Amazing Spider-Man #36: Remembering 9/11

Amazing Spider-Man #36 had to have been a challenge for writer J. Michael Straczynski in creating a story that reflects 9/11 in the context of a universe populated with super heroes. What he did was find a way to express what the whole country felt that day through the eyes of Spider-Man.

Looking back at this eleven years after it was published, he really did a good job capturing the mindset of the country while it was watching this tragedy unfold. There is an overwhelming sense of sadness and helplessness. This is really shown in a scene where Spider-Man has to confront a child who lost a parent at the World Trade Center. For all his super powers, he couldn’t do anything. And I think that the whole country had that feeling on September 11.

But at the same time Straczynski was able to convey a theme of hope and inspiration in overcoming this tragedy by paying the tribute to the real heroes of that day–the emergency service workers who put their own lives aside to help others in danger. It also touched on the togetherness that came as a result of the tragedy. Living in New Jersey, an area that was greatly effected, I saw people taking it upon themselves to find a way to find a way to help any way they could, whether it be gathering food and supplies to bring to Manhattan.

And the story shows Marvel’s characters finding ways to not only comfort people whose lives were  changed but to assist the rescue workers in any way they could. Straczynski even made a point to show that even the regular villains–the Dr. Dooms and the Kingpins of the world–put aside their own usual scheming of dominance and power to lend a hand.

And that really was one of the legacies to come out of September 11, was how everyone in the country–regardless of politics, religion, culture, race, you name it–put everything aside to come together as one.

This story never got cheesy or felt that it was done for shock value; it was a heartfelt tribute acknowledging those whose lives were unjustly lost as well as the courage shown by the people who helped aid in the recovery and rescue.

You can read the issue for free on Comixology.

Looking Back At DC’s New 52

Justice League of America in 2011 by Jim LeeIt’s been a year since DC began its bold New 52 relaunch. I can now look at the question of whether it worked or not. And the answer?

If you are asking this question about its financial result, then it is a yes. DC has sold a boat load of comics and has built a stronger presence on the bookstore shelf with the collected volumes. DC’s titles are making up the majority of the top ten best sold comics each month. Until recently, I don’t think I’ve ever seen Aquaman listed among the top selling monthly comics.

They also expanded their sales by having their titles available for digital purchase the same day as the printed copies hit the shelf. For now, this doesn’t seem to be hurting the print business at all, which is an anomaly in the entertainment world. Usually physical copy sales plummet once the electronic version becomes more readily available. This hasn’t been the case.

As a reader, I’ve kind of had a mixed reaction to the New 52. I’ve stopped reading the three titles that I decided to pick up during the launch. To be fair, both Hawk and Dove and Justice League International were both a lot of fun and wound up being cancelled. I really wanted to enjoy Green Arrow, but it felt too different from the Oliver Quinn that I enjoyed reading.The writing and art were fine, but I just am not connecting to the character. I do plan on picking up some of the issues at some point, but for now I can wait.

I did enjoy what I read of the Batgirl series and I will attribute that to how awesome a writer Gail Simone is. Rob Liefeld’s work on Deathstroke was fun, too, because it reminded me of the fun I had reading Extreme Studios comics back in high school.

I also read a bunch of the trades and surprisingly, I really enjoyed Judd Winick’s Catwoman. I picked it up thinking I was going to hate it to be perfectly honest, especially with its hyper-sexualized first issue. But getting past that, it was a very good first story arc. And there was some other things that I liked as well.

There’s been some criticism of the New 52, ranging from its portrayal of female characters (to lack of prominent ones as well) to some creators not being happy with some of the editorial policy and direction.

Now that I’ve seen it, I’d say that it’s mostly a good thing. They’ve certainly gotten a lot of excitement from their readers about the product line. And I’ve realized that my concerns and woes about continuity really don’t matter, a good story is a good story regardless how it fits in with my back issues.

I’ll give it a solid B.

Who Are The Avengers Now?

Remember how last year DC Comics did a huge relaunch/re-branding with the New 52? Marvel is doing their version of it called Marvel NOW, which is a jumping on point for new readers. Thanks to this summer’s blockbuster, comic readers are still on an Avengers high.

Marvel gave us a preview of the next era of the Avengers yesterday by previewing the covers of the first three issues of the relaunched series. These covers conveniently form a triptych and show us the new team. So who are the latest characters to make up Earth’s mightiest heroes?

The obligatory big three–Captain America, Thor and Iron Man–are there, each getting their own cover. Their movie cohorts Hulk, Black Widow and Hawkeye (who is still wearing his film costume) are also on board.

