Hey, we’re back!
Yes, it’s been a few weeks, what with HeroesCon and the fact that I’ve been waking up and writing for fourteen hours a day (which severely cuts into my Red Dead Redemption, er, sleep time), but tonight, the Internet’s Most Wheatcake-Loving Comics Reviews return with a vengeance!
Although now that I think of it, no actual vengeance will be involved. Just some comics I like.
Amazing Spider-Man #633: I haven’t been following the current arc in Amazing Spider-Man, but yesterday, my ComicsAlliance coworkers David Uzumeri and David Brothers insisted that Zeb Wells, Chris Bachalo and Emma Rios were doing the best Spider-Man story of the past ten years. That’s a pretty strong statement; even just saying it was the best of the post-Brand New Day stuff would be putting it up against the great stories by Dan Slott, Mark Waid and Marcos Martin, and it’s pretty strong to claim that anyone’s doing better work than Paul Tobin on the Marvel Adventures book. But those guys tend to know what they’re talking about, so I picked up all four parts this week and read through the whole story in one shot. And I’ve gotta say…
They’re not wrong.
I’m not quite sure if it hits the best of the decade mark, but it’s easily in the top five, and I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say it’s the best Lizard story ever written. That might not sound like a big deal — the Lizard’s always been my least favorite of the enduring Spider-Man bad guys — but Wells, Bachalo and Rios take someone I’d long ago written off as a one-note character and do a story that’s thrilling, complex and emotional, creating a note-perfect Spider-Man adventure. And what’s more, they manage to do it with a story designed to amp up an existing villain, which are notoriously hard to pull off in a way that doesn’t come off as trying way too hard and ending up with a story where Signalman stabs hookers in the eyes with semaphore flags made of the bones of dead orphans.
What really impressed me, though, is how it’s all handled. Make no mistake, this is a violent comic, and while there’s bloodshed, it’s never grotesque or gory, rising above lesser comics that revel in vulgarity disguised as mature storytelling by taking the focus away from the violence itself and putting it on the emotions that violence provokes. In that respect, it pulls off with apparent effortlessness what other books try so hard and fail to do. It’s a textbook example of exactly how this sort of thing needs to work. And a lot of that has to do with Bachalo.
I don’t always care for his work, but when he’s on, he is on, and this is one of the best things he’s done, pulling out a distinctive style that lends itself to both the frenetic external action and the internal struggle between Curt Connors and the Lizard that drives the story. His action scenes are top notch, and he’s one of the few artists able to draw Spider-Man himself as kind of small and soft (contrasting him with his huge, scaly rendering of the Lizard) while still making him look heroic.
He’s not the only one responsible for how good this book looks, though: Emma Rios, whose work I absolutely loved on Strange, handles the scenes that don’t relate to the Lizard, and she pulls off one of my favorite parts of the entire arc with the final resolution of the Negative Aunt May story. The inking, the coloring, it all works great here. But what really caught my eye was Joe Caramagna’s lettering.
He pulls off a trick in this issue that’s one of the best integrations of lettering into the story that I’ve seen outside of Simonson’s Thor. It’s not just a matter of putting dueling internal monologue in different fonts and colors for Connors’ struggle with the Lizard…
…but when Connors is destroyed, the lettering itself is shattered:
It’s an incredible use of technique, especially since Caramagna has actually created a way for a fully internalized struggle to be represented visually, following the reader’s natural eye line for amazing impact. It’s the best use of the language of comics I’ve seen in a long, long time, and it’s a striking example of the level of craft that went into every aspect of this book.
It all adds up to something that’s not only the high point of Wells’ career as a writer and something everyone involved can be proud of, but a story that’s going to be able to stand up alongside stuff like Kraven’s Last Hunt. It’s that good.
So good, in fact, that we might as well call it a week with that. As always, if anything caught your eye this week (or if someone can let me know if there’s a story that explains how Lady Blackhawk managed to make an entire skirt out of Cavorite), feel free to leave a comment below.
EDIT: I always forget to include these, but for more of my opinions on comics I liked this week, check out the ComicsAlliance roundtable review of Amazing Spider-Man Presents Black Cat #1!
I am a big fan of Bachalo and his art is perfectly suited for this arc. He does a very new and distinct take on the Lizard that I like (and I’m also a big Lizard fan – similar to the Green Goblin, I’ve loved the fact that he’s an enemy that Spidey can never use his full strength on – and unlike the Goblin, he’s actually friends with Connors himself in addition having to think about his family). And that’s what takes me to the part I really dislike about this arc /development – it actually does feel quite hooker-eye-stabbing to me with (what I see as) the gratuitious killing of Billy.
