Eric: So here we are in Week 2 of Comic POW!
Dan: Electric Boogaloo
Eric: You feeling good about your selection?
Dan: Oh, totally
Eric: So this week I decided to go with Amazing Spider-Man #673. This was somewhat of a tough choice for me because it’s an epilogue to a long Spider-Man event but I thought it also worked really well on its own. Also, it just so happened to be the best of all the books this week.
Dan: It definitely goes out of its way to overexplain everything that just happened so no one can possibly be lost
Eric: Just as a very, very quick primer for our readers. Jackal (of Clone Saga fame) creates a bed bug-spread virus that first gives people Spider-Man’s powers and then turns them into giant spiders. All the NY-based Marvel heroes were involved. And that’s more or less all you need to know up front. We’ll cover anything else as we go in.
Dan: Sounds good to me.
Eric: I’d have to say that what I loved most about this issue is that it was not afraid to be a comic book and lean, not only on the fourth wall, but also on the silliness that comic tropes embody
Dan: Maybe it’s my bias against Dan Slott, but I thought this book didn’t straddle the line well between lampshade hanging humor and parody. It just felt like, “Hey, that’s a weird quirk about comic books, but we’re gonna point it out because it’s funny. Guys, it’s funny!” I don’t know how many times he does it, but if he follows the rule of thirds, I’d be surprised
Eric: Fair enough. We’ve got two great examples on the first page. Everyone wakes up naked because their clothes were shredded when they became spiders. First off some NYer stating “I must’ve been a giant spider with glasses” When someone points out that if everyone lost their clothes, why does he have his glasses.
Dan: That’s one
Eric: And then lampshade hanging as we move to Misty of Heroes for Hire and other heroes who mention that “Hulk grows ten times his size and his pants stay on. Roll with it.”
Dan: Two. There’s also a line in there where Dan Slott exhibits some of that good old theme writing I like. It’s something about “I guess the scars stick around”
Eric: Yeah, it’s part of the same conversation. Then we cut to Carlie seeing her Spidey-tattoo which was introduced in an issue just before Spider-Island hit full force.
Dan: Is that what she’s doing? Noticing her spider tattoo? I thought she was just freaking out because she was naked and near superheroes
Eric: Yeah, she’s definitely, as I “read” it looking at her tattoo. And, it probably is supposed to be your foreshadowing to what happens later.
Dan: Ah, I guess that makes sense. Her spider-man tattoo persists! A decision she made in an effort to anger Peter now turns into a reminder of the guy who lied to her. Whoops!
Eric: A good reminder of why I am against tattoos and their permanence. The next two-page spread shows the superheroes at the corpse of the Queen: the villian behind everything. There are some fun jokes here too, but again giving a present to comic book fans as Captain America is genre savvy enough to do a DNA test on Queen to make sure they actually killed her and not a clone or something. It’s like this whole issue is an “I Love You” to the fans
Dan: Some funny ribbing of Thunderbolt Ross, too. He’s not someone I’d want to mess around with.
Eric: The next page finishes off some of the plotlines started in the related mini-series. And then we see that…oops, Jackal was not killed in the previous issue. A bit quick for a comic book resurrection, but I wasn’t actually suprised given that his schtick is cloning, you?
Dan: Honestly not that surprising. The dude’s all about clones. I figured he’d have one laying around, not that he was dead. This is our third lampshade hanging (unless I’m missing one) with the whole “I’m a mad scientist” line.
Eric: Yup. Then we get a Daily Bugle headline where I was surprised to see Spider-Man actually getting some credit for saving the city.
Dan: That page is borrowing from the Daredevil title page style. It’s less the Bugle giving credit and more a summary/preview for the rest of the book. I think it’s meant to be more title page than meta-textual supplement
Eric: Ah, I always assumed it was also meant to exist within the universe
Dan: That could be the case considering that Phil Ulrich wanted JJJ to support Spider-Man’s involvement, but everyone seems to think that Peter was getting short shrift for most of the book
Eric: Well, actually that’s a point we’ll get to very soon. First we have a page of MJ and Spidey still up on the Empire State Building. Where MJ has apparently changed her skirt/dress.