Spider-Man and Wolverine are still part of the team, because, well they are popular. And Spider Woman and Ms. Captain Marvel still make the cut because they were such integral parts of the team during the 2000s. Falcon is there because he’s always appearing as a member.

But there are three people who are new to the team. Cannonball and Sunspot (thanks to Bleeding Cool’s astute observation) get promoted to the big leagues so to speak, leaving the New Mutants/X-Men titles they’ve been hanging around in for the last thirty years. years. But there is a third character, silhouetted in black in the bottom right corner who is a mystery.

I’m going to put my guess out; it’s Ikaris from the Eternals. He hasn’t ever really played a major role in the Marvel Universe, so it would be something new and different. Plus the insignia looks pretty close from a far. You can view a larger image here.

Venom Moves To Philadelphia

Finally, Philadelphia gets a super hero! Entertainment Weekly reports that the city of brotherly love has a new resident in Venom. His ongoing series moves from New York City to Philly starting in December 19’s issue #28.

This move is the idea of the series’ writer Cullen Bunn who is a Philly native.

“I found the City of Brotherly Love to be a character in and of itself that I thought more fiction should explore,” Bunn said in the previously mentioned peace.

“I’ve always liked that Marvel superheroes are adventuring in the ‘real’ world. Certainly, there will be some fictional elements popping up in stories, but I’ll try to keep it as grounded in the actual city as possible. It’s time Philly gets a little Marvel Universe face-time. Local landmarks, neighborhoods, legends, and history will play a role in the book.”

Being a super fan of the city, I think this is awesome. I love everything Philadelphia and will love to see it prominently featured for what I think is the first time in comic books.

Bunn said that the book is going to show Flash Thompson balancing his personal life with his responsibility of being Venom symbiote-powered black ops agent for the United States government. And something else about his new girlfriend Valkyrie from the Thor comics.

This certainly sounds interesting and will definitely wind up on my pull list.

 

Remembering Michael Clarke Duncan

Actor Michael Clarke Duncan passed away at the age of 54 this weekend. For a lot of people, he will always be remembered for his role in The Green Mile. But as a comic book fan, I would say that my favorite part of his career was his work as Wilson Fisk in Dardevil.

When it was announced that he would be playing the role of the Kingpin, there was a lot of fanboy concern about why they would change the race of the character. That wasn’t an issue for me. What I was more concerned about was how anyone could bring this immensely massive–in both size and emotional presence–to life.

 

And Michael did just that. His take on the Marvel Universe’s biggest crime lord was extremely menacing and sophisticated at the same time. His portrayal became what Kingpin was in my mind, more so than the original. It’s a lot like Mark Hammill’s Joker or Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine…they’ve become the voice of the character when I read it. With all the talk of a Daredevil relaunch, I would have loved for them to keep Duncan on board and taken it into that retro/grimy direction.

Outside of his work as the Kingpin, Michael was in a bunch of other comic book related projects. He was in the Sin City movie and voiced everyone’s favorite poozer Kilowog in Green LanternYou can look at his full career here.

 

Friday Fights #6: Blastaar vs. Mon*Star

This week we look at two alien super villains who both have shaggy, lion like appearances and have names that end in a harsh “rrrrrrrrrrrrrr” sound: the Fantastic Four’s Negative Zone dwelling enemy Blastaar is up against the Silverhawks’ super-rich mob boss villain Mon*Star. So who would win in a battle?

PHYSICAL: Simply put, Blastaar is a beast. He’s a lot like the Juggernaut in the sense that he’s super-strong and nearly indestructible. Environmental factors like lack of air, food, bad weather…none of these bother him. Oh, and don’t forget the fact that he can fire energy blasts from his hands. Mon*Star pretty much looks like he is no different from your typical Thunderan. That’s a Thundercat, if you are wondering. ADVANTAGE: Blastaar

WEAPONRY: What Mon*Star lacks in God-given physical abilities, he certainly makes up in being armed to the teeth. After giving his ‘oath of evil’ he gets an awesome full body armor, kind of like what Jaime Reyes gets from the Blue Beetle scarab. This protects him from not only the elements and outer space, but all kinds of attacks as well. It also gives him energy blasting capabilities, even a wicked optic blast. And that’s not all. Mon*Star also carries a battle staff called the Fire Iron, has a trained attack cyborg bat and flies around the galaxy on a giant space squid. ADVANTAGE: Mon*Star

So if these two villains are fairly equally matched, who wins? Mon*Star, as he has one thing that Blastaar doesn’t:  the respect of criminals everywhere. Unlike all of the other eighties cartoon villains, Mon*Star’s flunkies and associates actually respect him and would come to his aid. If you mess with Mon*Star, you mess with his whole syndicate. WINNER: Mon*Star.