ASM6

A man must be incredibly close with a woman before she starts hand-feeding him. A white guy who could convince his “girl-power”-loving Asian fling to feed him with chopsticks would need incredible skills to pull off such a feat. I say this because The Amazing Spider-Man #6 is out, and Dan Slott expects fans to embrace Lien Tang (spelled ‘Lian’ in ASM #1) as a legitimate love interest. The only “evidence” of such a bond between the two came in the first issue — when she said they were “very close.”

Lian Tang SpiderMan

Besides the whole “white guy who dreams of having his own concubine” feel to the relationship with Lian, it’s just poor writing. The seriousness between Lian and Peter came out of nowhere. There was no build-up. There was no courtship. Readers — including those who are wondering why Marvel refuses to reunite Peter with M.J. — are asked to care about a character because she’s responsible for building the Spider-Mobile.

Note to Dan Slott: It doesn’t work that way (even if it is one step above the Cindy Moon “pheromones” debacle).

ASM #6 has other issues as well. Mr Negative is back in town, but the lead-up to Peter’s encounter with the villain involves Spider-Man saving the day with “web shooter cartridge seven: Quick-drying web-cement,” and “web shooter cartridge three: Acid webbing.”

Question for fans of The Amazing Spider-Man: At what point does all drama get sucked out of the book because Dan Slott magically gives Spider-Man the perfect technology to escape any situation?

ASM6 web cement

These days we have Spider-submarines, Spider-jets, Spider-mobiles, anti-poison darts, web-cement, acid-webbing, hologram suits, and … possibly 100 different web cartridges for any occasion.

Perhaps Peter even has depleted uranium webbing in a special cartridge in case he ever has to battle The Hulk.

ASM6 web acid

For readers who continue on after realizing they purchased The Amazing Inspector Spider-Gadget, there is a tale unfolding about Mr. Negative’s return to China, his newest drug spreading on the streets of Shanghai, and his interest in Parker Industries. The potential for a very cool tale is there, particularly since Cloak and Dagger are involved, but at this point it is too soon to say whether Slott’s “The Dark Kingdom” is worth checking out.

In short, if Dan Slott is going to have “web shooter cartridge 64” filled with ‘Positive webbing’ for combat with Mr. Negative (i.e., a lazy creative escape hatch), then readers should save their cash for another book.

ASM6 Cloak Dagger

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About the Author Douglas Ernst

I'm a former Army guy who believes success comes through hard work, honesty, optimism, and perseverance. I believe seeing yourself as a victim creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. I believe in God. I'm a USC Trojan with an MA in Political Science from American University.

24 comments

  1. Yeah, the Lian thing is one of those things we’re simply told to accept is just “as is” because of the courtship taking place during those eight months we were not privy to post-Secret Wars. Peter doesn’t really value the relationship either because she is not part of the inner circle that knows Peter and Spider-Man are one and the same, so nobody’s going to really care about them?

    Not that much to review here, partially because it’s the beginning of a story, and partially because the plot is so wafer-thin. The best and worst books give you a lot of topical discussion, but the most offensive thing a book can do is offer up very little in either extreme.

    1. We know that Dan has some sort of “big” scene down the road where in his mind it’s like, “Wouldn’t be cool if Spider-Man and Mr. Negative collided at [x location] and [y happens]?” That’s all fine and good, and in theory it may even be something fans would want to see, but the set-up is just as important as the punch line.

      Things happen to characters in Dan Slott’s books, but you never really feel as though he’s offering windows into the characters’ souls so that guys like you and I could actually relate to them. Yes, it’s great Spider-Man is a hero, but you’re invested in him and his supporting cast at the best of times because you connect with them on a personal level.

      In many ways I feel conversations about George Lucas being a strong “idea” guy but a weak writer can also offer us insight as to why Dan Slott’s stories so often do not live up to the hype (and he is a very good hype-man).

      I can see some scene coming down the road where Lian dies. Maybe she’s driving the Spider-mobile and someone takes control of it thinking Spider-Man is inside. She dies. Peter blames himself. We’re supposed to care because they used to eat Chinese food on the roof and she fed him with her chopsticks. But we don’t care because Dan Slott never gave us a reason to really root for her. And then when fans say that to him they will be accused of being “haters.”