Dan: Different artist, different battle damage
Eric: Haha! Still, I was a touch disappointed here that she didn’t reiterate her feelings for Peter
Dan: Well how else would they use that to sell books in a future arc? She said she loved him in the heat of the moment last issue, but we all know drama is not carried forward by characters logically telling each other how they feel
Eric: Oh yeah, very true. And she may not even have “meant” it outside of the heat of battle – a somewhat of a Freudian slip. But since I was right about Carlie, as we’ll get to in a moment, I was hoping to be right about this too. Or at least get satisfaction in this issue.
Dan: Not when they can drag it out, mon frère. This exchange, by the way, contains the full summary of last issue, which is what I was complaining about earlier. I get that they used the DVR joke to hide the exposition, but, come on, man. The event JUST HAPPENED! Do we really nead a blow-by-blow summary of it again? (or, rather, summary of last issue)
Eric: What I found hilarious about this is that they took what would have been a programming the VCR joke a few years ago and made it a DVR joke but it’s not really comparable because technology has taken these huge steps forward in user interface.
Dan: It’s also kind of a hacky joke
Eric: It’s probably the weakest or second weakest joke.
Dan: I promise you it’s only there to hide the info dump
Eric: It’s contending with the joke on the next page – the one about airport security and how first you have to take off your shoes and now you need a spider-vaccine. I almost audibly groaned at that one.
Dan: Right, Aunt May inexplicably shows up in NYC for, I dunno, twenty minutes just to chat with Peter and go back to Boston. Is Jay rolling in the dough?
Eric: Well, she never got to leave. Remember that panel a few issues ago where she practically looked like a corpse?
Dan: Ah, a detail I forgot. I didn’t realize she was stuck in the airport the whole time.
Eric: Thankfully she’s doing better now
Dan: Caselli, by the way, is my favorite ASM artist.
Eric: She seems to have gone the other way and could almost be a 20-something with white hair but it’s saved by the final panel with her in which her body is clearly that of an older lady
Dan: Everyone has anime hair and all the men are super ripped, but I like his style
Eric: I agree on the anime hair. Just noticed it on Mr Fantastic and it’s ridiculous. But I think it goes well with Slott’s story-telling
Dan: I dig it.
Eric: So here’s where I go back to Pete not getting credit. We see Brock getting all the credit on TV and Pete complaining about how things haven’t changed (back to that soon). So when I was thinking the newspaper was in-universe, I saw it as a quick commentary on how newspapers are irrelevant in our world. TV is what matters. Reading too much into it?
Dan: Probably. This isn’t Superman #1
Eric: Maybe Dan Slott is just that good – social commentary AND humor
Dan: I think you’re giving him too much credit
Eric: So then Ben Reilly … er, I mean Kaine Parker shows up. Sets up his own book (coming soon to a retailer near you!) and leaves
Dan: Your new Scarlet Spider, folks. Does Kaine have a last name?
Eric: Well, they went for the whole Parker Brother thing before. I felt this scene could have been done a bit better in that he’s a bit TOO mysterious. I don’t know if the new Scarlett Spider is an itinerant or what’s going to be the focus of his new book. It’s not as good of a hook as I thought it could have been.
Dan: I feel like a lot of scenes could have been done a bit better, but such is the fate of an arc-ender that’s meant to launch books and set up premises. It’s a little clumsy and I wonder if it was written before they knew precisely what they were gonna do with Kaine
Eric: Fake Pete also has non-Anime hair, for what it’s worth.
Dan: I hate him already
Dan: He’s also lucky that anti-venom only strips one layer of spider powers because he shouldn’t have any.
Eric: haha. Well, we can’t get too deep into comic science or we’ll never make it out
Dan: So true
Eric: As we mentioned to each other last week – the reason MJ isn’t a giant spider doesn’t really add up
Eric: Haha. Then we have another summary page with Jonah and Ulrich.
Dan: You’re right about JJJ and Phil. That scene is only there to set up the last page, but it sure takes up a lot of space, doesn’t it?
Eric: I didn’t even add it up. It makes sense, given that JJJ is the Mayor. We then get a scene where Spidey gets some love from regular folk. Something that’s perennial with him.
