful character work. The characters all feel like real people, except they can travel through dreams and have impromptu music battles. I’m pretty excited for the movie.
  • The Baltimore Comic Con is at the end of August! All these people will be there! I’ve been going to Baltimore Con since its second year at a like…Days Inn or something. I look forward to it every year like Christmas, it’s just a ton of fun. There’s cheap comics to be had, famous comic book people to chat with/get sketches from and, if we’re lucky, the Fat Fanny Pack Spider-Man cosplayer.
  • You probably saw this if you follow me on Twitter, but Friend of The Hive and local living skeleton Mike Pfieffer and I got bored and ended up chronicling the day to day of COBRA temps via twitter.
  • The new Transformers figures are out in full force and ohman they made an Autobot muscle car and it rules. You can see some very good pictures of it here.

That’s really about it? I’m hitting up Bengie’s drive-in tonight to see, among other things, a special widescreen print of Inception. If you’re anywhere near Baltimore tonight, you should go!

The Spider-Man Challenge Day 21: Amazing Spider-Man #19

The Spider-Man Challenge: Monday through Friday Mondays and Tuesdays, I read a Stan Lee-written issue of Amazing Spider-Man and write crap about it.

The Spider-Foot is coming for your face, reader!!

“Spidey Strikes Back!”

Writer: Stan Lee

Artist: Steve Ditko

Synopsis: This issue, Stan decides to kick things off with the most intense caption of all time.

These are border-line "Thriller" lyrics

Then BAM, we go straight into Spider-Man beating up some thieves!

Our boy is back

J. Jonah Jameson, literally about to deliver a lecture entitled “How I Proved That Spider-Man is A Cowardly Fraud”, finds out and we get what may seriously be the best three panel sequence in Spider-Man history:

DESPAIR

The Human Torch, tired from an adventure of in Strange Tales, notices Jameson pounding his fists against a wall, but ignores it. Out of nowhere,The Enforcers and Sandman ambush him.

Uhhhhh

Turns out they’re planning to take down every super-hero in the city (Yeah have fun with Thor, guys). One of Sandman’s cronies shows up to tell him that Spider-Man’s back, but Sandman tells him to shut up before The Enforcers hear (They only agreed to do the job with Spider-Man gone).

Meanwhile, Spidey heads home and catches some sleep. The next day at school, Spider-Man’s return means Flash is popular again, though Liz Allan won’t give him the time of day. After school, Peter spots Fancy Dan on the streets and decides to follow him.

I'd show you the panel of Ox throwing Fancy Dan at Spider-Man if I could, but it's as awesome as it sounds

Fight ensues. The cops show up and everyone scatters. Peter heads over to the Bugle and runs into Betty, who introduces him to Bugle reporter/her new beau Ned Leeds. Ned’s friendly enough and Betty’s surprised to find that Peter wishes her well, wondering if he’s seeing someone new. Peter tries to talk to Jonah, but he’s back to his usual self and slams the door on his face. Across town, The Enforcers and Sandman plan to use The Torch to trap Spider-Man. The Torch tries to give his glass cage The Touch but it’s a no go.

Nothin Doin'

Spider-Man stops by the Bugle long enough to razz Jameson, then shakes down a stoolie named Louie for the location of Sandman and co.

The jacket isn't coming down any time soon, bro.

Spidey shows up at their hideout (an old gym) and is taken by surprise by Sandman. A melee breaks out and Spider-Man holds his own long enough to break out The Torch.

SO MUCH IS HAPPENING

The two take down The Enforcers, but their squabbling keeps them from nabbing Sandman.

Teenagers are assholes.

Luckily, the police manage to catch the now-tired Sandman. Peter skedaddles and sells photos of the fight to Jonah, who greedily buys them up. Peter runs into Betty and Ned again and she’s put off that he isn’t showing a shred of jealousy. Betty really needs to get her shit together.

The issue ends intriguingly with a mysterious figure following Peter home. The figure phones another, even more mysterious robed figure to report in. The robed man says he “must know for certain” before he acts. Uh oh.

??????

Observations:

  • This is a pretty good issue. Not much really happens, but it continues some solid plot lines.
  • Hey, the first appearance of Ned Leeds! Lets look at the handsome devil:

It’s too bad he’ll die in disgrace and then basically be forgotten about!

  • I really enjoyed how this caper ended with Spider-Man and The Torch screwing up and bickering. It’s easy to forget that they’re just kids, so alittle immaturity now and then really demonstrates that.

Final Thoughts: Good issue and a nice conclusion to the three issue storyline Lee set up. Tomorrow: The first issue of 1965 and it’s got the debut of The Scorpion! Yeah!

