ASM Uncle Ben

Writer Jose Molina’s take on The Amazing Spider-Man is like beef stew, if all the carrots, potatoes, and onions were fresh and well-prepared, while the star of the show — the beef — were rotten. Issue 1.3 of Amazing Grace features The Amazing Spider-Atheist, which makes zero sense given the character’s history. Worse, he is not a tactful skeptic, but a condescending jerk.

For those who are not up to speed, Peter Parker: the Spectacular Atheist is investigating the death and resurrection of a man named Jose Rodriguez. While a mystical group of heroes called the Santerians attempt to get DNA samples from Rodriguez, Peter goes down to Cuba to find out what happened when the terminally ill man was there.

What makes Amazing Grace doubly disappointing is that scenes deserving of kudos for their ambition are spoiled by Molina’s betrayal of the character. Conversations happen with the spirit of Uncle Ben and Beast that intellectually tower over anything Dan Slott has dished out in years, but yet the scenes fall flat because a worldview that Peter Parker has never held has been shoved into his word balloons.

ASM Beast SpiderMan

Mike McNulty over at Whatever a Spider Can described the situation perfectly in his review of the issue:

Spider-Man lives a universe (albeit a comic book one) where real magic, gods, ghosts and demons do exist. He’s talked with Uncle Ben’s ghost before, courtesy of Doctor Strange, in Amazing Spider-Man #500. He’s knows people who have come back from the dead, himself included. He’s teamed-up with the likes of Ghost Rider and Thor, the later whom Beast even mentions in his theological debate with Spider-Man. He even had a lengthy conversation with God Himself in Sensational Spider-Man #40. And don’t even get me started again on his run-ins with Mephisto, who is the Marvel Universe’s version of the devil. Spider-Man has always been a scientific rationalist and his own religious upbringing is rather generic if not ambiguous; but the notion he would reject any supernatural explanation, or that he’d be so dismissive of those who subscribe to religion, faith or mysticism, is outright laughable and disingenuous given the character’s own history.

Boom. McNulty rightly drops a Truth Bomb on Molina’s head, and potential customers are better off for it.

Marvel has an enormous problem when it comes to Spider-Man. In the ongoing ASM series, Dan Slott has turned the character into Peter Parker-Wayne-Stark-Zuckerberg-Jobs-Musk. Now, with the “point” issues, readers are also subjected to a writer who dismisses core components of the character to suit his storytelling desires. There is almost zero fidelity to the “soul” of the character (no pun intended). The writers seem to treat ASM like the family van, with themselves in the role of the angry parents shuttling everyone on a vacation.

Slott or Molina: “I’m in charge, kids! We go where I want to go. Don’t make me turn this van around!”

Meanwhile, the passengers are wondering why their driver wants to take the van off a cliff.

If Peter Parker had always been a hard-charging skeptic, then none of this would be an issue. He has never been weirdly preachy or begged his friends to read the Bible, but it is abundantly clear that he has a quiet spirituality to him. To blatantly dismiss that fact and have him sneer at men of faith is an insult to anyone who cares about continuity.

Do not buy this book unless you want to watch a car crash play out for the next couple of months.

 

 

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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.

23 comments

  1. A good opportunity, if ever, to read my copy of Soul of the Hunter for some interesting exchanges between the husband and wife team of Peter and MJ, where MJ assures a skeptical Peter that we leave behind in the physical world is that of an “old coat” and that your heart can’t really doubt that for a second if you believe strongly in that, with Peter going to assert that her convictions make him want to believe as much as she does…and then he fights Kraven’s ghost and truly does embrace her philosophies. To this day I can’t forgive the BND era’s “Grim Hunt” for trodding all over what that epilogue to Kraven’s Last Hunt did for resolving Peter and Kraven’s relationship one last time.

    1. “To this day I can’t forgive the BND era’s “Grim Hunt” for trodding all over what that epilogue to Kraven’s Last Hunt did for resolving Peter and Kraven’s relationship one last time.”

      That was around the time I sort of checked out of ASM for a period of time. I was just fed up with everything and walked away. I think my brother told me to check out an issue by Zeb Wells around “The Gauntlet,” and that’s when I started keeping random tabs on the book. Kraven’s wife and daughter were “on the hunt” for Spider-Man? Give me a break…

    2. I think I was about done with BND when they did “Shred,” wherein the Lizard finally goes fully evil (suddenly the Lizard is some kind of embodiment of Darwinian forces, rather than just wanting lizards to rule) and eats Billy Connors as Billy looks resigned and says something like “I always knew this would happen.”

