Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Amazing Spider-man:Big Time #648 - 651

Welcome Ladies & Gentlemen to the beginning of a revolution. A beginning of where heroes, villains and stories all clash. This is where comic books will be graded and challenged to see where the story and the art mesh together.  We will start with the Big Two for the first 2 weeks. And considering this is the first week out our illustrious blog. And a battle it will be:
It’s Amazing Spiderman’s Big Time 

How have these storylines and books grabbed readers? How have these characters changed or grown? 

Issues #648 – 651
Story(arc) Name: Big Time
Written by Dan Slott; Penciled by Humberto Ramos
Marvel Comics

Review by Frankie Rodriguez

            Let us begin. Spidey, in Marvel proper, has not been treated well in some time. And while many fans LOVE him in the New Avengers (and now Avengers) book, working and interacting with other heroes it’s almost a complete opposite in his solo book. To be honest, things have not bode well for Spidey in Amazing at all.
            One More Day changed most of Spidey’s world, by keeping Aunt May alive by changing reality. You know how that happened. In short, Spidey revealed himself during Civil War, Kingpin ordered a hitman to kill him but Aunt May was shot. Spidey asked almost everyone he knows to help his Aunt May from dying and they couldn’t but Spidey, along with then wife Mary Jane, meet up with Mephisto, Marvel’s Satan, and makes a deal with him in order to erase their marriage. Why? WE STILL DON’T REALLY KNOW!!!!
            Then we get a slap in the face with One Moment In Time as we some how find out exactly what MJ whispered to Mephisto before the deal was made. Which was bullshit!! Seriously, most fans, like me, find it to be bullshit. They come up with a crappy “what if” situation that supposed to be the altered reality which only, according to Quesada, only has 2 big changes: 1. MJ & Peter never got married & 2. everyone’s minds were altered by Dr. Strange and friends instead of Mephisto. Which means everything else happened  . . . including the birth of MJ & Peter’s daughter, May. WHAT THE HELL?!
            Since then, Peter got to work with Frontline, a new web/print news magazine ran by Robbie Robertson, lives with a woman who doesn’t like him, J. Jonah Jameson became married to the woman who helped created the Spider-Slayers, Marla Madison-Jameson; Aunt May got married to Jameson’s father, Jay. Spidey, alongside the New Avengers, survived the Osborn era, and just started dating a new woman, Carlie Cooper who is actually a forensics scientist. ???? Confused yet?  Now that we have that out of the way . . .
            Amazing Spiderman #648, according to Dan Slott, was to be a jump on point. Did he succeed?

            #648 opens with Spidey leading, yes, you heard me right, leading the Avengers against a bunch of Doc Ock Octopus-robots. The Avengers follow his lead as we get narrative from Spidey. As the Avengers, and later the Fantastic Four, join forces against the Octopus-robots; the Sinister Six work on sneaking into a military instillation in New Jersey. Well, only Chameleon & Electro sneak in. The rest of the new Sinster Six: Rhino, Sandman (yes, he’s evil again), Mysterio and Doctor Octopus watch from their little secret lair. Doctor Octopus has nearly 40 robots, the size of Sentinels, attacking New York. And while the Sinister Six talk about Ock’s  psychosis, yet the eight-limbed villain gave a very powerful statement about Spider-man: “For years I thought he was a buffoon . . . a child. But he defeated me in a battle of minds. Trust me. The man is a genius . . .and I shall never underestimate him again!”

