Saturday, December 24, 2005

Recent Things

Panini has cancelled their edition of Ultimate Fantastic Four comic.

The last issue is #10. Panini's Ultimate Fantastic Four #11 and #12 have been cancelled.
I suppose the main reason for the cancellation is poor sales (being a UK reprint book and all), but by the time issue #12 was due to ship they were going to be getting dangerously close to overtaking the American series and that probably factored in to the decision. This is what happened with the Transformers UK comic in the '80s hence the need for original strips by the best of British. It would have been interesting as all hell if they'd commissioned some new stories for this series, but it's the 21st century and the UK is ruled by the Chavs.
Another blow for the

DC Solicits for Feb

In the last post I covered all things relevant to the "one Year Later" arc, some notable omissions and points of interest include:

BLUE BEETLE by Cully Hammer - Awesome artist. Probably not Ted Kord. This is one that I can see selling really well (on the back of Infinite Crisis and the death of Ted Kord), and then people getting bored with and sales going down the toilet quick as a flash. Look at the shiny artwork and re-design.

SUPERGIRL AND THE LEGION OF THE SUPER-HEROES #16 - How this is going to fit into One Year Later is anyones guess, I thought it's supposed to be set in the future.

GREEN LANTERN: NO FEAR HC - £17 retail price. For 6 issues?!? I thought the point of collections was to make them cheaper? ID Crisis HC is £17 too, but thats 7 issues, all oversized, and it was a mega-eventful story. The Tim Sale Catwoman series was only £13 in HC, and that was a deluxe format mini, not a run of the mill ongoing. Tut tut DC.

SUPERMAN/BATMAN #25 - The last issue written by Jeph Loeb. I seem to remember Jeph's son worked on this issue before his untimely death. Unfortunately, this book is now running so late that it is the only core DC book not joining into the One Year Later festivities. In the grand scheme of things compared to the death of a son; no, it's not really important, but DC should have pushed for this to have a February release, to tidy up the One Year Later event.

Marvel Solicits

ULT. IRON MAN TPB - Out of all of the Marvel solicits for March, the thing that stuck in my mind the most was the Ult. Iron Man HC collection. Not only is it a lot more sensibly priced than the DC HC's of late, like ID Crisis, it has two covers. Yup, in true Marvel style, any good idea DC has Marvel will "borrow". In March, look out for Ult. Iron Man Direct Market edition (fanboys) and the bookstore version (conservative types). Personally, as with ID Crisis, I think this is a great idea, and I too am tempted to buy the bookstore version, because its a lot easier to get a non-comic reader to pick up a book with a simple, informative design, than some fannish insular picture of a character who might not be instantly familiar to the layman.

THUNDERBOLTS #100 - Woop de doo. Considering issues 76-80 had NOTHING to do with the first 75 and subsequent 20 issues.

ALIAS OMNIBUS: If you don't already own Alias (nothing to do with the poorly written TV series featuring the woman with Affleck's chin), then this is your perfect opportunity to do so. Written by Bendis! with art by Michael Gaydos, this precursor to "The Pulse" goes where no other Marvel book dared to go. fuck. Fuck. FUCK!!!

ULTIMATE X-MEN ULTIMATE COLLECTION BOOK 1 TPB - How is this different to the Ultimate X-Men vol.1 HC?

SPIDER-GIRL PRESENTS JUGGERNAUT JR. VOL. 1: SECRETS & LIES DIGEST - The singles issues of this sold like 7 copies of each issue, but it was a whole lot of fun, recomended for '80's Marvelites. Pure fun.

INCREDIBLE HULK: PLANET HULK PRELUDE TPB - How do you kill a Summer crossover before it even begins? Start the prelude a month after House of M finishs. At least with DC Identity Crisis and Infinite Crisis were actually related to each other.

- Having said what that about Planet Hulk, its looking like Thanos is going to be a massive part of this Annihilation crossover, this can only be a good thing for me as I am a big fan of Thanos when he is written properly as an evil, sadistic shit.

