It’s been years in the making, but the stars have finally aligned for your friendly neighborhood blogger and Mike McNulty (Stillanerd) to team up for a discussion on comic books. If you’ve enjoyed Mike’s reviews over the years — both at Spider-Man Crawlspace and now with Whatever a Spider Can — then you’ll want to check out this YouTube chat. It’s one hour of the two of us talking about craft or writing, The Amazing Spider-Man, and a few other topics of interest to those who tuned in during the live stream.
Mike, as always, was the consummate professional. I hope to have him back again for another YouTube hangout sooner rather than later.
Spider-Man video games have a dubious track record. Your friendly neighborhood blogger doesn’t play many video games these days, but over the years I have made time for the web slinger’s adventures. Playstation 4 will soon bring fans a new installment, courtesy of Insomniac Games. The trailer was released at Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) in Los Angeles, California, and it looks awesome.
More impressive, however, was the way Insomniac’s Bryan Intihar — the title’s creative director — presented himself during an interview with Sony Interactive America Entertainment’s Sid Shuman on June 13. The guy’s enthusiasm and excitement for Peter Parker bursts out of him at 100 mph, but in a professional way. He is smart. He is articulate. Most importantly, he demonstrates a level of reverence for the character that has been missing within the comics division for years.
Mr. Intihar said:
“We understand how important this character is to a lot of people. It’s important to us. Everybody at Insomniac at least want to do it justice. That’s the thing: We just want to make sure that people walk away unbelievably happy, and this is kind of the first taste of that journey that we’re going on.”
On Team ASM, the job isn’t to make readers happy. They instead use anger to drives sales while treating Peter Parker like a “meat puppet.” Let that sink in for awhile.
Mr. Intihar continued:
“For me it’s about respecting the traditions of the franchise, but mixing things up. It’s that blending… I mean, honestly, that the thing that I’ve been so surprised with, but also so excited that […] we have a lot of freedom. […] We ask the question ‘Why?’ a lot. ‘Well, why are we doing this? How does it tie into the universe? How does that tie into our main character? What’s the ramifications?’ Like, cause and effect. We’re always talking about that because we want everything to be buttoned up. We talk a lot bout being cohesive, everything being a cohesive package. I feel like that’s what makes a great video game — a great story. […] We talk a lot about Peter Parker. For us, Peter is as integral as Spider-Man. We talk a lot about telling the story of the man behind the mask. For us, Peter is as important as the Spider-Man character.“
The answer to most, if not all, of those questions is likely “No.” Meanwhile, Mr. Intihar talks about respecting Peter Parker with a look in his eyes like he’s five years old again on Christmas morning — and he just got a puppy.
The guys at Insomniac were even kind enough to throw in Mr. Slott’s admittedly cool villain, Mr. Negative, given that his goons show up in the trailer.
The only thing that fans may have an issue with at this point is the new costume and its giant white spider. When I first saw it I said, “What the heck is this?” and then the more I thought about it the more I liked it.
Besides Captain America, Spider-Man is a character whose essence screams “I’m an American.”
He is the “ordinary” man who regularly shows the world that there is something extraordinary in all of us.
He is fiercely independent. He can work on a team, but working alone allows his unique abilities and knack for improvisation to shine.
He can be annoying, but all that wise-guy talk is just his way of hiding real fears. Underneath the mask, it’s obvious that he is a good and decent man who believes “with great power comes great responsibility.”
One can go on and on, but the point is this: This is a superhero who deserves to wear red, white, and blue.
The white spider, in its own weird way, also looks a bit like a star. It’s a very “spidery” star, but still a good fit for America’s favorite wall-crawler.
I seldom make predictions on this blog, but I will do so now in light of the performance by Insomniac Games’ Bryan Intihar: Spider-Man for PS4 is going to blow fans away.
Perhaps it will even prompt Peter Parker fans to ask Marvel why so many of its writers shun Mr. Intihar’s “we just want to make sure that people walk away unbelievably happy” approach.
Editor’s Note:Our good friend Stillanerd did not like the white spider on the new suit. Yes, it’s true, even Stillanerd can be wrong on occasion. (Zing!) But seriously, what are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments section below.
Your friendly neighborhood blogger correctly predicted months ago that Dan Slott was on a stupid-trajectory to write”Spider-Rockets” into The Amazing Spider-Man. “Arachno-Rockets” are officially part of Spider-Man history with the ninth issue of ASM. Sadly, it also includes Peter Parker’s “Nuke the Fridge” moment, which anyone remotely familiar with Indiana Jones and The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull will understand.
