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It’s hard not to feel sorry for Christos Gage. The guy was asked to write a Spider-Man story that stood on its own while also supporting Brian Michael Bendis’ Civil War II and Dan Slott’s run on The Amazing Spider-Man.

Question: How does the hero who a.) asked The Prowler to resort to corporate espionage on behalf of Parker Industries, and b.) teams up with Carol “Minority Report” Danvers have the moral authority to lecture a confused man like Clayton Cole?

Answer: He doesn’t.

Civil War II: Amazing Spider-Man #4 is a book that actually reads better the less one knows about the current Marvel universe. For people who just want to roll around a few philosophical questions about redemption and free will like marbles, Mr. Gage’s work satisfies. For people who love the character Peter Parker, however, the issue is just one more reminder of just how intellectually discombobulated he has become thanks (in large part) to writer Dan Slott.

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Here is what you need to know for CWII: ASM #4:

  • Spider-Man tries to talk Clayton Cole off a psychological ledge during the one-on-one battle predicted by Ulysses. Peter wants the scientist to give up his “Clash” technology and start a new life.
  • Robot Master reconstitutes himself and attacks the two men just as Peter seems as though he might have a breakthrough.
  • Clayton leaves Spider-Man to deal with the villain on his own, saying that he needs to go his own way.
  • Spider-Man defeats Robot Master, who vows to take Parker Industries to court for Cole’s attack.
  • Peter Parker and Ulysses discuss the Inhuman’s powers, whether they are appropriate to use, and how to channel them to save lives. Peter now says it would be wrong for Ulysses to work for Parker Industries because the company will be stronger by learning from its own from failures.
  • Spider-Man agrees to work with Carol Danvers to profile potential future criminals. He will fight for the cause if necessary, but says he will act like her personal Jiminy Cricket (It worked out so well with Doctor Octopus, right Pete?)
  • Clash steals a massive amount of off-the-books cash from Roxxon and announces that he will no longer work for other men. The villain begins to recruit for a criminal empire.

Fact: Clayton Cole wanted to “redefine” himself as a hero using Clash technology.

  • What then, we must ask, gave Spider-Man the moral authority to say that Clayton Cole should not do that, but Hobie Brown as the Prowler can?
  • Why is Dan Slott’s Peter Parker a stand-up guy for asking Mr. Brown to break into a business and steal technology for his own selfish reasons, but Mr. Cole is “ruining” his life for trying to turn over a new leaf as Clash — the superhero?
  • How can Peter Parker, a man who has been falsely convicted in the court of public opinion multiple times, endorse Captain “secret detention” Marvel?

In short, CWII: ASM #4 is filled with creative contradictions, which are not treated as such. As was stated in previous reviews, it is tough to discern how culpable Mr. Gage is for the story’s flaws when a strong argument can be made that he is doing the best he can with messes made by other men.

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If you have read the previous three issues of Civil War II: The Amazing Spider-Man, then you may as well buy the conclusion. If you have held off this long, then skip it and take note: The modern Spider-Man is like a boat without an anchor in a storm that shows no sign of breaking.

Again, I feel bad for Mr. Gage — but even more so for the writer who eventually replaces Mr. Slott. Where does a man begin with so much rubble to clear? I guess we’ll find out.

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Related:

‘Civil War II: Amazing Spider-Man #1’: Gage offers reprieve from Slott fare

‘Civil War II: Amazing Spider-Man #2’: Gage explores ‘self-fulfilling prophecy,’ recidivism, and redemption

‘Civil War II: Amazing Spider-Man #3’: Peter Parker turned into hypocritical jerk to keep story going

 

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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.

34 comments

  1. In other words, they’re doing the Black Cat thing. Again. The more-or-less reformed criminal goes full-on bad (even though he had a good job) and, for inadequately developed motives and reasons, decides to become, not just a criminal, but jumping directly to crime-boss.

    1. Seriously. Doesn’t this sort of arc for the character lead to working for a villain who believes in him? Maybe Kingpin or Norman Osborn or somebody uses some agents to find him and recruit him, because he “has so much respect for his work,” and he wants to work for someone who believes in his abilities? Isn’t that where this naturally goes?

