Comic Book Quick Review: Superior Spider-Man Team-Up 1 and Digital Comic Redemption Codes

I don't often read Marvel Comics, but when I do... It's probably because I got it for free.

And in this case the preview copy was borrowed from Escape Pod Comics. Superior Spider-Man Team-Up officially comes out this Wednesday.

To Rant and Rave This comic is a fun, neat read, but I cannot support Marvel's $3.99 price tag, even if that means it comes with a redemption code for a digital copy of the comic that will expire in a year.

Rant the First Why the fuck does the code need to expire? If someone buys this comic twenty years from now and the code sticker was never peeled back and the code used, why can't it be used in the future? OK, why not even two or five years of twenty is too ridiculous?

Rant the Second The sticker over the code... What are anal collectors going to think if they're paying beyond cover price for these hot collectibles? Does that half the resale value? Quarter it? I mean, if a near mint copy of this comic sells for $100.00 two years from now, what will be its official grade if the sticker is missing or even mostly peeled back?

The Actual Review The appeal of this comic, aside from the free read, is that it features a Spider-Man, the Superior one to be exact, not that I've read any of the previous stories. All I know is that Doctor Otto Octavius has switched bodies with Peter Parker and now slings webs as the Superior Spider-Man.  Why is he superior? This is awesome: because Doc Ock is kind of a know-it-all douche who now has Spider-Man's physical abilities along with Ock's genius intellect and is apparently, with lots of ass hattery, being a better superhero Spider-Man than Parker ever was. Yep, an arrogant prick Spider-Man, but one who kind of has the brains to get away with it apparently.

"Team-up" is part of the title, so in addition to a team-up with Earth's Mightiest Heroes, the Avengers, Spidey tours a bunch of the Marvel Universe beating the shit out of various heroes. If I were eleven years old, I'd eat this up because Spider-Man would be mysterious and bad ass to me, and I'd want to know more about all these people whose asses he's kicking and why he's kicking the asses. ...Though at eleven, how many comics could I afford at $3.99?

Christopher Yost is a writer whose work I have been attracted to, especially since his run on X-Force, co-written with Craig Kyle, in the mid-2000s, which was incredibly awesome and paid a lot of tribute to X-history. I'd expect no less fun and reverence from him in Superior Spider-Man Team-Up, though if I do ever follow-up, it'll be via trade paperback from the library.

Spider-Man--Menace! or Reading Jackpot (2010) Issue 2

http://comicbookdb.com/graphics/comic_graphics/1/380/191599_20100210094625_large.jpg While I've probably enjoyed some of Guggenheim's writing on Amazing Spider-Man, and I cannot say for sure due to the rotating team of writers on the title and me being two years behind in my reading, I would not have sought out Amazing Spider-Man Presents: Jackpot. Issues 2 and 3 were a part of a flea market collection of many Marvel comics from 2010. I read issue 2 yesterday and I was like, Wow, Spider-Man is such a dick!

Why is Spider-Man a dick? Apparently he encouraged Jackpot to put the costume back on after she retired from superheroing. The result: A now deadly Boomerang figures out who she is, comes to her Brooklyn home and eviscerates her husband and the issue concludes with a deadly metal boomerang flying at her young daughter. While I doubt daughter of Jackpot will be killed, all of this tragedy could have been avoided had Spider-Man left Jackpot alone. It's not like her powers are even that great that she could do so much good on the streets.

Good job, Spidey! Uncle Ben was right, but did he forget to mention that with great credibility there must also come great responsibility? Spider-Man--menace!

This image was borrowed from the Comic Book Database for review purposes.

Comics are Dead

Click to enlarge.

For people who don't regularly read comics, this comic may seem strange. Millions of people have seen the Spider-Man movies. But the Spider-Man comic book itself sells in the tens of thousands. Comics are a dying industry.

Comic books were once hugely popular, selling in the millions. Of course, this was the 1930s; and a lot of things have changed since then. On the plus side, there are more sophisticated comics today than ever before (some people call them "graphic novels" to make them sound more grown up).  But the comic industry itself is catering to a smaller and smaller market of superhero fans who seem mired in nostalgia and unwilling to change or expand their reading habits.

Outsiders still think of comics as something for children, but unfortunately, most comics are aimed at white men in their 40s and 50s. There are few avenues for children (or women or people of color) to get into comics; and Marvel and DC (the 2 largest producers of comics) seem disinterested in tapping into those markets. And so, the comic readership is dying off---aided by the development of new media. Who wants to buy a comic when you can see the movie or download an animated version?

While the comic industry may be limping along, I think comics as a medium is still a vibrant one. The art of combining words and pictures has been around since we invented words and pictures. And it'll be around long after Marvel and DC are long gone.

Which is to say, I'll keep creating comics---even though no one reads them...

