Amazing Spider-Man 688

Posted by bulletproofsponge 28 June 2012

While there may be a number of mixed reviews regarding this issue online, I say this is the best issue in a while, especially since Ends of the Earth. 

With the new Spider-Man movie coming out, it is rather appropriate that the Lizard be reintroduced into comics, just to add to the hype.

The Story
As we all know, this takes place right after the Ends of the Earth story. This issue wastes no time as the first page shows Spider-Man throwing numerous punches at the Lizard.  As they fight, Spider-Man recalls their last encounter, and remembers how the Lizard left the fight along with a dozens of civilians under his control.

In the midst of the fight, Spider-Man is thrown into a pile of bones ( that of the civilians)

The issue then moves eight hours earlier, when Horizon Lab's little submarine ship is docking. Everyone is grateful to them for helping to save the world. Peter is among them. He, and his colleagues receive an invitation for a celebration at Mary Jane's new club.

At the club, Peter and MJ go outside and have a heart to heart chat. MJ also tells Peter that his, 'No one dies' policy is ridiculous ( Thank You). Just then, Carlie calls, saying she has something Spider-Man may want to see.

It turns out that Billy Connors ( the lizard's son) dead body was stolen. After hearing the description of the 'body stealer' Spidey goes to confront Morbius. Spider-Man is furious that Morbius would steal a kid's body. Morbius explains however that he needed the DNA to cure The Lizard.

The story flashes back and forth to the fight between Spider-Man and the Lizard, while telling the story of what took place eight hours ago.

Anyhow, Spider-Man, Morbius, Max Modell and some others decide to try Morbius' cure. Together they hunt The Lizard, and cure him. Don't get me wrong, there is actually some really nice action and teamwork between Morbius and Spider-Man, but to cut it all short, The Lizard is finally reverted to his human form.

Epilogue of some sort...
Though the lizard has physically reverted to human form, the mind of Dr Connors is not really there. All that is left is the mind of the Lizard, who is not very hungry for revenge.

One slight problem that some people complained about was the writing style of this issue- the flashing bakc and forth between timeline's. Honestly, I had no problem with that.

While I did not mention this earlier, the charge by Mayor Jameson against Horizon has been temporarily withdrawn. However, Morbius has got to leave the lab. At first, Max, being a good friend of Morbius refuses. However, he does tell Morbius to leave the lab after he had desecrated Billy Connors grave.

Finally, we have the most awkward moment for Peter - finding out that his two exes have been chatting about him. That has got to be the strangest thing on earth. poor guy...

Spider-Man's new Sidekick - Alpha

Posted by bulletproofsponge

As many out there already know, in collaboration with Spider-Man's 50th anniversary, Marvel is giving Spider-Man a new sidekick called Alpha.

In Amazing Spider-Man 692, we will get to see the first appearance of our new kid. We don't know too much about him but what we do know is that this kid is not gonna mirror Spider-Man. He will also be more powerful that Spider-Man!

Just a quick quote from CBR: 
That's right, Fox News reports that August's "Amazing Spider-Man" #692 will introduce Andy Macguire, a brash 15-year-old who becomes the superhero Alpha -- teased earlier this month-- through circumstances strikingly similar to Peter Parker's origin: It seems that while on a school field trip to Peter's laboratory, young Andy is zapped by a malfunctioning invention that leaves him with superhuman abilities. Feeling responsible for the accident, Peter decides it's his duty to help Any discover and use his powers.

Spider-Man Crawlspace has a preview of ASM 692 which I won't exactly steal and put here so do check it out if you're interested.

Also be sure to check out Mister Met's thoughts on the character in his article :

Infinite Spider-Man 10.14: Alpha

Infinite Spider-Man Updates

Posted by Mister Mets

Occasionally, I'll update previous entries in the Infinite Spider-Man essay for whatever reason. For anyone interested, here's an inventory of those updates.