It seems like a cheap and uncessary development and IMO robs the Lizard of an important aspect of what makes him tick and defines his relationship with Spider-man. Also, I’m not a huge continuity stickler, but it’s been very well established that even at his most Lizard-ness, Connors not only doesn’t hurt Billy, but has gone so far as to protect Billy. So, Wells has completely disregard (and probably wasn’t even aware of) this aspect of the Lizard. “Brand New Day” yeah yeah – anything can be different, but supposedly this was a return to “the good old days” and this isn’t it.
I think it would have been a much stronger story without cheapening it with the shock value of Billy’s death. That event actually diminishes what could have been a more interesting turn in the Connors’s story.
I see your point, but it didn’t hit me as cheap at all; I thought it was the rare example of someone doing a meaningful death in comics. And while you’ve got a point about the Lizard, I don’t think it’s a matter of Wells not knowing or not caring about the previous stories, but rather as a major game-changer for him. The idea of the Lizard still having enough of Curt Connors in him to protect Billy gives the subsumation of Connors’ personality and the way Spider-Man “defeats” him even more impact.
But no story is ever going to hit two people the same way, and as we all know, this world don’t move to the beat of just one drum. What might be right for me… might not be right for some.
Especially when it comes to Spider-Man.
Speaking of deaths . . . any reaction to the deaths of the supporting players over on BoP? I’m not mad, but I am disappointed.
How the hell am I ever going to take that story seriously now that I have an image of Ogawa laying out some fool with an STO? Thanks, Sims!
@ Michael Denton: If you want meaningless death check out the first part of Grim Hunt, in which a character gets corpsed-up by ISB favorite Joe kelly after pretty much saying “well I’ve been kidnapped and tortured for the last year and now they’re gonna ritually murder me – probably best if I don’t cause a scene” and then waits to be killed.
It’s one of the weakest deaths you’ll read in comics, and I’m surprised by how skeevy I found it given how little I care for the character in question.
I know that “Shed” worked for me *because* of Billy’s death. When I read it, I was totally shocked that it had finally happened, after all these years (and for some of the reasons Michael Denton pointed out above… the way that relationship has been used in the past). But it didn’t ring false for me. Heck, even Billy thought it was inevitable.
@Brigonos Chomhgaill: Yeah, I have to agree. I didn’t care for that death. I’ve not liked much of the whole “imprisonment and use of Madame Webb” thing, either. I get it. They’ve got her, they’re torturing her to get the edge on Spidey and to collect the other “spider family” members. Can we move on now? As much as I’ve liked a lot of the developments in the Gauntlet (Shed, the character development of the old Rhino, etc), I’ve been wanting them to just finally get started with the “Grim Hunt” so we can get it OVER with and join the rest of the Heroic Age already…
Really? A “Diff’rent Strokes” reference? Oh, well. It didn’t feature the word, “Willis, ” so it’s cool.
I liked “Shed”, but with “Grim Hunt” now we’ve had two stories in a row where a teenager is eaten/sacrificed by a super-villain to make them more powerful.
But Peter Parker can’t ever catch a decent job, or be in a relationship, or be happy for one second, because THAT is way, way, waaaaay more inappropriate for the character than kids being eaten and Spider-Man failing to stop it.
I will also say that the Lizard, as a villain, had pretty much hit a dead end as a character and needed a change/revamp out of all the spider-villains. Granted, this direction kind of just makes him Dark Stegron in a way, but hey.
What did you think of the Batman: Mad Hater special? I always think Sienkiewicz merits discussion.
What did you think of the Batman: Mad Hater special?
BIG UPS TO ALL MAD HATERS!
Batman fighting Internet Trolls would be an amazing comic series.
Then read Irredeemable- that’s Superman fighting internet trolls.
Making fun of my spelling, eh Chri-stro? I’ll show you! I’ll show you all!
I know, I know, I’m a jerk. But I couldn’t resist.
I would pay serious hard cash for an actual Dark Stegron arc. And Batman vs. the Haters, too.
I kinda imagine some chap sitting down and typing away in front of the screen as Batman swings through the window on his line and kicks him in the face, then treats him to a few more strikes before slamming the guy’s face into the screen and saying, “at least use proper punctuation!” before taking off.
You have no idea how often that happens to me.
I so love that last alt-text.