Amazing Spider-Man #29: Dan Slott’s infantile hero needs Mommy Marconi

Question: What happens when a comic book has strong art, strikes the right tone and nails the pacing, but the author’s fundamental understanding of the main character is flawed?

Answer: The world gets something along the lines of The Amazing Spider-Man #29, Marvel’s Secret Empire tie-in featuring the collapse of Parker Industries.

As this blog has demonstrated for years, writer Dan Slott often emasculates Peter Parker as a means of elevating female characters (some created by the author) in his sphere of influence. ASM #29 further solidifies that case, as the hero — an intelligent grown man — is treated like an irresponsible teenager by Anna Maria Marconi. She, another near-perfect woman in his life, scowls and wags her finger at him like an overbearing mother. She sparks epiphanies that he — an intelligent grown man — should have realized on his own months ago.

A Homer Simpson-ized version of Peter Parker also appears in scenes with the villain,  Doctor Octopus, but for more on that I will direct you to my latest YouTube video.

As always, I’m interested in hearing your thoughts in the comments section below.

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Secret Empire #3: Nick Spencer event is really his ‘Secret Lecture’

Marvel’s Secret Empire #3 came out this week, although at this point it really should be called Secret Lecture. As I have said before, writer Nick Spencer is an intelligent man who knows a thing or two about the technical aspects of storytelling. The problem, however, is that he uses his gig at Marvel as a psychiatrist’s couch and a college professor’s podium. He seems to care less about entertaining readers than he does about working out his own political issues and lecturing America for electing President Donald Trump.

There’s much more to say, but for that I invite you to check out my latest YouTube review. If the format is up your alley, then make sure to subscribe and leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

Secret Empire #1: Hydra-Verse and Marvel PR damage control in full swing

Marvel’s comics division has been taking it on the chin in terms of bad press for well over a year now, and the official kickoff to its latest event is no exception. This week saw the release of Secret Empire #1 and a tie-in issue for Free Comic Book Day, which theoretically should bring elicit smiles across the country. Wrong. In fact, the project is so controversial that Marvel had to put out a statement earlier this week asking fans to be patient (even though the story has been building for well over a year).

My latest Youtube review covers the good, the bad and the ugly of writer Nick Spencer’s reality-warping Hydra-Cap tale. And yes, on some level it is good — but the whole situation is a bit complicated.

Anyway, check out the review and let me know what you think in the comments section below. Also: If anyone knows YouTube’s exact rules for using music clips without getting copyright infringement strikes, then let me know — I don’t want to make a habit of joke-singing songs like “Patience” by Guns N’ Roses…

Nick Spencer’s Hydra-Cap #2: Brevoort’s ‘not a gimmick’ line a lie for quick sales

Red Skull Kobik

It was one month ago that Marvel executive editor Tom Brevoort and writer Nick Spencer asserted to the world that Captain America’s “Hail Hydra” moment was “not a gimmick.”  Sure, they responded to outrage by trying to Jedi mind-trick readers into forgetting the whole Nazi aspect of Hydra, Red Skull, and his crew, but the message was clear: Hydra-Cap wasn’t a shameless cash grab. Captain America: Steve Rogers #2, however, makes it clear that Mr. Brevoort has no qualms about lying if it will line Marvel’s pockets with short-term cash.

Here is what you need to know about the issue:

  • Kobik, the sentient Cosmic Cube, sought out Red Skull the moment she manifested in S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters years ago.
  • Dr. Selvig and S.H.I.E.L.D. never knew that Kobik was being raised by Red Skull, who led her to believe the most ideal world would be one run by Hydra. The doctor’s mind was altered before his initial suspicions were confirmed.
  • Red Skull used Pleasant Hill, an super villain prison created by Kobik, as bait for Captain America.
  • Everything that transpired at the reality-altering facility was orchestrated so that Kobik would implant a false past — a Hydra-inspired past — into Steve Roger’s mind.

Most readers, your friendly neighborhood blogger included, assumed things would eventually be put right after “Cosmic-Cube weirdness” was revealed. We knew what Marvel was doing, but a.) objected to story as a matter of principle — writers should not desecrate a hero for mere shock value, and b.) deemed the length of time it was implied that Hydra-Cap would be working for the terrorist organization as a betrayal of the character.

Blind supporters of Messrs. Brevoort and Spencer made it seem like critics were hyper-impatient, when it was Marvel that created the perception that bread crumbs would be dropped over the course of months.

“I thought we wouldn’t know this much for at least five or six months,” the manager at my local comic shop said when I asked him what he thought about the issue. We both wondered if the timeline was accelerated due to fan backlash, but the owner said he was confident that was not the case.

All of this begs the question: Why?

Why would Marvel expend so much time and effort lying to its fans for a short-term sales boost?

Red Skull Selvig

That answer appears to be two-fold:

  1. The people running the show have no shame. Ironically, the writer who rails against Donald Trump now subscribes to the same “all publicity is good publicity” philosophy that has been perfected by the billionaire.
  2. Marvel Comics, which is currently populated by a slew of petulant man-boys, wanted to steal headlines from DC Comics’ Rebirth.

