I'm Just Sayin'…#25

Ok, real quick – I have to give a BIG high-five to Grey Scherl, for the following quote:

I don’t have that feeling with Spider-Man right now. I know he’s human, I know One More Day happened, and I know that the [Skrull] invasion isn’t going to fix any of Marvels problems with him. In six months he’s still going to be single, he’s still going to have made his stupid deal with the devil, and I’m still not going to be reading his book. Sure, I’d feel cheapened if they undid things through the Skrull angle, but it would still make me thank God that I had MY Spider-Man back. Oh well, I guess that’s why I read Amazing Spider-Girl. That’s the kind of Spider book I grew up with, that’s my Peter and Mary Jane.”

YEAH, MAN! TESTIFY! *ahem* okay, just had to allow myself that little outburst. But seriously, folks – a kick-ass (screw you Millar, I’m takin’ it back!) analysis of SECRET INVASION is waiting for you in the latest installment of THE GOLD STANDARD – which actually came out before this column, so you should’ve read it already. If not, go on back and do so now.

I’ll wait.

Alright, back to me!

So I’d been reading a lot of buzz that the latest issues ofTHE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN* were actually good so, curiosity piqued, I fired up the MuTorrent and took a look at this big, epic storyline of theirs – “NEW WAYS TO DIE” – which started with Issue #568:

It looks as though everything that the Spider-Man “brain trust” has been working towards is coming to something of a head here…wisely, Dan Slott is taking the lead, giving us yet another confrontation with Menace…

…a collision course between the DB via Betty Brant, and Mister Negative…

This subplot is actually part of that "chocolate pudding" I was talking about last week...

And then leading into the issue’s cliffhanger…

Y'know - I have the feeling that some of the voice balloons in this page, specifically panels 3 through 5 are a little off. Is it just me?

…the first confrontation between Parker and Norman Osborn since the BRAND NEW DAY continuity came into place.

This, of course is where the issue left off, leaving the reader to wonder if Norman was somehow exempt from the Mephisto mindwipe. But look at that – readers only had to wait a week before they got the payoff…

Wait…what?

“Everything WE did”?

This is the first hint I’ve seen that Spider-Man himself has some sort of recollection of the events of ONE MORE DAY. And the first apparent reference to that Voldemoort of Spider-Man storylines that wasn’t a clumsy wink at the audience. And the first hint I’ve seen in a long time that this may hold some larger purpose after all.

Ever sinceThat Story Which Shall Not Be Named, I’ve had a hard time caring about a good deal of what Marvel does – especially when it’s one that Quesada announces with a figurative megaphone from the rooftop of 417 Fifth Avenue – because by altering such a huge portion of their flagship character’s history, and then promoting/defending the move as something that absolutely had to be done to “fix” the character, they sent the message that the details no longer matter in a universe built upon that very premise.

See, that was the implicit promise to you, the reader, the customer, when you bought a Marvel comic – and one that should be strictly held to especially now, when a comic book costs three to five freaking dollars. So even in light of the positive reviews of NEW WAYS TO DIE, it was and still is hard for me to care. A whole dimension had been stripped away. That special connection I used to have with the comic had been severed. THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN was no longer the life story of Peter Parker; it was just a bunch of stuff that’s happening. And I don’t know about you, but I can pretty much get that from any given issue of SUPERMAN, or ARCHIE.

But this one scene led me to wonder – Are we finally going to get some kind of justification for ONE MORE DAY? Who’s “we”? How does Peter remember his secret identity being restored? Does he know that he made a deal with Mephisto, or does he think someone else made this happen?

Has Quesada realized his mistake, and is instructing his “brain trust” to weave an exit strategy into their storyline?

Mind you, I’m still not buying this comic, but I’m watching all the more closely, now. Your legacy as Editor-in-Chief is on the line, Uncle Joey. This better be one hell of a payoff…

And that brings me to what I really wanted to discuss this time.

