Friday, March 31, 2006

With great writing, comes great responsibility.

It’s the little things, really.

World-changing plots like Crisis, the Infinity Gauntlet, Secret Wars and Zero Hour? These things come and go. The fabric of the comic book universes is routinely folded, spindled and mutilated.

As fans of superheroes, we’ve come to accept this. But we do ask for something in return. We make a bargain with the creators of comic books, and to a lesser extent, those who adapt comics into other media, that they can change the universe, as long as they don’t change who our characters are.

I don’t mean cosmetic things, like letting the characters eventually grow older, so that they’re in college instead of high school. Or letting the characters marry, or even have children. So long as this is done right, we generally don’t mind. In many cases, we even cheer when it happens. To this day, the marriage of Lois and Clark in Superman is one of my favorite comic books. The issue of X-Men where Scott and Jean got married was the only issue of any X-Men title I picked up from the time that Wolverine had the adamantium removed until Joss Whedon started writing Astonishing X-Men. So, we’re ok with this.

There’s a fundamental feel to these characters, and this is what you are not allowed to change. Clark Kent is an optimist at his roots, who truly does believe that he can make the world a better place through his example. Bruce Wayne is solitary, driven and emotionally distant, still the orphan boy who mourns for his parents. Steve Rogers is a patriot, who can see the flaws in the system, but still believes that the dream is worth fighting for. Scott Summers has taken the role of atlas, putting the weight of Xavier’s vision on his shoulders.

And Peter Parker? Well, Peter Parker is the everyman. The hard luck hero. The one for whom things never go quite right, but who still believes that with great power comes great responsibility. And no matter how bad things get, he keeps a sense of wit about him.

In the 616 Marvel Universe, Peter Parker lost this, in a mess of family members dying and being reborn, archfoes coming back from the grave, clones, alterations to his power, changing his identity and more. And Carnage. Mustn’t forget Carnage (as much as I might like to). Hence, the reason I haven’t bought any Spider-Man comics other than the Ultimate line for years. Sure, I enjoyed him in New Avengers, but that was enough for me.

All of which gets back to the fact that, as alluded to here, JMS is a bastard.

I broke down and bought Amazing Spider-Man 529 featuring the new costume. Why? Because I’m a sheep, and I had to at least know. And from the first page, when Peter and MJ were asleep in bed being woken by Tony Stark’s mechanical bird, I realized, “Oh god, he gets it.”

I picked up the following issue as well. Watching Peter be guided through the Senate conferences that will one-day lead to the Civil War has been fascinating, and I suddenly realized that here was the Peter Parker I hadn’t seen since the early nineties.


So, Straczynski has made me a liar. I am now reading Spider-Man again. And I urge you to do the same. The new costume will still go away, we all know this, but it doesn’t matter. For now at least, JMS has brought Spider-Man back home to us.


Anonymous tone said...

I have to be honest...I hate comic books. However, I started reading this post and just had to finish it. Great writing and weirdly enough it made me want to pick a comic book up on my way home from work. lol Thank you.

2:29 PM  
Blogger Ricardo said...

I haven't collected in years but I'll give Amazing Spider-Man a shot again as that was my favorite. The new costume will definitely not last but it's the story that counts.

5:37 PM  
Blogger drackan27 said...

I hated the new costume when I first saw it, but I gotta admit that I'm liking it more every time I see Spidey in action with it.

12:14 AM  
Blogger Aaron said...

I'm more or less indifferent to it. I still don't think it's likely to stay around all that long. Heck, it's entirely possible that due to Civil War Stark and Peter will have a falling out and Tony will take the costume back.

But the costume still did what it was primarily intended to: It attracted attention and brought some old readers back, and new readers in.

I expected that much, and fully intended to only read the one issue.

But I'm going to stay for JMS's writing. Will I leave again if the writing doesn't stay good? Heck yeah, but for now I'm willing to give the benefit of doubt.

7:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How long has JMS been doing Spidey?


5:03 PM  
Blogger Aaron said...


It's been well over a year, I'm not sure how long honestly.

I may be picking up the trades from the beginning of his run. I'm not sure.

I'd heard that it was good, but like many things JMS does, I hear it's good but remain skeptical until I see it myself. Then I relent and tell people, "Ok, fine, you were right."

6:28 PM  

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