Here is the set-up: Peter Parker and S.H.I.E.L.D. are desperately looking for an international terrorist organization known as Zodiac, more specifically its leader Scorpio. The group hijacked all of S.H.I.E.L.D.S. satellites to locate an artifact known as The Orrery. Peter thinks he can manually take back control of the satellites and use them to pick up the energy signature of the artifact, a plan that coincidentally eluded Zodiac’s soothsayers because he came up with the idea exactly “one second after midnight.” (Seriously.)
The issue begins with Spider-Man giving Nick Fury a spacesuit he happened to have on hand (it also makes digital logos “on the fly”), and the two literally take off from a launching dock connected to Parker Industries. After successfully locating The Orrey and fending off satellites doubling as battering rams (the “Arachno-Rocket” was destroyed in the process) Spider-Man tells Fury to “space walk” to the international space station while he turns himself into a human meteor and heads for Paris, France.
It is hard not to read ASM #9 and wonder if Marvel has instructed Dan Slott to destroy all of Peter Parker’s credibility at any cost. Besides the jaw-dropping recklessness of turning himself into a meteor over Paris — without knowing if his plan would even work, where he would land, or how populated the area might be — one then needs to deal with the absurdity of “Spider-Suit Emergency Beacons, Spider-Back Spinnerets, and Emergency Web-Foam.
One must assume that it is only by the grace of God that Spider-Man only destroyed multiple vehicles (hopefully no-one was inside), instead of the nearby crowd of stunned citizens.
Spider-Man eventually pulls himself out of the wreckage like Indiana Jones from a refrigerator after a nuclear test, and the terrorist Scorpio appears. The villain says there is no way the Spider-Man will “make it to tomorrow,” but readers know that in many ways their hero is already dead.
It is an absolute shame that the quality of Brian Michael Bendis’ “Spider-Man” towers over The Amazing Spider-Man. There is certainly room in the Marvel universe for fans of both Miles Morales and Peter Parker, but there is no excuse for allowing Dan Slott to “Nuke the Fridge” in the pages of ASM. At this point Nick Lowe is only nominally ASM’s editor because it appears there is little, if any, push-back against Dan Slott’s worst ideas.
The ninth issue of The Amazing Spider-Man should have been renamed The Atrocious Spider-Man. Do not buy it unless you plan on using it for toilet paper.
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.
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.
The Amazing Spider-Man #9 does not come out until March 9, but regular readers of this blog will be happy (or is that sad?) to know that epic levels of stupidity that were predicted by yours truly in October 2015 are included in the issue. Dan Slott’s “Spider-Rockets” will finally arrive, as revealed in Marvel’s “free previews” handout. Spider-Man is eventually seen crashing and burning into earth’s atmosphere like a piece of space junk, and at this point it is hard not to apply the analogy to the actual product.
“At this point it doesn’t seem far-fetched to predict Dan Slott turning him into Marvel’s Elon Musk. Instead of Space-X, perhaps Peter Parker will launch “Spider-X.” If readers criticize the “Spider-Rockets” that are introduced in ASM #25, then they will be mocked and ridiculed by those who “know better” (i.e., Marvel’s writers and editors).”
It turns out writer Dan Slott is 16 issues ahead of schedule. Unfortunately, that is a bad thing.
Question for fans of The Amazing Spider-Man: What does it say about a book where a blogger can come up with an absurd prediction to highlight the book’s decline, and then have it come true in less than six months?
Stay tuned to douglasernstblog for a review of ASM #9. The stars are aligning for a review that has been five months in the making.
Years ago this blog mentioned that some comic book superheroes are meant for war zones, and some are meant for city streets. Dan Slott’s writing proved that observation yet again in the fourth issue of The Amazing Spider-Man.
Imagine you’re in a crowd of people when bombs start falling all around you. Terrorists with high-powered rifles and explosives fly through the air on military-grade gliders. A friendly aircraft swoops in and you think you’re saved, but it turns out the “hero” only armed it with web shooters that must be fired perfectly at multiple targets to stop the carnage.
Predictably, the “hero” is shot down, but by the grace of God the aircraft does not careen into the crowd of people he was supposed to be saving.
That, my friends, is Dan Slott’s Spider-Man.