I added sections on Spider-Man joining the Avengers, and the Ultimate Spider-Man cartoon to the post about whether or not certain decisions of Marvel's went against their reasoning for One More Day.
Spider-Man the Avenger
For many readers, part of Spider-Man's appeal was that he was a hero who acted alone. Some older comics pros have suggested that launching Marvel Team-Up back in 1972 was a bad idea, because it forced Spider-Man to interact with other Marvel superheroes and become familiar with those guys. So for these readers, a big mistake occurred under Quesada's tenure, when Spider-Man joined the Avengers. 
If there's a constant in the Avengers membership, it's change. Spider-Man won't always be an Avenger, and while he may be more familiar with his former teammates, any writer who wants to tell a story about Spider-Man teaming up with an unfriendly superhero can do so, with one of the many Marvel characters who hasn't been on the Avengers or the Future Foundation with Spider-Man. 

The New Spider-Man Cartoon
In a later edition of the Crawl Space podcast, 43 minutes into the 174th episode, J.R. Fettinger criticized the new Ultimate Spider-Man cartoon by this criteria.
J.R. Fettinger: I don't want to rag on a cartoon meant for ten year olds, but one of the reasons Spider-Man has always been popular is he kinda has a youthful rebellion about him. He didn't fit in with the other superheroes because he was young and hot-tempered, and he wasn't a glamour boy. Captain America is the high school quarterback; Spider-Man is not. For Spider-Man to kinda join the system, it just doesn't seem right. This is not a knock on the cartoon, this is just a knock on Marvel's disingenuousness. We have to hear about Tom Brevoort and Joe Quesada saying that Spider-Man can't be married because that takes away from his core base, his core popularity, the core of what makes Spider-Man. But having him join the Avengers and in the cartoon, having him join Nick Fury's program and call Nick Fury "Sir" with the super-buddies and having SHIELD provide him with high-tech toys, well, that's not Spider-Man either, you know?
BD: Yeah.
J.R. Fettinger: So it's that disingenuousness that I absolutely loathe. 
The Ultimate Spider-Man cartoon is a departure from what we're used to with Spider-Man. And JR is correct to note the financial incentives for featuring other heroes in supporting roles (it makes it much easier to sell action figures.) It almost seems like a Harry Potter version of Spider-Man, with the young orphan hero hero joining a school for those with super-powers. By duplicating some of the things that are appealing about that sales juggernaut, it's possible that Marvel will lose what worked with their successful franchise. 
It's worth noting that this is the eighth Spider-Man cartoon to date, which does allow Marvel and Disney more license to deviate from the norm. There will be other animated series in the future, some of which will be closer to what we would normally associate with the character. But what goes on in this series isn't as important in the long-term as decisions made in Amazing Spider-Man. Plus, if you think that the cartoon's direction was a bad idea, as is the case with Mr. Fettinger, that hardly presents an argument for further deviations from the core of the series. 

I wrote an entry about the news that Spider-Man would have a sidekick named Alpha. Recently, I finished a section on the Illusion of Change VS the marriage, and had started a new section about the ideal schedule for the Spider-Man comics. The Alpha announcement seemed to be a better fit for the Illusion of Change section, so it became another chapter for that part, which was otherwise previously finished. I wasn't in the mood to wait until I was done with the portion on schedules and could find a more appropriate new section to discuss whether or not Spider-Man should have a sidekick, so the piece on Alpha became Chapter 10.14, even though I had already posted Chapter 11.1.

What are Mary Jane's Defining Characteristics?

To the post "They Neutered Mary Jane" I added a section about what defined the character.

Defining Mary Jane 

A few years ago, a youtube critic named Mike from Milwaukee got some attention systematically pointing out the flaws of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. One of his arguments against the lesser movie was that it was difficult to describe the characters without talking about their appearance, their profession, their clothing, or their role in the movie. 
 On CBR, I asked the same question about Mary Jane. The problem with the Star Wars prequel characters is that they're bland, which isn't true of MJ. However, she doesn't really have a consistent "identity" in the comics or other media.  

The Lee/ Romita Mary Jane was the outgoing center of attention, which worked in a more localized context, when she wasn't the center of attention amongst movie stars and celebrities. This was a little bit at odds with the emotionally damaged celebrity (supermodel/ soap opera star) we usually saw as Peter Parker's loving and supportive wife. 

Ultimate Mary Jane (or Brainy Jane) was a younger version of Peter's supportive wife (minus the celebrity) but didn't have much in common with the Lee/ Romita Mary Jane. And the movie Mary Jane seemed to be an amalgamation of several love interests in the Spider-Man comics. Like Liz Allen, she was the most popular girl in Midtown High. Like Gwen Stacy, she kept getting thrown off bridges. 

