Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Another look at Spiderman: - The Other

Was there anything good in this?

So I’m given the task by Sid of reading Spiderman: The Other and finding the good aspects within it. And I couldn’t come into this without preconceptions because I knew most of the story through either Sid’s sarcastic breakdowns of the issues from a few months back or other fans on the internet waxing lyrically for nigh on 4 months. So with the copy in my hands I casually ask if he thought there was anything good in it, and Sid tells me maybe a bit of dialogue and some of the art, which I guess stems from his enjoyment of JMS’s and Peter David’s writing along with Mike Weiringo’s artwork. I on the other hand am not a massive fan of any member of the creative team working on this, sure I read comics written by some of them, but I don’t follow them book to book, they just happen to write some of the comics I like at the moment.

I tried to dig deep with it, I really wanted to find some nugget of gold, I really did.

First things first, I don’t follow Spiderman monthlies religiously; in fact the only ‘Spider’ book I really enjoy is Spidergirl. So I’m not up to date on all the recent changes before and after this, with the exception of the general gist of the Other, Parkers costume reveal and JMS’s alternative ‘origin’ of powers (I’m not really sure how to refer to it so that’s the way I’ll be doing it from here on in)

I had a very negative perception of the comic before I had even read an issue, if not from what has been written about the story in reviews, but from Joe Q himself who went to say that the other ‘…didn't flow. Let's be honest. When you have that many creators in the room, things are gonna change.’

A really positive start to reading it, right?

Well I did read it, over the course of a couple of days on a canal boat in the middle of nowhere. And while I won’t say I enjoyed it, it wasn’t the worst thing I have ever taken the time to read, in fact I think the story works on an almost so bad it’s good level. I mean we have MJ and Aunt May in Iron Man’s old suits, Time Travel for the emotional sake of it, Tony Stark revealing how great he is at implementing fail safes in his technology, Peter Parker using his Spider senses to win at black jack, Wolverine whining about having to wear socks, Jarvis complaining about cleaning up Spiderman’s Webs and MJ seemingly giving the finger to JJJ in a panel (with the offensive finger being conveniently covered by a birds wing).

So what did I find that I thought was good, well to me it would be some choice pieces of dialogue that stood out most. The majority of which coming from Wolverine, even if it was spoilt in one instance by an over explanation of why he acted to MJ in the way he did. I mean sure, give new readers a hint as to what he’s doing if you want, but don’t dedicate a page to over explaining it; thereby destroying any effect it had. JMS for the larger part, though no way near completely, nailed the balance between the sombre tone often used in this story and the quipping side of Spiderman. As for the art? To me there was nothing that really stuck out, but I didn’t like the mash of the artistic styles, which worked as a constant reminder that this wasn’t a cohesive vision.

So while the actual parts of the whole weren’t fantastic, was what the story attempted to reach for a good aim?

Well here is, what I saw, that we exactly got out of the story

Spiderman’s need for a new costume

Nothing that was really needed, but it may play a larger role in Civil War yet, I’ll reserve judgment on this, I mean we all know that at some point the classic costume will be reverted to, but I’ll see if this one has a significant part to play. Just looking at all those alternative covers we know how much a change of costume tends to stick. I don't think a change of costume can be considered a high point of a story, well unless the costume was awful to begin with, and even then that's a pretty bad story.

Spiderman’s aquiration of new powers

(Apparently aquiration isn't a word according to spell checker, but you get what I mean)
So now he can see in the dark, redundant with his Spider sense right? Well at least in a danger sense, but it doesn’t really add anything new to the character. He can now sense vibrations through a spun web, as much as this was portrayed as new when I read it, it just niggles in the back of my mind that it was probably been done before, as with him carrying the girl on his back through his Spider ‘clinging hairs’. He now has stingers, because in the future that’s what spiders have? Are we seriously meant to think that Spiderman will use these in a fight against his usual rouges? It just seems a little to violent for Peter. It’s a power I would only expect to see used against ‘Spider’ villains, along with an inner monologue about how much more evolved he has become.
I hate the stingers.
In fact the issue where all these new powers were shown off one by one and helped him out of that building to save the girl was cringe worthy to read. One of the many low points of the story in my opinion.