Dan: I’ll admit that I laughed at the union joke
Eric: And we finally get to the scene with Carlie. Dan and I have been going back and forth about this in private for weeks
Dan: Am I in the third person now?
Eric: Haha, just for the readers.
Dan: I think it’s worth mentioning that while you were right, I, too was kind of, sort of right
Eric: So, about 2 or 3 issues ago she was supposed to meet the three of them at the rooftop. I think there were some hints before that that this was just a test she was setting up to confirm her suspicions. But when only Spidey was there, she knew it was him. But she turned spider soon after and couldn’t confront him.
Dan: To be fair, that only happened because he revealed himself as Spider-Man. It would have been impossible otherwise
Eric: We’ll get to the mystical mumbo jumbo momentarily. First of all, before I forget, I want to say that Caselli did an amazing job with the art for this scene. We mentioned facial expressions in last week’s POW!
Eric: And Caselli does a GREAT, GREAT job matching up the expressions to the dialog in this scene
Dan: It’s good work
Eric: I especially liked the cocky look Peter gives as he gives his excuse and the pissed look Carlie shoots back with “you’re Spider-Man”
Dan: And then we find out just why it’s so bad. I mean, I don’t know much about Carlie’s backstory, but the scars … they persist
Eric: Yeah, that must have been better for long-time readers but GREAT catch on the thematic echos there. You are so good at seeing those! I didn’t get it until now, as usual
Dan: It comes back once more with Peter and Madame Web, but we’re not there yet
Eric: It’s funny because this scene, again, taking a look at comic tropes really brings home how dumb it was for Clark’s disguise to be glasses (in Superman, for any of our non-DC readers)
Dan: Forensic Analyst > Reporter in terms of observational skills
Eric: Oh, definitely. But it’s still a similar set of skills a reporter of her caliber is supposed to have. At any rate the only weak part of the art in this for me was the scene where she runs out. It just looks too much like a parody of the scene it’s portraying.
Dan: It’s definitely melodramatic
Eric: We get to the part with Doctor Strange and the spell for Pete’s ID. Now, just to make sure I’m on the right track here this is basically going back to both the consequences of Civil War and part of the deal made in Brand New Day, right? (In Civil War he revealed his identity and it causes loads of problems for Aunt May and MJ. In Brand New Day he made a deal to make that a secret and save his Aunt. For some reason that meant his marriage was dissolved)
Dan: Pretty sure that’s accurate, yeah.
Eric: So, at this point in the issue I had two thoughts. First of all, that this is the ultimate Spider-Man issue in that it has everything about Spider-Man in one issue.
Dan: The Ultimate Spider-Man is Miles Morales, man
Eric: There are the jokes, the girl problems, hiding his identity, angst, MJ, Aunt May – mentions (later) of the whole Uncle Ben thing: this is one Spider-Man-ass Spider-Man issue
Dan: No doubt. You forgot clones, by the way. Spider-Man will always be (in)famous for clones
Eric: And, second, that this issue is somewhat of a hidden reboot – going back to grab the best parts of Spider-Man’s past. We have Scarlet Spider back but without the bad drama of the late 90s. We have MJ declaring her love for him again. His identity hiding spell – and possible ripple effects from Brand New Day. I felt like this event was a way for them to retcon without retconning, if you catch my drift.
Dan: Don’t forget the return of his spider-sense.
Eric: That’s right. I’d forgotten about that because it happened in a previous issue during Spider-Island. It’s like a nice way to get things back on track without all the drama of doing something like the new 52 or Schism
Dan: Or Brand New Day
Eric: Exactly. Let things happen organically reward us for being loyal readers and don’t magic stuff in and out of existence.
Dan: I had two thoughts here too. 1. Was it really necessary for Doctor Strange to be on the astral plane? and 2. If Doctor Strange was in Avengers Mansion this whole time … WHY DIDN’T HE HELP OUT?! Unless I forgot about his presence in the other issues
Eric: I don’t remember anything about it in previous Spider-Man issues, but maybe he was busy with one of Marvels other events. So Pete gets a vial of Spider-cure and then meets with Madame Web. And here he reiterates the whole Uncle Ben thing.
