Amazing Spider-Man 691 review

Posted by bulletproofsponge 17 August 2012

Before starting this issues, I must once again congratulate Slott for pulling this lizard story off. In time to come, I'm sure this will be appreciated as one of the better Lizard stories.

The Story

I must admit that I absolutely did not see the opening scene of this issue coming at all. After all this talk about Lizards being predators and etc over the years, we suddenly see Spider-Man swing into a Lizard Petting zoo.

Apparently, by nature, Lizards are friendly towards humans. Seeing no threat from the other giant Lizards, Spider-Man rushes to find Dr Connors. By the end of the last issue, Connors was deciding if he actually wanted to become a lizard again. Apparently, he had decided to stay human. However, Spider-Man's appearance changed his decision, much to his displeasure.

Connors jabs himself with the serum just as Spider-Man tries to stop him. As a contingency plan, Spidey grabs Connors body while it is transforming and breaks out of the Lab.



( In SHED we found out that the Lizard could control other Lizards, thus making quite a mess in the lab with the other 'friendly lizards" )

Anyways, Spider-Man gets out of the Lab with Connors, who has now transformed into another type of Lizard, different from before.


In the midst of a pretty cool fight scene, the Lizard complains to Spider-Man about how he was ready to stay a human and etc. Anyhow, halfway through the fight Uatu comes out of the lab and gives Spider-Man a solution to beat the Lizard - some serum in a harpoon to be injected into the Lizards brain.

Somewhere in between however, the lizard starts seeing all women and children as Martha and Billy. Pretty soon, Spider-Man appears like Dr Connors to him. Slightly confused, the Lizard slows down. Spider-Man takes the opportunity to stab the Lizards brain with the harpoon.

For a moment Spider-Man is afraid he may have killed the Lizard. We later find out that the Lizard didn't die, but is instead kept in holding where all his enemies are held, including Morbius.

Morbius, in prison, tries to beg Spider-Man to tell him if the girl he accidentally bit survived. Spider-Man refuses to answer him. Spider-Man eventually reaches the Lizards, cell, where he is busy chewing a rat.
The Lizard tries to tell Spider-Man something but Spider-Man ignores him. Apparently, the jab into his brain worked and finally killed the Lizard, leaving the real mind of Dr Connors trapped in a Lizards body.

*Epilogue*

1) Max realizes that something very important is missing from his office.
2) The King Pin now has the plans for the improved Spider sense jammers
3) We find out that the REAL Roderick Kingsley is still alive! (read the real issue to find out how )

Thoughts

This was a fantastic issue that properly wrapped up the Lizard story, making it a real good story all in all.
This issue, leaves a fantastic platform for the coming stories as well, with the reveal that Roderick Kingsley is back and ready for action.

I found it pretty sad that Spider-Man refused to talk to Morbius or the Lizard despite the wrongs they have committed, especially, Morbius who was tricked into biting Sajani.

As for Dr. Connors, I sure hope it is not the last we see of him. He could very well pop out of no where when Spider-Man needs some serious help. After all, Dr. Connors is among the smartest people out there is he not?




Another question about the artistic direction of the Spider-Man comics is whether controversial artists should be eschewed in favor of safer choices. It's part of an old debate in the entertainment industry: When is it worth alienating existing customers to draw in new consumers? This has always been a balancing act for  comics, although for the purpose of this discussion I'm interested in the reactions to artistic style, rather than anything to do with plot developments.

The most controversial artists tend to be in the weird category, as opposed to the dynamic, street-level and Ditkoesque Spider-Man artists. And it's worth noting that the most popular new Spider-Man artist of the last forty years was initially quite divisive. And Todd McFarlane's work got weirder as the initial shock wore off, as he went from Amazing Spider-Man to a best-seller that was essentially a horror comic.



Any editor worth his salt will recognize that some artists are going to put off more current readers than others. A Barry Kitson will be a safer choice than a Brendan McCarthy. Having read discussions about John Romita Jr's shortcomings, I'm sure every artist on the planet has some detractors, but some have more than others. These guys are usually employed because they still have a tremendous appeal to some readers, and obviously some writers and editors. I might include Humberto Ramos, Eric Canete, Paul Azaceta and Chris Bachalo in this group. This isn't limited to pencillers. While many people won't buy a book by Jeph Loeb, he's still a successful comic book writer.

Amazing Spider-Man currently has a unique problem. Because of the current amount of content, something that is likely to continue in the future, it's going to require rotating artists. So it's quite easy to argue that the book should be limited to safer (and often blander) pencillers, so that customers can enjoy every issue, and will be less likely to drop the book, because they just don't care for the style of a guy who draws a quarter of the issues.