This is not to suggest that one portrayal of Mary Jane is weaker because others have a different take, but this leaves me to wonder about what's at the core of Mary Jane's character. And that's important when considering what she brings to the franchise. This is an issue with most characters in these types of serials, figuring out how to balance progression with maintaining the core appeal of a character. 

Some readers think her background is compelling. I don't think it's particularly important, as this wasn't an concern for the first 200 issues since her first appearance. Mary Jane was popular when she was introduced, and details about her life growing up were more of a blank state. You can argue that the progress made with the character, as she made peace with her upbringing, took her away from her considerable initial appeal. At the very least, it had nothing to do with it. 
Why Mary Jane is Spider-Man's third-best supporting character (at best) 
A few years ago, there was an April Fools announcement that Aunt May would be a playable character in a Marvel video game. It struck me that this proved that she's an iconic character. The joke's only funny if you're familiar with the character and what makes her unique, and almost everyone (in the category of people interested in a Marvel video game) is familiar with the character and what makes her different. 
Mary Jane's probably more popular, but I'd argue that J Jonah Jameson is the best supporting character in comics. He's the definitive critic/ authority figure, the guy who just doesn't understand the everyman hero. The Simpsons essentially had JK Simmons guest-starr twice as Jonah, banking on viewers instantly recognizing the character. And other details make the character memorable: his stinginess, shamelessness, temper and occasional moral fiber. 
I like Mary Jane as a character (she's easily in my top ten of Spider-Man characters) but I think she pales in comparison to Aunt May and Jonah, who are more instantly recognizable, at least in terms of personality. To me, it seems that Mary Jane's defining attributes are that she's fun-loving, the center of attention and secretive. It's good for a supporting character, but it's not enough to elevate her to the all-time greats. 
Kraven's Last Hunt is probably the most acclaimed Mary Jane storyline. Her role in the "Night Gwen Stacy Died" is memorable, but it's not really her story in quite the same way. But in that story, you don't really see the first two attributes, although you definitely saw the third. One thing Dematteis did quite effectively was that he showed the effect that Peter's secrets have had on Mary Jane, ensuring that she still has to keep a facade for the rest of the world. 
The Anchor

I added the following to a piece about the advantages about having Mary Jane as Peter Parker's anchor.
Knowing that there's one element in Peter Parker's life that's relatively stable (you could also argue that it's at least two elements, as Mary Jane is his romantic partner and his room-mate) is a blessing for anyone who doesn't know when exactly their work is going to be published (someone writing evergreen fill-in work, an artist with a time-consuming approach, etc). 
The writer may not know whether his five part epic with Paolo Rivera is going to be published before or after Peter Parker gets a new job, Harry Osborn returns to New York City and Aunt May moves to Florida with Jonah Sr. But knowing who Peter Parker is certain to be living with makes it easier to set the story between other issues. And the guarantee of a confidante means there's someone for Peter to communicate to, and talk about events in earlier issues.
Another Way to Make Stephen Wacker's Life Miserable

To a piece about what I would do as an editor/ writer, I added the following about the "writing for the trade" trend.
More Writing For the Trade 
For all of the complaints against "Writing for the Trade" there's no indication that fans dislike those types of stories (see "New Ways to Die" and the success of titles like Brubaker's Captain America, Bendis's Avengers, Snyder's BatmanThe Ultimates, anything by Jeph Loeb and Green Lantern.) As a result, I would encourage three or more 5-8 part stories an year, and I'd try to make sure that at least two of those stories have a commercial concept which can appeal to readers who don't follow the title. "New Ways to Die," "American Son" "Ends of the Earth" and "Spider Island" would all count.  
These will likely be perennial sellers. A generation later, Marvel is making money from Return of the Sinister Six, Kraven's Last Hunt and Torment, self-contained TPB-length stories with a complete beginning, middle and end.  
With more pages, you could also have more substantial developments with Peter Parker in the course of a single story, the difference between what can happen to a character in an episode of a TV show and what can happen in the course of a movie. With more developments, the stories will seem more substantial, which should discourage readers from dropping the book, and bring back some of those who felt that "progress" was too slow.  
The main risk is that these tentpole stories may start to seem insignificant after a while. Or that they may make the rest of the issues seem unimportant. But it's the responsibility of the writers and the editor to avoid that. It's a cheap answer, but one way to avoid that is to make sure that the quality is good. Twenty years later, no one cares that Torment and Return of the Sinister Six came out at the same time.

