Friday, January 4, 2008

REVIEW :: Amazing Spider-Man #545

by J. Michael Straczynski and Joe Quesada

reviewed by Jason Wheatley


Alright…let me take a deep breath and start this. This could very well be the most difficult review I’ve ever written. If you’ve had any passing familiarity with comics over the last several months, then you might have a good idea why. If you don’t, here’s the news: Spider-Man’s marriage to Mary Jane is over. Done. Never happened. You might as well forget it, because everyone else in the Marvel Universe has. Oh, and that big-deal unmasking from Civil War? That’s gone too. Organic web shooters? Poof. In fact, the only thing that’s not gone seems to be Harry Osborn…he’s back.

As I said, this is a hard review for me to write, since it’s hard to look at something objectively when I disagree so strongly with it. Although for the record, I don’t disagree with the decision to end the marriage. Doesn’t bother me in the slightest. The problem I have lies with how it was done.

Lest this automatically turn into a rant, let me mention what I liked about this book. All other things aside, Joe Quesada can draw. The art over the “One More Day” arc got progressively better, culminating in the first two-thirds of this issue. The darkness of the art really hits how this is the darkest time in the characters’ lives, and the hardest decision they may ever have to make. Mephisto has never looked more evil, and the two-page flashback highlighting points in the relationship between Peter and Mary Jane as the marriage fades from existence is incredible. Still good, but lacking a little something, is the latter third of the issue, which Quesada inks himself, instead of Danny Miki. I assume the lighter inks are meant to convey the brightness and happiness of Spider-Man’s “Brand New Day,” but the transition was a little more jarring than I would have liked.

Now, the story: J. Michael Straczynski has basically publicly washed his hands of this story, and I can’t say I blame him. In this issue I didn’t find the ham-fisted dialogue of the previous chapter, but what I did find was a story hinged not only on the main characters acting tremendously out of character for themselves, but also out of character for anyone who would even consider calling him or herself a hero. Bottom line, Spider-Man, Marvel Comics’ flagship character, made a deal with the devil. Not as in striking an alliance with a former enemy, but as in a literal deal with the literal devil, or at least the Marvel Universe equivalent. In a comic-book universe where it’s no longer kosher for characters to smoke tobacco products, it’s lazy and irresponsible storytelling to show its most prominent character solving his life’s problems in this way. The editorial mandate was clearly written on the walls of this story, and it suffers as a result.

For the sake of brevity and not wanting to go on a tirade, I won’t mention all the continuity problems and stories that just no longer make sense due to rebooting one character and no one else. But they’re there, and I can’t help but wonder how Marvel intends to explain it all away. “It’s magic, we don’t need to explain it” is not a good answer. But it looks like that’s all we’re getting for now. In the meantime, I guess I will look forward to the huge influx of talent coming onto Amazing Spider-Man in the coming months, and try to forget what it took to get them there.

I’m sure I’m not alone in my opinions, but how did all of you blog readers out there in Internetland feel about the ending to “One More Day”? And what does this do for your interest in “Brand New Day”? Discuss!


Dan Morris said...

Personally I thought that these four issues were the funniest comics of the year. I laughed my behind off reading that final chapter in the store.

schmakt said...

yeah, I found them pretty laughable too. I stopped reading OMD halfway through, and I'm definitely done reading Spider-Man for a while. Not that I really care about the marriage one way or the other, but the way they went about getting rid of it was dumb. And Joe Q's interview on CBR definitely makes Spider-Man more of a comodity than a vehicle for good stories. Which, of course, is fine. I just don't find it appealing. Plus I hate Aunt May, and it sucks that they were so close to finally getting rid of her and then they didn't.

And Back in Black was pretty terrible too; this arc didn't do anything to save it at all.

Michael said...

I started to write a whole long thing on this, but it all boils down to this: OMD was poorly conceived; unnecessary (if you want unmarried Spidey, you've got at least 2-3 different books out there for ya); poorly executed; had unenjoyable art(Quesada is way too much "kewl 90's" for me); hung on a weak, uncompelling and unbelievable premise; and created far more problems that it "resolved" (and it didn't resolve the terrible, terrible Gwen/Norman retcon that makes me far more mad than this).

