A number of people commented that my assessment of Brian Michael Bendis’s writing effort on All-New Spider-Man #1 was too harsh and too personal. I said that he phoned it in, relieving Marvel of “easy money.” I also referred to the Marvel editorial people involved as “bozos” who are “clueless.”
I’m sorry. I don’t know Bendis, and as Tom Brevoort pointed out, I wasn’t there. I don’t know how hard he tried and I don’t know if he was snickering when he cashed the checks.
I also shouldn’t have said the editorial people were bozos. Clueless, yes, I’ll stick with that. I’ll stick with my unfavorable assessments made elsewhere of the creative management at both Marvel and DC (Didio/Lee, Fine/Buckley, et al), and my negative opinions of the tippy-top brass at both companies who inexplicably allow the madness below.
But my remarks about Bendis? No excuse. It was over the top. But I offer this explanation.
I wanted to like that book. I really wanted to like that book. Bendis is Marvel’s top gun. I expected to like that book. But the writing really let me down. There wasn’t much of it, some of it was weak and there was not so much as a nod to the fact that the work was done for a serialized presentation.
And it was a Marvel book.
They—I almost typed “we”—should be better.
Somewhere in my dark little heart of hearts, I still have some Marvel in me. I remember the days I was Editor in Chief when DC out-promoted us, out-advertised us, had better production values, had movies while we had none, had more household name characters and we still outsold them three to one. Why? Because, in the words of our circulation V.P. Ed Shukin, we “beat ‘em between the covers.” We were better. We won with good stories, well told. Generally better than theirs, anyway.
On some level, irrationally, perhaps, I still expect Marvel to show superior creative acumen. It shocks and appalls me when the number one writer at Marvel on Spider-Man(!), given good art falls short.
So I was more emotional than is proper. Again, sorry. I’ll try not to let it happen again.
All-New Spider-Man #2
Another swinging through the city pin-up. Better than the last one, but if Marvel is dead-set on sticking to the Bill Jemas all-pin-ups-all-the-time philosophy, how about a different one? How about sticking to a wall? We haven’t seen that standard riff yet.
It’s still good.
JayJay the Blog Elf chastised me for not nit-picking the art more last issue. A specific thing she brought up was that Miles Morales appears to be very much a little kid when we first see him but morphs into a lanky, teen-looking guy later, in the scene with Uncle Aaron. She’s right. And there are more quibbles available to be quibbled, but, glorioski, if I got art up to this standard for my stories, I’d be very happy.
Better, I’m happy to say.
They start us out with an introductory caption that says the following:
“Months ago, before the original Spider-Man died, grade-schooler Miles Morales was about to start a new chapter in his life in a new school—when he is suddenly bitten by a stolen, genetically altered spider that gave him incredible, arachnid-like powers.”
New reader me learns that the original Spider-Man is dead in an intro on the inside front cover. That wasn’t mentioned last issue, except in references made in the letter column, which I don’t think you can count on everyone reading.
Your average civilian these days has at least heard of Spider-Man. I think Spider-Man being dead is a newsy note significant enough to be included in the story.
Wait a minute. Is he dead? This mixed verb-tense paragraph leaves me wondering. “Months ago, before the original Spider-Man died….(Miles) is suddenly bitten….”
So…the original Spider-Man isn’t dead yet? I guess? This story is actually months ago…compared to some story in which Spider-Man dies, which I haven’t read and am unaware of? Oh, I don’t know.
I wonder if it’s relevant.
Little intros and mission statements, as in DC’s New 52 Preview, and such really ought to be written more carefully.
It begins with a boy running down the street. If you read last issue, you know it’s Miles, the “grade-schooler” referred to in the introduction. If not, it, well…some kid is running.
He makes an impossible leap over an obstacle. When people react to that, he turns invisible and slips away. He’s upset, apparently worried about the very things we’ve just witnessed.
Later, visible again, he is menaced by a big, mean teen. Miles grabs the guy’s arm and delivers some kind of electric shock or “zap.” I say electric shock because of the little lightning bolt “emanata” (a Mort Walker term) around Miles’ hand. Again, he gets away.
I have these questions:
- How does Miles know he can make the impossible leap? Afterwards, he looks surprised. What prompted him to try it?
- How does Miles know he can electro-shock people? I suppose we can assume that instinct prompted the turning invisible thing when everyone was staring at him and the electric shock delivered when he was threatened. I guess.
- If I didn’t happen to read last issue, who is this kid?
- If I did happen to read last issue, when is this taking place?
At the end of four pages, New Reader me is left with the impression that this kid is a mutant, which is what the mean teens and others call him, that he can make seven-foot high, 20-foot long (estimated) leaps, turn invisible, give electro-shocks…and all of that is apparently a new to him and troubling.