      It seems like a) a guy obsessed with how people view him is unlikely to want a leadership role, and b) crooks in the Marvel universe would be leery of working for a “villain” who was just trying to be a hero five minutes ago. Surely some wiseguy superhero has tried this before, right? “Let’s go do some crime! Who’s with me?” and then he has video of all of them committing crimes and can lock them up. Also, c) Clash wasn’t successful as a villain anyway. You don’t see the Shocker running some huge syndicate. He’s capable, sure, but not that level.

      This turn seems very contrived. And as noted, we still have Black Cat’s character assassination/stupid crime boss thing ongoing, so this doesn’t even open up any interesting story avenues that aren’t already tremendously more interesting there. “He used to work for me” is a lot less engaging than “we used to date, and oh yeah, she knows my secret identity.”

    2. “It seems like a) a guy obsessed with how people view him is unlikely to want a leadership role, and b) crooks in the Marvel universe would be leery of working for a ‘villain’ who was just trying to be a hero five minutes ago.”

      This is a good point, and I don’t know how they deal with it other than making Clash go off the deep end (i.e., killing or severely wounding criminals who question his authority). His personality — at least the one we’ve been shown for the past four months in CWII: ASM — really does not itself to the “upstart crime boss” storyline.

      This turn seems very contrived. And as noted, we still have Black Cat’s character assassination/stupid crime boss thing ongoing, so this doesn’t even open up any interesting story avenues that aren’t already tremendously more interesting there. ‘He used to work for me’ is a lot less engaging than ‘we used to date, and oh yeah, she knows my secret identity.’

      I love it when people who read this blog make comments that should be glaringly obvious to Marvel’s writers and editors. It makes me think things like, “Can someone just replace Nick Lowe with Eidolon? Seriously.” Why are you capable of using common sense, but the guys working on ASM seemingly find it difficult? Sigh.

    3. “In other words, they’re doing the Black Cat thing. Again. The more-or-less reformed criminal goes full-on bad (even though he had a good job) and, for inadequately developed motives and reasons, decides to become, not just a criminal, but jumping directly to crime-boss.”

      Yep. Haha! I can just imagine you delivering that comment in a completely deadpan manner that translates, “Why, Marvel? Why?” It’s cracking me up.

    1. “That Clash costume is so unbelievably lame looking. Ugh.”

      It looks like someone said, “Okay, I need to create a new costume. What’s something that I could draw in about 30 seconds? Here we go…lots of black and white…and huge Spidey eyes. Done!”

    2. I feel like there’s a good costume there trying to get out. I like the concentric circles thing, but it’s just way overdesigned, with all the little details that aren’t necessary. Plus having Spidey eyes is really distracting.

      On the other hand, I guess if you make it simple and clear it just looks like one of the incarnations of Havok’s outfit.

      Also, do you guys feel like it doesn’t fit the twitchy nature of the character? I guess big bug eyes or something would fit better; you’d like the design to reflect the personality of the wearer. The Spidey eye design says “calm and confident” to me, which doesn’t feel right at all for Clash, who looked like a junkie waiting for a fix half the time in this series when he was out of costume.

    3. “The Spidey eye design says ‘calm and confident’ to me, which doesn’t feel right at all for Clash, who looked like a junkie waiting for a fix half the time in this series when he was out of costume.”

      Agreed. It was hard to root for the guy when he kept giving me the creeps.

  2. By the end of the day, I honestly feel bad for Gage because all that he writes is only Slott’s vision on Spider-Man. I have not read the issue however I have seen a couple of panels from said issue over at tumblr and honest to god I saw a mature Peter Parker in those few scenes that actually talks to Ulysses like an adult.

    Hell he even remembers his troubled relashionship with MJ (But the scene implis that it’s Peter’s fault for how everything ended after Superior when MJ was the one who walked out on him at a time like that), hinting that Peter still remebers MJ and misses her.

    It’s truly sad that I can see a, honest to God, good writer who does seem to like Spider-Man, do his first Spider-Man story trapped in between two terrible things (Slott’s ASM writing and Civil War 2).