Yea, verily, even this shall pass in time. It's hard to get upset about it when eventually it will all be undone in a year's or years' time. What impacts my interest in BND is the rotating creative teams (some I like some I cannot stand - Zeb Wells, really? UGH) and the 3/month schedule. That last bit may be a bit too much for the pocketbook. Perhaps trade is the way to go with BND.

captnbern said...

When I read ASM 545, it came REALLY close to being the last Marvel comic I ever bought. Which is a huge deal for me, seeing as how I've been buying an average of seven Marvel books every week for the last 18 years.

About five pages into the issue, already knowing where the story was going thanks to both the endless publicity its been getting and the issue's cover, which pretty much says it all, the thought occurred to me that, "Oh, lord, they're going to bring back Gwen Stacy." Needless to say, when the "surprise guest" showed up at the door towards the end of the story, it was the most pivotal turn of the page I've ever encountered in all my years of comic reading. All I could say as I flipped the page was, "Don't you @#%$-ing do it, Marvel..."

Fortunately, they didn't do it, but what they did do was almost as bad. Harry's return, and the apparent retcon of, oh, EVERY SINGLE ISSUE OF THE BOOK I'VE EVER READ, left me physically ill. Sure, the Clone Saga sucked. But we've gotten past that. You know what HASN'T sucked? JMS's run on the book. It took Spidey to new places, which were exciting and (until this godforsaken story arc) largely unpredictable. In fact, two of the greatest Spidey moments I've read in the years since my first issue (which was #242) were Aunt May's discovery of his identity and his subsequent reveal during Civil War. Now, barely a year after the world learned the truth about Peter, we're retconning it? What a waste. The last page, which apparently serves as a toast to all the work JMS has done on the book, seems like more of a slap in the face to me.

And it would be bad enough if that were as far as the problems in this issue stretch, but since we've now seemingly lost a majority of Spider-Man's history, the problems stretch much deeper. Harry Osborn is back? Who cares?! Does this really "fix" the Spidey books? Hey, if I want to read a story where Peter's acting like a teenager and Harry walks around talking like a pimp, I'll go back and read an issue from the '70s. Or, better yet, I'll read Ultimate Spider-Man, which, unless I'm mistaken, was created specifically to tell updated stories without the baggage of, say, 30 years worth of continuity. If you're going to start retconning like this, you might as well just cancel all of the Ultimate books while your at it. No point for them anymore.

"One More Day" was more than the step-back I was expecting, instead being more like 500 steps-back. Unless the first story-arc of "Brand New Day" sets Spidey's world back to the way it's supposed to be, then you can forget it. The only thing that saved me was that the next comic I read after ASM was X-Men 206, which was outstanding.

Big Dog Studios said...

As a long time reader of ASM, I feel betrayed. Gut-punched by Quesada's selfish desire to undue the Peter-MJ marriage. ASM has gotten progressively worse over the last few years culminating into the horrendous OMD. But instead of dwelling on something I can't control I'll see what Brand New Day has to offer and wait for Marvel to come to their senses and put things back to normal. Besides, in order to enjoy the highs you have to endure the lows and OMD is the lowest I've seen in my 300+ issues of reading Spidey's exploits.

Dustin Harbin said...

I like the end of "captnbern"'s story the best of all of this so far. I haven't read the story, but I've certainly read a lot about it--but yeah, it's important to remember that all of these books suck once in a while, and usually not for too terribly long before someone wises up and changes stuff around. Remember, it was partially under Quesada's stewardship that Straczynski took over Spidey in the first place.

I guess all I'm saying is that everyone makes a bad decision once in a while--this is just an apparently REALLY bad one.

Andy Mansell said...

Is anyone old enough to remember the Jim Shooter era? In a matter of months, Spider man changed costumes, Tony Stark stopped being Iron Man, Thor stopped being Don Blake, Wasp and Yellow Jacket divorced, She-Hulk joined the FF and everyone was outraged for a while.

Over at DC, they killed Earth Two through Prime, Robin and Superman.

Then back to Marvel--Heroes Reborn didnt work so it became a pocket universe.

In a few years, months, whatever, it will all be reversed and revised-- it is--and always has been-- the joy and curse of continuity. Even Sherlock Holmes was begrudgingly brought back to life.