Re:Covers

I just love comic covers, especially the wacky ones. They help sell the book, they get you excited about what's to come, and they are the thing that you remember long after you’ve forgotten exactly what happened in a particular issue. It takes a keen eye to see what works and what doesn’t work as a cover. Covers aren't just the icing on a cake. They are an integral part of the comic experience. That’s why it offends me so much when Trade Paperback reprints either don’t reprint the covers at all (sheer apostasy) or reprint them all in the back of the book (mere heresy). I honestly don’t understand that decision.

The only reasons I can think of for not printing the covers in order along with the story are:

  1. You don’t think the covers are important (or you don’t realize it)
  2. It’s too expensive to reprint them
  3. You think they break up the story

(#1) If you don’t think the covers are important, then I assume you must not be a true comics fan. Perhaps these TPBs were put together by people working in printing sweatshops who simply don’t get the concept. But surely the books were approved by someone who did get it, so I remain baffled. (I'm looking at you, DC!) It's especially confusing when so much of the industry sell-through depends on cranking out variant covers these days (but that's a different rant).

(#2) It’s too expensive: I can see how the smaller independent publishers may have a hard time here. Especially when reprinting the issues in black and white, it may be difficult to get a good b&w re-print of an original color (or even painted) cover. But that problem can’t apply to Marvel or DC who more than have the resources at their disposal. And let me just state for the record that I’ll pay an extra buck or two to get those covers.

(#3) You've made an "editorial" decision because you think the cover breaks up the story: listen, buddy, any book that has chapters breaks up the story. Older books even had titles, pictures, or ornate lettering at the beginning of chapters; and some went so far as to provide a brief summary of what was to come, so this argument is ridiculous. And given that comics are created so that issues/chapters can be read a month later, they typically have a natural break in them which then feels awkward and out of place if you don’t insert a break (like reprinting the cover)!


All this is to say that I love comic covers, and I’ll be presenting some of my favorites here from time to time and talking about what makes them so special.

Here’s a cover that most people recognize: Amazing Fantasy #15, with the first appearance of Spider-Man. Originally drawn by Jack Kirby, it’s been reproduced, copied, and “homaged” scores of times.

Amazing Fantasy #15

What many people don’t know is that there was originally another cover to AF #15 by Steve Ditko that was rejected.

Original Cover to Amazing Fantasy #15

Now I’m a big fan of Steve Ditko, and I greatly favor his art over Jack Kirby’s. But here’s a case where I agree with the decision. Kirby's version is a much better iconic cover.

Kirby's cover is less cluttered. Spidey is front and center, occupying the majority of the frame. While Spidey and thug aren't the only characters, the others are small and are clearly looking up in awe.  Backdropped with city and buildings, Spidey looks noble, soaring over it all. The thug is placed behind Spidey so that he doesn't obscure our hero (and his impressive physique), and making him less significant (more thuggish) in comparison to Spidey. The image takes advantage of the rule of thirds, creating a nicely balanced composition with exquisite clarity as to what the viewer is supposed to think about this new superhero.

And yet, Ditko's cover is more Spider-Man. In many ways, it is the exact opposite of Kirby's. The viewer is looking down on Spider-Man as he is striving to go up; Spidey breaks the viewing plane along the opposite angle; Spidey and the thug are closer to the same size, they are both somewhat awkwardly contorted, and the thug blocks Spidey to some degree. The image is much more "cluttered" with onlookers of different sizes (both on the ground and in the buildings) who don't look up in awe so much as alarm and fear.

Overall, while Kirby's cover is more iconic and memorable, Ditko's is more true to the character of Spider-Man (at least as envisioned by Ditko). He's awkward, he's a bit weird, he inspires fear and concern from the public, and he travels among the thugs, not above them. I don't think Kirby ever really "got" Spider-Man. He never looks right when he appears in the (cosmic and heroic) Fantastic Four comics. Ditko, however, understands that Spidey is not a noble god; he's a misunderstood loser trying to do the best he can in a troubled world that doesn't appreciate him.


Thanks to Blake Bell's Ditko Looked Up site and Mile High Comics for the images.

Last Hero Standing - A Comic Review

The image “http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/5156cJ-AEDL._SL500_AA240_.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors. Like something out of the 80s or 90s (which makes sense, since that is the time period during which writer Tom Defalco was the chief at Marvel) this is a story of one of the Marvel Universe's possible futures in which the heroes fight each other, then the villain, while there is little characterization and little excitement. I'm not very well read in Marvel's nearly defunct "M2" line of comics, but this unfamiliarity is not what prevented me from enjoying a story that was very plot driven, as opposed to character driven. The story could have been a lot deeper, but instead, all there is is surface. Perhaps it was simply supposed to be fun, but it wasn't even that. The "death" at the end, even if it's only a possible future, should have had some impact considering the history of this hero...

If you really want this book, it's currently out of print, but not overpriced.