There are two things that Marvel had been publishing lately, that I think are actually pretty cool, if only in terms of concept – one is their MYTHOS books, which are great because while they are intended, by and large, to integrate the classic Marvel origin of the given character with their respective feature films as they happen to premiere (I’m not sure if they’re still doing this, because I’ve heard that MYTHOS: CAPTAIN AMERICA is going to be the last one), the timeless quality of the MYTHOS comics also renders moot the need for this writer or that to re-tell the origin story.

I'm still partial to the HEROES REBORN rewrite, but this one DOES fit in better with the original telling...

Marvel also has been publishing these THE END comics, and the smart thing about that is they usually tap the writer/creative team that had the most to do with setting the definitive tone of the character. The latest being David Micheline and Bob Layton on IRON MAN – THE END.

I'm digging the visual call-back to TALES OF SUSPENSE #39, here.

Quoting Micheline:[Tony Stark]‘s at a crossroads. For decades he’s defined himself as a strong, vital man, a protector of what is his -whether that be his business, his friends or his American way of life. Now, aging is inevitably taking its toll. His mind isn’t as sharp and quick as it used to be -he’s making errors in judgement that he wouldn’t have made 10, 15 years ago. And his body is showing the wear and tear of having had the crap beat out of it for so many years. He’s still a genius, and he’s still stubborn, but he’s having to face the fact that he’s simply not the person he used to be. And he has to make some tough decisions about his future – and Iron Man’s.”

You know, it’s projects like these that make me wish all the more that Marvel had the nerve – screw nerve, the balls – to someday let the stories of some of their major characters truly end.

Sure, we know this is a business, and that dictates a great deal of what happens with the characters, blah-blah-blah, yeah, whatever. We get that. But at least for me, there had always been a certain expectation when it came to Marvel comics. This is that implicit promise I’m talking about; that what you read on any given month may have some kind of narrative value a month later, two months later, twenty years later, whatever that timeline may be. Besides these extraordinary adventures, strange new worlds and modern day parables, you were watching people’s lives unfold…and as such, there was an expectation that someday, the story was truly going to end.

That meant Peter Parker, for instance, was someday going to age past the point where he can no longer be Spider-Man.

Now, I realize that freaks some people out and to tell you the truth, I really can’t understand why. I mean, how bad would that really be, anyway? Let’s think about this: it took forty years of our time for Peter Parker to age roughly fifteen years in Marvel time. FORTY YEARS. Do you realize how long it’d take for him to reach 40, in real time? Or 50?

And furthermore – do you really mean to tell me that you wouldn’t be compelled to buy a Spider-Man comic featuring a splash image of Peter fretting over his very first gray hair. An obsessively responsible man who has been indulging a compulsion to put on red and blue tights and throw himself face first into lethal danger since he was 15 years old, suddenly faced with the cold, hard truth that he will have to stop? How is it not a recipe for real, compelling drama to read how he handles that truth? What other comic book publisher is in a better position to hit you with that story? What Spider-fan wouldn’t be interested in that story? Especially if they knew that it wouldn’t be undone somewhere down the line?

It may never happen, but I truly believe that there are some indivudual Marvel characters whose stories are meant to end.

That’s what I want to get into with you guys.

I want to hear from you, comic book heads: take a Marvel character or a DC character – you know what, any character from any comic book publisher, and end their story. Take Spider-Man, for instance. I think as far as ways to end his story, you can’t go wrong with this ten-year-old gem:

Continuing proof that the Clone Saga wasn't ALL bad...

Do you agree or disagree? Would you end his story in a different fashion?

I don’t care if they’re superstar popular or C, D or even Z-list, mind you. Take a favorite character of yours, take a look at who he or she is, think about where they’ve been and extrapolate, postulate and speculate on where they’d go. Do they get a happy ending? Is it a quiet retirement or a violent death? Is it crash and burn, or blaze of glory? Does someone else take up their mantle, or does the mask go out with the person behind it? If it’s a team, can that team survive without its current roster?

Use the comment section and write in your responses. Readers, fellow columnists, I wanna hear from you!

I’m just sayin’ – let’s have some fun with this!

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