I'm Just Sayin'…#74

Hey everybody – this time the reason we’re a little late with this edition of…

IJS Logo

…because I really had to do some serious prep-work to tackle the topics for today’s column. Plus I had two performances in three nights, and the late hours can catch up to you. Especially when there’s whiskey involved. Shout-out to Pat O’Shea for including me in such a fun show as “Ed Sullivan on Acid,” and one more for my new boy Mike the bartender at Freddy’s Backroom – Brooklyn New York, baby!

Anyhoo…this go ’round I really want to get into some particular comics that have just come out that continue this revisionist trend in mainstream superhero comics that sometimes seems to go beyond retconning. I’m looking at two miniseries that have been released recently; one from Marvel and one from DC – and we start with SPIDER-MAN: THE CLONE SAGA #1…

Clone Saga #1-01

Check out the Foreword:

Clone Saga #1-02

“the way it should have been told.” Okay, I thought. Let’s take a look. And as it turns out, I didn’t have to go much further than the preview before they lost me on this attempt. There were two parts of CLONE SAGA #1 that look as though they’re going to be integral to the miniseries, the execution of which left me pretty cold. First there’s this scene, where Spider-Man races to the hospital after learning that his Aunt May is in the hospital…

Clone Saga #1-03

Clone Saga #1-04

And then there’s this scene, where Mary Jane gets some unexpected news.

Clone Saga #1-05

Okay. Let’s start with Aunt May’s predicament. Here it is, as recapped by the ever-capable team of experienced Spider-keepers Tom DeFalco, Howard Mackie and Todd Nauck:

The Attack

Shoe-horned call to “Benjamin” notwithstanding, they are referencing the events of THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #391.

ASM 391 - Cvr

Here, as written by J.M. DeMatteis and drawn by Mark Bagley, is the Mary Jane/Aunt May arc from the issue’s beginning to its conclusion:

ASM 391 - 01

At this point the story jumps to Spider-Man, who was at the Ravencroft Institute, hoping to talk to Dr. Kafka about the just-concluded “Robot Parents” storyline – Harry Osborn’s greatest victory over his best friend/arch nemesis. Meanwhile, Mary Jane reaches out to Aunt May and here is what happens.

ASM 391 - 02

ASM 391 - 03

ASM 391 - 04

We get a look at Aunt May as something more than she’s been consistently portrayed over the years, thus showing that it wasn’t just JMS who had an interest in giving us a real May Parker. But no, we’re not done yet…

ASM 391 - 05

ASM 391 - 06

Wait for it…

ASM 391 - 07

…and BOOM.

ASM 391 - 08

This of course led right into the next issue…

ASM 392 - Cvr

…where Spider-Man returns home for a brief rest. I include the following page because I want to make sure we have the context of the scene, by way of DeMatteis’s captions…

ASM 392 - 01

…so that we can properly appreciate the world of difference between Peter’s apparent body language in the opening pages of the 2009 miniseries, and the power of his reaction as originally rendered in 1994.

ASM 392 - 02

Peter doesn’t enter the hospital; instead he allows MJ to catch a brief glimpse of him in costume, peeking into Aunt May’s hospital room, and then…

ASM 392 - 03

ASM 392 - 04

ASM 392 - 05

…like I said – a world of difference.

Now, we come to this other scene:

Congratulations

And for this one, we shall compare to THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #398.

ASM 398 - Cvr

In the six issues that elapsed, our hero had pretty much reached his breaking point; resolving to pretty much quit being Peter Parker certainly counts, wouldn’t you say? So next, he sought out Daredevil, who was going through his own secret identity crisis at the time, having faked his own death in “Fall from Grace,” adopting a new suit and a new alias as Hell’s Kitchen street hustler “Jack Batlin.” Spider-Man and DD then have  a team-up against the Owl and the Vulture, during the course of which Spidey is poisoned and is thought not to have long to live. This is the context for which we have the following scene from issue #398:

ASM 398 - 01

ASM 398 - 02

ASM 398 - 03

The reason I’ve included these pages was to make a specific point. SPIDER-MAN: CLONE SAGA may claim to be the version of the story as it was intended, but for all the flak that the Clone Saga itself may get, be it deserved or no, let’s not forget the things that Marvel did get right back in 1994, that could be lost in this revisionist miniseries. For one, the impact of both “Lifetheft” (the culmination of the Robot Parents storyline) and the events of THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN, Vol. 1 #200 are…well, I was all set to say “downplayed,” but that’s not enough; they’re cut off at the knees.