Dan: Scars persist, man. Peter’s losses compel him to stay the course while Carlie’s push her away
Eric: As Madame web leaves she says she’s sorry for his loss. And, again, I felt this might have to do with undoing Brand New Day – maybe Aunt May dies anyway.
Dan: I think Aunt May is as written out as she needs to be with her moving to Boston. Maybe he’ll lose something else?
Eric: Perhaps. Maybe MJ to get that out of readers’ heads? Which sucks because as he administers the cure to MJ She reiterates that she finally understands what he has to go through. They wouldn’t have the issues they had before their marriage was magicked away.
Dan: I don’t think she’s gonna die either. Trust me on this one
Eric: Again there’s a hint that she wants him to know how she feels which is then turned to the Empire State Building which I now, thanks to you and this conversation, realize is JJJ FINALLY showing some appreciation. And, going along with my reboot theme, it appears that next issue will have The Vulture as the villain – one of Spider-Man’s first villians
Dan: You know, we totally glossed over another great joke/reference. The cover of this issue is a reference to ASM #50: “Spider-Man No More”
Eric: Oh yeah
Dan: It’s one of the most famous comic book covers out there
Eric: ASM tends to cover its covers more than anyone else. So there it is. A great mixture of everything that is Spider-Man in one issue while at the same time being a wrap-up issue led to a few parts here and there that were compromised in the service of being the wrap-up but a good issue with great writing and art
Dan: We’ll have to agree to disagree on that front, but despite my gripes with Dan Slott’s writing, it’s still an enjoyable read for anyone who loves Spider-Man
Eric: So let’s move on to your selection for this week
Dan: Swamp Thing!
Dan: A little backstory first. Even though we’re at issue #3 of this arc, there’s not a whole lot you’re really missing. The salient points are that Alec Holland died, the Green used his memories/essence to create Swamp Thing, and Swamp Thing had a weird plant/human quasi-sexual relationship with Abigail Arcane (stupid name)
Eric: Yeah, I’d like to get to that relationship later on
Dan: Oh yeah, then Alec Holland came back to life, we started the New 52, and some kind of supernatural force of death is on the rise in the desert.
Eric: Yeah. I went ahead and read the first three issues that you lent me
Dan: Good, so you theoretically get it about as much as I do.
Eric: It seems like Snyder is really taking advantage of the existence of multiple swamp men to get around the idea of a reboot and just have someone else have been the previous swamp thing. Everything you loved about it still happened. Now read this new one.
Dan: It’s not Snyder’s fault. Alec Holland reappeared in Blackest Night
Eric: Right, I thought it was an elegant way to do it. As much as you can within comics. So this issue starts off with what I think is one of the freakiest bubble boys ever. I know the doctor is well-intentioned, but he really comes off as a jerk in the first page telling the kid he’s isolating himself.
Dan: And our book themes of making your way in a hostile environment and that the way your friends treat you reflects who you become. Our good Doctor is not here to garner sympathy, but to appear tone deaf to the realities of William’s condition and the cruelty of his other patients
Eric: Exactly. I have to say that as I was reading these first few pages, at first I thought it was kinda ridiculous to have a kid who’s allergic to chlorophyll. Like… really? We’re in a swamp thing book and this kid is allergic to plants. But the story really does a good job redeeming itself later.
Dan: It’s patently stupid comic book science. Chrolophyll is a molecule that enables photosynthesis. I’m pretty sure it’s not in the air. Or air would be green. It’s hand-wavy, but it makes sense considering who William is
Eric: We get a little foreshadowing with some freaky fish on the wall.
Dan: You know, I almost wish I hadn’t given you the first two issues of Swamp Thing too because I’m sure you would have been totally freaked out by the doctor’s fish
Eric: Actually. I was still kinda freaked out. Because, again, with this tone deaf doctor, he’s trying to use scuba diving as a metaphor for this kid interacting while in this bubble and it’s a bit of WONDERFUL foreshadowing in two ways.
Dan: Yeah, Dr Durock is totally talking about taking things out of their safe place and, well, murdering them. It’s not friendly imagery for a boy afraid of leaving his safe place
Eric: But not only that – he’s saying that he uses his scuba gear to kill fish. So the kid should use his bubble to kill?
Dan: DUN DUN DUN!