      I mean, I get a dark story. Kraven’s Last Hunt is dark, and that story is great. But then there’s a story where a dad’s benevolently intended science experiment turns him into a monster that tears his son apart with his teeth in a comic that’s supposed to be fun, and I say “that’s enough.” It’s sad that I could never imagine giving a Spider-Man comic to a child, or even a young teen at this point.

    3. “I think I was about done with BND when they did ‘Shred,’ wherein the Lizard finally goes fully evil (suddenly the Lizard is some kind of embodiment of Darwinian forces, rather than just wanting lizards to rule) and eats Billy Connors as Billy looks resigned and says something like ‘I always knew this would happen.'”

      I’m okay with the Darwinian angle, but I agree with you that eating his own son is another example of ASM going to a place where it’s like, “Just because you can, it doesn’t mean you should.”

    1. For sure! I bookmarked this blog on my browser just to read your articles. I’ll definitely drop my feedback.

    2. Sounds great. I didn’t review the last issue of Iron Man, but I’ll probably do a “double” review once the next issue comes out. Whenever the next issue of Spider-Man comes out I’ll get something on that before the week is out. 🙂

      If there is a book that you’re reading right now that you really like, then let me know. I can’t promise I’ll get to it, but you never know. It all depends on how much time I have on my hands with work.

  2. I 100% Agree. It’s pretty disgusting how he warped Peter’s character to suit his own narrative, I don’t even know if Dan Slott would even take it this far( Perhaps he would). It’s like Jose did no research on the character at all. I’m glad I didn’t shell out any money on this run after reading this. Great article Douglas.

    1. “I don’t even know if Dan Slott would even take it this far (Perhaps he would).”

      The one thing I will say about Dan Slott is that the man knows his Spider-Man history. He may pick and chose which aspects of the character’s history he takes seriously…but it’s obvious he’s done a lot of homework. For that I give him credit.

      “I’m glad I didn’t shell out any money on this run after reading this.”

      I look at some of these reviews, whether it’s this or Iron Man or Bendis’ Spider-Man as, “If it’s bad, I may have spent $4 bucks, but I might collectively save my readers a ton of cash over the course of a year.”

      “Great article Douglas.”

      Thanks!

  3. Being a religious man was never a core characterization of Spider-Man such as Daredevil however when the character himself has meat God himself and has met with many god like figures and being shown to be a religious person it’s pretty difficult to say that he is an atheist. And they are really starting to annoy me when they throw a jab at religious people because you can believe whatever you want, however a common sense in humanity is being respectful at different opinions and beliefs different than yours.

    This is All New All Different Amazing Spider-Man a character which is a shell of its former self (Since 2007) because no one and I mean no one can look up to this character anymore like he use to be.

    The message of Marvel by the end of the day is “Peter Parker fans will go away someday.” because let’s compare the satellites characters of Spider-Man all being written better in a good way while the main character loses everything that he fought for : NY (Miles, Silk, Spider-Woman), Villains (Miles, Spider-Woman, Guardians of The Galaxy, Carnage and Silk), Mary Jane (Iron Man), The charm of the series (Miles), Supporting Cast (Iron-Man, Miles, Silk, Howard the Duck, Guardians of The Galaxy, Carnage).

    He is no longer being respected by other superheroes or villains instead he gets treated like a meat puppet for over a year and no one and I MEAN NO ONE CARED about it.

    This is the begging of the end for Peter Parker and his fans and when that day come I will not be surprised.

    PS : Civil War 2 just around the corner and a major character has to die, and Bendis is writing it, and Peter will be in it. When Brian Michael Bendis has the opportunity he won’t hesitate to pull the trigger, again, on Peter in favor of Miles Morales The New “Spider-Man”.

    PSS : So MJ is a real hypocrite now by seeing IIM #7.

    1. “The message of Marvel by the end of the day is ‘Peter Parker fans will go away someday,’ because let’s compare the satellites characters of Spider-Man all being written better in a good way while the main character loses everything that he fought for: NY (Miles, Silk, Spider-Woman), Villains (Miles, Spider-Woman, Guardians of The Galaxy, Carnage and Silk), Mary Jane (Iron Man), The charm of the series (Miles), Supporting Cast (Iron-Man, Miles, Silk, Howard the Duck, Guardians of The Galaxy, Carnage).”

      I hope you don’t mind me disclosing that you are from outside the U.S., Berna. I only disclose that information here because I can see people in the U.S. saying you’re somehow ‘racist’ for making that very astute observation. That would say, “How dare you insinuate Marvel would try and push Peter out the door for Miles!” It does not seem like a leap in logic to look at how Marvel has treated the character in recent years and come to that conclusion.

      “And they are really starting to annoy me when they throw a jab at religious people because you can believe whatever you want, however a common sense in humanity is being respectful at different opinions and beliefs different than yours.”

