I’m fairly new to comic books. I started reading because I’ve always wanted to write my own, and I’m a big fan of passing procrastination off as study. I’m also now within walking distance of new editions for the first time. But I’m no authority on the subject, and I look forward to comments filling any gaps I may leave. Despite my freshness to the medium, I’ve been left slighted by my mates at Marvel this week.
I understand there’s a whole lot of artists – pencillers, inkers, colourists, all that – in the industry. As Marvel’s characters criss-cross their way through the universe, it makes sense that artists will need to share timelines to an extent. And given that there’s a whole multiplex of Spider-Men (whom I’m only loosely familiar with), there’s need of an army of superhero sketchers to pull all the strings of that particular web into place.
This is fine, as long as there’s a logic to the madness.
The Amazing Spiderman is a tale as old as time, if that time is about fifty years. But in classic Spiderman fashion, the comic books have had a recent reboot. The New Amazing Spiderman is now on issue seven, and I have to say, the first six issues were some of the most fun I’ve had looking at colourful pages, right behind the half-completed Megamind colouring book gifted by my girlfriend. The writing was witty, the characters popped, and the action was insane in the best possible way.
And then came number seven.
In which Pete woke up on the buff, brooding side of the bed.
I knew something was off as soon as I picked it up. The colours and poses on the cover reminded me of the more classic Spiderman. But that’s no big deal, just a result of changing artists. I still want to know what happens next in the story because the first issues had been really building to something. Two things, in fact. First, there was a whole Electro/Black Cat situation that was, of course, endangering a lot of people. Second, there was Silk, the woman afflicted with the same arachno-awesomeness as Peter Parker, who infused the story (and Parker) with a self-destructive chemistry that made them a great team if they could just focus on fighting the good fight. Two fun story arcs, the first of which came to an explosive end in issue six.
So we’re left with one cool story. How will it play out? Well…we may find out sometime, but on the first page of issue seven, the story literally went out the window, as Silk swung away to do her own thing. As stated, this release saw new artists, who brought along with them new characters in Ms. Marvel, as well as some elf-looking fire breathers who dressed a cat in a Spidey suit and killed it with fire breath. If that sounds confusing…well it is. Again, I’m fairly new to this, but I’ve always loved me some Spidey, and this just seemed wacky. Most surprising through all this, we have the same writer. Suprising because this guy wrote six entertaining issues and then followed up with flat dialogue, wild tangents, and just overall forced plots.
Still, given the timing of the downturn, I have to assume it’s got a lot to do with the change in artistic leadership. Can you imagine if this happened in the film industry? ‘Sorry Mr. Nolan, we like what you’ve done with the first half hour of Batman, but we’re going to give Mr. Whedon a crack now.’ Though in fairness, the comic book creation process is closer to television production, an industry which does see new directors on many episodes. So how does TV not fall into this trap? Well for starters, the rest of the crew stays mostly the same. If Game of Thrones, for example, were to mirror the comic book approach, not only would directors change, but halfway through a season we’d see a new cinematographer, a new post-production team, and a whole new cast except for Jamie Lannister. Even if the original writers remained, they’d have to basically start from scratch in this scenario. I’d probably jump to fire-breathing too.
And from what I can tell, that’s basically what happened with our wall crawler. Sure, it’s only one issue that’s gone off base, but that whole cat/elf scenario seemed to be building up to more of the same. Recently, Thor and Loki took a ride to the 10th realm, and there was a notable change in artistic style. Considering they were in a whole new world, a new fantastic point of view worked pretty well. So there is a good way and good reason to change tack during a story, but Spidey seems to have taken it to the extreme. I hope next month sees a return to coherence.
Who else is keeping up to date with Parker and co.? Did you find this as jarring as I have?
P.S. Not really sure why I specked this article with Disney quotes. But I’ll finish by completing the theme.
If you like the things I write about, we’d probably be good friends. You could find me in any random London cafe most days, or on Twitter if you prefer that kind of thing.