            After Spidey beats out Reed Richards & Tony Stark to a solution to the Octopus-robots simultaneously exploding, we get to see more changes in Peter’s life in one day than we have since OMD & OMIT. Peter deals with being behind on his rent then getting kicked out, saying good-bye to Michelle, who didn’t really catch on with my hands. Peter also dealt with being blackballed from the newspaper business, so working for Frontline under the table but could not get money. So homeless and with little to no cash, Peter hunts for a place to stay, leading to several different confrontations with people including Carlie Cooper, Flash Thompson & MJ before he walks into Aunt May’s. More on Peter’s trip to Flash’s later.
            Yet, unbeknownst to Peter, while he was out and about, Marla and John Jameson (J. Jonah’s son) met up with May & new hubby Jay Jameson (John’s grandfather). Marla wanted to make amends for Peter being blackballed thanks to Jonah and help her new family heal. Marla offers to find Peter a job and Aunt May comes out a scrap book. Marla looks impressed on Peter’s achievements in science and makes a call.
            Peter enters the fray and Marla seeming hooks him up with an old scientific idol of Peter’s Max Modell. And the meeting becomes a cushy new job as a scientist for Horizon Labs; where Peter is one of 7 top scientists who can come and go as they please with their own private labs; even winning his job after solving a problem with fake vibranium, reverbium, made by one of the other 7 scientists.
Meanwhile, the Kingpin, yes, Wilson Fisk, has gained control of the Hand and is working on getting his criminal empire where he wants to be. He has hired the Hobgoblin, who is once again the original Hobgoblin, Roderick Kingsley. Yet, during their meeting, he does not show his face to the Kingpin.
            Hobgoblin is getting more weapons till he runs into another character that is known throughout Spidey lore, a former Goblin in fact. (No, not Harry or Norman Osborn).  They even meet up in one of Norman’s old goblin labs that he kept secret to produce new goblin weapons. And sure enough, this former Goblin ends up taking over the Hobgoblin’s spot in one of the most gruesome scenes in a Spidey comic I have seen in years. The “new” hobgoblin shows up and set up to be a dark reflection of Peter as we see a character that was once considered good decent into madness. And the new Hobgoblin wastes no time in trying to move up in Kingpin’s organization, mocking Kingpin’s right hand guy and attacking Horizon Labs, which Kingpin had targeted for the Reverbium. During the attack, the “new” Hobgobin  uses his “Goblin laugh” to fend off Spidey and steal the Reverbium. Spidey, disoriented, barely escapes but does so with help from Black Cat.
            Meanwhile, Peter is getting his life together with his first pay check and really learning to be on his own. Yet after the defeat of Hobgoblin and his new job, Peter decides to use his new job, creating a new costume. The new costume was made to deal with the new Hobgoblin’s laugh powers with some other features, including stealth. And while fans were initially scared of it cause of the green color . . . the spider changes color so it goes from green to blue to red, etc. Using his brain to make the suit, he also enlists help from Black Cat, who agrees to both stick it to Kingpin & to make herself look good cause she wants to join the Avengers. (WOW. Black Cat as an Avenger?! Eh . . .Maybe New Avenger.)

            So they go in to steal the reverbium, getting separated and its Spidey vs “new” Hobgoblin round 2, but this time with new Spidey suit while Black Cat tries to steal stuff from Kingpin, only to get her neck caught by a lasso from Kingpin’s number 2 guy. (Honestly, his name doesn’t escape me but he’s NOT that important.) Spidey fends off the new Hobgoblin then starts up the Reverbium to explode, starting to make the building collapse. Spidey and Black Cat escape, Kingpin’s number 2 dies and the “new” Hobgoblin sees to have sworn loyalty to Kingpin. The comic ends with a shot of Peter, Carlie, May & Jay (lol. May & Jay) having dinner and Peter picks up the tab.

            Clash tactics is how I break down the story line or arc and see how things measure up. There is a point system, the point system will lead to my special rating system:

Ubersuck Crown – Run away from the story &/or book. It is bad. Treat it like the plague. Think of it as a 1 or 1 star. Pretty much VERY BAD.

Cruiserweight Contender – A book that has some great flash and ability to entertain for a while. Not a definite buy but still not too bad. It’s ok. Aka 2 stars.

X Division Contender-  Something that is out there. Brings out something a little different. Something entertaining and over all enjoyable but still not enough to make a huge impact.  3 stars or Average.

Intercontinental Contender – Something polished, some what thought provoking. Great story telling. Fair characterization but things not completely utilized to the best of their ability more than it should. Something that is on the verge of greatness but just falls short. Good or 4 stars.

World Heavyweight Contender – Outstanding. Great art. Great characterization. Great storyline. Excellent plot. Outstanding use of characters, area. Great use of new concepts or old concepts in a new way. Frellin’ awesome or 5 stars.

Why Contenders and not Champs . . . that is my little secret for now.

