I'm Just Sayin'…#6

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I’m still trying to give Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch the benefit of the doubt over on FANTASTIC FOUR – I’d been talking to one of my writing buddies about the plot, and got into a whole debate over where NuEarth fits into the scheme of all the many planet Earths currently available in the Marvel Multiverse; what about the Earth Franklin Richards created? What about the High Evolutionary’s Counter Earth? If Galactus came along and ate NuEarth, would it have a sugary aftertaste? I do go on – but anyway…is it just me, or is Bryan starting to slip? It just seems to me that the faces he’s drawing don’t quite match the words coming out of the speakers’ mouths…

Uh...why you got your tongue out, girl?

If I were Young Reed, I don’t think I’d be smiling there. I’d be more than a little perplexed as to why this chick is wagging her tongue at me, and then I’d start flipping through the DSM-IV in my head to try and match exactly what mental disorder is responsible. I’ve been noticing this since the conclusion of THE ULTIMATES 2, and I think Jeff Ritter put it pretty well: “Bryan Hitch is turning into John Byrne right before our eyes. I can’t put it more simply than that.” No you cannot, good sir.

Taking a quick stop at the shop across from my job, I got a chance to flip through SECRET INVASION #1…and it looked like a perfectly servicable story, all well and nice, but…how can I put this…where’s the emoticon for *exhales sharply, shrugs shoulders and casts eyes upward at nothing in particular*?

Riddle me this: what’s got two thumbs and wishes he gave a crap?

I dunno…I’ll keep myself apprised just for the sake of knowing what’s going on, but really…count me out, folks. First of all, I have a hard time taking Skrulls seriously. For all the times they’d been thwarted by the Fantastic Four, they’re practically two steps away from Mole Man-level comic relief. Second of all, the first half alone is going to cost a pretty penny, and third, even if this story manages to fill all the big gaping holes replete in some of the major Marvel happenings since AVENGERS: DISASSEMBLED – as we have been promised – it’s just too-little-too-late for me. When it comes to this kind of storytelling, the journey has to be every bit as entertaining as the destination, and even if SECRET INVASION turned out to be as much a creative success as it’ll likely be a commercial success, in the bigger picture it’ll still be a failure in my book. Think of it this way: it’s the difference between travelling with your friends from New York to Daytona Beach by car, and going there by foot via a vast network of sewers. Which do you imagine will be more fun? Or, to put it another way: after wading through so much crap, are you really gonna be in much of a mood for Space Mountain?

For instance, think of the story Ed Brubaker’s put together over on CAPTAIN AMERICA. You see what both sides are doing at all times, and it builds up the anticipation for a satisfying payoff. Those of us reading CAPTAIN AMERICA have been watching the Red Skull and his crew run rampant over the last two years, all while our heroes desperately try to play catchup – they’d infiltrated SHIELD, murdered hundreds of innocent people, brainwashed Sharon Carter into assassinating Steve Rogers, and when the Falcon and SHIELD captured Crossbones, the Serpent Society promptly broke him out of custody, not without killing a few more innocent people. So by the time I saw the final page of CAPTAIN AMERICA #35…

I was all, “YES! YES! GET’IM, CAP-BUCKY! KICK THEIR ASSESS ALL OVER WASHINGTON DC!” Ever had a whole subway car full of people look at you funny? Including the schizophrenic panhandler with the three winter coats?

It’s called a proper buildup, folks. The one called “Bru” knows how to do this. That’s why the fandom has given him an affectionate nickname like “Bru.”

Speaking of final pages, check out the one from CAPTAIN AMERICA #36. To those of you who haven’t read this issue yet, and may have issues with the following spoiler…it’s been two weeks. What kept you?

DRAMATIC REVERRRRRB!

Now I gotta wonder…who is that in the tank, and how did he get there? It’s more than whether or not it’s the authentic Steve Rogers or if it’s a clone, a subject that Skull crony Arnim Zola is well versed in; could this reveal have to do with this scene from CAPTAIN AMERICA #26 that we discussed back in my second column?

Could it have something to do with this other scene from the same issue?

(Which in itself presents two questions: (1) what in the hell are they planning with that device, and (2) how did Nazis manage to gain the cooperation of Doctor Doom?!)

Ooh – but what about this scene from CAPTAIN AMERICA #28?