    PS : Can we stop with this trend that EVERYONE thinks that Peter Parker/Spider-Man is the most irritating and the most annoying Superhero of all time. This is one thing that truly pisses me off! Hell I think all of the superheroes find Spidey more annoying than Deadpool for F sake!

    1. “By the end of the day, I honestly feel bad for Gage because all that he writes is only Slott’s vision on Spider-Man. I have not read the issue however I have seen a couple of panels from said issue over at tumblr and honest to god I saw a mature Peter Parker in those few scenes that actually talks to Ulysses like an adult.”

      I agree with this. It seems as though Gage handles Peter Parker much better than Slott, but as of now I can’t tell how much it’s hurting him to be tied to Slott’s vision of Peter as a petulant man-boy. I really would like to see what Gage could do if they took the leash off for a few months.

  3. It’s a waste of Clayton’s potential to make him yet another crime-boss, we’ve barely gotten to know him in the role of a redeemed individual and his tough break/one bad day storyline should have a more compelling and uplifting pay-off than wheeling out a tired cliche that Peter’s efforts to do the right thing always backfire on him and he loses an ally or a friend. This is why Spider-Man is failing as a comics mainstay, at least in the main market. Will it get any better with Renew Your Vows? We’ll see, but that Spidey (and MJ) cannot come soon enough.

    1. “It’s a waste of Clayton’s potential to make him yet another crime-boss, we’ve barely gotten to know him in the role of a redeemed individual and his tough break/one bad day storyline should have a more compelling and uplifting pay-off than wheeling out a tired cliche that Peter’s efforts to do the right thing always backfire on him and he loses an ally or a friend.”

      That’s a good way to put it, Zariusii. It’s almost like these guys have a few different ideas for Peter in a hat, which they pick out with their eyes closed and then write up over and over and over again. 😉

  4. Yeah, If I were forced to be around this spider-man all day, I would be confused too.

    The pics made me laugh: “Thor, are you going to keep clinging to the hammer like a crutch?” ; ” Doctor Strange, hand over your magic powers and become a door-to-door vacuum cleaner salesman…it’s ruining your life”

    I keep putting word-balloon replies in Clash’s mouth: “Redefine myself as an uber driver? or a dead corporate spy? lulz”

    The right way to do this story is to make CC here a competitor with Parker industries…a very annoying one. I might read that. Hell, just reading the reviews makes me want to see Spider-man get his butt kicked.

    I’ve never connected with Spider-Man, just not my kind of hero…still, I can’t help but feel bad for his fans. I see him has an utter douche now in contrast to the older stories I read.

    1. This is exactly the sort of reaction to Spider-Man that dismays me as a fan…and the sad thing is for some readers, this Spider-Man is all they have known for well over a decade, someone who makes all kinds of bone-headed decisions and never learns the responsible course of action from any of it, even after his last mistake in the Civil War cost him his wife, child, and soul. You are right to be repulsed by this particular version of Peter Parker as I have been for years…I’ve been lucky to have things like the newspaper strip to remind me why I am a fan, but that’s just the thing, when you say “I feel lucky to still get a fraction of the Spider-Man I normally enjoy” in this day and age, there is a significant problem. I shouldn’t be settling with what I have, but I’ve simply been conditioned to because I have little other recourse.

    2. “I shouldn’t be settling with what I have, but I’ve simply been conditioned to because I have little other recourse.”

      Bingo. If they keep lowering your expectations, then you will give them praise when they occasionally give you writing that would have been considered mediocre in years past.

    3. “I’ve never connected with Spider-Man, just not my kind of hero…still, I can’t help but feel bad for his fans. I see him has an utter douche now in contrast to the older stories I read.”

      We’re reached the point where readers liken Peter Parker to The Amazing Spider-Douche, and there is nothing I can do but sigh.

  5. Thank you. Dead pan it is, then (snicker).

    1. Spidey already has two sonic-vibration bad guys, Herman Schultz and Antoine Desloin. We need three?
    2. If Clayton had set up his own company, he could have become the corporate anti-Peter foil. Sonic tech could have hundreds of lucrative business, military, and intelligence applications.
    3. Honestly, “Become a CRIME BOSS!” is Slott’s version of Stan Lee’s old, “Villainy breaks out at a CIRCUS!” thing.