Should Peter Parker remember One More Day? 

To a piece about whether Peter should know what happened in One More Day, I added the following about the question of whether One More Day should have involved Mephisto manipulating the memories of everyone on Earth, rather than time travel.

One question after One More Day was whether it had actually been a matter of memory rather than time travel. So I'll address the implications of that. It does seem a bit more satisfying to readers, as it means that everything in the earlier comics still happened, even if characters don't remember it. It's not a retcon, as the stuff actually happened just the way it was depicted as happening. Characters just remembered it differently. 
Although there is an uncomfortable subtext. If this Peter Parker and Mary Jane are actually married, and just don't know it, that raises some thorny questions about adultery in any future relationship. And it would be too easy to just reverse everything, and restore the earlier status quo.

The Best of Spider-Man Countdown #19-17

Posted by SMReviews Team

And now we're in the top twenty on the list of the best Spider-Man stories ever.

19. The Neogenic Nightmare (1994 Animated Series Episodes 14-27)

Creative Team: John Semper Jr. (Producer/ Story Editor), Bob Richardson (Supervising Producer), Christopher Daniel Barnes, Jennifer Hale, Edward Asner (Voice Actors).

What Happened: We all know that a radioactive spider bite gave Peter Parker his powers, but what if his transformation didn't stop there?  What if he continued to change until he lost all traces of his humanity?  This is precisely the predicament Spidey finds himself in in season 2 of the Fox animated series.  Spider-Man must race against time to find a cure for himself before it's too late. The appearances of Morbius, Blade and Kraven the Hunter don't make things easier for him.

Why It's In The Top 50: Spiderfan001 explains:
What made this story arc cool was how John Semper and his team were able to incorporate so many classic comic book storylines into the show while still telling their own original story.  Neogenic Nightmare contained several twists and turns, the most memorable being when Spider-Man actually turned into a Man-Spider and remained that way for an entire episode.  Whenever the subject of Spidey comes up amongst my non comic reading friends, it's a moment they still remember.  That's Marvel animation done right.
What others say: "Amazing Spidey" of Marvel Animation Age gave the story arc a generally positive review. Chris Summins of Topless Robot declared the Punisher, Morbius VS Blade and Hydroman portions as amongst the show's five worst episodes.

Related Stories: Spider-Man grew four extra arms and battled Morbius for the first time in a story that ran through Amazing Spider-Man #100-102.  He stopped short of turning into a Man-Spider in that storyline. He did turn into a Man-Spider in Marvel Fanfare #1-2. Both stories were collected in the Spider-Man: Strange Adventures TPB. The entire fourteen part Negoenic Nightmare saga included adaptations of Amazing Spider-Man Annual 1, the Tablet of Time saga (Amazing Spider-Man #68-75) and Lifetheft (Amazing Spider-Man #386-388).

Did You Know? Blade's guest appearance in this storyline convinced Avi Arad that the character could be the lead in his own film series. And the rest is history. The success of Blade led to the X-Men, Spider-Man and Avengers films, and is credited with helping Marvel escape bankruptcy.

Creative Team: John Semper Jr. (Producer/Story Editor), Bob Richardson (Supervising Producer), Len Wein, Meg McLaughlin, Stan Berkowitz, John Semper Jr., Brynne Chandler Reaves, Marc Hoffmeier (Writers), Christopher Daniel Barnes, Jennifer Hale, Edward Asner (Voice Actors).

What Happened: Astronaut John Jameson unknowingly brings back an alien symbiote on a return trip from the moon.  When the symbiote causes Jameson to crash his space shuttle into the George Washington Bridge, it's up to Spider-Man to save him and his partner.  The symbiote secretly attaches itself to Spider-Man as he's rescuing the astronuats and soon makes its presence known in the form of a new black costume that enhances all of Spider-Man's abilities.  Though helpful at first, it quickly becomes apparent that the symbiote is influencing Peter's behaviour by increasing his aggression.  Spider-Man is eventually able to rid himself of the symbiote, which then finds a new host in disgruntled journalist Eddie Brock, who blames Spider-Man for everything that has gone wrong with his life.  Together, Brock and the symbiote become Venom, a being obsessed with revenge and armed with the knowledge of Spider-Man's true identity! 

