Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Sensational Spider-man Annual # 1; Spider-man: FCBD; Astonishing X-men # 21

Sensational Spider-man Annual # 1
Matt Fraction-Salvador Larocca

I've certainly been no fan of the current crop of Spider-man scribe for whom, unfortunately for me, have been current for quite some time--so this week is kind of dedicated to the guys who most likely "got next". The first of which is one of the brighest stars coming into the marvel universe, Mr. Matt Fraction, of Cassanova and Immortal Iron Fist fame. He too of the ever improving Punisher War Journal. Well he's been handed the keys to a project, I've really thought for the longest time he was born to write, and that is as one of the writers of the big three monthly spider-man books.

And boy does he not disapoint. To say Sensational Spider-man Annual is one of the best in continuity Spider-man stories in recent memory would be to sell the book quite short. It's that good. This is the type of story quality wise I'd have thought to only exist in Ultimate Spider-man anymore--but thank god we've finally come up for air. Because really this is the type of mature Peter Parker story that you can't tell in the Ultimate world right now.

The issue basically focuses on Mary Jane and Peter Parker's relationship, and how it is holding up under the pressures of his now ruined life. And it's really romantic and great and wonderful and I definitely teared up reading it in a few places. This is definitely a book where the adage, I laughed, I cried, I was moved adage holds suit. Which is to say, it's everything Spider-man SHOULD be, but seems so rarely to be. It seems like event after event is thrown at him, but no one seems to be taking a second to take stock of the very human issues surrounding these changes, and Fraction definitely does that here.

The art by Larocca stands up to the writing. There are some scenes in here that will stay with you for a long time. Just beautiful iconic stuff.

But really. I've said this so much, but I'll definitely say it again. Matt Fraction is the up and coming superstar of comic books right now. He's paid his dues, and now he's starting to get the projects worthy of his talents, and he's knocking them out of the park. It's no stretch to say that a year from now Matt Fraction(and what a great comic book name that is, it's Steranko-esque), will be on the same level as a Millar, Brubaker, Morrison. You'll see his name, and you will read it, no matter what it is. And you'll like it.

The Amazing Spider-man: Free Comic Book Day Book
Dan Slott-Phil Jimenez

Judging by all the rumors coming out, Dan Slott WILL be the new writer on Amazing, once JMS steps down(thank god). So I thought it was important to also review his book, as it sort of gives us a preview of the type of story we might expect from Slott on Amazing.

It's pretty much what you'd expect from Slott. Slott's writing manages to capture that kind of youthful mirth of how you felt about comics as a kid, even if the quality was probably never this good. Coming out of the current dark times for Spidey, this could be the perfect writer to give the fans a breather with. He seems like he can bring the fun back to Spider-man. Wacky villains, high paced adventures, and quipy quips, I think these are the elements we can expect to make their way over to his official run.

It's hard to find any fault with this book in particular. First of all. It's free. But second of all, the art is fantastic by Phil Jiminez, there's lots of great action, and it's got that classic Peter Parker trying to cram super heroism in between the events of his life. In many ways what this is most like is De Falco's Spider-girl. It's got that same vibe, but it is in continuity with Spider-man. Which I think is really what a lot of fans have been clamoring for for awhile. JMS seemed to take the fun out of Spider-man, as well as just not being all that compelling in spite of the radical changes he constantly through Parker through.

Slott basically writes the Spider-man of the first two movies. The one that everyone remembers and loves. And if he can keep that up, while dealing with the aftermath of the catastrophic events that marvel have thrown upon Peter Parker, we should be in for quite a treat.

Astonishing X-Men # 21
Joss Whedon-John Cassady

I still do not get the fan fair behind these books. I don't understand why this book is so acclaimed over in my opinion, Mike Carey's FAR superior X-book. It's baffling to me. I think Cassady's art makes the x-men look like stay-puffed marshmallow men, I keep expecting someone to poke Wolverine in the stomach and for him to go "woo hoo". And then the writing...has no one ever watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer? Does it not bother people that Whedon has essentially just thrown X-men skins on the characters he already had in Buffy, which in turn were brilliant modernizations of the Scooby gang? I don't really get why he's even writing Buffy the Vampire Slayer in comics. You get all of that you need in this book. I guess if you're partial to vampires instead of mutants, but still, there's so little diffrence here, that it really hampers my ability to relate to the characters.

I definitely respect that Whedon has made Cyclops interested for the first time in perhaps ever, but I've definitely read this character before. And I don't know why this issue bugs me, because really it's just Whedon's style coming through, right? But I guess it just feels very empty. It feels like he's not made any concessions to the fact that he is not writing Buffy or Angel or the Buffy in Space epic Firefly--I don't feel like he's geniunely interacting with these characters, and that bugs me. It feels like he's just madlibbing it, which I don't think is that rewarding for him. Frankly listening to him in interviews, and taking into account comments he made before he quit trying to make the Wonder Woman movie, I've got the sense that he's running out of gas right now.

These Astonishing Books seem to take ages to come out, and then when they do, nothing really happens. His run is almost over, and I've yet to be emotionally interested or involved in the entire series. And it's not like it's the characters, because you read Grant Morrison's version of the same characters, and it's far more revlatory. Morrison seemed to really have fun with the sandbox, whereas Whedon is kind of sitting in one corner playing his PSP.

So I don't know if I'm more mad at myself for not finding a way to enjoy this book that seemingly everyone on the planet loves, or mad at Whedon because I feel that he's cheating himself as a writer. I mean he's obviously got a lot of talent. But I question whether he actually enjoys what he's doing right now. The joy that is there in his earlier work seems nowhere to be found anymore. Everything feels by the numbers-Whedon. Which is nice for cashing a check, but I can't imagine it's fullfilling as an artist. But who knows. I guess it's not a good sign when a review tilts from being a discussion of the work at hand, to a psychological analysis of an artist I've never met. But it's a hurdle I'm having an increasingly hard time crossing as we get deeper and deeper into Astonishing.

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