Saturday, April 02, 2011

The Spider in Comics.

The Spider - Thanks to Chuck Wells for recommending this title by Moonstone. I've not been enamored with their illustrated prose versions and the Spider is a really difficult character to capture in comic form.  But this issue with a cover by Dan Bereton and story by Martin Powell and Pablo Marcos really manages to deliver the goods. Likewise is a slightly re-done version of Mark Wheatley's Spider comic story "Burning Lead for the Walking Dead". Both stories feature the Spider against incredible odds and monstrous foes, both physically and psychologically. A secret to the Spider pulps, the extremes his foes go to in their campaign for fortunes and power justify his own extreme response. No one questions John McClane's sanity in the "Die Hard" movies, we accept that he's in bad situation and his response is justified for saving many innocent lives. The same is true for the Spider. And, these two comics deliver that.

Wheatley's comic is longer and is especially strong. His artwork at times reminds of the stylish Tim Sale. Out of his Spider garb and in tattered shirt, Wentworth looks like he could hold his own against Doc Savage. Many elements of the pulps find their way into the comic and as a stand-alone, it works as a very good comic pastiche of the pulp hero. Anyone that likes it should probably try out the pulp stories that inspired it. As an added bonus, Wheatley talks in the back how the story came about and his love for the character and pulps (constrast that with how Azzarello talked about Doc Savage and the pulps).

The Powell Spider comic also has a back-up, in this case the start of a story of Operator 5. It does little to really define the character and he's one of the few pulp heroes I've yet to be able to get into. I have several reprints but I've never been able to finish one of his adventures. This back-up is about the same in that regards, I couldn't really get into it or read it straight through without it being a chore.

John Byrne's Next Men # 34: This comic continues to be a tour-de-force. Again, the story starts in a way that intentionally keeps the reader a little off balance as it does not directly tie into cliffhanger of the previous issue, but instead is telling a "present day" story that is seemingly at odds with the events of the previous issues. As it nears the end, it becomes readily apparent at what's being set up as some motivations come clearer.

The artwork is top-notch. My only complaint is where the coloring is used to illustrate the lava that swallows Bethany. It's obviously computerized and is at complete odds with the style and relative realism of the rest of the artwork. It's not coloring complementing the line work but taking over the role of the line work in that regard. It's a mish-mash of style.

Thunderstrike #4: This mini rocks towards its final issue and despite being the next to last issue, the issue doesn't lag as many comics do at this point. Partly because DeFalco knows how to tell a story on two different levels. On one hand, this is about a man coming to understand his deceased father and coming to terms with his leaving him and what it was that made him a hero. It's a teen-ager learning how to be a man. On the other hand, it's a superhero story and so we have a villain's master planning that has gone haywire. There's plenty of action, and while one threat is dealt with, an even larger one emerges that young Kevin Masterson realizes that he must somehow handle. We see him finally learning hard lessons that many have been trying to get through to him with the promise of a big fight the next issue and him showing just how much of a man he's finally become.

Adam Mann makes an interesting villain with interesting motivation, one that's fitting in a story with mythological overtones, he seems straight out of myth himself. Thus, its a bit sadness with his sudden end. Maybe he'll have a Jonah/Pinocchio experience and not as dire experience as it appears.

Oddly, the artwork is mostly inked by Sal Buscema, but in places it appears to be shot and colored straight from the pencils. Strange. Enjoyable nonetheless


Recently read a story where Bryan Singer apologizes for the mistakes he made in his movie "Superman Returns". He apologizes for it being a bad movie and explains how it was intended to be a "romantic" superhero movie, one that would draw women in as well as a love letter to the Donner films with Christopher Reeve. I guess he thinks the romance women want is one of a lover (Superman) abandoning her while she gets pregnant and has to raise a kid on her own as well as her lover secretly spying on her. Singer doesn't apologize for how he turned Superman into an absentee deadbeat dad, voyeur and stalker. Nor the huge plot hole at the center (that Lois had sex with Superman and pregnant by him but doesn't remember that Superman is Clark Kent). Nor does he apologize for the horrible changes to the costume or having Brandon Routh not playing Clark Kent/Superman but Christopher Reeve playing Clark Kent/Superman.

The "Thor" and "Green Lantern" trailers look like fun superhero movies. Although, the changes to Green Lantern's costume really weaken a strong iconic design. But, the proper story elements all look to be in place. Not so much from the stills and interviews concerning "Captain America" and "Spider-man". There's one trailer of "Captain America" that at least looks good, watching Evans running around in action in a t-shirt and you can easily see Captain America. A pity it's all lost as soon as he puts on the baggy dyed army uniform that they've given him that's supposed to communicate a symbolic costume. I love the scene where he's got the shield and a rifle. Does he drop or toss the shield aside when he uses the rifle? Or toss the rifle when he wants to fight hand-to-hand while using the shield? If you're carrying a shield, you don't carry a two-handed weapon.

Smallville - They released images of an episode with Booster Gold and the new Blue Beetle. Booster looks like he's supposed to be a race car driver and not an actual superhero. The gold elements being obviously material and not metallic. And, how does the new Blue Beetle exist BEFORE the Dan Garrett and Ted Kord Blue Beetle? I imagine they'll probably explain it away as these are previously unknown heroes.  However, this season has been weak by revealing these other previously unknown heroes that have existed and were active such as the JSA, that somehow no one has talked or known about. Hopefully, it will be more of Booster and Blue Beetle time-traveling from the near future, that Ted hasn't become Blue Beetle yet. And, it's yet another episode of other heroes telling Clark how he needs to be in the light and an inspiration for others, replacing the tired refrain of past seasons of everyone talking about Clark's "destiny". It's too much talking about being a legend instead of showing him doing things that are actually legendary and epic building. If you have to constantly remind the viewers why he's great instead of showing him as being great, you're doing something wrong. And, it lessens Clark to have everyone repeatedly tell him this instead of coming to the conclusion himself. It feels like a series just treading water, padding out the season instead of actually delivering some solid plots with scary powerful threats.