X-MEN: MUTANT GENESIS - The Jim Lee stuff in the early '90's was absolutely fantastic and sold 8 million copies and laid the foundation for the forming of Image. This is a must read, X-Men at its absolute best (except the Whedon stuff).

More about adverts at Larsen

The oft-intelligent Erik Larsen has more to say on the subject of advertising:


Heard lot's of good things about this book, but I can't seem to find it for sale anywhere. Shit, I cannot even find a picture of it. anyone with any information or ordering codes, please let me know.

That's the lot for now. Have a good Christmas and thanks for reading.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Are comics too cheap?

This is a serious debate which has been raised by some comic stores in the US, who think comic companies are underselling their stock. Two of the items in questioning are Warren Ellis' "Fell" and the forthcoming Stephen King "Dark Tower" collaboration.

The argument for "Fell" is that at 2 bucks a piece, the retailer doesn't make enough money to warrant paying the staff to put the comics on the shelf. What a load of fucking bollocks. I bet his store is packed come Free Comic Book Day (May 6th, 2006). Surely he pays his staff by the hour, and not by the unit of comics loaded onto the shelf. I think this is just about the biggest bunch of arse I have ever heard (at least since Marvel announced a 1602 sequel without Neil Gaiman).
I am all for this format and I am intrigued to see more people experimenting with the form, although to be fair, indie publishers and creators have been playing with form for years, kudos to Ellis for breaching the mainstream with a new format.

The other argument is with the forthcoming Stephen king project. Some retailers are complaining that $3 an issue is too cheap, and want to see the book raised to $4 (about £3) so they can make a quick sensationalist buck off the backs of hordes of Dark Tower followers who want to read the missing chapters (the comics contain all new work, not just adaptations of already released books).
How fucking short-sighted can you get? Comic shops have a lot to learn from other places, namely businesses, because comic shops don't have a clue how to run a business themselves, relying instead on quick buck turnarounds and a loyal readership, rather than trying to expand the pre-existing readership. This is a comic event that could feasibly bring in thousands of intelligent people (who already read) into the world of comics, from there we can get them on to others: Sandman, Promethea, 30 Days of Night, Invisibles, Preacher, Planetary, Transmet and hundreds more.
Or...we could fleece them for every penny/cent we can, and make them think "Shit, I just spent $24 on six comics which will take me an hour to read, I could have bought at least two novels and a cappuccino which would have lasted me a hell of a lot longer." I would have been much more interested in this project if Marvel released it as an OGN (original graphic novel) with a $15-20 price tag including back up materials (scripts, King interview etc..) available from your local bookstore (as well as comic stores), because it looks like a hell of a lot more of a purchase than six comics in a plain carrier bag, sold by a retailer who is more interested in the cancellation of "Enterprise" or Formula One than the comics you want to buy.

I know that seems a bit extremist and its cutting out the direct market retailer, but until the direct market retailer does something to encourage readership which has more intelligence driving it than "more profit, less customers", they deserve to get hit in the place it will hurt them most (other than cancelling Star Trek), the wallet.

It's been much lamented over the last ten years that a change is coming and in order to survive changing customer demands the industry will have to evolve, but there comes a time where talking about it will not suffice. It seems more and more evident to me that the majority of retailers want nothing more than to keep comic reading a private, insular, self-perpetuating industry, where outsiders are shunned and elitist attitudes rule the roost ("I liked Superman before the film came out and I don't like his new logo" etc...).

At the Brighton Comicon I had the pleasure of meeting a few like-minded retailers, and it's made me realise that the future for the comic industry isn't as bleak as I'd previously thought. All we need is the old guard to die - and die they will - and the new guard of comic retailers will be there to take over. People like Stephen Holland at Page 45, Jamie at Comix-Shop, Jeff at Bedford (sorry mate, forgotten the name of your shop), all of whom are poised to continue retailing the comics that matter to the public. Talking to them all is great fun, as they always have a positive comic story, a title to recommend, a point of sale tactic and general love for the industry. Whereas the best the old guard can talk about is the level of sales during the Pokemon craze and the queues outside their shop for the Death of Superman farce (true fact, most US comic retailers fondest memory in 30 years of business include those two facts - Diamond Sales E-Mails).

