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Brian Michael Bendis is one of Marvel’s key writers, but in a previous life he may have been a circus juggler. Spider-Man #8 somehow manages to move the title’s plot forward, set the stage for Champions, and seamlessly tie into Civil War II. Technically, Mr. Bendis hits all of his marks. Creatively, however, SM #8 once again shows why many older Marvel fans are fed up with the company.

Here is what you need to know for SM #8:

  • Jessica Jones and Luke Cage confront Miles Morales on a rooftop and say they know his secret identity.
  • Miles is upset to find out that his grandmother hired Jessica Jones to spy on him, but he is glad to hear that his mother tried to pay the investigator to cancel the contract. He agrees not to say anything to his family after the older heroes tell him to get his act together.
  • Miles is summoned to the Triskelion, S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters, by Tony Stark. A large group of superheroes are informed by Stark and Captain Marvel that everyone will confront the Hulk about Ulysses’ vision of him killing everyone.
  • Bruce Banner is killed by Hawkeye, as previously shown in Civil War II #3.
  • Nova, Spider-Man, and Ms. Marvel are stunned by what happens and the two young men publicly state their allegiance to Tony Stark. Ms. Marvel breaks down into tears because her role model set the stage for Banners’s death.

This sounds like a great issue, right? Well, sort of. One’s enjoyment or hatred of SM #8 really hinges on his or her opinions on Civil War II. Bendis — and artist Nico Leon — do an admirable job showing young heroes who struggle to find their place in an “adult” world, but at the same time it all comes at the expense of classic characters.

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There is a scene after Banner’s death where the three kids come together to comfort one another that is incredibly poignant, but the feeling disappears the moment one realizes that Captain Marvel and every superhero who sides with her has taken on a goofy position to make Civil War II work.

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In short, Mr. Bendis has nicely set up an “us against the world” dynamic for the future “Champions” that will also serve Spider-Man well, but in many ways he is doing so at the expense of icons like the original Spider-Man, Peter Parker.

If you are an older reader, the best way to show your displeasure is to withhold your wallet for any title that engages in character assassination of the heroes that made Marvel what it is today.

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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.

13 comments

  1. You know, it’s like the Marvel writers have no concept of how to successfully pass on the torch to a new generation of heroes. You don’t need to disrespect the older heroes to do it. I’ve seen some people really excited for Champions and I was originally because the new heroes had the same attitude I and others have: what in the heck is going on with the adults? The downside to Champions is this premise shouldn’t even been needed in the first place if Marvel wasn’t mishandling the adult characters.

    1. “You know, it’s like the Marvel writers have no concept of how to successfully pass on the torch to a new generation of heroes.”

      Bingo.

      “You don’t need to disrespect the older heroes to do it.”

      You’re two-for-two. 😉

      “I’ve seen some people really excited for Champions and I was originally because the new heroes had the same attitude I and others have: what in the heck is going on with the adults? The downside to Champions is this premise shouldn’t even been needed in the first place if Marvel wasn’t mishandling the adult characters.”

      Yep. In many ways, I think the premise of Champions is kind of cool. It could be done, but it shouldn’t be weirdly political (as Marvel has confirmed it will be), and it shouldn’t tear down the old heroes to make the new ones look better.

      I forgot which reader said it before, but Marvel has a serious problem with GroupThink. They all basically have the same politics and worldview, and as a result the comics are needlessly suffering.

    2. I’m not even sure if it’s accurate to say that they are replacing the old characters. Most of them are still around and selling their own books, just so happens that those characters are turning more and more into villains. (Really, with the old Nova coming back, the only one of the new characters where the original isn’t around anymore is Hulk and seeing how a depowered Banner doesn’t exactly sell books I wouldn’t be surprised if his inevitable return also gives him his powers back… and maybe make him a rage zombie villain on top of that. You know, we need this to turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy somewhere down the road. Then there’s Iron Man and while Tony might actually retire for a bit, they’ll sell two Iron Man books anyway through giving him two replacements.)

      Now with that tangent out of the way. Marvel might dare to turn Peter into a corrupt businessman, Carol into a tyrant, Steve into a Hydra agent, Clint into a shell of the man he used to be and all that but chances are they’ll just cave in and reset these characters back to square one (sadly only status wise and not necessarily quality wise) before they actually get rid of so many cash cows.

  2. I’ve said something similar before but it’s worth repeating: Isn’t it interesting how these long-time characters have been handed over to people who undoubtedly would say they love them and yet their actions show they love them with the exception of everything about them? Hence, the creators fundamentally change the characters in their larger effort to eliminate them and make way for new ones to take their places.

    1. “Isn’t it interesting how these long-time characters have been handed over to people who undoubtedly would say they love them and yet their actions show they love them with the exception of everything about them?”

      **Cough** Dan Slott **Cough**

      Yep. They basically attempt this Jedi mind trick where they just keep saying what huge fans they are of [insert classic characters here] while creatively taking giant dumps on their history every month.