There is no splash page. No title, except for “Part Two,” seen on the inside front cover. I miss those things. Maybe that’s just me being old-fashioned.
Page five, first panel, what to my wondering eyes should appear but LEGOS!
Hoo-hah! This story was written for me! Love those Lego blocks!
Miles takes his friend Ganke into his confidence. In the course of doing so, Miles demonstrates his new abilities. We also learn his name, Miles, and get the skinny on what happened last issue. We find out that what we’re seeing immediately follows the events of last issue.
Smoothly, elegantly, naturally done by Bendis. There’s the guy I’ve read before.
Miles father shows up. He’s peeved.
In the ensuing conversation between Miles and dad, skillfully written, well drawn—make that brilliantly drawn—we learn a lot about dad and Uncle Aaron, who we saw last issue, well-established here in absentia. As a result of a confession of sorts by dad, father and son bond a bit.
Just as Miles is about to spill the beans to dad about what has happened to him, two shall we say unusual figures zoom by. One appears to be aflame. Miles mentions the “Human Torch.” New Reader me guesses the fiery-looking guy was him. Comics-savvy me knows the other one is Iceman, or some current iteration of same. I cannot guess what a not-in-the-know civilian would make of him. Would they even know that’s ice under him?
Anyway, dad expresses disdain for such “mutants,” which effectively heads off Miles’ telling him he’s a mutant.
The Torch and Iceman’s arrival is an incredibly convenient coincidence.
That night, friend Ganke texts Miles his considered opinion of what Miles really has become—not a mutant, but like whatever Spider-Man is.
I (both of me) learn that Spider-Man, the old one, disclosed to a reporter that he’d gotten his super powers as a result of being bitten by a spider. Like Miles.
He points out that some spiders have “chameleon like powers” and a “venom strike” like Miles.
That’s nonsense, of course. The art shows Miles becoming transparent and invisible. Not chameleon-like, or chameleon-ish spider-like at all.
And, if you’re going to tell me that, no, he’s just blending in with his background so well that he seems invisible—from any angle, and 360º all at once, no matter how complex the background or how far away myriad background elements are, I say show me such a spider.
“Venom strike?” What? That electric shock thing that makes a pirate ship built of Legos explode? You’re kidding me, Bendis. What does that have in common with a spider’s venom?
Ganke’s final text says “R U Spider-Man?!!
Out of nowhere there’s a panel of the Spider-Man New Reader me recognizes. Comics-savvy me realizes that it represents Miles thinking about old Spider-Man. New Reader me doesn’t get it. A lot of new readers probably don’t get it. It’s a totally confusing, jarring element. They assume that old Spider-Man is there. Yeah, they do. Trust me. Or don’t, but yeah, they do.
I know it’s hard for you comics-savvy people out there to accept this, but things like that image of old Spider-Man, suddenly just there with no explanation other than Miles’ “pondering” expressions in panels thereabouts, throws many inexperienced readers off. Such things can ruin a story for the uninitiated. It gives them an expectation that Spider-Man is there, that something is going to happen with Spider-Man, and when it doesn’t, they sometimes toss the book away and never pick up another one because, to them, it’s a bunch of non-sequitur crap.
But we savvy types get it.
Miles is inspired to try crawling up the wall, Spider-Man-like, and succeeds.
“Oh, no,” he says.
Here endeth the fascicle.
Here’s the good news.
More figurative, story-element Lego blocks have been provided, and some of the ones scattered about last issue are starting to fit together with these new ones. Bendis may yet build us a cute little Lego choo-choo, or maybe a pirate ship. My faith in him has been borne out to some extent.
One could pick up this issue, having missed the first, read it and understand it. Even new readers, except for that shot of old Spider-Man.
It’s interesting and engaging. I’m beginning to like the kid, Miles. Those who said he was introduced in those three pages last issue in which he wins the lottery to get into what must, per the intro caption on cover two, be a middle school, are wrong. Sorry, Tom Brevoort. That was no introduction. But in this issue, we do get to know him some. Nice kid.
It’s another decompressed issue. Two issues and eight bucks into this, not much has happened—but in this issue, the not much was engagingly presented. There are still lonely Lego blocks, like the Norman Osborn block and the Doctor Markus block that haven’t snapped in anywhere yet.
And the old Spider-Man block.
And what happened to Spider #42?!
I’m not thrilled with this issue. But like I said, it’s better.
Enough of this for a while….
NEXT: Stan Meets a Mobster and Other Tales to Astonish
THIS WEEKEND: Uncanny Divinations and Premonitions