      Rinse. Wash. Repeat.

  2. Random point for conversation. Title of my newest piece: “Dan Slott to Fans: Embrace Asian FLING feeding inspector Spider-Gadget with Chopsticks in ASM #6.”

    Comment in Crawlspace in response to said review:

    “I think Doug is reaching a bit with the whole “Peter/ Lien” thing. As are quite a lot of people. I don’t think this is meant to be a serious relationship. This is just a fling.” Or, as TV Tropes puts it, a “Romantic False Lead.” Peter isn’t serious about Lien, and we aren’t meant to look at her as the new “main” love interest. She’s a distraction. A feint.”

    Am I not being clear about what’s going on by literally putting the word ‘FLING’ in the headline? Yes, I understand what Dan Slott is doing. That’s exactly why I mentioned there was zero evidence of any serious relationship other than Lian saying the were “very close.” It’s an insult to the readers, and by drawing attention to the so-called relationship in my review it forces readers to really think about what Dan Slott and Marvel are doing.

    I am not overreaching. I am pointing out writing that is creatively dishonest with the audience.

    1. That particular poster doesn’t rep CS though. He, and a few others, nurture what I think is a lot of wishful thinking about MJ Watson. Wait till the issue gets reviewed, and see what Brad Douglas & Crew have to say about it. I will bet you dollars to donuts they will echo your assessment (and George Berryman will mock it mercilessly). I’ve said elsewhere, Slott the writer doesn’t understand love. Lian is a mechanical plot-device-waiting-to-happen. It’s like watching one of those old 60s action TV shows, where the hero kissed a brand new girl every single week.

    2. Haha. Thanks for the comment, Jack. I know it’s just one person, but it made me do a double-take when he said I was overreaching on the Peter/Lian relationship because it’s just a “fling” — when that was exactly what I said in my headline. 🙂

      Slott would have to do a lot more work to convince anyone to care about Lian since we have no idea why these two people are attracted to one another.

      Random side not: Stillanerd’s review is up. It’s pretty darn good, as always.

      You can check it out here: Stillanerd Reviews: Amazing Spider-Man (2015) #6

      “I’ve said elsewhere, Slott the writer doesn’t understand love. Lian is a mechanical plot-device-waiting-to-happen. It’s like watching one of those old 60s action TV shows, where the hero kissed a brand new girl every single week.”

      I have to be careful responding to this one so as not to get personal. I agree with your assessment of the writing, no matter what the root cause may be.

  3. If the Lien character is simply a plot device, then what’s the endgame here? If the point is simply to give Peter a temporary girlfriend, why? While the character’s love life has been a major factor, it’s not the only one, and as of right now, really isn’t very useful story fodder: A.) Marvel’s current plans for the franchise mean all girlfriend characters are temporary, so each one is just going over the same ground the previous one did (and that ground was done to death decades ago, anyways) and B.) Spider-Man’s love life (at least the 616 version and all other versions that draw heavily from it) lost all plasticity and solidified to one viable status quo around 1986.

    So, Slott is not only doing things that were old when he was just a reader, but also things that simply do not work anymore, as his previous work has shown, meaning that he (and Marvel) are doing the exact same thing over and over again, expecting new results. There’s a word for that. “Insanity.”

    (“Creatively bankrupt” might also work. However, currently in comics you need a bizarre, reality warping “event” to get a comic book with the real Spider-Man. Conversely, a “what if” version of the character — one that has about as much to do with the source material as a comic with Tony Stark as a charity worker who’s noted for his humility — is running center stage, and the powers that be insist that it’s the exact same character, and if you disagree, you either no nothing or are not a fan. “Insanity” seems to fit better.)

    I recall that “Ultimate Spider-Man” had a couple of “temporary” girlfriend characters, Kitty Pryde and Gwen Stacy. I also recall that they were made interesting characters before becoming Peter’s girlfriend, stayed interesting characters during the span of the relationship, and the reasons for the breakup were interesting and made sense in-story. So, even for fans like me who weren’t rooting for Kitty or Gwen, we weren’t just impatiently waiting for Peter and Mary Jane to reconcile. The comic used the brief deviations to tell interesting stories and show new sides of all the characters involved, even after the breakups. I take it that Slott hasn’t mastered that here.