At the tail end of 2005, the comic industry is an odd one to look at. On the whole, its been a healthy year for comics: good reviews in main stream press; the continued excellence of comic book films; more genre diversity; increased book store presence and Tpb sales; the slow rise of indie press attention; more mainstream writers flocking to the industry (Orson Scott Card, Stephen King, Allan Heinberg etc...), but there are still a few negative aspects: the insular nature of the industry; the continual whoring of the industry (merchandise for everything - a Hellboy Ouija board for Christ's sake!); compulsory company wide crossovers and of course the steady decline of sales across the board.
On the whole though, I would have to say the good far outweighs the bad, and 2006 is shaping up to be another interesting year.

-Sid Beckett: Would like to add that any spelling errors are due to a shit spellcheck bought to you by

Saturday, December 17, 2005


With Commentary by Sid

The staggering repercussions of DC Comics' INFINITE CRISIS continue to spread in March, as the heroes of the DCU take a sudden leap "One Year Later."

Spinning out of the incredible ending of INFINITE CRISIS #5 (DEC050244), the "One Year Later" issues introduce a spectacular array of new creative talents and startling new directions across the DCU. Now, DC unveils the complete list of "One Year Later" titles, along with their creative teams!

For those of you not in the know, the above should have filled you in. Every core DC book takes a leap one year forward in March. Much intrigue will follow as we try to piece together what has happened but we won;t be in the dark for long (about a year to be fair), as DC's "52" will shed light on the missing year.
52 is a weekly maxi, maxi-series told in real time. I presume the first issue will debut in April. As far as I know, the price is yet to be determined.

SUPERMAN #650 New creative team! Written by Geoff Johns & Kurt Busiek Art by Pete Woods Cover by Terry Dodson & Rachel Dodson and
ACTION COMICS #837 New creative team! Written by Geoff Johns & Kurt Busiek Art by Pete Woods Cover by Terry Dodson & Rachel Dodson
The dream team of Busiek and Johns. Although Busieks recent work isn't a patch on his older stuff, he is still a legend in the industry and his work on Superman: Secret Identity was awesome. Geoff Johns is, as always, the DC stalwart. No-one has done more for DC in the last few years than this man.
And Pete Woods is a fairly solid penciller.

AQUAMAN: SWORD OF ATLANTIS #40 New creative team! New title! Written by Kurt Busiek Art and cover by Butch Guice
My complete lack of interest in Arthur Curry as a character means I won't be picking this up. I have heard very mixed reports on aquaman for the last year, upto and including the sub-Diego storyline (which has had a complete lack of house support in any other DC titles, JLA, Infinite Crisis or anything). Will be interesting to hear the reports on this one.

BATMAN #651 New creative team! Written by James Robinson Art by Don Kramer & Keith Champagne Cover by Simone Bianchi and
DETECTIVE COMICS #817 New creative team! Written by James Robinson Art by Leonard Kirk & Andy Clarke Cover by Simone Bianchi
Despite hearing great things about his Starman run, I have never really read James Robinson consistently enough to judge his competence as a writer. Although seeing Dave Lapham off Detective Comics is bloody amazing. As good as his Matrix and creator woned work was, his Batman bored the piss out of me. Do like Leonard Kirk as well.

BIRDS OF PREY #92 New art team! Two new members! Written by Gail Simone Art by Paulo Siqueira & Robin Riggs Cover by Terry Dodson & Rachel Dodson
Not much interest in this series for me, I havn't read it since Ed Benes left.

BLOOD OF THE DEMON #13 New series direction! Written by John Byrne & Will Pfeifer Art by Byrne & Dan Green Cover by Byrne
How is this not cancelled?