      In the past, Peter used to reserve his jokes and snide remarks at super villains. Now he slings them at religious people! Sad times for The Amazing Spider-Man…

    2. I have been saying EVERYTHING you have for months and yet I look like the crazy man even by other comic readers and people who dress up as Spider-Man and claim to be bigger Parker fans than I am (which I am increasingly convinced they are not.)

    3. I have been saying EVERYTHING you have for months and yet I look like the crazy man even by other comic readers and people who dress up as Spider-Man and claim to be bigger Parker fans than I am (which I am increasingly convinced they are not.)

      Sometimes I think people are too close to the thing they love to accurately see the situation before them. I think, with some of your friends, it is likely that they love the idea of Spider-Man…but deep down they are probably indifferent to Peter Parker.

      In many ways it’s like people who claim to love the U.S. Constitution — while they do everything in their power to undermine it. They don’t really love or understand the document; they just love certain aspects of their home country, which may have nothing to do with principles found within the Constitution.

      People love Spider-Man telling jokes, but they might not understand why he tells jokes. Then you get people over at Comicvine saying Spider-Man is “Deadpool-light,” which is an incredibly absurd statement to make.

  4. Peter has never been a hostile skeptical rationalist. He’s never been a skeptical rationalist at all. He’s a chemical and mechanical engineer with monotheist belief (almost deist). This sounds like the writer is trying to do an episode of the X-Files, with Peter as 1st season Scully.

    1. “Peter has never been a hostile skeptical rationalist.”

      Even if Molina has Peter come around by the end of story, the damage has been done. It’s like, “Wait, I’m supposed to be happy that you got Peter to the spiritual and philosophical place he was supposed to be at from page one? That’s lame.”

  5. I think the main problem with the modern Spider-man comics is that the writers lack the ability to string together a coherent storyline arcs. It’s very clear that most issues are written backwards, starting with the twist at the end of the issue and working backwards. The problem with this style of writing is that you often have to flex the characters to fit into the storylines (as everything is revolving around the “twist”). This is the opposite of standard progression based story telling where the storylines are written with the characters and plot/arc in mind.

    Additionally the backwards/plot twist style of storytelling works A LOT better when your main character has a more ambiguous/undefined personality. This is probably why the backwards/plot twist style of storytelling is often used in the first season/episode of a new TV series. It’s not going to work when you have a character like Peter with 50+ years of stories.

    I think a lot of the problems stem from the lack of consistency with the Peter Parker character throughout the post OMD/BND era. As a result, I think a lot of the writers at marvel probably think the character is fair game for experimentation. Think about it. Peter has had amnesia, his body snatched, been a teacher for the X-Men Academy, become a billionaire as well as travelled to alternate dimensions.

    I think Superman comics were pretty notorious for this sort of thing. There’s a lot of weird stuff that’s happened with Superman over the last few decades, especially with the numerous attempts to reinvent the character and upgrade his powers (as if Superman wasn’t strong enough already???).

    1. “I think a lot of the problems stem from the lack of consistency with the Peter Parker character throughout the post OMD/BND era. As a result, I think a lot of the writers at marvel probably think the character is fair game for experimentation. Think about it. Peter has had amnesia, his body snatched, been a teacher for the X-Men Academy, become a billionaire as well as travelled to alternate dimensions.”

      Very astute points all around, Riablo. In many way, the editors do seem to be throwing up all sorts of new ideas for how Peter should be against the wall and hoping something will stick (no Spidey puns intended). They dug in their heels against the marriage — a completely logical place for Peter to go — and because of that they find themselves defending Peter Parker Wayne-Stark-Jobs-Musk.

    2. It occurs to me that being an Everyman character doesn’t mean that the character is a blank slate. It just means that the character has daily experiences, and reactions to those experiences, identical to the majority of the magazine’s readership. But Marvel seems to be treating Peter Parker as if he is a Vacation Bible School Jesus. What I mean by that is how some Vacation Bible School curricula has a bad habit of sticking a Jesus figure into the most preposterous situations, to fit the VBS setting of the year — Jesus floating in outer space, Jesus at a circus, Jesus riding a bucking bronco, Jesus surfing a big wave, that sort of thing. He might as well be a stick figure. Slott treats Peter very similarly.

    3. I think what you said may be true on the micro level, but the funny thing is that on the macro level it clearly isn’t being written backwards from the big developments. We can tell this because with Slott there are no big payoffs.

      For example, the end of SSM should’ve been hugely satisfying, a eucatastrophe of tremendous proportions due to the original Peter having been gone for so long. But in practice, it was just kind of there. Ock gave up without much fuss for unclear reasons, and Peter’s status as even being the original Peter was never really established. He also didn’t do anything that really specifically called for him, thus negating Ock’s sacrifice and the triumph of his return.