The Spider-Man Challenge Day 20: Amazing Spider-Man #18

Alright. It’s been a little while, but THE MISSION COMES FIRST.

The Spider-Man Challenge: Monday through Friday Monday sand Tuesdays, I read a Stan Lee-written issue of Amazing Spider-Man and write crap about it.

“The End of Spider-Man!”

Writer: Stan Lee

Artist: Steve Ditko

Synopsis: Last issue, everyone was stunned to see Spider-Man flee from his fight with the Green Goblin. This issue, they’re still stunned!

Leave it to Kraven to put a positive spin on things.

Jonah's all 😀

There’s also a great panel that has the Avengers kind of acting like dicks about the whole thing, the crown jewel being the Wasp’s inexplicable “Wasps and spiders are natural enemies…so I can’t honestly say I’m sorry for him!”. Shut up, Wasp.

Meanwhile, Peter is busy watching Aunt May at home and going to class. He’s worried because, once again, money’s tight.

TO ME, MY X-MEN

Peter decides to try and make some money by hitting up a trading card company about doing Spider-Man cards. It doesn’t go well.

MR.TRADING CARDS TO SPIDER-MAN: "SCRAM WILL YA"

Afterwards, he comes across some would be jewel thieves but, fearing what would happen to Aunt May without him, decides to be someone’s lame neighbor and calls the cops instead. He tries to call Betty Brant, but she’s still mad at him for once again being seen within five feet of Liz Allan. Betty’s clearly upset about it and Aunt May’s heart attack, but it’s ok because J. JONAH JAMESON IS ALL SMILES.

Everything's turning up JONAH

Peter tries again to contact her, but Betty doesn’t trust herself to talk to him, so she refuses to answer. Peter mopes and flashes back to how he saved her from the Sinister Six (Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1, on stands now kiddies!).  Peter sees Betty, tries to talk to her, she runs off, Jonah pops out his neck chords.

Everything is wrong!

Spider-Man tries another get-rich-quick-scheme and offers to sell his web solution to a bunch of scientists. They’re amazed at first, but then dismiss it once they find out it isn’t permanent. Then, because he hasn’t ran into enough of his supporting cast, Sandman shows up!

This just ISN'T your day, Spider-Man

Sandman attacks (I guess he escaped from prison? The annual had him in a normal jail cell, so not terribly surprising really) and Spider-Man tries to run away while being called a coward by his foe and the public alike. Peter manages to ditch him by changing back to Peter and heads home. Aunt May tells him it’s too bad Mrs.Watson’s Watkins’ niece isn’t around ( writing 80% of Marvel’s initial output meant Stan Lee sometimes fucked up character names).  The Torch sees J. Jonah Jameson’s televised gloating about Spider-Man’s cowardice and refuses to believe he’s a coward.

NO TIME FOR SCIENCE, PROF!

He leaves a flaming message to meet at the Statue of Liberty, but Peter doesn’t show and Johnny’s very sad. Back at school, Flash Thompson still defends his idol and decides to dress up as Spider-Man, figuring Spider-Man will save him if he gets in trouble (What a terrible plan!).  It goes about as well as you’d expect.

OOF

Betty tells Peter what happened and he runs to stop Flash, but Flash gets his ass handed to him by a bunch of car thieves until the police arrive. Peter tries to talk to him the next day, but gets blown off by an angry and bruised Flash. To top off his terrible week, Peter runs into Betty leaving a movie on the arm of another guy.

For some reason, this looks familiar…

Sad Peter heads home and tosses off his Spider-Man stuff and decides to try just being Peter Parker for awhile. When he comes downstairs, he notices Aunt May is out of her wheelchair!  She ‘s feeling better and proceeds to give Peter a much needed talking to about not being such a bitch.

Good lord, how old is this woman??

The issue ends with Peter pulling out his Spider-Man costume. Fuck yeah.

Comments:

  • I like how the series has really transitioned from one-shot, fight-focusedissues with some ongoing plots to ongoing stories with alot going on. This issue is fantastic, if alittle slow. There’s surprisingly little action, but the sheer amount of plot makes up for it.
  • Flash’s desperation is surprisingly subtle, especially for the period. It’s stuff like this that really demonstrate the quality writing Lee puts into Spider-Man.
  • With this issue, you can really see the dissolution of Peter and Betty’s relationship. I love how realistically this is handled.
  • Aunt May giving Peter that pep talk  is such a great plot point, especially after how she’s been less of a character and more of a plot contrivance the last few issues.

Final Thoughts: This isn’t the first Spider-Man waffling about being Spider-Man story, it isn’t the last Spider-Man waffling about being Spider-Man story, but it’s a really good Spider-Man waffling about being Spider-Man story. ‘Nuff said. Next monday, Sandman rematch + The Enforcers = solid gold.