Now imagine that said “hero” pulls himself from the twisted wreckage of his multi-million-dollar airborne web-shooter to return to the fight. Outnumbered and armed only with his wits, his response is to ask if his bloated bank account might convince them to “switch sides” (Spider-Justice does not require them to be held liable for dropping bombs on innocent civilians moments earlier.)
When that doesn’t work, the hero is stumped. Luckily, a small child from a third-world country happens to be on hand to indirectly suggest he use surrounding technology (his own, no less) to create an electromagnetic device.
That, my friends, is Dan Slott’s Spider-Man.
The Amazing Spider-Man #4 is a great read …if you enjoy seeing a hero escape a daunting situation created solely because of his own ignorance.
The Amazing Spider-Man #4 is a great read … if you enjoy the hero written as less quick-witted than usual so that a more socially conscious message can take center stage: There are really smart children in third-world countries who could thrive if only we could find a way to give them “free” access to western technology.
A quixotic superhero needlessly risks the lives of the people he is supposed to save.
The superhero attempts to pay off terrorists because he believes he can out-bid their current employer.
A child tells the superhero the best course of action for saving the day.
Readers who have been following the story know that this comes as S.H.I.E.L.D. was planning to mount a world-wide assault on a terrorist network known as Zodiac. Peter, who was supposed to take part in the mission, bails when he realizes Aunt May and her fellow volunteers in the nation of Nadua are under attack at a charity event.
Who was behind the terror attack in Nadua? What consequences will there be for Peter Parker due to neglecting his commitments to S.H.I.E.L.D? Find out in two weeks if Dan Slott’s Spider-Man doesn’t get himself and those under his watch all killed.
Regular readers of this blog know that I have been following the relaunches of Invincible Iron Man and The Amazing Spider-Man. Since one features Tony Stark and the other features “Tony Stark light,” it is interesting to see how each writer handles his respective superhero. One thing readers will get from writer Brian Michael Bendis’ Tony Stark that they will not from Dan Slott’s Peter Parker is a clear understanding of the character’s inner being.
Take Stark’s conversation with his new love interest, Amara Perera, for instance:
Perera: Don’t you have superhero friends that you can commiserate with when things like this happen?
Stark: In my line of work…there’s always somebody with a much worse story. ‘Oh, man. I almost died tonight.’ ‘Yeah? I was almost eaten by Galactus.’ ‘Oh Yeah? I died and was resurrected as my own child.”
Perera: And you found yourself thinking about me?
Stark: I might not actually have a lot of friends.
Perera: You do.
Stark: I know a lot of people. But…people don’t want to hear me talk about any of my problems because, well —
Perera: You’re rich.
Stark: I can see their eyes glaze over. I can hear the ‘Aw, poor baby.’ Like my problems aren’t problems.
Perera: Money can’t buy happiness? That is disappointing to hear.
Stark: Sorry to be the one to break it to you.
Perera: Maybe you don’t know a lot of people that challenge you intellectually.
Stark: A few. But they are very, I want to say…
Bendis’ Stark is a character who has psychological meat on him. Slott’s Peter Parker literally died and was resurrected, yet he treats the experience like a bad trip to the dentist.
Bendis’ Stark is surrounded people, but lonely. He is rich, but not happy. He wants to become a better person (as demonstrated in another conversation later in the book), but he never can find the right mentor to help him begin the journey.
Anyone can fill a comic book with fights and gadgets and zingy one-liners, but none of that matters if the characters are one dimensional. Bendis’ heroes and villains have depth and breadth. They have gravitas, which makes the magic and the mystery and the fight scenes exponentially more satisfying than anything you will find in The Amazing Spider-Man #3.
For those who are not up to speed, the story breaks down as follows:
Madam Masque is on a mission to collect rare magical artifacts that have essentially slipped through “dimensional cracks” and found their way to earth. Tony does not know why she is doing this, since it does not fit her psychological profile.
Doctor Doom wants to help Tony on his mission, but won’t explain why.
Tony wants to become the kind of man who “deserves” to be with famous biochemical engineer Amara Perera.
It is comforting to read a mystery where the writer methodically lays out a bread trail for readers to follow. Each crumb Bendis places before his audience is there for a specific reason. Whereas Dan Slott lets his imagination toss him around like young bull rider, Bendis controls his imagination like a seasoned rancher overseeing the herd.
If you get a chance, then check out Invincible Iron Man. It’s shaping up to be one of the few books worth a $4.00 cover price.