      Similarly in Spider-Verse, inventing and bringing all these Spider-Men together must’ve taken a lot of doing on Slott’s part. Yet the whole thing meanders, doesn’t come to a satisfying conclusion, and spends all its time wandering around without much purpose.

      It seems Slott just comes up with ideas, but gets bored partway through the implementation and planning phase, leading to interesting ideas half-done. His ideas tend to not only not reach their full potential, but not even hit the obvious notes you’d expect (as the SSM and Spider-Verse examples). I don’t think he’s writing backwards, I think he comes up with a big idea and then lazily writes from the seat of his pants through it, relying on the possibilities of the big idea to get readers on board rather than the mediocre reality of the actual writing.

    4. That’s for your reply Eidolon. I agree with a lot of what you said. I think the reason why Slott’s story arcs don’t have a payoff is because he’s clearly focused on an “issue by issue” basis (with each individual issue being written backwards).

      Slott isn’t a master story teller. He’s clearly trying to use some easy tropes/grabs to get people to buy comics. His problem is that his planning kinda sucks. From what I gather, Slott likes to “plant seeds” which most likely translates into a rough story treatment (or dot point plan) for a multi issue story arc.

      When it comes to harvest those plants (i.e. write the actual comic), Slott plants a new story line seed for every comic he writes. This results in the “overall storyline arc” becoming a convoluted mess. This is also why the resolution is normally rushed and wrapped very very quickly in the last possible second (the main criticisms of a lot of Slott’s major story arcs).

      This results in a situation where an individual Dan Slott comic might be decent (because of the emphasis on setting up the twist) but the collection of Dan Slott comics (i.e. the entire story arc) is bad. Dan Slott’s main audience is probably people that buy an individual issue from a newsagent. He’s probably not targeting people who read the entire arc apart from angry reviewers (LMAO).

      Sorry for getting off topic as Dan Slott didn’t write the comic that Doug reviewed. That being said, a lot of the other Spider-man writers tend to emulate Dan’s version of Spider-man with their comics.

    5. “Slott plants a new story line seed for every comic he writes. This results in the ‘overall storyline arc’ becoming a convoluted mess. This is also why the resolution is normally rushed and wrapped very very quickly in the last possible second (the main criticisms of a lot of Slott’s major story arcs). This results in a situation where an individual Dan Slott comic might be decent (because of the emphasis on setting up the twist) but the collection of Dan Slott comics (i.e. the entire story arc) is bad.”

      This comment was spot-on. It’s like some sort of Street Fighter combo that nails an opponent to the wall. Good stuff!

    6. Ah, that’s an excellent point. I agree now that you expanded on what you said.

      What’s strange is that it seems like since Slott took over, nobody can write Spider-Man well. That makes me wonder if there are editorial mandates or if people are just trying to keep the character consistent and it’s stopping anyone from doing really interesting work. Writing Spider-Man as he was in, say, “The Other” or some other earlier storyline would be really jarring, since the character’s personality has been so completely changed.

      It does seem like the only thing Slott actually gets excited about is the twist at the end of each issue, with the rest generally being filler that isn’t laid out in a way that it’s satisfying in each issue and also as a whole. Unfortunately that means that about 80% is filler, and on top of that it needs to be twisted to fit the ending, which often doesn’t make much sense.

      It’s interesting because I don’t really know much about a good writer’s process, but sometimes you see examples where you can tell that a particular writer is doing it wrong. Slott seems to do everything for convenience. He wants to totally change Spider-Man’s speaking style and behavior pattern for SSM, but he doesn’t want to spend a lot of time explaining why everyone accepts this immediately, so he just ignores it (thereby making every other character stupid). He wants to do a bunch of things in all different directions with Peter Bond-Wayne-Stark, then wants us to feel a connection with a character who was mentioned for a few panels as possibly being Peter’s girlfriend and care when she betrays him. But he doesn’t want them to break up so Peter just gets over it. It gets to the point where nothing matters or makes sense because it all just happens at Slott’s convenience, not because it’s logical for the characters.

      Honestly, I was reading up before SSM a while ago, and a change as big as SSM should’ve been foreshadowed for a long time. Even for a shock death, in retrospect you should see that the character’s plot threads were sewn up and/or came to a reasonable end in their death. ASM 699 just sort of comes out of nowhere; sure, Ock had been a big threat, and he was dying supposedly, which makes it make sense from his perspective, but nothing was really settled for Peter. It was a lot like Peter Parker’s death in the Ultimate universe continuity — it wasn’t that it didn’t make sense, but it clearly wasn’t planned properly and wasn’t built up to in a reasonable way for a death that momentous.

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