It’s not enough to just say “the real culprit was Harry Osborn, who had allegedly masterminded the entire plot from beyond the grave.” First of all, it was totally Harry. He did it. And even if DeFalco gives us a different culprit for the Robot Parents in this miniseries, Peter still thinks Harry was responsible, and that’s why Peter is so far off the deep end during this build-up to the Clone Saga. Because not only did Harry set into motion this evil plan to destroy Peter Parker, but before it could come to its conclusion, Harry and Peter reconciled. ON HARRY’S DEATHBED.

That’s a double-whammy if ever there was one…Peter’s been dealt this crushing blow from someone he can’t even confront – from someone he forgave, and you better believe what’s going through his mind are such things as, Why Harry didn’t try to warn me  about this? He saved my life! Is THIS why he didn’t let me die in that brownstone – so he could have this one last “gotcha!” on me, for the rest of my days? I want to KILL him for this, but we made peace! And so on, and so on, on this loop that keeps running through his brain a billion times per second, until he finally can’t take being Peter Parker anymore.

Aunt May’s stroke is not an isolated incident – it’s the final straw of an already increasingly terrible period in his life. And glossing over all of this, and making such huge changes over the circumstances by which Mary Jane discovers that she’s pregnant destroys the impact of MJ’s announcement to Peter. Because as you see in the original telling, Mary Jane’s pregnancy is what brings Peter back from the abyss.

Of course, the rest of this miniseries (can this even be called a “Saga” with just six issues? This isn’t even taking place in outer space or nothin’! One of the reasons the Clone Saga is called a saga is because it kept going for some three or four years. This is more a Clone…Arc, at best. Just sayin’!) may make up for this lackluster kick-off, but if you ask me, this is exactly why you don’t mess around with Marvel continuity, and this is exactly why a story like SPIDER-MAN: CLONE SAGA – with no sign of a WHAT IF…? banner, mind you! – has all the appearances of a waste of time and paper for any and everyone involved. What happened is what happened, and that must be respected. Because sometimes, even with the most flawed of storylines, there are some things that were executed the right way the first time around.

And in Direct Competition for the top spot in recent weeks for Most Pointless Miniseries, we have SUPERMAN: SECRET ORIGINS #1…

Superman Secret Origin 1-01

You’d think we’d be done retelling Superman’s origin story at this point, but that didn’t stop Geoff Johns from restoring just a few more pre-Crisis elements to canon, including such small things as this modernized version of the Original Rocket from Krypton…

the Rocket Returns

It's like finding an old Hot Wheels...

…and much bigger fare, such as the return of young Clark Kent as Superboy.

Superman SO 1-07

…but it’s not completely devoid of an original contribution – presenting, CLARK KENT’S GLASSES: SECRET ORIGIN!

Superman Secret Origin 1-05

Didja catch that? Let’s zoom in…

Superman SO Close Up

Oh, Clark…sure y’do:

Superman Secret Origin 1-02

Superman Secret Origin 1-03

That’s right, comic book heads. As of  post-INFINITE CRISIS, post-FINAL CRISIS 2009, Superman’s heat vision first manifested as a result of sexual arousal! If I were Keith Giffen right now, I’d be on notice – because see, with the systematic restoration of all things from the Silver Age, Geoff Johns would be free and clear to retroactively corner the market on not only “Bwah-ha-ha!” moments, but the very phrase “Bwah-ha-ha!” itself! Geoff, you magnificent bastard – your plan is suddenly crystal clear!

Okay, in all seriousness –  this required a full-on miniseries? This couldn’t have been covered in a throw-away issue of ACTION COMICS or SUPERMAN or something? You know, have Clark sitting in his quarters in New Krypton reminiscing about Earth, and the first time his heat vision almost burned off Lana’s face? Sigh – I guess you can say this much…

Superman SO 1-06

…at least for Lana’s sake, they worked.

AND NOW, JUST CUZ I FEEL LIKE IT…

LBFA - Oct 20 2009

Til next time everyone – I’m Greg Manuel, and I’m just sayin’, is all…

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