    (The really funny thing is that Slott managed to do a decent story about married characters in that RYV comic. Despite the fact that Mr. and Mrs. Parker never actually say “I love you” or anything, there’s never any doubt about it. You’d think that some of that success would show up here.)

    1. The weird thing for me is, I realize that a good writer can give Peter a new love interest that would prompt even me to say, “Crap. I really like Mary Jane…but this does make sense.”

      I don’t want to see M.J. and Tony Stark get together down the line, but I believe Bendis could make it work. As a fan, everything inside me would scream, “This is wrong!” but as a writer, I could see myself saying, “Well, okay. Touché, Mr. Bendis. Touché.”

  4. I read on Comicvine from CS regular Animehunter that, because one of the plot points in the upcoming storyline is Peter gets inverted, Slott will have Lien be the only one to detect something is “wrong” with Peter (a trait Slott denied to MJ and many others in Superior Spider-Man) and will risk her life to try and administer the antidote to Negative’s powers..this is all based on the cover where someone is driving the Spider-Mobile, which apparently only she and Peter do. So this could easily turn out to be Slott trying to again build up a character we’re barely used to as yet another high-and-mighty all important “can see Peter when he can’t be seen” type character.

    1. Lian tells Peter only she and Spider-Man can drive the car, and he can because of his spider-sense. When Peter replies that she does not have spider-sense she says she doesn’t need it because she’s “that good.”

      Why? How is this possible? We don’t know. She’s just another super-smart female who is basically perfect and we’re supposed to believe it because of “girl power.” Girl power, or whatever you want to call it, now substitutes for good writing. It’s like, “Why are you questioning whether Lian is ‘that good,’ zariusii? Do you have a thing against women? Huh? Huh?! Tell us!”

      If Lian dives into the fight like Anna Maria Marconi did with Ghost prior to the re-launch, then it will be kind of stupid. We will have been shown two intelligent scientists/researchers who just so happen to “kick butt” in battles typically reserved for superheroes — with no build-up prior to said butt-kicking.

    2. “Perhaps Lian will learn Peter is Spider Man when an inverted Peter drives the car in his civies.”

      If I were a betting man, then I’d say there is a good probability of that happening, Ralf. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment! I really appreciate it. Feel free to share your thoughts on ASM here anytime.

    1. The Lian thing seems low key compared to how Slott handled Carlie Cooper.

      True. My issue, however, isn’t whether or not the writer is low-key with what he expects readers to accept — it’s the evidence (or lack thereof) he provides at the time of his request.

      Whether Dan Slott has big plans for Lian does not concern me as much as the fact that we’re asked to just take it on faith that something happened between the two of them that forged a romantic bond.

      Is it a fling? Is it the beginning of something more? We’re getting ahead of ourselves when we spend too much time on those questions because the bottom line is that there is no tangible evidence that Peter and Lian have a reason to be attracted to each other to begin with. Until there is some sort of concrete reason (not ‘quick-drying concrete-webbing **cough** **cough**) to believe Peter would fall for Lian, I think readers should say, “You know what? This is shoddy writing. This is insulting. Don’t just shovel slop onto my plate and expect me to eat it with a smile.”

    2. Perhaps Scott will show it when he gets around to doing flashbacks in those missing eight months.

      If Lian ends up being the who saves Peter from Mr. Negative (or removes huge obstacles so he can finish the job), then my guess that heroic act would be used to justify their fling…or whatever readers want to call it at this time.

      I guess what sort of annoys me is that it seems like every new female character that is introduced in the Marvel Universe is “strong” … “sassy” … “intelligent” … meant to defy stereotypes, quick-witted, resourceful and can handle herself when chaos breaks out and a superhero is needed. At some point in time new female characters just become awesome-clones. Okay Marvel, we get it — women rock. Now can you write real characters?