The Chaos Continues

Alright. I need to stop making proclamations. Today kept me out of the house for most of the day, so no time for a Spider-blog. I’ll pick up with that tomorrow. In the meantime, let’s talk about another Barnes And Noble Clearance Buy

The Pile

Avengers: The Initiative Volume one: Basic Training

Writer: Dan Slott

Artist: Stefano Caselli and Steve Uy

I’ve read some of the later Initiative stuff, but I was pretty happy to pick up the first volume for about $3. The premise is that this book follows the first group of cadets at Camp Hammond, the U.S’s super-human training camp.

Civil War, as a concept, is a great idea, but I thought the execution was lousy. But the great thing about Avengers Initiative is that it is able to pick up from Civil War and actually do the concept justice. Slott really deserves some credit for not only introducing some really cool new characters like Komodo and Cloud 9, but managing to balance their storylines with all the company-mandated crossover stuff. If anything, The Initiative is one of the only comics where having to tie-in to Marvel’s barrage of crossovers really helps the story. In this trade alone, the story transitions from Civil War aftermath to World War Hulk and the crazy thing is that none of it feels forced.  The WWH story is practically a tutorial on doing these kind of things: it’s not required to understand World War Hulk, but it still plays a semi-important role in the overall story.

Art-wise, Caselli was kind of a surprise to me. I wouldn’t have picked a manga-y style for this book, but he puts out some really gorgeous pages. His facial expressions are insanely expressive and everything’s just crisp and clear. Steve Uy’s fill-in on the last issue was pretty disappointing, though. Visually, it’s really close to Caselli’s stuff, but the manga aspects are even more exaggerated. The end result is the last issue just looks way too simple compared to the the rest of the collection.

Should I Buy It? The Initiative is, along with Brubaker’s Captain America, one of the strongest, consistent books Marvel’s put out in the last five years.  Even at full price, it’s a good value.

Where Do I Get It?

B&N has it for $12.81, but they’ve got the second volume up for $4! You’re better off getting the first one at Amazon for $10 and some change

Oy

Ok, so here’s the deal. With my commute and work schedule, it just isn’t feasible for me to keep with the 5 day a week update schedule. Instead, I pose this: Monday and Tuesdays will get Spider-Man Challenges, the rest of the week will be potpourri (i.e. whatever I feel like tossing up).

So lately, Barnes & Noble’s been having these INSANE comics clearances (Mostly Marvel and Dark Horse stuff, but it’s all between $2 and $6 a book, which is just mind blowing considering the books usually just have a fold or a scuffed corner). I’m going to do a few reviews as I burn my way through ’em.

The first trade I read was Chris Claremont and Frank Miller’s Wolverine trade:

Wolverine inna ball of ninjas. That's all the incentive you need.

The trade collects the 4 issue Wolverine series, plus the follow up story that Claremont wrote over in Uncanny X-Men. The pairing of these two stories is…interesting, but I’ll get into that in a minute.

The main attraction is the mini-series and, let me tell you, it’s a great comic. I hadn’t read it before I bought the trade (along with the Windsor-Smith Weapon X collection), but it’s easily one of the best Wolverine stories of all time. The story is this: Wolverine travels to Japan to fight for the love of Mariko, the daughter of a Yakuza boss and that goes as well as you’d expect. As a collaboration, Miller is really responsible for about 80% of what’s great about this comic. Don’t get me wrong, Claremont puts in good work here (His wordiness works here, for the most part), but Miller just draws the shit out of this book. His Tokyo is claustrophobic and alien, which just works beautifully with Wolverine’s adversarial relationship with Japanese culture. There are a number of elements, specifically the character of Yukio, where you can start to see where Miller’s little fetishes began to develop (Mariko, Wolverine’s lover/thrill-junkie/assassin/future Lady Deathstrike), but they don’t overwhelm the story too much. This is really just a classic and pretty instrumental in making Wolverine a viable solo character.

The second half of the trade reprints Uncanny X-Men #172-173 and deals with the immediate aftermath. It’s a weird pairing, because on one hand, this story is literally a follow up and pretty important in the overall story. But at the same time, the cliffhanger ending completely ruins the sense of closure the Wolverine mini gives the reader. Storytelling and art-wise, this is not nearly as strong a story. There are some great story points though: Wolverine’s reluctance to team up with new X-man and former foe Rogue and, maybe most importantly, the first appearance of Storm’s mohawk:

Bad. Ass.

Should You Buy it? Even though it’s not a perfect “collection”,  it’s definitely a great read. If you like Wolverine/X-Men/Frank Miller or it’s cheap, you don’t have any excuse.

Where Do I Get It?

Amazon’s got it for $12 , B & N has back to $14 and some change