CATWOMAN #53 New art team! Written by Will Pfeifer Art by David Lopez & Alvaro Lopez Cover by Adam Hughes
Not really reading this either, sorry. i miss the purple costume and Jim Balent.

FIRESTORM: THE NUCLEAR MAN #23 New cover artist! New title! Written by Stuart Moore Art by Jamal Igle & Keith Champagne Cover by Brian Stelfreeze
See Demon.

GREEN ARROW #60 New art team! Written by Judd Winick Art and cover by Scott McDaniel & Andy Owens
Scott McDaniel on Green Arrow should be a great thing. His Nightwing work is without par, but his recent Robin work didn't really work for me. Green arrow is a fantastic character when written right, it took Metlzer to remind us this...twice.

GREEN LANTERN #10 New art team! Written by Geoff Johns Art by Ivan Reis & Marc Campos Cover by Simone Bianchi
By March, issue 7 should be out!

HAWKGIRL #50 New creative team! New title! Written by Walter Simonson Art and cover by Howard Chaykin
Continued numbering. Interesting. Still not enough to hook me though, sorry guys.

JSA #83 New art team! Written by Paul Levitz Art by Rags Morales, Dave Meikis and Luke Ross Cover by George Pérez
Think I will stick with this a bit longer, I started buying it with the ID Crisis crossovers and have just kept buying it. Its been good so far, but the new creative team might put me off.

JSA CLASSIFIED #10 New creative team! Written by Stuart Moore Art and cover by Paul Gulacy & Jimmy Palmiotti
Have to judge this series issue by issue, as with all anthologies.

MANHUNTER #20 New series direction! Written by Marc Andreyko Art by Javier Pina & Fernando Blanco Cover by Jesus Saiz
Can't belive this isn't canned yet. I suppose its good that DC have such commitment to their poorer selling titles, Marvel would have axed this at #12.

NIGHTWING #118 New creative team! Written by Bruce Jones Art by Joe Dodd & Bit Cover by Jock
Damn. Might have to can this title, I don't really like Bruce Jones as a writer, I tend to get bored after about 5 issues, like I did on his Hulk series.

OUTSIDERS #34 New roster of heroes! Written by Judd Winick Art by Matthew Clark & Art Thibert Cover by Daniel Acuña
Should be good, it's a fairly solid title so i shall keep with it for the foreseeable.

ROBIN #148 New creative team! Written by Adam Beechen Art by Karl Kerschl Cover by Ed McGuinness & Dexter Vines
Started to get a bit bored by the Willingham run, which is shocking considering how much I like his Fables work.

SUPERGIRL #7 New writer! Written by Greg Rucka Art and cover by Ian Churchill
I have enjoyed this series far more than I thought I would. it would be nice if it came out a bit more regular. After Infinite Crisis is all said and done this book might seem a little more obsolete, and I'm sure its contents will become more perfunctory.

SUPERGIRL AND THE LEGION OF THE SUPER-HEROES #16 New title! Written by Mark Waid Art and cover by Barry Kitson & Mick Gray
A rose by any other name... Maybe its just me, but I didn't find any of the characters interesting, and for the first time in years i actually stopped getting a Mark Waid title. Still, a 15 year old girl in a miniskirt should boost the sales on this book.

TEEN TITANS #34 New roster of heroes! Written by Geoff Johns Art and cover by Tony Daniel & Sandra Hope Variant cover by Ed Benes
Bastard variant covers! One of the best series DC has put out for years, I will stick with this one as long as Johns is on it. Young Justice was my favourite books for years and this series fills that gulf nicely, it's been really great following the progression of Bart Allen over the years, as he surfaced around the time I started reading comics.

All "One Year Later" titles will be solicited in the January Previews (Volume XVI #1) and are scheduled to arrive in stores in March.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Crazy Comic Covers #2

My second favourite Superman cover of all time, my absolute favourite also includes Trickster - with a chainsaw.

Quicksilver in Good Comic Shocker

Here's one I really didn't expect to enjoy, despite the fact it had Spider-man whinging aboyut Gwen being dead again. I thought they had done enough work to establish MJ as "the one" but... - Hang on, I digressed and started bitching about Spidey again.