Onto the actually Clash Tactics:

            First, this was supposed to be a new jump on point for readers as well as Dan Slott’s first solo issue of the book. And I have to say . . .THANK YOU GOD. These first 4 issue not only reestablished Spiderman in his solo title as the big star that he is, he was finally treated as one amongst his peers (for the most part) and by the writers. This isn’t some half-assed storyline to erase the past or pretend things didn’t happen while at the same time, moving forward.
I think the biggest problem with Brand New Day when it got started was that a lot of people thought it was TOO MUCH of a throw back. Many fans have quoted that the tales were just too reminiscent of the 70s. Going back is ok but only to reflect and move forward, not to completely do the same thing over, just with new people. And I think that was a very big problem with Spidey over the last few years. And I have read a few storylines here and there but none just seem that interesting.
Big Time though, Big Time respected what was done before, deconstructed it nicely enough and added new without spitting in the face of the past. Not only that, it gave us different sides of Spidey we have not seen in his solo book for a while. The Avengers were included in the first part of Big Time, showing his importance to being a member of that time and how he was Big Time in the super hero community. That his experiences and intelligence were much needed in the Marvel super hero community as much as Reed Richards & Tony Stark. That other heroes truly did give him respect, unlike Jonah.
Another facet that I loved about Big Time for Peter was that fact that he had been through this cycle before and he knew it. He went through quite a few people after he was thrown out of his apartment with Michelle, who actually was also moving out. Yet what struck me most was the scene between Flash and him. First, the laughter I got from Peter forgetting what putting a sock on the door means. The other was the statements Flash said about Peter after he slammed the door on Peter. Betty Brant, who Peter had called, was there and they talked for a moment. When Betty asked Flash who was it, he answered the following:
“Parker. Looking for a place to crash. Again. It’s like going in circles with him.”
Betty said what was wrong with circles since they were now back together. Flash replies with: “. . .But with Pete? He’s supposed to do more than ‘get by.’ Don’t ever tell ‘im I said this … but back in high school, we all thought he was gonna be the next bill gates. Just wish he could be more like me . . . and move forward . . .”
That whole exchange was one of the most profound statements about Peter to ever been said. And it’s very true. Peter, writers or not, has been going in circles for sometime. And moving forward is not easy. Especially when you get into adulthood and may adult readers know exactly what I am talking about. Jumping from place to place. Job to job. Still finding your way in the world is a hard thing. And while Peter has done that as Spiderman, he hasn’t really done that with Peter Parker. He’s been a photographer, a lab assistant . . . even a teacher but still been going in this weird circle. Mary Jane was along for the ride till One More Day but now, she’s just in the background. This was Slott’s way of showing us that circle and showing what has come before and how it affects the present. Giving Peter a new job as a scientist that will help out with his both financially and as Spiderman was definitely a defining moment for Peter.
The fact that Peter later on uses his new job to create his suit and able to keep his Spiderman stuff there is also a plus. Peter is really growing into his new job and after his first confrontation with the “new” Hobgoblin, Peter decides to use his brain. He creates a suit that not only looks like a “Tron Ad”, according to Black Cat, but also can nullify sound and make his invisible . . . to NINJAS. Again . . . invisible to ninjas! And thankfully, it changes color.

 Plus, Peter’s relationship with Black Cat has come down to to respectful friends. Yet, this one friend likes to steal and wants to be an Avenger. Poor Peter.  Peter’s humor is better than it has been in years in his solo book. It is finally on par, if not better than Bendis’s portray of Peter in Avengers & New Avengers. The fact that in #650, Spiderman barely got away from being beheaded by the “new” Hobgoblin with one of Peter’s new co-workers (Blonde named Bella) playing Lady Gaga’s Bad Romance to drown out the Goblin Laugh was genius and made me nearly wet my pants in laughter.
Slott’s take on Peter was not only refreshing but let us examine the other characters, starting with Aunt May. May and Peter shared probably one of the funniest talks in a comic book in years . . . over Peter’s possible collection of Porn. You have to read it to believe. 