  3. Douglas, I’m sad and glad you’re spending your money on these comics. Sad it’s your money; glad I can watch with morbid fascination how the Marvel Universe is imploding from your blog. I stopped buying Marvel months ago because of all the political crap and just bad writing. I love Marvel characters and want to buy stories with them, but now I can’t. Now exclusively reading back issues.

    1. “Douglas, I’m sad and glad you’re spending your money on these comics. Sad it’s your money; glad I can watch with morbid fascination how the Marvel Universe is imploding from your blog.”

      Haha! Well, I think I said it before: If my reviews on a single comic help guys like you avoid a bad investment of hard-earned cash, then I’m happy.

      The main reason why I’m reviewing these comics because I remember how good Marvel Comics were at one point in time, and I want them to refocus on the craft of storytelling instead of political correctness. It bothered me that so many mainstream websites flat-out lie to readers because they want access to the creators. If I think a writer does good work (e.g., Charles Soule), then I’ll say it. Heck, I even gave Dan Slott pretty good reviews for ASM: Renew Your Vows. But if a comic is bad, then I’m not going to sugar coat it. Other websites do, and then if you complain they delete your comment or ban your account.

      “I stopped buying Marvel months ago because of all the political crap and just bad writing. I love Marvel characters and want to buy stories with them, but now I can’t. Now exclusively reading back issues.”

      You’re not alone, Eric. There are a lot of guys in your boat. It’s unfortunate, but perhaps when the comic side bleeds enough in sales then someone will address the problem.

      Anyway, thanks for reading and taking the time to comment. I really appreciate it!

  4. I think Bendis does a good job with the “loss of innocence” with Kamala, Sam and Miles, but as always Doug, you have it spot on, they shouldn’t have to endure this kind of hell under these specific kind of heroes. I hope Champions looks at the Marvel world through a more optimistic lens, innocent characters trying to maintain their wholesome notions and rallying against the irrationality of their adult peers. A generation can aspire to be like them, but how long before Marvel ultimately instructs them to expect the characters to become disillusioned and embittered by escalating chaos, writers with a notion for deconstruction, and the passage of time and maturity?

    How invested can we be in that when we know this is the route all of our role models in this universe have went down? Without any real hint at climbing back up the ladder?

    The promotional material for “Monsters Unleashed” seems to show everyone on opposing sides of the Civil War banding together to stop the fearsome Fing-Fang Foom and other creatures, so really, what is the point of putting the characters through these kind of wringers when they are quick to once again assemble like nothing happened?

    Oh, of course, during the fights we’ll probably just get the occasional moment where the characters point out they hate each other before working together for the “common good”, but you, the reader, are not permitted to enjoy the temporary truce because you’re told to feel anger and resentment the characters can’t get along. This is the world Marvel believe in…a cruel one where nobody stays good to each other, and where fighting greater evils does’nt necessarily lessen the cruelty and alienation in this world’s notion of society.

    1. “A generation can aspire to be like them, but how long before Marvel ultimately instructs them to expect the characters to become disillusioned and embittered by escalating chaos, writers with a notion for deconstruction, and the passage of time and maturity?”

      That is a great question, Zariusii. I’m particularly concerned with the “deconstruction” bit. I almost want to do a blog post on the subject. It seems as though all these guys want to leave their mark on the book, but instead of doing it the hard way — elevation — they opt to tear down.

      “The promotional material for ‘Monsters Unleashed’ seems to show everyone on opposing sides of the Civil War banding together to stop the fearsome Fing-Fang Foom and other creatures, so really, what is the point of putting the characters through these kind of wringers when they are quick to once again assemble like nothing happened?”

      Stop it, zariussi. You’re supposed to look at the big bright shiny thing in front of your eyes — Fing-Fang Foom — and not the quality of the writing! No, no, no, no, no! This will not stand. 😉

      The problem these guys have is that in many ways they stripped the comics of their innocence, and as a result older readers expect the quality of the product to then adhere to standards for adult fare. If ridiculous things happen in a book that still maintains a certain kind of innocence for young readers, then I can still enjoy the book. When things get weirdly dark, then the creative cost for the writer is to have all his buttons buttoned and all his zippers zipped.

      “Oh, of course, during the fights we’ll probably just get the occasional moment where the characters point out they hate each other before working together for the ‘common good’, but you, the reader, are not permitted to enjoy the temporary truce because you’re told to feel anger and resentment the characters can’t get along. This is the world Marvel believe in…a cruel one where nobody stays good to each other, and where fighting greater evils does’nt necessarily lessen the cruelty and alienation in this world’s notion of society.”

      You’re firing on all cylinders today, Zarusii. Bravo! Well said.

  5. So THIS is the “monsters arising” that baddy Zodiac said prophetically, just before Spidey pushed him through the time-travel/precognition door? Zodiac;s words were what several posters elsewhere took it to be — an ad! (They should have had him see a delicious Hostess cake, too, but that would have been a give-away).

    Do you think cynics can write optimism or hope? It seems like these stories flow forth out of who these men are in their hearts and minds. I think this is why Pixar creates entirely different stories from Marvel — I gather their writers still carry sparks of optimism about life and affection for people.

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