I sometimes like it when artists come for a single issue or for a short storyline, like Steve McNiven in the opening arc of Brand New Day, or Eric Canete for the Deadpool team-up. That's technically not rotating artists, though. That said, the reaction to Canete's issue on Comic Book Resources was quite strong. Bulletproofsponge didn't care for his work either.


I'll disagree with anyone who disparages Canete's talent, a common mistake detractors of particular artists can make, when they try to use objective terminology to describe something subjective. Canete's art is inventive and kinetic. It's a solid match for a quirky Spider-Man story, and works pretty well in the context of the actual issue. It seems to me that when you have art that isn't absolutely "on-model" (a polite way of saying ugly, which isn't necessarily a bad thing) what matters most is consistency. That's where you can criticize a Rob Liefeld, and praise an Art Spiegelman or James Kochalka. Although you're unlikely to see either announced as the next regular artist of Amazing Spider-Man unless it happens to be April First.

A one-off issue of Amazing Spider-Man isn't that big a deal. An unhappy reader will recognize that it won't affect his or her enjoyment of future issues. But if a controversial artist is made a member of the rotating creative team, it's a different situation, as that guy is likely to work on the title again in the future, on storylines that will have an impact on work by other creators. During the Brand New Day era, this happened with Paul Azaceta, who drew the opening arc of the Gauntlet, the story in which Peter Parker got fired and the final five-part Origin of the Species saga. Humberto Ramos was the artist of several of the most significant storylines of the Big Time era, including the first four issues, Spider Island and the upcoming 50th anniversary two-parter introducing Spider-Man's new sidekick Alpha.

Ramos has many detractors on the internet, as evident by a CBR thread in which a poster tries to figure out why this guy gets work on one of Marvel's top titles. Editor Stephen Wacker provided his answer.


You may find it condescending, but I can't help how you feel. Humberto is inarguably one of the best in the business and has inspired scores of artists working today as well as being incredibly in demand from writers. That's why Marvel named him an "Architect". Sorry, but facts is facts. 
People may not like his work, but to be so dimissive is naive, misguided...and just plain wrong.
Your tastes don't "need" to evolve, but they will. (Just like the tastes of a dumb 80s kid I know who didn't appreciate Jack Kirby, Don Heck or Mike Sekowsky). 

SW
Ramos has drawn some of the most successful Spider-Man stories of the last few years, which seems to suggest that enough readers like his work. The counter-argument is that his stories have been among the most promoted of the last five years, and that it would have sold even better with a less alienating artist. However, Ramos's work has been used during the promotion of those books, which suggests that he could deserve much of the credit for the high sales.

The easiest suggestion is that the title should be limited to the best and least divisive artists. There are a handful out there who are can attract the crowd interested in experimental work, while remaining accessible to most comic book readers. One problem is that these guys are in short supply, typically the most popular in the industry. Everyone wants John Cassady on their book. The other problem for Spider-Man editors is that some of these artists just aren't that good at drawing the main character. George Perez is a legend in the field, but he never quite got the handle on Spidey.

Another suggestion is that controversial artists should be shuffled off to side projects, so that customers aren't pressured to buy a product they're not interested in. That way, readers are less likely to drop the title. If Marvel segregated the artists editors determined were divisive, we might not have seen Todd Mcfarlane on Amazing Spider-Man.

On the other hand, it could it be argued that it's better to put these guys on the big projects. The detractors will most likely still buy the product, but this also encourages those readers who like the guy's style to pick up the highly-promoted new project. I'm not sure this approach is recommended, as it doesn't seem like there are a lot of people who pick up a book because they want to see more work from their favorite penciler.

In my experience, when I try to buy all the work by an artist or writer, it's usually someone fairly new. That's when it just seems the most fresh. Eventually, the novelty wears off. As I noted before, George Perez is one of the best comic book artists alive, but I'm not going to run and buy everything he draws. Because I'm not going to get as much out of the 92nd issue (just an educated guess) I read with George Perez's work as I would with the 5th issue by someone new whose work really impressed me. I may get more out of his newer work after an absence, as I'll be more impressed by any new techniques. As a reader, I do probably care more about the writing, though. But I'm not sure that my tastes reflect those of the average customer.

Making the decisions on whether to keep an artist solely on sales figures does carry some problems. The companies often have a limited amount of data points, making it hard to tell the reasons something was or wasn't ordered. With pre-orders and a
ll the other factors that contribute to an issue's ranking on the sales charts, it's difficult to tell what effect an artist had, unless it's really drastic.