Anyways: Son of M #1 written by David Hine is a six issue miniseries spinning out of events of House of M. Decimation leaves Quicksilver with egg on his face in a world he inadvertantly helped create, Quicksilver has always been isolated from his peers, but now even his sister and father have left him...and so have his powers.

On sale next Thursday.

More about The Other

The Other Part 8: Marvel Knights Spider-Man #21

SPOILER ALERT (ships 15/12/05)

The cover says it all, J. Michael Straczynski and Pat Lee. Look at the horrible drawing, I think its meant to be a coccoon with Spidey in it, but I couldn't be sure.

The writing on this book is fairly solid, like I've said before I am reluctant to hate JMS for the content of this story-arc for the simple fact it was Hudlin's brain child. Tony Stark confronts MJ with some pretty horrific home truths; they have to desicrate the body in an attempt to hide the cause of death if they wish to protect Spidey's secret ID. Starks description of what needs to be done is grissly, and eventually MJ succumbs to the reality of the situation and comes up with a sensible, practical alternate option to burning her husbands corpse (maybe Stark has been reading ID Crisis and wanted to tap into the burnt corpse dollar).
There is a brilliant scene between MJ and Wolverine, where he seemingly is hitting on her, those of you with the ability to read between the lines and who actually understand the character of Wolverine (he hasn't been written consistently for years), will guess as I did, that he is giving her someone to hate. If you can't figure it out, it is descibed fully on the next page, so its reader friendly too.

The next event of consequence, is finding the hollowed out corpse of PP in the morgue. Quite evidently he has shed his skin as some spiders do, but that probably wouldn't be your first thought upon finding a dead friends hollowed out body and Stark incorrectly assumes that someone else has broken into his tower again. After a breif biology lesson in the nature of spiders, we see what the cover already told us, that Spider-man is in fact not dead, but in a cocoon. Growing, rebuilding, evolving.

Thanks to the inconsistencies in Pat Lee's "Art", Cap, Wolvie, Stark and Jarvis are all about the same height, but the rest of his work is so bland and inoffensive it's pretty hard to comment on (and no, I am not jumping on the "I hate Pat Lee" bandwagon - I started it).

It's certainly better than issue 5 and 7, but at the same time it kind of renders the last few issues obsolete. Spider-man is obviously about as dead as Spock was at the end of Star Trek 2. I know there are a lot of people who are defending this story-arc, but if a movie franchise treated its fans the way this storyline is, it would be a commercial and critical flop that would make Joel Schumacher blush.
The tagline for the series is "Evolve of Die", but it seems in the course of evolving the character, they're killing the readership.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Spider-Man: The Other is a big piece of shit.

Okay, now this book is a good seller, so I run the risk of offending customers who are reading it and love it. To any of my customers who I know I run the risk of offending: These are my opinions, if you like the book then great. I am not telling anyone not to buy it, in fact, I buy two of each what with all the pointless variants that make no sense in relation to the story (as I am a spineless consumer whore).

I really didn't want to slate this series, as regular readers of this blog may know I am a huge fan of both Spider-man and Straczynski, but this series has left me with a seriously bad taste in my mouth.

Where do I start, there is so much wrong with the series. I am not a fan of comic newcomer Reginald Hudlin (didn't even like House Party, sorry), but I do however love JMS and Peter David, and I especially love Mike Weiringos artwork. I understand "The Other" is the brainchild of Reginald Hudlin, and it was during his writing tenure* that the series really took a turn for the worst, but I thought I would see it out and wait to see if JMS's issues were any better. They were not, hence this column.

*The Other is a twelve part series. Parts 1-3 and 10 were written by Peter David, parts 4-6 and 11 were written by Hudlin, Parts 7-9 and 12 by JMS. Don't ask why, it defies all logic.

So I guess I should start at the beginning then.