Older readers will remember the episode of “Happy Days” where Fonzi “jumped the shark” in his famous leather jacket while waterskiing. Years from now, perhaps some fans of The Amazing Spider-Man will trace back Peter Parker’s character derailment to the time he started using “holographic whales” on missions to take on global terrorist organizations.
The current relaunch of ASM will likely be as divisive for Spider-Man fans as other aspects of writer Dan Slott’s extended run because, as mentioned before, the character is being used as some sort of James Bond/Bruce Wayne/Tony Stark/Steve Jobs/Peter Parker chimera.
Is it fun to see Spider-Man and The Prowler sneaking around one of The Zodiac’s underwater bases? Yes. Of course. The inner child of any man loves the thought of taking a submarine into the depths of the ocean, finding an evil terrorist organization’s base, and then infiltrating it to save the free world.
The problem in this instance, however, isn’t the dilemma Parker must overcome but changes made to the character to propel him there. Last issue it was revealed that Peter Parker became fluent in Mandarin and mastered secret-agent driving skills within months — as CEO of a rapidly-expanding tech company. Now he is employing holographic whales while selling spider-tracer technology in the global marketplace.
At what point in time do fans of The Amazing Spider-Man say the integrity of the character has been compromised?
At what point has the character been taken so far from his roots that he ceases to be the same man?
At what point does the treatment of Peter Parker, like his holographic whales, become an illusion that hides what is right and what is true?
With that said, the issue did have its strengths — most notably Parker’s reflection upon the time he was forced to leave Silver Sable to (seemingly) die at the hands of Rhino in order to save the world. I have always said that placing heroes in such difficult situations provides opportunities for character development. The “No one dies!” era of ASM was an embarrassment for the book, but it appears as though Mr. Slott was able to turn a few lemons into lemonade. Kudos.
As is the case with the last issue, the decision to buy or pass on this book all depends on your fidelity to the character of Peter Parker.
At this point it doesn’t seem far-fetched to predict Dan Slott turning him into Marvel’s Elon Musk. Instead of Space-X, perhaps Peter Parker will launch “Spider-X.” If readers criticize the “Spider-Rockets” that are introduced in ASM #25, then they will be mocked and ridiculed by those who “know better” (i.e., Marvel’s writers and editors).
The Amazing Spider-Man has relaunched yet again, and this time around Peter Parker is a CEO of his own worldwide company. He apparently took driving lessons to handle a car like a young Mario Andretti. He apparently took Mandarin and became fluent in a matter of months. He is “very” close to his Asian business partner, and he’s fortunate to have new technology on hand for almost any dilemma. At the end of the day, a review of this relaunch boils down to whether or not Peter Parker fans should embrace The Amazing “poor man’s Tony Stark.”
Like much of Dan Slott’s work, he offers a mixed bag of interesting ideas with the downright bizarre and embarrassing.
Take, for instance, Parker’s refusal to fire the woman he knows has a.) pro-actively worked to undermine his core vision, and b.) actually attempted to ally with a super-villain who destroyed his New York offices and almost killed everyone inside.
For those don’t remember, here is a flashback to The Amazing Spider-Man #17:
Sajani Jaffrey: I think we can be allies. I’ve heard of you. The Ghost – corporate saboteur, right? Which means someone hired you, probably to torpedo our super-prison. Well, guess what? Nothing would make me happier. It’s all my partner’s idea. I think it’s a stinker. I’ll make you a deal: Don’t hurt anyone, leave the rest of our projects alone…and I’ll show you the best, fastest way to wreck the prison stuff beyond repair. What do you say?
The Ghost: You’re a shrewd negotiator, young lady.
To CEO Peter Parker, working with corporate saboteurs to destroy his company is only worth a “talk.”
As was the case with The Superior Spider-Man, Mr. Slott must dumb down his characters in order to get from Point A to Point B. Characters during SSM needed to not realize Doctor Octopus was inside Peter’s mind to keep Slott’s story going, and so their intelligence dropped 20 points.
Mr. Slott now needs Sajani to move his plot along, so Peter Parker blithely overlooks a betrayal that any normal person would fire – and sue – her over.
One of the more interesting aspects of the book comes when it is revealed Peter has hired Hobie Brown (aka: The Prowler) to be his “decoy” Spider-Man. While the decision offers the potential for a very fun relationship to form, one cannot help but wonder if Brown is a “poor man’s James Rhodes.”