    1. “If Clayton had set up his own company, he could have become the corporate anti-Peter foil. Sonic tech could have hundreds of lucrative business, military, and intelligence applications.”

      Jack, how many times do I have to tell you: Stop being so logical. Those are the kinds of ideas that readers like. If you keep that up, then the comic industry might rebound. The nerve of some people!

  6. At this point, I’m very cynical that a new writer would fix anything because that might offend the folks at Marvel and imply that Dan Slott isn’t the god they profess he is. So if anything a new writer would just continue where ever Slott leaves off. I say this because that is what happened to my favorite female hero, X-23. I re-read all her books and then Bendis got a hold of her and made her a stereotypical slang-spewing teen. The writer after him took that and basically kept some of that, leaving me disappointed that she still wasn’t written the same anymore. So I’d say the same would happen to Spidey.

    Also, off-topic, but have you seen the Ultimate Spider-Man cartoon? If so, thoughts?

    1. “A new writer would just continue where ever Slott leaves off. I say this because that is what happened to my favorite female hero, X-23. I re-read all her books and then Bendis got a hold of her and made her a stereotypical slang-spewing teen.”

      That sad thing is, you’re probably right. I just found out from a reader that Bendis turned Matt Murdock into a “lapsed Catholic,” and that Charles Soule of all people is continuing that embarrassment of a decision. I’m so annoyed. I may write a blog post on it soon because it’s such a betrayal of the character…

      “Also, off-topic, but have you seen the Ultimate Spider-Man cartoon? If so, thoughts?”

      I haven’t watched this, although I have been meaning to check it out. Is it worth it? A television show has to be really good for me to block out large portions of my weekend.

    2. Is it good? Haha, no. No, it isn’t. Seasons 1 and 2 will make you feel like the concept for the show was originally for Deadpool, but then someone said, “Hey, maybe having Deadpool would be too inappropriate or wouldn’t work.” Or maybe Marvel refuses to make any mutant-related shows.

      Season 3 does its own Spider-Verse story, which is probably the better episodes of the series, and downplays the Deadpool-esque elements from 1 and 2. Season 4, which I’ve been currently reviewing on my own Youtube channel, is a mix of good and bad. Mostly bad. Drake Bell voices Spider-Man and does a poor job. A character can die in one episode, but everything is back to normal in the next with no mention of said character ever again, etc. It’s just not a good show compared to the shows that came before it.

    3. “It’s just not a good show compared to the shows that came before it.”

      This is not Spider-Man related, but in many ways I was blessed to be of the right age when Batman: The Animated Series first premiered. When that thing first came out…kids my age used to run home from school to catch it.

    4. BTAS is just not a cartoon you’ll see on today’s networks. It was dark and handled mature themes well without feeling the need to dumb something down for the kids watching. Ultimate Spider-Man, on the other hand, is all flash and no substance. It sucks knowing that I can’t turn to Marvel for a good comic or a good cartoon show.

    5. “BTAS is just not a cartoon you’ll see on today’s networks. It was dark and handled mature themes well without feeling the need to dumb something down for the kids watching.”

      That’s a great way to put it. I totally agree.

      “It sucks knowing that I can’t turn to Marvel for a good comic or a good cartoon show.”

      I loved — LOVED — Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. It was absolutely amazing — and then a bunch of idiots decided to cancel it and replace it with something lame. Arrrrg! I still get annoyed at that.

    6. That Avengers cartoon was the best. I was super excited every time a new episode came out. Compare that to Avengers Assemble which I’ve completely stopped watching. But I guess the ratings are good because it and USM keep coming back.

      Did you ever see Sony’s Spectacular Spider-Man?

    7. “Did you ever see Sony’s Spectacular Spider-Man?”

      You’re really exposing my Spider-Man shortcomings tonight, Conner! What’s up with that? Haha. 🙂

      No, I haven’t seen Spectacular Spider-Man, either. I watched the original Spider-Man cartoons from the late 1960s when I was a kid (they had reruns on in the early 80s); I watched Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends; I remember Spider-Man: The Animated Series; and I watched Spider-Man: The New Animated Series, which had Neil Patrick Harris doing the voice work for Peter Parker.