A rising tide lifts all boats, but guys like Tom Brevoort are working overtime to needlessly torpedo ships that sail the same ocean.

If that is the kind of behavior you want to reward, then head on over to your local comic shop as soon as possible. Otherwise, save the $4.00 for a day when the “House of Ideas” once again has significant floor space dedicated to respecting long-time readers.

Tom Brevoort tries Hydra Captain America spin-job, Newsarama goes full toady

Captain America Jack Flag

One of the reasons this blog began reviewing the comics industry years ago was because the mainstream “news” outlets almost always serve as a mouthpiece for whatever bilge the creators dish out. If there is one good thing to come out of Nick Spencer’s “Captain America: Nazi-sympathizing Hydra Agent,” it is that more people realize that allegedly impartial reporters are usually glorified toadies for men like Tom Brevoort.

Take a recent piece by Newsarama’s piece by George Marston:

“Reaction to the news has been mixed, with some, familiar with the ebb and flow of comic book storytelling intrigued by the twist, or resigned to wait it out and see its explanation, while others less familiar with comic book tropes decried the reveal as an outright betrayal of Captain America or even his creators.

According to Tom Brevoort, Marvel Executive Editor, an editor of Captain America: Steve Rogers #1, where the reveal took place, Marvel was somewhat surprised by the reaction to the twist, not expecting the level of vitriol some fans have levied at the publisher, and at Nick Spencer, writer of the issue and architect of its twist.”

Did you get that first paragraph? If you view Marvel’s decision as a grotesque betrayal of the character, then you must be **hurrrrrrm** “less familiar with comic book tropes.”

Tut. Tut. Now excuse me while I wipe my monocle, you rubes.

The message by Newsarama is clear: Only ignorant fools who don’t know comics oppose the latest “bold” idea by Marvel’s editors and writers. Nick Spencer could turn Captain America into a serial killer and there would be guys like George Marston calling it “bold” at this point.

George Marston Newsarama Twitter

One would think that Mr. Brevoort’s “surprise” at the negative reaction to Mr. Spencer’s story would be challenged, considering it was the Marvel editor who told USA Today he knew it would be like slapping fans in the face.

“‘We knew it would be like slapping people in the face,’ says Brevoort. […] “The idea of Captain America means something very primal and very strong to the people of this nation, and they have a very visceral reaction when you get to something like that. You want people to feel and react to your story. So far, so good.”

Even though Mr. Marston covered the “slap” comment in his own column, there was no push-back against Tom Brevoort. The Marvel editor explicitly said a decision was made to “slap” readers in the face, and then he is “surprised” when people are angry. Newsarama’s decision is to then label critics as “less familiar with comic book tropes.” Classic.

Perhaps the most laughable moment in Newsarama’s interview with Mr. Brevoort comes when he tries (and fails) to say that equating Hydra-Cap to a Nazi is out of bounds.

“There’s a subset of people who are upset about this, who are exactly like that. The reporting on this, and the sort of game of telephone on the internet about this went from it being ‘Captain America is Hydra,’ to ‘Captain America is a Nazi’ – which is already a leap – to ‘This is anti-semitism,’ which is ridiculous, in that, if you look at the comic book that we put out, there is nothing in it that, in any way, shape, or form, is even slightly anti-semitic. But because people were able to go ‘Hydra = Nazi, and Nazi = anti-semitism,’ that’s what reactions became about.

By reporting that we revealed ‘Captain America is a Nazi and anti-semitic,’ people that haven’t even read the work react with outrage, because they understand who Captain America is, even if they’ve never read a comic book.”

Hyrda’s history is well established in the comics, the MCU, and television. The reason why Mr. Brevoort said the story would be a “slap” in the face to fans is because he knew people would put two and two together. Now that the story has amazingly unified readers across the political spectrum, he wants to feign ignorance.

Cap a Nazi sympathizer? Where would you get that idea? Who told you 2+2 = 4? It’s five.

If you want honest reporting on comic books, then websites Newsarama are typically not the place to go. The vast majority of the time their writers and editors are only interested in keeping the access-spigot flowing. They cannot bite the hand that feeds, but they will gladly give men like Tom Brevoort a thumb to suck every time he runs to them crying.

Withhold your cash when it comes to Captain America until Marvel learns its lesson. If you want to reward the company for good work, then purchase Charles Soule’s Daredevil. Just be aware that one day a writer will come up with the idea that Matt Murdock has never been blind and was working for Kingpin all along — and reporters like George Marston will be ready and waiting to insult you for showing displeasure.

Editor’s Note: Henchmen’s Lounge was kind enough to invite me onto a podcast to discuss Captain America. We begin talking about Hydra-Cap at the 18-minute mark.

 

‘Captain America #1’: Nick Spencer turns hero into Hydra agent with Tom Brevoort’s blessing

Hydra pamphlet

Your friendly neighborhood blogger wrote a piece of satire in January 2015 that involved Marvel Comics turning Red Skull into Captain America. Fast forward in time to May 25, 2016, and the company has, for all intents and purposes, done just that.