As outraged as some fans were by the fact that Aunt May is talking about porn, that one scene gives May her motherly touch in a whole new way. And while it started with her seeing Peter off on his first day, that conversation was hilarious. Only to book end it with an old shot of May seeing Peter off to school, saying that he’ll be a scientist someday then May looking up to the sky, thinking of her dead husband (Ben Parker), and saying that he’s made it. It actually made me tear up for a second in #649.
Speaking of the interpersonal relationships of the cast of the book, there has been some shake ups; with Phil Urich having a “special” part in the book. As well as Frontline becoming the new Daily Bugle, now owned by Robbie Robertson thanks to a very funny yet almost touching scene with Jonah, Marla & Robbie was a definite highlight. The Kingpin’s slow reemergence began with this storyline and honestly, I have to say I like it. This sets up for some major changes with crime in the Marvel Universe and I hope they utilize Fisk and the Hand well in Amazing Spiderman and in the Marvel U as a whole.
The “new” Hobgoblin. He’s been controversial to say the least. For the fact the original Hobgoblin is killed in such a gruesome manner (for an Amazing Spiderman comic), was an exclamation point on the dawn of this new era of villainy. Back in #648, Doctor Octopus showed little remorse for becoming a mass murder that could destroy a city, which is something far more disturbing then he’s ever been.  In #649, the birth of the NEW Hobgoblin showed that this person was going to be a character to watch. And again, being set up as a dark reflection of Peter made it all the more creepy. And with true and tried motives, this Hobgoblin is not some Joker rip off but a very disturbed young man who wants acceptance & power. The evolution of this “new” Hobgoblin will definitely be a sight to see, given that the readers get to see that evolution done at a good, steady pace.
Carlie Cooper did not get too much pay here but we get to learn that Ms Cooper likes to also fight in roller skating league. Um . . . ok. She said she does it to relieve stress. Ok Slott. Interesting choice. Mary Jane in the story seemed to be there, happy for Peter but still had another great scene with him when he was trying to find a place to live that only people who have friendly relationships with their exs can only truly understand. I appauld Slott for that. Yet, when MJ visits Peter at his new job with Carlie . . . I felt as awkward as Peter. MJ, for a person not wanting to be with Peter, you are certainly hanging around.
Jonah is still a prick but little by little, Marla, his new wife, has been having a somewhat positive effect on him. Marla is trying very hard to repair her family has thanks to Jonah’s hatred of both Spiderman and Peter. And the somewhat back and forth relationship between Jonah and his father was barely touched but still seen.
We lost Michelle but we gained the big brains over at Horizon Labs. While the majority of the other scientists are not seen, Max Modell stands in the forefront. He seemed to like Peter and a different kind of boss. Plus, Peter idolized Max for years so working for Horizon Labs has literally turned to a dream come true for the web-slinger.  Max is smart. Perhaps too smart? Time will tell.

            Artistically, this was Humberto Ramos’s best work in some time. And I have become convinced that it truly depends on his inker and/or colorist that works on his stuff. Sometimes, his stuff doesn’t seem to have as much life but this . . . Big Time was a tour de force. Particularly want to say big ups to Carlos Cuevas on inks and Edgar Delgado on inks & colors. They always added something positive to Ramos’s art that was clean and finished, yet always fit the mood of the scene readers were enthralled with. If you don’t believe me, look at the transition of Hobgoblin’s scene during #649. It was as dark and horrific as it needed to be in a Spiderman comic. It was a great way to open the second part of Big Time and truly established the “new” Hobgoblin as a player. And a major player. The covers, whether the first printing or second printing, gave you a sense that this was a new era for Spidey. And while many people think of Humberto’s style as cartoony or manga like . . . it has that but evolved. The expression give enough emotion and excitement when they need to, which was always an issue before. This time, nothing looks out of place. People who are supposed to be menacing, are. People who are supposed to be happy, definitely look it. Hands down, some of Humberto’s best work he’s ever done.

 Now this is how Spidey is supposed to be. Big Time closed the chapter on things before and gave readers a new starting point to be proud of. The dialogue fit the characters but Slott was not above evolving characters, which is great. In just his first issue alone, Slott gave us some memorable moments in one comic that were comical and serious that will hold as milestones and reflections of adults who are looking for their way. Slott did a great job of also giving plenty of possible plots that can and will surface throughout his run on the book that did not retract from the main story. Humberto Ramos & company conveyed Slott’s script with such passion that it will make readers feel a multitude of emotions. You will laugh. You will cry. You will be horrified. You will be satisfied. I really tried to find something wrong with it. Some kind of flaw. Some kind of thing I can latch onto that didn’t involve those missed abortions called OMD & OMIT. Yet, for the first time in over a decade, I WANT to collect Amazing Spiderman. And that is truly Amazing.

Comic Book Clash Proudly gives its first review, Amazing Spiderman’s Big Time, a World Heavyweight Contender placing. But who will Big Time Spidey's opponent be . . . why non other than one of the Dark Knights . . . Batman. Next Week, it will be Eye of the Beholder as we pit Peter Parker vs. Dick Grayson.

See ya Then. And If you are on the side of evil, say goodbye! 

1 comment:

  1. Hey man you are a very solid writer, and I do got to agree with you this story was more in vein of the old school spiderman stories, at least it was fun and had that push. Plus this gave us the old Lee and Ditko run where it made Peter feel human. Once again another solid review like always.