      Side Note: I also loved the original Teen Titans in 2003. I used to watch that with my future wife all the time…

    8. I loved those as well, you should also try Young Justice.

      The new cartoon is so bad that even my 4 year old boy does not like it, and he loves the older Spider-Man cartoons.

    9. You should definitely watch Spectacular Spider-Man; easily my favorite Spider-Man cartoon ever. It also has one of the best opening songs to ever grace a Marvel cartoon.

      And Teen Titans is also one of my favorite cartoons. It sucks we never got a great ending to it.

    10. “It also has one of the best opening songs to ever grace a Marvel cartoon.”

      Yeah, you can’t mess with that theme song. That’s pretty darn good. It’s just too bad Marvel movies don’t seem to get the importance of memorable music…(hat tip to reader Nate Winchester for this one).

  7. It’s the way of things to create a decent comic book show and the cancel it, replace it with something worse or just completely dumb it down.

    Every X-men fan loved the X-men animated series, though it’s somewhat inferior to BTAS. Numerous attempts to ‘restart’ an X-men show have been promising only to kind of come apart for one reason or another. Evolution was kind of blah with the teen angle (one of the boneheaded things they do with these shows is believe that kids want to see kid versions of everything). Wolverine and the X-men had a pretty good season, but got it’s legs cut off.

    I’m not a DC guy, but Justice league was my personal favorite. I loved every episode, and loved Unlimited even more. I know they still make movies from the comic material, and some have been good, but I found them to be more interested in the animated brutality angle…I’m not opposed to it, but I’m not a fan of doing it for shock purposes.

    I recommend the superhero anime ‘Tiger and Bunny’, which I personally really liked. I may have mentioned it before. The main protagonist is somewhat of a failed family man (actually he’s a hero because of a promise to his dying wife, and keeps his daughter with his mother to protect her), and the premise of Heroes being sponsored by major corporations and being on a reality TV show are actually more plausible than the situations comics give us. The show does have an obvious ‘Batman’. But overall, I loved it. It has a refreshing take that is more oldschool comics than comics. The main themes are friendship, and the meaning of heroism…just like Slott’s Spider-Man and Civil War II!!!

    1. “I recommend the superhero anime ‘Tiger and Bunny’, which I personally really liked.”

      Thanks! I’ll ask my wife if she’s seen it. She’s the expert on all things anime. It sounds like something we would watch together.

  8. Just popping this up here, maybe you can comment on this Doug

    http://www.cbr.com/renew-your-vows-promises-spider-man-fun-family-style-heroics/

    A new interview with Gerry Conway and Ryan Stegman reveals some tantalising details about the new RYV series

    -The Peter/MJ relationship will be pretty stable and upbeat, there will be some room for occasional conflict, but they are a functional family unit, equal partners, and loving parents

    -Continuity seems to be a mash-up of what we saw in Secret Wars and continuity from before Mephisto altered reality. Regent’s attack still happened, and Peter, MJ and Annie stopped him. Other events established in 616 will also have different outcomes.

    -There may be a Human Torch appearance down the line

    -MJ runs a boutique and an online blog. Peter is still a big shot at the Bugle

    -MJ is borrowing Peter’s spider-powers using technology borrowed from Regent. This weakens Peter’s powers.

    All in all, really looking forward to this series. It sounds like Marvel really want to inform their current generation of readers marriage is’nt too much of a set-back like they championed for so many years in the main books. I’m still hoping it does better numbers than the main ASM book just to stick it to Slott

    It’s just a shame we could never get this kind of push for Mr D’s “Mr and Mrs Spider-Man”

    1. “Just popping this up here, maybe you can comment on this Doug.”

      I did check out that article, and overall I was pretty impressed with how they are handling this. From everything I’ve seen and heard, it’s really hard to complain. I’m looking forward to checking it out because it feels as though these guys are going to nail it. They’re going to draw from their own experience as husbands and fathers and knock it out of the park. That always seemed like the natural progression for Peter Parker — not Peter Parker-Wayne-Stark-Jobs-Zuckerberg and his asian fling of the month (courtesy of Dan Slott).

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