Part One: Friendly Neighbourhood Spider-Man #1

So we open with a dream sequence with Morlun, a portent of things to come or reference to a really kick ass story. Either way, a good start. We have a new Spidey villain debut on page 3, which is a nice idea but he is a technology based villain not an animal based villain, which never works for me. Call me old fashioned, but I like my Spidey villains to dress up in bad gorilla outfits and give themselves bad names. Still, one out of two isn't bad, what with him being called "The Tracer" (your mother's a tracer) and all. Although his only ability seems to be he has magic bullets which chase people and can turn around, fly up and down, go around corners etc...
So, after half an issue of Spidey running away from bullets (plural, take not) he decides to try and catch them (which is better than jumping over them and letting innocents get shot, like the last time PAD wrote Spidey). Strangely enough, Spider-man pulls of the Supes-esque feat of catching a bullet (lack of plural), the other bullet penetrating his shoulder - which promptly makes Spider-man pass out.
Yeah, I know, I have seen Spidey go toe-to-toe with a herald of Galactus, but a bullet in the shoulder drops him. Oh well, never mind, its only set up for the second half of the issue anyway.
So after Spidey gets fixed up and has a blood test taken, he has an obligatory argument with Mary Jane and then goes out to trace the Tracer. A bit of a mix-up means Spidey inadvertently smashes up good ol' JJJ's limo. A welcome return for the grumpy publisher, who has recently only been used to any decent affect in The Pulse and Daredevil.
The issue ends with a grim portent of things to come, with Spidey being told there is bad news regarding his blood test and the foreboding figure of Morlun looking into Peter's apartment.

Not a terrible issue to be fair.

The Other Part 2: Marvel Knights Spider-man #19

I HATE PAT LEE. And I mean his artwork, not the publisher politics. But enough of that, it's the story I am concerned with.
The best thing with this issue, as with the last, are the sepia tone flashbacks (they only go back a few weeks, but the sepia tone works to good effect as we instantly know its a flashback - good work that colourist) showing character building between MJ, Peter and Steve Rogers (that's Captain America people), which shows that moving Peter and MJ into Avengers tower is more than a change of scenery and affects every aspect of their lives.

We then get another "MJ has an obsessive fan" story in between pages of Spider-man and Iron Man fighting The Tracer, but clumsy Tony Stark; despite being arguably the third brainiest guy in the Marvel Universe his armour comes without firewalls (doh!) and Tracer overrides the armour and uses it to attack Spider-man. Yeah, right.

Then MJ beats a guy up with a pool cue, Spidey neutralises the bomb and all is over in the space of seconds. They then go home, after a nice monologue from MJ accusing Peter of having survivors guilt, Peter delivers the bad news that he is dying.
And we have no idea why or what from.

Oh yeah, Morlun showed up in the issue too. To be fair, the thing I noticed most about this issue was the adverts, which tells you something about the story and art.

The Other Part 3: Amazing Spider-Man #525.

We open with an interesting flashback showing Aunt May in her early years at her Mothers deathbed, an interesting look at an early slice of May Parker life, which turns out to be nothing more than a nightmare.

We get a few good pages of Aunt May where, okay, she is talking to herself (well, at Ben, but he is dead) but she is still sharp enough to see through Peter's angry facade. interesting stuff, until...
Oops, Tony Starks done it again, Tracer has managed to break into Avengers tower and is now sat down having a chit-chat with Aunt May. You really think Mr. stark would be more careful though.

Morlun shows up, then pisses off, then Wolverine shows up (but at least he did it without making the cover, must be a first) and queries "What's the matter Groucho? Don't want to belong to any club that'd have you as a member?". A great line which really sums up Spidey's inability to be a team member over the years.

Back to Aunt May who is now making a sandwich for Tracer, and to be fair, their conversation is handled pretty well. Tracer reveals he is a modern God of technology, which is a nice spin on an origin (and fits in nicely if you've just finished reading American Gods). Spider-man shows up just in time to stop Tracer finding out his secret origin and starts trying to beat up Tracer. One quick blood analysis later and Tracer too finds out Peter is dying, he refuses to fight him which gets our hero all flustered and he starts wailing on Tracer, who promptly melts, but all this forces Peters hand and he has to come clean to Aunt May.