Although that could suggest that the effect of choosing a particular artist over another is minimal. If so, the company's priority is getting an artist ideally suited for a particular story (someone who handle crowd scenes for Spider Island, someone who can draw robots for a spider slayers arc, etc) rather than worrying about whether a divisive artist will attract more readers than he scares away.


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In a piece about the future of a character who exists primarily in a visual medium, I've spoken very little about the art. But that's obviously something that anyone in charge of the Spider-Man comics is going to have to think about. While decisions about artists won't directly restrict future creative teams, it's something that often comes to define a particular era of the comics.

With the current schedule, which I do support, finding one steady artist for the book is almost impossible. If you want the same artist for every issue, you're probably going to need to make Amazing Spider-Man a 20-22 page monthly again, which also excludes talented guys who don't draw 22 pages a month (Marcos Martin, Lee Weeks, etc.) I don't think that's worth it.

An immediate question about the artistic direction is the degree to which the pencilers are expected to be similar. There are branding advantages to having a house style. But this is a character who can work in several different styles, so there are strong counterarguments for allowing more diversity.

I've been able to come up with four main types of Spider-Man artists. The first is Dynamic. I'd almost say this is the standard superhero art format. The people are generally handsome, and the fight scenes are usually bright and intense. John Romita Sr, Mike Wieringo and Mark Bagley would belong in this camp. They draw Spider-Man as a science hero.




The dynamic artist is the traditional superhero artist. You could imagine the guy doing very well on a standard Superman book. Case in point: Ross Andru's work in the Superman/ Spider-Man crossover.


There can be variety within the category. Usually painted comics fall under this group, even when the setting seems more appropriate for a different type of artist, as in this scene from Paolo Rivera's Spectacular Spider-Man #14.  




The second kind of Spider-Man artist is Street-Level. These are the guys who seem to be a better fit for drawing Batman than Superman. There's a more down-to-earth quality, even in the superhero slugfests. 21st Century John Romita Jr. and Lee Weeks would fit in this group.




If there are multiple Spider-Man monthlies, it can be useful to give the books separate identities by featurings different species of artists. The dynamic/ crime drama divide was explicit in the 1998 relaunch, when Amazing Spider-Man with John Byrne was the book with the science hero aspects of the character.



Meanwhile, Peter Parker Spider-Man with John Romita Jr. was the street-level title. Both titles were written by Howard Mackie and crossed over several times. But the demarcation was largely successful.


The third classification of Spider-Man artists would be Ditkoesque. I use that term, because I'm having trouble coming up with a better name for the style of Steve Ditko and those he influenced. There's a clean sometimes cartoony style, although the layouts and perspectives could be quite unconventional. Storytelling remains paramount. Examples of those following in Ditko's footsteps would include Marcos Martin, Mike Allred and Javier Pulido.



One interesting thing about the Spider-Man comics is that the first artist wasn't in the traditional dynamic category. Ditko was in a class of all of his own.


Of course, it's worth remembering that Amazing Spider-Man became Marvel's best-selling title under John Romita Sr. When Ditko was on the book, it was outsold by Lee and Kirby's Fantastic Four. That's obviously nothing to be ashamed of, but it suggests an advantage of the traditional over the off-beat.

The final category would be Weird. Clarity of storytelling isn't as important as conveying a particular mood. Usually it's a horror-inspired tone, with the oddity of the pencils reflecting the strangeness of what's going on to the characters. These are the guys who are more likely to do side-projects than to draw Amazing Spider-Man. Chris Bachalo, Paul Pope and Ted McKeever would fit into this category, which arguably includes Todd Macfarlane's solo work on Spider-Man. Another term for these artists would be highly stylized.



While the major reason for "weird" art is to convey horror or an unusual menace, it can also be done for humor, as in Eric Canete's work in Amazing Spider-Man #611.



A few Spider-Man pencillers could fit into several of these categories, especially at different points of their careers. Ramos seems to be more of a dynamic artist when he's on Amazing Spider-Man, although he was much more comfortable as a "weird" artist when he worked with Paul Jenkins.

Amazing Spider-Man has had about twelve artists since the Brand New Day era began, and a few more have been announced. This does raise a lot of questions for the people in charge, as well as Spider-Man fans. Presumably, we all want competent artists. And we don't want rush jobs with multiple artists on the same issue. But, how much does it matter if the main stories in a trade paperback are in the same "style?" Would it bother you if a trade paperback has a two issue storyline by Adi Granov, followed by three issues by Javier Pulido and a single issue by Eric Canete? If you prefer that the series generally have one "house" style, what type of exceptions would you allow?

I could understand trying to preserve artistic consistency on the book if Amazing Spider-Man were just one of several monthly titles. But at the moment, it seems like too restrictive an approach for a character that can work in so many different methods.

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