Eric: It sounds ridiculous. And then …. well, we’ll get to it later
Dan: It is kind of horror movie dialogue-y but I dug it.
Eric: Then we get to the biggest cancer kid jerks I’ve ever seen
Dan: Seriously. That Drew kid is a little asshole. I’m glad he’s dying of cancer. And his friends. The ones who shape him. Those are the kids encouraging him to pop William’s bubble. You surround yourself with bad eggs and look at what you get!
Eric: It’s funny because on first reading I saw this as the writer doing this to move things along later because the kids just seem excessively cruel but, I guess cancer and other crazy diseases could have a warping effect on kids; they just usually don’t in movies and TV shows and such
Dan: It could also be a matter of perspective. I mean, the doc is talking about hanging out with Drew, but Drew is clearly a psychopath… or is this just the way William sees it? One other nice thing is that Paquette/Ibanez like to emphasize when the baddies are operating by turning his gutters (panel borders) into chaotic messes. When things get sinister the orderly lines go far away
Eric: I almost feel here that the rigidity reinforce a claustrophobic sense like if this was a movie it’d be rapid jump cuts to each of the kids doing something sinister to the bubble.
Dan: It’s definitely got a panicked, deadly tone that segues rather nicely into Abigail pointing a shotgun at poor Alec Holland
Eric: Yeah. And here I’m glad I read the first two books because as soon as the old Swamp Thing told Alec not to go with some white-haired chick I knew that was exactly what he would do. So it gives a bit of an air of distrust to her
Dan: She doesn’t help her cause later, but we’ll get there. Once she successfully threatens Alec into activating his Green powers, my other favorite gutter trick takes effect and our borders look like organic tree branches
Eric: Yup she just says they need to save a boy and after they have a bit of a standoff he agrees. We cut to the boy
Dan: Poor William.
Eric: And some seriously freaky fish
Dan: Yeah, the Rot starts to really call out to William, giving him dominion over dead cells everywhere.
Eric: What I love about Snyder’s writing here is that things bounce around in terms of call and response. What I mean is that the fish call out to William and he says “Leave Me Alone”. Which the bad kids hear and respond to. Then the kids are egging on Drew with “do it” And that seems to help snap William into doing what the fish command
Dan: It’s nice to see such layered writing. We also see that he doesn’t cheat with his writing. We learned earlier that Drew’s body was riddled with cancer. And because I’m bad at reading art, it took me until my second reading to realize that he was killing Drew by making his tumors freak out in his body. It’s seriously gross.
Eric: Yeah, it’s pretty insane. And he does the same to the doctor as he asks for his scuba gear.
Dan: A callback to earlier in the book. And we also learn that the doc is a bit of a smoker
Eric: Right. But what I love here is that Williams ends up taking the doc’s story literally in every possible way: he kills the kids (and doc) like the fish
Dan: Yeah, he totally misses the point
Eric: and he uses the scuba gear to leave his bubble
Dan: SPOILERS! But it’s certainly implied
Eric: Yeah, definitely spelled out there
Dan: After that, there’s a little bit of retcon (I think) here when we learn that the Arcanes are all agents of the Rot, but we also learn that Swamp Thing’s good, calming effect on Abigail silences her evil impulses. How about that panel where she’s all intimate with Swamp Thing. Maybe I’m reading too far into it, but it looks like the frogs and dragonflies are also having a little fun there.
Eric: Good eye there. I didn’t notice that, I was too busy being grossed out at the idea of her getting intimate with the swamp thing.
Dan: They never actually sleep together, I don’t think, but he does produce some kind of hallucinogenic vegetable that she eats.
Eric: Of all the nudity in the new 52 this was the least titillating of them all. Even metaphorical sex is just too much for me! hehe
Dan: As Chris Haley would say, “Comics, Everybody!”
Dan: The other big revelation here is that our boy William is Abigail’s younger brother Eric: Yeah, that’s somewhat of a comic staple, but I know I didn’t see it coming.
Dan: Neither did I, despite his strange appearance. It does make things complicated with Alec and Abigail since she’s “Not to be trusted” according to the Parliament of Trees.
Eric: Well, for one thing, I wonder if she ends up purposely or inadvertently helping The Rot when it comes time to kill her brother
Dan: Precisely. Will she side with the Green or with the Rot?