My point? When they killed Robin-- it could have/should have been great. What a potential story, but the only thing that fueled the death was collector speculations. I swore off superheroes for good that day 20 years later, I just bought the current run of Iron Fist. These things will ebb and flow forever.

For every Dick Moores and Jim Scancarelli and Marcus Hamilton and Don Rosa there are a hundred talented cartoonists who do NOT fit a particular property or the established editorial vision.

Spiderman will re-marry when his character marries in Spiderman 4, or it will be another pocket universe or Dr Strange or the Illuminati or the Watcher will reverse the reverse.

Thank God Tintin and Charlie Brown ended with their creators deaths. Spider-man will continue on for better and worse for-ever.

Thanks for listening

sixxgun said...

OND was a joke. What did Marvel expect to gain from this? Why would they reset one character & erase the history from the past several years? So does this mean Peter will return to his college days? bring back past "friends" or start over? How lame. But why? to save Aunt May? Has she not ran her course? What does to bring to the book? or to Peter for that matter? MJ was the lifeline for Peter. This is the dumbest thing from Marvel in sometime. To top it they drove the knife deep into Spider-Man fans everywhere with the closing of book 4 when they borrowed MJ's famous line & gave it to Aunt May, "face it Tiger, you just hit the jackpot" ... WTF?

Thanks Marvel for ruining a great book & some awesome characters. I guess this means Harry & Flash will be big in Spider-Man books to come. What fun!

Big Dog Studios said...

I think Marvel is getting what they want out of and sales. Aside from Cap's death (another unpopular move) this is the most talked about thing in comics since the death of Superman. This is crossing over into mass media...and Marvel sells more books.
Andy is right, the ship will be put back on course. Once putting them back together becomes more profitable than keeping them apart, then they'll pull the trigger. Same for Superman, Cap and countless other "bad" ideas. Too bad they couldn't sell more books by telling more imaginative stories. Just gimmicks that test their fanbase's patience and loyalty. One of these days their audience may not be there when they right the ship.

Cooper said...

Okay, so the whole deal didn't make a lot of sense as it was laid out, and as Jason mentioned, I would love to hear Quesada explain why the Devil is okay but smoking is bad, considering all of his anti-smoking rants (not that I smoke). I also can't figure out how any of this could possibly fit into current continuity. Is Spidey an Avenger? If he is, do the others know his identity?

I read some post on Newsarama that said they were hoping that it'll ultimately turn out that Aunt May is a skrull. That would be flippin' hilarious.

All that being said...Still love Spidey. I'm clinging to the hope that Harry Osborne is some sort of avatar of Mephisto, hanging out to watch the "suffering" first hand, and after a while, this will be revealed, Mephisto will get beat back to the nether realms, and the deal will be called off, reuniting Pete and MJ.


Douglas Merkle said...

Well, lucky for me i stopped reading comics about 10 minutes after Pete and MJ got married and didn't pick up another Spidey until issue 500. I'm also in the minority as I'm not the biggest JMS fan. So, with those caveats out of the way, i'm excited that Spidey will be back to a more "classic" era. Was the execution well done? No. BUt retconning never is well done.

Andy, I too remember the Shooter era which ever my under-utilized 12 year old brain though was terrible which was why I stopped reading way back when. Remember "Things To Come" with the spikey bodied Thing?

Douglas Merkle said...

as long as we are ret-conning....can we do anything about Shelton's hiring of Wheatley? A true dark time in Heroes history.

Rusty said...

Ya know, I wanna get upset about this, just to be like everybody else, but I can't. I want to get upset at Joey Q for imposing his and only his will on the Marvel Universe that I love so much(I mean seriously....Howard the Duck SHOULD HAVE A CIGAR HANGIN' OUT OF HIS MOUTH! not to mention Fury and Wolvie...)
But I can't. like Andy the Man Mansell said, it's the eb and flow of the business. They "could" hit the reset button again next month-and let's not fool ourselves, this WAS a reset. I'm dissappointed by the way it was put together, the art, the story, and pretty much everything else about it, but they can, and I feel, will redeem themselves. I may not agree with or like what Joe's doing with my Marvel Universe, but this to shall pass. Hang in there true believers...