Is The Amazing Spider-Man #1 worth buying? That’s a good question. If you like Guiseppe Camuncoli’s work, then sure. If you want to read about Peter Parker-Stark, then sure. If you can put up with Dan Slott’s “sweet” ideas being drowned out by others that are seriously “sour,” then sure.
If, however, you read Renew Your Vows and felt as though Marvel finally captured the essence — no matter how fleeting — of the “real” Peter Parker, then you will probably want to withhold your cash.
Editor’s Note: Regular readers know that I am in the process of learning Mandarin. Let me just say that one does not simply begin taking Mandarin lessons and become fluent in a matter of months. This is the kind of writing that drives fans mad. Dan Slott could put Peter in Saudi Arabia tomorrow, have him speak fluent Arabic, and then make the character say, “Yeah, so…in addition to expanding this global tech-empire, fighting super-villains, inventing new technology, and learning Mandarin over the last couple of months, I just-so-happened to take a few Arabic classes as well.”
If you think that is jarring and lazy writing, then it is likely Dan Slott will call your criticism invalid.
Dan Slott, the Marvel writer who regularly whines about people taking him out of context, has no qualms taking others out of context when his personal politics are at play. The same guy who had his “Superior” Spider-Man blow a guy’s face off with a handgun from point-blank range had no problem chopping up a lengthy conversation by Jeb Bush on the Umpqua Community College shootings into Tweets devoid of any context.
Before we move on, let us examine a Dan Slott quote from Aug. 1, 2015:
“Jesus. Could you at least link to the exchange instead of paraphrasing and misinterpreting?” – Dan Slott.
Dan Slott’s standard of fairness when it involves his reputation or things he cares about is at least a link to a full conversation. The rules he applies to others do not apply to himself. And then he wonders why it’s impossible for people to have mature, honest discussions on complex issues…
Jeb Bush: “The tendency when we have these tragedies that took place yesterday, it’s just heartbreaking to see these things, but this is the broader question of rule-making I think is an important point to make. That whenever you see a tragedy take place, the impulse in the political system, most, more often than at the federal level, but also at the state level, is to ‘do something,’ right? And what we end up doing lots of times is we create rules on the 99.999 percent of human activity that had nothing to do with the tragedy that forced the conversation about doing something. And we’re taking people’s rights away each time we do that, and we’re not necessarily focusing on the real challenge. …
We’re in a difficult time in our country and I don’t think more government is necessarily the answer to this. I think we need to reconnect ourselves with everybody else. It’s very sad to see. I had this challenge as governor. We have, look, stuff happens. There’s always a crisis. And the impulse is always to ‘do something,’ and that’s not necessarily the right thing to do.”
Unlike Dan Slott, Jeb Bush had to deal with the aftermath of hurricanes, budgets that affected millions of people, etc. Jeb Bush actually had to make gut-wrenching decisions as the governor of Florida. He understands that with a stroke of the pen, politicians can turn the lives of entire communities upside down.
When Dan Slott doesn’t go to a comic convention or misses a deadline, civil rights are not eroded.
“‘Things’ happen all the time. ‘Things,’ is that better? … A child drowns in a pool and the impulse is to pass a law that puts fencing around pools. Well it may not change it or you have a car accident and the impulse is to pass a law that deals with that unique event and the cumulative effect of this is in some cases, you don’t solve the problem by passing the law, and you’re imposing on large numbers of people, burdens that make it harder for our economy to grow, make it harder for people to protect liberty, and that is, the whole conversation today was exactly about that.”
Mr. Bush was trying to have a serious public policy debate when he made those comments. He acknowledged that what happened in Roseburg, Oregon, was a “heartbreaking” tragedy, and then talked about the broader public policy question at hand.
Unfortunately, Mr. Slott couldn’t resist acting like a political vulture to exploit the situation.
For those who want a better idea of what Dan Slott does, I will now provide a clear example.
Last Thursday, 26-year-old Christopher Harper-Mercer specifically targeted Christians in a massacre that killed nine and injured seven. He took his own life during an exchange of gunfire with cops. Imagine if I shared that information and then juxtaposed it with Dan Slott’s infamous “Christ-Land” tweet – without any context. Do you think Mr. Slott would be upset? I do.
Ask yourself this question before reading it: If there was another Boston Marathon-type bombing and a politician Dan Slott didn’t like said, “Scared by the number of Muslims who are silent on domestic terrorism. This is America. Go to Muslim-Land,” do you think he would call that person a bigot? I do.