Eric: Exactly, Over in Uncanny X-Force – the love between Psylocke and Archangel ended up causing a lot of bad stuff to happen when she was supposed to run him through with a sword
Dan: Will they pull a fast one on us and claim that he’s actually her and not-Alec-Holland-SwampThing’s son? It’s all unfortunately underscored by the fact that Arcane is a really stupid last name. Feels really old school comics
Dan: At least he’s not Alec Plant. Or S. WampThing
Eric: S. WampThing would have been awesome especially since he doesn’t want to be Swamp Thing. Well, the rest of the book is Alec and Arcane discovering William’s rampage
Dan: Back to business, yeah, they realize that William has checked out of the hospital FORCEFULLY
Eric: And we’re left with the ominous warning that he is basically just as powerful as The Rot as Alec is as Swamp Thing so this will be the thing that forces Alec’s hand
Dan: Pretty gross to see Dr. Durock’s lung on the outside of his body. Don’t smoke, kids. There’s a shared mythology right now between Animal Man and Swamp Thing and it’s neat that the avatars of the Red and the Rot are both children.
Eric: Interesting. So, what made you choose Swamp Thing as your book this week, if you could sum it up?
Dan: Gross, but cool art. Excellent writing. Great pacing. Exciting action
Eric: Funny that you mention action. There isn’t any – in the traditional sense of the word. But I know what you mean
Dan: No, not really, but this isn’t a cape book. This is horror action
Eric: Indeed. Well, let’s move on to the battle secion, shall we?
Eric: We couldn’t have chosen more different books this week. One is funny and the other is serious. One has happy tones and colors and the other is dark. Yours is in the middle of an arc and mind is at the end
Dan: Mine is really good and yours… well… yours tried?
Eric: Ha! Well, I do have to say that Snyder does a great job with story as usual. He has very few rivals that are near his level
Dan: I don’t read him on Batman, but I know you liked him there and on Detective Comics
Eric: If I had to fault Swamp Thing in any way, it’d be that almost nothing happens – it’s a very decompressed story arc. And as the middle book of the arc, we haven’t swung over the top of the roller coaster yet
Dan: I suppose when you contrast it with ASM which features 10 scene changes and a multitude of characters it can seem pretty sparse. I also think that the writing in ASM could have used a little more breathing room, per usual
Eric: It did get too wordy telling you things you should know if you’ve been reading all this time and you shouldn’t be picking up a book called “epilogue” if you’re a new reader. It’ll certainly be a weak issue when it’s in trade
Dan: Which isn’t to say that Swamp Thing isn’t heavy on the exposition express Abigail’s art spread exists to info dump
Eric: But all of that has purpose whereas the Spidey stuff does not
Dan: It’s just more elegantly done, in my eyes. I also think that Swamp Thing is just better crafted. Part of having a more consistent art team and a more spaced out release schedule is that you can get a little more creative when you need to. I don’t know how Spider-Man could do more to liven up its gutters or if it’s even necessary, but ASM is very by the books in terms of layout
Eric: And I think that Swamp Thing actually stands alone very well other than wondering why some white-haired chick is pointing a gun at Alec
Dan: Speaking of which, it’s funny how Swamp Thing’s cover had a very Silver Age feel to it with its tag line while ASM actually came from the Silver Age
Dan: And the ASM one is WAY BETTER
Eric: I felt the same way
Dan: Spider-Man is definitely funnier, even if some of the jokes are groan-worthy, but that’s the way the tone shakes out. Slott doesn’t let more than a page or two go by without a snappy line or quip
Eric: It is definitely one of the best Spidey books – certainly has all or nearly all of his tropes
Dan: I hope I get to make you read USM at some point. Bendis is definitely chatty too, but for some reason I don’t mind as much as Slott and it’d be interesting to see your take on it
Eric: Sure thing. I thought I had a solid book in Spider-Man – it even made me LITERALLY Laugh Out Loud. But I think I’d have to say that Swamp Thing is definitely the better issue this week
Dan: No argument from me there. ASM is always fun, but it’s a comic book’s comic book that rarely aspires for more.
Eric: Darn. I conceed defeat
Dan: Pleasure doing battle with you