Why It's In The Top 50: Mister Mets considers the impact of the storyline.
In many ways, these three episodes were an improvement over the alien costume saga in the comics. A lot of the thing fans associate with the story originated here, such as the suit making Peter Parker simultaneously stronger and more aggressive, and Eddie Brock's career-ending rivalry with Peter Parker.
Spiderfan001 concurs:
It's rare when an adaption of the source material becomes more influential then the source material itself, but that's exactly what happened with these three episodes of the Fox series which gave Venom a less convoluted origin.  My favourite episode of this storyline would have to be part 3, where Venom essentially tortures Peter by infiltrating every aspect of his life.  This episode established Venom as a force to be reckoned with and really made you root for the severely outmatched Spider-Man.
What the pros say: Producer/story editor John Semper discusses this story's troubled development in an interview with Marvel Animation Age:

From the start, we knew we had to do Venom and Carnage, because at that time they were the biggest things in the Spider-Man universe. I can't take credit for the final Venom result. It was a group thing. Everybody had a hand in it -- at that point I wasn't in as much control of the series as I would be later. Everybody was all over me, led by Avi Arad -- and I just had to slog it out. We had a few aborted drafts of the first Venom script. Len Wein wrote the first draft, delivered it VERY late, almost got me fired because of his tardiness and then we ended up throwing it out and starting from scratch. 
Nothing of Len Wein is left in that episode except his credit. I don't remember who did the bulk of the later drafts. I know I did a lot of writing on it, as did Stan Berkowitz. Mark Hoffmeier probably had some piece of it -- he had a hand in most of the early good scripts. "Venom Part 1" was just this political football that kept getting passed from person to person. Then, when the first part was settled, we went into slogging our way through part two. I remember coming up with the idea that part two ought to be like Hitchcock's "Strangers on a Train" with Eddie Brock following Peter like Robert Walker did in that movie. So we did that. Then at some point I started to feel like we hadn't really milked the Venom franchise for all it was worth. Ultimately, I pitched the idea to Avi Arad that we ought to do a "middle" part with the black suit. So many fans were asking about the black suit that it seemed like it would be a shame not to do it, so part two became part three and we hurried to get a new part two stuck in the middle. Those were hectic times.
What others say: "Amazing Spidey" of Marvel Animation Age gave the storyline a positive review. This time, Chris Summins of Topless Robot declared the Alien Costume saga to be the series's high point. 

Related Stories: The Alien Costume saga was originally told in Amazing Spider-Man #252-259, and Web of Spider-Man #1. Spider-Man's first battles with Venom were in Amazing Spider-Man #300, as well as #315-317. The Rhino tried to abduct John Jameson in Amazing Spider-Man #43.  Elements of these episodes were incorporated into Spider-Man 3.

Creative Team: Brian Michael Bendis (Writer), Mark Bagley (Artist)

What Happened: The Green Goblin breaks himself and five other Spider-Man villains out of the Triskelion and leads them in an assault against Peter Parker.  With S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Ultimates embroiled in problems of their own, Spider-Man is left alone to defend his family and friends against his greatest foes, after accidentally taking a bullet from the Punisher.

Why It's In The Top 50: Spiderfan001 explains what this story did right in an excerpt from his review:
As far as last stands go, what Brian Michael Bendis gave us here hit all the right beats. If you had a checklist of what to expect from this type of story I'm confident you could check every box. Spidey manages to save his family and the entire neighbourhood, take down a supercharged version of his greatest enemy, share a last kiss with Mary Jane, and die surrounded by loved ones as a crowd of onlookers bare witness to his heroic actions. Bendis rushes through these moments at a breakneck pace, rarely giving the reader a moment to breathe. All the while Mark Bagley delivers his usual excellent artwork. It may not have offered much in the way of surprises, but as fans, did we really want to see Spidey go down any other way?
What others say: Tony 'G-Man' Guerrero of comicvine gave the last issue of this storyline a positive review. "The Death of Spider-Man" was #27 on CBR's list of the best Spider-Man stories.
Related Stories: The reactions to Spider-Man's death by his supporting cast and the general public, as well as the debut of Peter Parker's replacement, Miles Morales, can be found in Ultimate Comics Fallout #1-6.  Miles Morales is the star of the current volume of Ultimate Comics Spider-Man.  The original Spider-Man is currently visiting the Ultimate Universe in the Spider-Men miniseries.   