Are we gonna see this “Agent Hermann” again? What happened to him? If the corpse in CAP #26 wasn’t Steve, then who was it? What’s the Red Skull got planned for that temporal device? Has he used it already? Did he pluck an earlier Steve Rogers from the past and save him for a rainy day? Which now begs the question…who’s this on the cover of CAPTAIN AMERICA #39?

BUM-BUM-BUUUUUMMMMMM!!!!

See what I’m saying, here? I have no idea what’s going on, and unlike AVENGERS: DISASSEMBLED, unlike HOUSE OF M, unlike CIVIL WAR, unlike SINS PAST, unlike SPIDER-MAN: THE OTHER and I completely suspect it’ll be the case with SECRET INVASION…I’m having the time of my life! I’m enjoying the ride. I’m just sayin’, folks – a good ride is very important.

Furthermore, when I read Ed Brubaker’s run on CAPTAIN AMERICA, I feel like I’m reading a story with a purpose. A real purpose. You don’t kill off the title character’s arch nemesis right off the bat, then kill off the title character in Act Two and keep the story rolling, if you don’t have a larger point. Based on what I’ve seen in pretty much every major “event” Marvel’s put out over the last three or four years – especially considering who’s writing it – why should I expect any different from SECRET INVASION? Feels like more insignificant noise. Flavorless merengue from a supermarket-made pie.

And more than anything, you know what created this expectation in me? SPIDER-MAN: ONE MORE DAY.

If I ever discuss wrestling with someone, and I explain why I don’t care for Shawn Michaels no matter what he does, it comes down to the Montreal Screwjob. It’s a lot more than just, Bret Hart refused to drop a title, or Shawn was being a dick by not returning a loss, or even that it was no big deal and Bret and his fans should get over it. I don’t respect Shawn Michaels because on that night, with his actions, he sold his soul for the chance to be THE TOP GUY, he burned a man who contributed more to their shared profession than Shawn ever did, and to this day, he’s okay with that. Fine, but I’m not. And if you ask me, if you’re a wrestling fan, neither should you.

That’s what it comes down to with what happened with Spider-Man. By erasing the Spider-Marriage – never mind how it was done; ONE MORE DAY marked the third attempt to do so in some ten or twelve years – Marvel went against what the entire universe, the entire publishing entity stood for since 1961. It destroyed its own mission statement; what set it apart from its Distinguished Competition. Marvel used to stand for progress – it stood for growth and maturation. And nobody stood for that more than Spider-Man. Marvel’s Flagship Character.

Think about it – since Peter Parker first appeared in AMAZING FANTASY #15, with every following decade, Peter crossed a Great Threshold in life, and moved on to the Next Great Milestone of Life:

1960s: Peter Parker is a High School Student. By decade’s end, he’s graduated, and has entered College.

1970s: Peter Parker is a College Student. By decade’s end, he’s earned his degree and becomes a Young Adult.

1980s: Peter Parker is a Young Adult. By this decade’s end, he has married Mary Jane Watson and is now a Husband. (QUICK NOTE: if anybody has any doubt that Mary Jane Watson and Peter Parker were 100% meant for each other, then click here. One of the best analyses of their relationship, courtesy of J.R. Fettinger, a.k.a. MadGoblin, writer and overseer of the phenomenal SPIDEY KICKS BUTT website.)

Now comes the ’90s, where somebody crapped their pants and tried to slam on the brakes any way that they could. Because in SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN # 220, we got what was meant to be the next Great Milestone:

I remember this vividly. The next time Spider-Man made the evening news, it wasn’t until the first movie was set in stone. That was some ten years later. Marvel could’ve done something revolutionary just by letting its flagship character take what was only the next logical step in his life.

That’s why the fans kept reading Marvel comics – because the events mattered. What you read at any time had the potential to be important next issue, ten years later, twenty years later…it wasn’t that the characters had the same problems that we did…it was that the characters actually had lives just like we did. By putting Spider-Man through the wringer as he has for the last ten years, trying to make him single again, even though the last two times they tried it, they couldn’t make it stick…Marvel has gone against its own formula, and we as readers should not stand for it. What you do to the flagship, you do to the entire line.

So…again, someone tell me: Why should I care about SECRET INVASION?

I’m just sayin’, is all.

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