Posted by: Brian Hibbs on January 11, 2013
Hey, the holidays are over, more free time becomes available, back to reviewing, I think. Yay?
The “big news” of the month is all about Spider-Man, and I’d like to discuss ASM #700 and SSM #1, but will be doing so in several spoiler-ific ways. If you don’t want spoilers, don’t travel below the “more” line (or, if you’re on RSS, look away now)
I don’t really know what it is with the general public, but they’re pretty easily suckered, it seems like. A little media story of “Spider-Man is dead!” and they all come rushing in, waving stacks of money trying to cash in. That’s not to say that they’re ALWAYS fooled like that — I mean when it was “Ultimate” Spider-Man, we didn’t get that rush of people (even with Miles Morales being, on balance, a much better follow-through idea); but yeah, lots of suckers coming through this time. What I found interesting was how not so many of the regular comics readers seemed to bite at the apple on this — deaths like Johnny Storm, or Superman or whatever usually have a large component of regular readers who are curious. Maybe it’s the $8 price tag?
But we’ve STILL, two weeks later, got civvies breathlessly asking if we have ASM #700, and when they find out we do, trying to buy every single copy on hand (really? But…. if I did that, then there wouldn’t BE a copy to sell to YOU!) Ah, what can you do, other than smile and sell them the comic, knowing that they’d be better off leaving their $8 on a street corner for all of the chance they’ll “make money from it!”
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #700: Here’s the thing: even though the set-up is as old as the hills (Oh, Jodie Foster, I had such a crush on you back in the 70s), and even though there’s exactly zero chance that this storyline can possibly stick, or even have any real lasting consequences, I very much admire how Dan Slott approached it. The story has been seeded for a long time, built upon established lore, and has been executed with a sufficient sense of dread and skill. I want this up front: I like this plot, and I had a genuine “Oh, what happens next?!” moment or three.
But, in the context of the final issue of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, or even as “just” an anniversary issue, I kind of didn’t like this for the simple reason that Peter lost… and went down like a punk. I’m not dumb, I know that the story doesn’t “end” here, but there’s no triumph whatsoever in a space where there really should be a significant amount of it. Had this store been in, say, #699? Well, that would have been a perfect kind of cliffhanger for an issue like that, but just not something that fits as the “final issue” of a serial which has been running, unencumbered and unchanged since 1963.
Worse still, as a reader, there’s nothing on the page to lead me back to “SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN #1”, per se. I mean, as someone in the industry, clearly it’s obvious to me that SSM will run a certain amount of time, and sooner or later the plot and thus the character and the title and the numbering will eventually return to ASM (#750?). Obviously, Peter Parker’s story doesn’t end here, and I know that because I’ve read a loooooooot of comic books in my life. But, if I DIDN’T know that? If I’m, say, one of the civvies coming in from the news story, who hasn’t read a spidey comic in 20 years or more? Man, what a depressing story: our hero goes out as a deformed freak bleeding out in a gutter as his greatest enemy wins and literally takes over his life. Yeah, that’s a hook to get me coming back for more.
Or hell, even for the low-information regulars. Man, I know the comics internet is huge and all-(time)-consuming, but I’d estimate that at least a third of my regulars don’t “keep up on the news” — their exposure to comics really is whatever they see in front of them on the stand on Wednesday. Our subber sign up on SSM has been lower to date, and I’ve already had more than one person tell me angrily that that isn’t what they want to read.
Anyway, one other thing that has to be mentioned about ASM #700 is the price — jinkies, $8! Almost $9 here because of sales tax. That’s brutal by any standard, and even though it had two other, decent, Spidey shorts, that creates a lot of expectation from entertainment, I think. Better still, it’s $16 for the three comics that tell this story, and they’re actually going to ask $25 for the collected hardcover. Like I said: jinkies.
When you add it all up, even though I generally liked the general verve and the specific audacity of the plot, I’m utterly unnerved by pricing and marketing decisions that surround it, and it makes me throw my hands in the air, and average it out to an EH.
SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN #1: To a certain extent, the question is whether or not you’re interested in spending $4 every two weeks for a SpOck comic — I mean, if I didn’t get to read them for free, I don’t know that I’d be willing to do that.
The protagonist is arrogant, is selfish, is cowardly, is leering — nothing that I want in a protagonist, in short.
I also have a certain amount of problem with “having cake and eating it-ism” — rather than being ASM #701 (maybe blurbed “1ST ISSUE in a all-now direction!” or something), this is being made out to be a different series. From a story POV, this marks a very not-Peter era of Spidey, but Parker’s “spirit” shows up on the last page(s) to show that it is still very much his story. I’m not opposed to that, per se, but I think it undercuts almost all of the inherent drama of the situation now that we’re explicitly told he’s coming back. Don’t trigger that suspension-of-disbelief-sense — to a large degree, I don’t think that the beat was EARNED yet… SpOck attempting to kill someone would, I think, be a much better culmination of a storyline, than randomly happening in issue #1. With Parker already back on the plate (and, sure, maybe it will take quite some time to play out), I think the story dramatically undercuts itself.
Then, I think, the story becomes about Parker’s return, rather than SpOck’s struggle with heroism, and I think, “well, people are interested in death and struggle, but return stories are usually bombs” — just look at the difference in market reaction between SUPERMAN #75 and ADV OF SUPERMAN #500, right?
We’re selling SSM #1 better so far than ASM #699, BUT *most* of those sales are “Wow, you still have it in stock, my local store is out” indicating that those aren’t sales that are going to especially “stick” for me over any reasonable time horizon.
So, yeah, I’d feel different about this if it was ASM #701, than I do as SSM #1, but because the protagonist really is so loathsome, I’m going with, I guess, a mild OK.
That’s what I think, anyway, what do YOU think?