Infinite Spider-Man 10.14: Alpha

Posted by Mister Mets

Last night, it was announced that Spider-Man will have a new sidekick, to be introduced in a 50th Anniversary arc from Amazing Spider-Man #692-693. Immediately, critics of One More Day asked if this development didn't undercut Marvel's argument for breaking up Peter & MJ, as well as various mission statements from editors regarding the franchise.

At this point, it's important to establish that we don't know a whole lot about the story. Many predictions are going to be premature. We don't even know if Alpha will still be around after the end of the story, to say nothing of Amazing Spider-Man #700, another deluxe sized highly promoted anniversary issue that Slott is currently setting up. That said, if Spider-Man's partnership with Alpha becomes a part of the series for the forseeable future, I think it would it still work under the Illusion of Change.

There's no reason for the status quo to be permanent, or to restrict subsequent writers. It does seem like something that can be easily reversed without Spider-Man having to make any deals with Mephisto. If someone doesn't want to tell stories in which Spider-Man has a a sidekick, Alpha could lose his powers, become a villain, or just decide to go his separate way.

One of the arguments for ending the marriage was that it made Spidey older, so is there is the question of whether a similar presumption could apply here. Writing for, Brian Steinberg notes the origins of superhero sidekicks.

We think it's interesting because it shows just how few ideas are left in the comic-book publishers' arsenals. Teen sidekicks were once viewed as a way to lure young readers to the comics' four-color pages. It was a lot easier for an eight-year-old to envision oneself as Robin or Stripesy, after all, than it was to imagine he or she was the moderately older Batman or Star-Spangled Kid. Now that most comic books are read by guys in their 30s and 40s who have yet to ditch the trappings of their childhood, young sidekicks may not be the draw they once were (and if they are a draw, well, that seems a little, um, sick).
The presumption is that if Spider-Man has a sidekick, he's the equivalent of a father figure or a big brother. Anyone could be the equivalent of a big brother, so I don't think that's particularly problematic. High School Seniors have been mentors to High School freshmen. Peter Parker can still be young enough that this isn't the equivalent of a surrogate father/  son relationship.

Having Peter Parker feel responsible for an accident that gives a teenager from Midtown High superpowers is an appropriate tale at this particular time, the 50th Anniversary of Amazing Spider-Man. While it makes it clear how much Peter has changed since he got powers, that's something that's unavoidable at a time when people are paying more attention to Spider-Man's impressive legacy, such as in this website's look at the 50 best Spider-Man stories to date (Sorry, couldn't resist the shameless plug.) When celebrating fifty years of content, there's no way to avoid the reader's awareness that Peter Parker has been Spider-Man for some time, and that he's had a lot of adventures.

There is the argument that giving Spider-Man a sidekick makes him more generic. His current job at Horizon Labs means that he now has a great degree of respectability, as well as access to things that make his life easier as a superhero. His financial problems are a thing of the past, and he's on several superhero teams.

Since Alpha is supposed to be more powerful than Spider-Man, it does seem like a different dynamic than the most famous superhero duos (Batman & Robin, Captain America & Bucky, Green Arrow & Speedy, etc.) Dan Slott also suggested that Spider-Man's personality means that this partnership will be unlike any seen in comics.
"If you put Spider-Man and Batman in the same situation, you're going to have way more fun with Spider-Man," said “Amazing Spider-Man” writer Dan Slott. "With Batman, he never really screws up the way Spider-Man does; he always seems to make the right decision. But with Spider-Man, he always screws up. He's us as a superhero. Batman is a paragon of what we'd like to be, but in reality, we're more like Spider-Man. He makes all the mistakes we make."
As with most stories, the quality depends on the execution rather than the concept. But there doesn't seem to be anything inherently defective with what's been announced so far. While Spider-Man has partnered with other heroes before, this is a new story engine of the series. It demonstrates that there are still new stories left to tell after fifty years.



Spider-Man Reviews
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