And Doug, if they ret-con Wheatley, what does that do to me? Would I still be at Heroes, will I still have my new amazing powers? How would this effect the rest of the heroes Universe?

Jason Wheatley said...

See, Rusty, that kind of thinking is important!

One of the primary differences between OMD and the death of Cap is that Cap's story was well-thought out and well written. Shelton says Joe Q. told him about OMD at the show two years ago. Well, the proof ain't in the puddin', as it were. Cap's death felt like the culmination of two years' worth of stories; OMD, even being months late, felt rushed and poorly conceived.

And I never even raised one of the other points that has popped into my mind over the last week...if Peter was going to make this deal, why wouldn't he use it to bring back Gwen, too, or have made this same sort of deal back then? He's even more directly responsible for her death than Aunt May's!

Oh, and Ernie...I felt like Harry looked a little sinister in a couple of shots near the end of the book, too. You're not alone in your thinking.

Phil Southern said...

The seeming objective of "One More Day" was to return Spider-Man to the root of the character--If you don't like Aunt May, the supporting characters, the mechanical web shooters, you might not like Spider-Man. So I have no problem with this return to form.

However, the execution seems to be the problem that many had with the story, a sentiment I agree with, and a problem that displays a fundemental misunderstanding of the character of Spider-Man. Making a "deal with the devil" doesn't seem terribly responsible--and we know how Spider-Man feels about responsibility. Additionally, there was nothing heroic or dynamic about the story--Spider-Man's greatest moments have happened becasue he wouldn't quit; One More Day required three issues of shoe-horning and plot hammerring to get to the point that it was, editorially O.K. for him to give up.

And I'm with Michael D. about the rotating creative teams--I have never seengreat comics come out of them, nor great character moments, nor new and exciting stories. Give us someone who loves the characters and who wants to stick with them, not the modified TV approach.


Douglas Merkle said...

Harry did look sinister.

Wheatley- I don't think Pete had the stones to ask for his ex-girl back as he's about to give up his wife. That would be an extra long dagger through MJ's heart.

Jason Wheatley said...

Merkle - yeah, I know...I just meant it as, if he's going to try to get back one person whose death he caused, why stop with May? Or why didn't he try this at the time?

Because it's a bad idea, that's why.

schmakt said...

I sure would like to get a look at the pull-list numbers for ASM post OMD and see the percentage change (either + or -).

I dropped it not b/c I hate Joe Q, or love MJ, but b/c I just thought the story was dumb. It's too bad you can't vote with your dollar as well as a few words. I'm not voting against a single Peter or whatever. Just against poorly conceived and executed stories. Which, of course, is my opinion. But it's my dollar too. :)

Nathan said...

I'm checking out some Internet response to One More Day after several months of reading Brand New Day. I have to say, I hope you guys have been checking it out, because a return to a light-hearted, free-wheeling Peter is just what the doctor ordered. There are plenty of sensible complaints here about the hoakiness of One More Day, but honestly, continuity for 30 years is a bit ridiculous, and if they have to use ridiculous ways to get around it then I don't care that much.

Also, and maybe this is being too optimistic, I just can't see them keeping Peter and MJ apart for too long. So when they start to get back together and unravel Mephisto's creation, there is the potential for some mind-bending universe collision that Peter will have to unravel. There could be some really creative story-telling there, which would be a sort of apology for One More Day.

herana said...

It is so lucky that i come here accidently, the aundant resources makes me excited,thank you!
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Anonymous said...

I remember reading Civil War #2 and realizing that they just didn't seem to care anymore. Not that such a story couldn't be great or interesting, but Spider-man was a stupid resurrected magic-thing. It was the dumbest things I'd ever seen. It brought down the Civil War series, which was unfocused because of it. You're still going 'where's the story of Spider-man's unmasking?'

This was stupid way before it came out because of those reasons. It was obvious they didn't put any work into it. Oh, Aunt May is sick again. Aunt May had already died. You can't hold that over people's heads. She's already died.

People are right. This the worst comic ever. It ruined Spider-man forever, too. I try to read the book about this idiot who doesn't resemble Spider-man too much anymore. What's going to happen is he going to reveal his identity again and nothing is going to happen again?

How do you ruin the best comic book character ever.