    3. “We’re getting ahead of ourselves when we spend too much time on those questions because the bottom line is that there is no tangible evidence that Peter and Lian have a reason to be attracted to each other to begin with. “

      I kind of had the same problem with the Mark Webb “Amazing Spider-Man” movies. People praised how great the Peter Parker/.Gwen Stacy couple was in those films. I saw those two movies and I couldn’t tell you why they were together. They barely know of each other existence and the film expects us to believe that they fell head over heels after one “date” (the majority of which was Peter arguing with her father). And there’s no real attempt to show that they relate to each other beyond the initial attraction, the majority of the conversations they have are pretty superficial.

      It didn’t help that the “relationship” looked pretty unhealthy by the end of the series (the string of breakups and reconciliations without solving the underlying problem was very unwise and I’m really surprised that they tried to pass Peter stalking Gwen in the middle of the movie as cute).

      The way the Gwen character was botched even reminded of a comment you made earlier: “She’s just another super-smart female who is basically perfect and we’re supposed to believe it because of ‘girl power.'” Did Gwen have any flaws? The only one I can come up with is pigheadedness (which got her killed), but the movie goes out of its way to convince us that that’s one of her virtues. She doesn’t have any character development, which is a shame, since having her deal with her father’s death (beyond it being a roadblock for her boyfriend) would’ve been a step in the right direction.

      (I’m really surprised that the Webb movie Gwen is usually rated over the Raimi movie Mary Jane, since a good argument can be made that MJ was given more character development in a single movie then Gwen got in all two of hers, not to mention that the Peter/MJ relationship had better pacing and took the time to establish that there was more to it that the superficial “nerd likes the prettiest girl in school.”)

      What really made the whole thing ironic is that those movies were inspired by the “Ultimate Spider-Man” comics, which had a very different version of Gwen Stacy, but one that was not only more interesting, but a fully rounded character. (I think that the movie was trying to recreate Ultimate Mary Jane and her relationship with Peter, but use the Gwen persona. What they missed was that Ultimate MJ was a rounded character and that her relationship with Peter was a lot more developed than them just sweet-talking each other.)

      I agree it all comes down to the writing. Part of the reason that I don’t think Marvel is ever going to come up with a successful replacement for Mary Jane is simply because they’re unwilling to invest the time needed to create a character that could.

    4. I think the issue with Sam Raimi’s films was that Kirsten Dunst had rather wooden performances, even if she had better scripts.

      Marc Webb’s movies had spotty scripts but Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield actually had chemistry together. If I’m not mistaken, weren’t they dating for quite some time? It shows. So perhaps people just sort of picked up on that.

      I couldn’t watch The Amazing Spider-Man 2 because it just looked really bad to me. I wanted to see it and then write up a review, but I couldn’t bring myself to pay for that in the theater. I know that sounds odd given the fact that I paid for The Fantastic Four, but with that one the reviews were so bad that I had to see it for myself.

      Sometimes a project is such a train wreck that I find myself drawn to it, if for no other reason than to see if I can give it an objective review. Heh.

  5. I should be clear that I specified “Slott the writer,” not Slott the person. I’m sure there are people who love Mr. Slott, and whom Mr. Slott cares for very much. I’m referring to his story-telling. I don’t see much in the way of moments of love, affection, or familial warmth in Slott’s characters.

    1. I totally got that, Jack. 🙂 The problem is this: If you try and unpack why the heck Slott doesn’t seem to have a good grasp on how to write organically developing relationships…the mind naturally wanders to the writer’s personal life. So with Lian we essentially have, “They’re close” … and it conveniently all happened during an 8-month window that only exists in Dan Slott’s brain.

  6. Sounds as if it’s becoming fairly obvious that Dan Slott has never met or spoken with a real woman in his entire life.

  7. “I think the issue with Sam Raimi’s films was that Kirsten Dunst had rather wooden performances, even if she had better scripts.”

    Hmm, I never really thought that Dunst was bad in the role, although I’m not qualified to objectively judge acting ability. Kind of ironic choice of words on your part, since one reason I like Raimi Mary Jane better than Webb Gwen is because I think the former had a wider emotional spectrum.