Part Four: Friendly Neighbourhood Spider-Man #2

The first few pages continue directly after the events of last issue, then a perfectly placed comic relief page raises the somber tone before we all start killing ourselves from the depressing tone of the book. Light pieces of dialogue and comic relief seem to be Hudlin's thing, its quite reminiscent of Smith and Bendis when its done right (a few times in black Panther its been very obtrusive) - but still, a compliment to Hudlin.

A nice utilisation of Spidey's new found "I'm a genuine superhero" status brings Hank Pym and Reed Richards into the story, obviously trying to stop any more Stark-isms happening (although bringing in the creator of Ultron might not help), they come to the conclusion they need the foremost expert on radiation based mutation: Bruce Banner.

An atypical superhero fight ensues to fulfil the action beat requirements of a Marvel comic, and eventually the Hulk is subdued. Brucy can't help, but he recommends a trip to Wakanda, a place that is more scientifically advanced than anywhere on Earth and coincidentally, where Black Panther (currently written by Hudlin - cheap plug) lives.
A nice nod of the head to Anansi the Spider-god pays homage to the totemistic theme introduced originally by JMS way back when (Amazing Spider-man Vol. 2 #30-35). Spidey gets his hair braided which is still better than the skin-'ed look in his House of M series. all this is to no avail for our webspinning wonder, for even the mighty Wakandan's can shed no light on what is killing our hero.

Morlun shows up to mess with Spidey's head again, obviously playing the much-lamented mindgames, on top of everything else that is happening too. Tut tut Morlun. Cameo from DD leads into cameo with another famed Ditko character; Dr. Strange, who tells Spider-man in no uncertain terms "You are going to die".

The Other Part 5: Marvel Knights Spider-man #20

Meanwhile in Latveria...

Okay, are you ready for this? Because this is where the series gets really bad, but don't fret, there are 7 issues left and it's going to get a whole lot shitter before its done.

Spider-man is breaking and entering Castle Doom, and with him are two Iron Men, or at least two people in the really old sixties style Iron man armour (you know, like the statue in my shop that has never sold), we'll call them Gold and Silver for the time being as we have no idea who are in them. One seems a bit old but...nah, it couldn't be, could it?

Nothing's happening, nothing's happening, Spidey break a lot of doors down, something about a map.

Oh, right. He's trying to use a time machine despite everything we have ever been told about the delicate nature of the fabric of time and space, how heroic. It's on this very same page that Gold and Silver are revealed. Are you ready?
It's Mary Jane and Aunt May.

Are they fucking kidding me? What the fuck? The entire F4 have tried and failed to infiltrate Doom's fortress, but MJ and Aunt May manage it. Oh well, at least they didn't fight anyone in the costumes, as that would be stupid.

So, they go back in time but chronal displacement yadda yadda yadda, sees his dead parents, Pat Lee art, "we'll be back Peter" (no you won't, Amazing Spider-man #365 not withstanding), "I wuv you Daddy". Wuv you? Jesus, I ask you.

Then PP and co. go back to their proper timeline and loads of Doom-bots attack them all, Spidey is trying to fight back but its too much for him (the bad art is killing him remember). Luckily, MJ and Aunt May still have the Iron Men costumes so they put them on and fight all the Doom-bots. You read that right.

That's the first half of the issue. the rest of the issue is taken up with Spidey doing all the things he never got around to doing, like going to Las Vegas. Super hero fight. Morlun. someone breaks into Avengers tower. Peter Parker and MJ go into Space in one of Tony Starks space-pods (knowing how airtight and secure Stark's security measures are I wouldn't trust a space-pod in a vacuum). Aunt May cries.

The Other Part 6: Amazing Spider-Man #526.

Back on Earth. With a monologue that would make Wolverine proud.