The ‘healing’ also healed his mind so that old problems no longer really bother him

So I guess that sorts out personal continuity, all this old stuff doesn’t bother me anymore so I won’t talk about it? Perhaps it was a needed aspect, I don’t know, but there could have easily been a much more organic way to reach it rather than saying in effect that ‘my mind healed itself’.

It lead into civil war, through a nice bit of dialogue from Spidey about Tony and Cap, with it also showing how much Peter is now connecting with Tony

Possibly my favourite snippet of dialogue in the whole 12 issues

Iron Man:- We’re not blaming you, Peter. We’re just trying to figure out what just went on here today. Our security camera captured the action, but we still don’t have the full picture. Until then, we’re going to have to—

Spiderman:- I know, I know. More tests.

Captain America:- I have to agree with Tony.

Then we wait a beat, they leave and we hear Spiderman’s quiet sarcastic dialogue to himself

Spiderman:- Big surprise

Really not connected to The Other though, just the parts that shadowed what is now current, and probably only mean more now in retrospect. But these I enjoyed --And while I’m on dialogue, it was obvious at one point someone came up with the notion that when someone dies, sometimes you turn to talk to them but their gone. Sure that’s fine and soppy on its own, but it was used repeatedly in issues 7 and 8, now whilst I thought this would be put down to the collaborative effect of the writers, this was in fact in two of JMS’s issues. Great way to destroy a piece of dialogue/thought that.

It tied the ‘alternative’ possible source of his powers more closely to Spiderman

I don’t mind these ideas of ‘two’ origins, I like the juxtaposition of whether Spiderman was a result of science or an ‘endowed by the gods’ power type of thing. But here I feel the two didn’t mesh, seeming more to be a push by JMS to tie his possible alternative ‘origin’ even more closely to the character .

Introduced two new villains, The Tracer and The Spider

Neither were that memorable, but I liked the idea behind The Tracer, god of technology, though the name is a current day rival to that of Paste Pot Pete. The Spider just read as a generic spider themed villain, nothing more to it than that, an arch enemy based around an opposing concept of the hero.

It has a built in story factor that can be used to negate everything that follows

Something that really did grate on me, it’s made clear that Spiderman is possibly not who he was. Possibly not just in his new powers
Wolverine:- ‘Something doesn’t smell right…I mean something’s changed in you’
And whilst we reach a little conclusion of sorts in the last page with Tony saying ‘Yep, it’s him, all right’, we all know how right he generally tends to be in this story. Leaving a perfect opportunity for the events which have followed it to be explained away with the simple excuse of this wasn’t the real Peter if they prove unpopular. That he was something else when he came out of the cocoon. Seems far to contrived to actually be used, but its there ready and waiting if Marvel decide to pick up its reins.

So did I find anything good with in Spiderman: The Other? Just a couple of bits of dialogue, whilst the art didn’t do much for me. Sure there might have been some good aims within this, but the majority of the time it got tangled in its on web (See what I did there? I could write for Wizard with cheesy review dialogue like that) or fell flat on its face.

So in my opinion, Spiderman: The Other is just as worthless as everyone makes out, it’s just that as a whole it’s not across the board consistently awful. This perhaps being the only saving grace of having 3 writers attacking the story, some writers manage to hit at least some of the beats that they were aiming for.

A couple of notes

Thinking back I’m not that sure on the whole Spider god JMS thing, I can’t remember the story that well, so excuse my rambling if it was never meant as a possible alternative origin.

What bugged me about the Hardcover- While this isn’t the story itself, for a hardback complete copy with all the variant covers in the back, you would really think that they would include the sketchbook as well, just a stupid thing which bugged me, that’s all.

I need to figure out how to add images to blog posts again

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