Captain America has seemingly been a Hydra agent since the very beginning — and Marvel executive editor Tom Brevoort claims it is not a gimmick.

TIME magazine reported:

Every single month whether it’s a run of the mill month for Captain America or an extraordinary month, our job is to put him in situations that place that character under some degree of pressure and see how he reacts to that. And hopefully our readers are surprised, shocked, elated, see something of themselves, learn something about themselves. To say it’s a gimmick implies that it’s done heedlessly just to shock. The proof is always going to be in the execution. So you’ll have to read the rest of the story to see.

But I certainly believe it’s not a gimmick. It’s a story that we spent a long time on, that’s compelling and captures the zeitgeist of the world. It will make readers wonder how the heck we’ll get out of this.

The truth, however, is slightly different: Readers want to know how Marvel got into this mess. Hiring Nick Spencer — a man who is so weirdly partisan that he says Republicans are “evil” — explains a lot, but the problem goes much deeper.

Before we move on, however, here is what you need to know about Steve Rogers: Captain America #1:

  • Steve Rogers had an abusive father.
  • Steve’s mother, Sarah, is aided by a “Hydra Society” member one night after her husband beats her. She takes a pamphlet for Hydra’s New York chapter (because creepy skulls with tentacles would never set off warning bells).
  • Red Skull recruits the next generation of Hydra in 2016 by making fair points about Europe’s refugee crisis (i.e., Nick Spencer wants you to associate rather innocuous conservative observations with Nazi villains).
  • S.H.I.E.L.D. finds Baron Zemo, which prompts Captain America, Jack Flag, and Free Spirit to the lawless city of Bagalia.
  • Jack Flag ignores Cap’s orders and assists in confronting Zemo in the villain’s jet.
  • Captain America laments Jack Flag’s decision and then throws him out a cargo drop.
  • The issue ends with Captain America saying “Hail Hydra” to Doctor Erik Selvig, a scientist Zemo held hostage in an attempt to find the sentient Cosmic Cube known as Kobik.

Red Skull

The question on everyone’s mind, judging from the #saynotohydracap hashtag that trended on Twitter all morning, is simple: Why?

The answer: A culture of moral relativism inside the halls of Marvel is so prevalent that Doctor Octopus had to become “Spider-man” for over a year and now Captain America must run around as a Nazi-sympathizing Hydra agent for an extended amount of time.

Iron Man was turned into a villain.

Spider-Man was turned into a villain.

Captain America is now a villain.

Heroes battled each other in Civil War and will do so again in Civil War II.

Notice a trend? These are the hallmarks of an organization that is so uncomfortable drawing a clear line between good and evil that instead it would rather go with a “one man’s Captain America is another man’s Red Skull” approach.

Nothing matters: Captain America is Hydra. Doctor Octopus is Spider-Man. Iron Man is a George W. Bush allegory and Red Skull agrees with Republicans (and moderate Democrats) on the issue of Syrian refugees. That is your modern Marvel comic book, and it wouldn’t be so embarrassing if men like Tom Breevort didn’t lie about writing for “the zeitgeist.”

Captain America Jack Flag

Take the following claim by Mr. Brevoort, for example:

TIME: In the comic the Red Skull of Hydra talks about “criminal trespassers” who “make a mockery” of America’s borders and calls the refugees in Germany an “invading army” bringing “fanatical beliefs and crime” to Europe. Obviously, this hate speech is nothing new for the organization, but it sounds like rhetoric we’ve been hearing this election. Is that purposeful?

Brevoort: We try to write comics in 2016 that are about the world and the zeitgeist of 2016, particularly in Captain America. Nick Spencer, the writer, is very politically active. He’s a Capitol Hill head and following this election very closely. So we can talk about political issues in a metaphoric way. That’s what gives our stories weight and meat to them. Any parallels you have seen to situations real or imagined, living or dead, is probably intentional but metaphorically not literally.

Mr. Brevoort liked the word “zeitgeist” so much that he used it twice in one interview, but it’s funny how the “zeitgeist” only relates to making Republican presidential candidates look like Nazis and then turning Captain America into a Hydra agent — all in the same issue where a guy with ties to white supremacists turned himself into a Hyrda suicide bomber.

Why is it that Marvel’s zeitgeist-quota is laughably focused on metaphors of white, Republican males as evil instead of, say, national security threats posed by Islamic terrorist organizations controlling large swathes of Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, and Afghanistan?

How strange is it that Nick Spencer did not find it timely in a post-9/11 world to have Captain America team up with Ranger-run task forces in Pakistan, but he did to turn him into a Hydra agent?

If you increasingly find yourself feeling like Doctor Erik Selvig or any other characters who are held hostage in Marvel’s comics, then you should know that you are not alone. The characters you grew up with are now beholden to partisan writers and editors who enable immature and mean-spirited fantasies. Hashtag’s like #saynotohyracap are fine, but withholding hard-earned cash should always be the primary method of conveying displeasure.

Tune in here in for future updates into the sad decline of Marvel’s comics division and the activist-creators behind it all.

Update: John C. Wright was kind enough to link to this post. To all of his readers: Welcome!

Captain America Hydra