Morlun shows up, and finally he decides its time to fight Spider-man, as Spidey fights tend to go from time to time, they fight through the Bugle for a bit. To be fair, the characterisation on JJJ is spot on, and Spidey does keep firing out his trademark quips. Morlun does his best Gwen Stacy impression and falls out of the sky, unlike Gwen he gets back up. They stumble into Empire State University - which contrary to John Bryne's scribing is the birthplace of Spider-man - a nice piece of symmetry for a final fight, more akin to JMS's writing than Hudlins, nice touch.

We have the "Never been hit that hard, and I've gone toe-to-toe with the Hulk" line, which I believe was used in the first Morlun fight, another nice touch.

Spidey musters up all his resolve, uses his usual "I will not quit" schtick, which usually works very well for him, and it honestly looks like he is going to win. But Morlun is too strong and powerful, and a quick wry smile tells us that Morlun isn't even close to beat.

He rips out Peters eye and eats it, and then proceeds to beat seven shades of poop out of the red and blue adorned arachnid.

The best issue so far to be honest, but it's a horribly deconstructed fight scene, in the days of Ditko, Kirby et al, this fight scene would have been told in 5 pages, tops. These days it takes an issue. And I'm not sure with the eye thing, I'd think it was cool if I thought it would stick.

Part Seven: Friendly Neighbourhood Spider-Man #3

At least this issue had a more reasonable advert count (12 pages). This is easily the worst issue, which I find all the more disturbing as this marks the first issue of the story written by JMS - one of my favourite ever writers. I was kind of holding out hope that this would be the issue where it all turns around, but alas, 'twas not to be.

Morlun has won, battered Spidey close to death and eaten his eye (as you do), but then the cops show up and Morlun decides the best thing to do is disappear. An old Spidey trick is used, where he gets unmasked but his face is battered, bloody and broken beyond all recognition (its not a proper Spidey story unless someone takes his mask off).

The New Avengers and MJ show up at the hospital where Peter has been taken, the hospital refuses to let the Avengers move him as it might prematurely kill him - meaning; he is going to die. Mary Jane arrives in the hospital room just in time to witness Morlun about to eat Spider-man with his hands (just like the watered down pathetic Morbius from the Fox Spider-Man cartoon).

All the while a pathetic monologue is running about how "The Man is dead" and "only the Spider remains", which has been done before numerous times throughout Spidey's 40 year history, and Mary Jane decides to stand against Morlun, a nice gesture if futile. At the point where Morlun breaks MJ's forearm, Spider-man awakes from his death bed coma.

Now, it is important that you remember the following fact: When cornered, when death looms, Spider's bite, and they sting.

Spidey leaps from his death bed onto Morluns back, his one good eye glowing, a massive stinger protrudes through Spidey's wrist and he stabs with it, paralysing Morlun. Then Spidey grows fangs and feasts on the head of Morlun, much to the disgust of MJ. The New Avengers hear the screams and rush to the aid of PP, just in time for Spider-man to die. The Avengers take Spidey's body from the hospital, deciding that the World cannot know about his demise, and the issue ends with a two page spread of Iron man flying across the NY cityscape with the corpse of Peter Parker.

To be fair to this series, the dialogue between Peter and MJ moments before his death is pretty decent, and stays true to the characters. But the damage has already been done. Even if there weren't five issues left in this story line, I think the most novice comic reader would have a hard time believing Spider-mans death. It reeks of Superman's death all those years ago: pointless and titillating.


What's next for Spider-man? If I was a betting man, I would expect to see him disappear into a cocoon (not the Guttenberg flick), before eventually emerging stronger than ever before, bound forever to the totemistic rituals of Anansi the Spider god "I am forever the Spider" yadda yadda and saves the day against Morlun, hoorah, everyone is safe, status quo is reset, the end.

Maybe it's just me. Is anyone enjoying this series? I need to know for the sake of my sanity.

Jesus, 5 more issues.

-Sid Beckett (uses too many brackets)

Tuesday, December 06, 2005