    “Marc Webb’s movies had spotty scripts but Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield actually had chemistry together.”

    Yeah, the Webb movies had a decent cast overall and I think that Emma Stone deserves credit for making the best of a paper-thin character. As far as chemistry goes, I think it’s there, but there are times that it seems a little too on the nose for my tastes (the “most cliche hiding place” scene in movie two, for example). I will say that the ASM movies weren’t the worst comic book love story, since my vote for bottom of the barrel was Wolverine and Jean Grey in the “X-Men” movies; no chemistry and zero effort in the writing. At least with ASM, I could understand why Peter and Gwen could be attracted to each other. Webb simply didn’t show us how they fell for each other and fumbled making the relationship have any depth beyond a superficial high school crush, which were what I needed to buy into it.

    “I couldn’t watch The Amazing Spider-Man 2 because it just looked really bad to me.”

    Having seen it myself, I have to say that it’s easily the worst “Spider-Man” movie made to date. But, it’s also a really strange followup to the first ASM movie. I found ASM2 more enjoyable to watch. It’s more light-hearted then its gloomy, brooding predecessor, which is always a plus. (While he can do drama very well, the Spider-Man character is inherently light-hearted. ASM1’s drama also had an angry edge to it, which didn’t match the character very well.) I did like seeing the traditional costume (even though I think caving into the fanboys wasn’t a good idea in this instance). And, so help me, I liked the Rhino; he was entertaining to watch. Irrespective of the material they were forced to work with, it was a generally good cast. I did, in many ways, like the Webb Aunt May better than the Raimi one, largely because I thought she was closer to the Ultimate Aunt May, esp. in the mother/son dynamic between her and Peter (although the Raimi May is in no way bad and Webb’s May was very underused).

    But, the story is a mess. It’s actually several unrelated stories that happen to be running concurrently (say what you will about “Spider-Man 3” having too much plot; at least all the plot threads had links to each other, create a web of sorts and came together at the end). There’s also a lot of cheesy stuff that’s worse than anything Raimi ever did. (The difference is that Raimi built the entire trilogy with a slightly cheesy tone, so the scenes with the most cheese still gel with the rest. Raimi also gave the cheese heart and sincerity which makes it work. The Webb movies are the exact opposite; un-cheesy tone which does not gel, and the cheese is over the top silly. The stuff with Ravencroft and some of Electro’s material are the worst offenders.)

    ASM1 wasn’t anything really amazing, if you ask me, but I would have to say that it has a mostly competent story (and that story was, by all accounts, chainsawed apart and crudely duct-taped together at the last minute), which is the tradeoff. Which is better? The movie that is gloomy, dull, and generic as comic book films come, but has a better constructed story over a movie that’s very fun, but has badly told stories, and, at the end of the day, doesn’t ha ve anything meaningful to say. I lean towards the former in this case. I could see why someone who was invested in the characters would be more forgiving of the sequel, but I really didn’t care what happened to them, which is bad when the characters are almost universally hailed as the only truly great thing about the film.

    I guess I’d only recommend ASM2 if you’re either a big fan of ASM1 or are really curious about how bad it is. I’ll put it this way. The movie was supposed to launch a “Spider-Man Cinematic Universe” (why does everything have to be a “cinematic universe” these days, especially when, like “Spider-Man,” there’s not enough material to support it?). Ergo, when I see this movie, I should be eager to see “Sinister Six,” “Venom,” or whatever else they had hoped to make. My first thought was: “I’d really like to watch the Raimi movies again.”

    “Sometimes a project is such a train wreck that I find myself drawn to it, if for no other reason than to see if I can give it an objective review.”

    I kind of think that ASM2 actually would fit that category (and you wouldn’t have to pay to see it now, if you checked it out from the library, like I did). But if you don’t want to, you’re not missing anything.

  8. I’m getting tired of Slott and this whole relationship crap. It’s like he’s more focus on giving us action and no romance because maybe, in his mind, romance is too adult or something. I get we don’t want to always dwell in Peter’s love life, but if you don’t want him to have a romance, then don’t put him in one. It’s not like it’s required to write a Spider-man story.

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