Tag Archives: Comic Books

Action Comics 1000 Review

Introduction

I was never a fan of Superman. Okay, that’s not true. I liked the Christopher Reeves movies, but you’d have to not be human to not enjoy those movies. They are just good fun. But, I never read the comics other than Death of Superman and a couple months of the Reign of Supermen. If ever there was a candidate to miss the epic issue of Action Comics 1000, it would have been me.

I hated the Zack Snyder interpretation of Superman. Could not stand a single one of those movies. Okay, that’s sort of a lie. Did Snyder do Batman vs. Superman? Because I sort of hate like that movie. What’s my point? I’m not sure at this point. Maybe I’m reiterating that Action Comics 1000 wasn’t on my radar and I could have easily missed it.

I didn’t. Not only am I a collector in addition to reader, but I had heard that Bendis was moving from Marvel to write for Superman and was curious to see his take on the character. I did enjoy Man of Steel, but I haven’t read any of his more recent stuff. And, catching up on comics and the web page, I figured now was as good as any to read Action Comics 1000. Continue for my review.

Note: I will forego the good, bad, and ugly for this particular review. This issue is a who’s who of comic book writers and all of the stories are good.

“From the City Who Has Everything” by Dan Jurgens

This is a good old fashioned feel good Superman story framed in a different light. It is set up as an “Appreciation Day” for Superman. There is both the suspicion that something larger is at play and also the event turns out to be an elaborate stage for a former henchman to tell how Superman helped him turn his life around. A solid start.

“Never Ending Battle” by Peter J. Tomasi

This story was fine. The ending was good with a nod to Krypto at the very end. Otherwise, it was some time travel (?) nonsense that was an interesting way to look back at the history of the character. Definitely not one of my favorites.

“An Enemy Within” by Marv Wolfman

This one tells the story of a school held hostage by a principal who is being mind controlled. Underlying is another classic Superman motif. We are all heroes. This was a good story, but the school hostage situation hit a bit too close to home for me.

“The Car” by Geoff Johns and Richard Donner

Not to toot my own horn or mention myself in the company of such great writers, but this one is like one of my “what if” or “beyond the scenes” stories that I like to write. An example that I’ve published on the page is Tales from Marvel Civil War: I Am Spider-Man.

“The Fifth Season” by Scott Snyder

All right, here we go. One of my favorite writers tackling one of my least favorite characters. Snyder does a superb job. The interaction between Lex and Superman has always been one of my favorite things from the book and he does a great job of capturing that. I think this might have been my favorite story.

“Of Tomorrow” by Tom King

I’m not sure if it still fashionable to like Tom King, but I absolutely do. I haven’t read some of his recent stuff and Chris says it isn’t as good, so maybe I will change my mind. But, he is a thoughtful and thought-provoking writer who isn’t afraid to take chances. He does so with Superman facing down the end of Earth to say good-bye to his parents. Solid concept and good execution.

“Five Minutes” by Louise Simonson

I have only written fine here in my notes. I guess it was. The story was fine. Superman is Clark Kent and he’s fast.

“Actionland!” by Paul Dini

Paul Dini is better known for Batman and The Animated Series. I’m not sure if he introduced Harley or reinvented her. If only someone would invent that repository of information so that I could be able to research these topics. Regardless, the story was fun, but I got definite Harley/Joker vibes from the story. I guess you write what you know.

“Faster than a Speeding Bullet” by Brad Meltzer

That’s literally what the story is about. That’s what I wrote here in my notes. “Faster than a Speeding Bullet”. It’s an okay story to illustrate that and gives a little bit of suspense, but ultimately it’s just that.

“The Truth” by Brian Michael Bendis

Here we have the introduction of Brian Michael Bendis and his retconning of the destruction of Krypton. I’ll give the guy one thing. He has some balls to come in and rewrite Superman’s history first thing. And, sure, the story is interesting, but I’ve already read it, so I didn’t exactly catch the hype train from this one.

The Verdict

I’m still not a huge fan of Superman. I’ve been reading the DC Giants and Brian Michael Bendis books, but the character is just too much for me. As a teen, I was more into the anti-hero like Spawn or the weird book like The Maxx. As I’ve grown, I want my heroes to be a bit more complex. Spawn gets to be too anti for me and Superman is too wholesome. But, I did enjoy the stories in this book for the most part and if, like me, you avoided it for months, now is a good time to head out and get the book.

DC Comics Review (Week of 5/19/19)

Introduction

You will notice that the date is over a week ago. I meant to upload this article last week, but things got busy and then it was Memorial Day weekend, so things got lazy. So, I’m playing a bit of catch up this week. I wanted to drop in to Minecraft again this week to check out a couple of the mods that I used to use. However, some research shows that they might both be discontinued. So, there’s no rush there. On to my review of DC Comics for the week of 5/19/19. As mentioned in my other articles, I’m a bit behind. So, I will be reviewing Wonder Woman #66, Catwoman 7-9, and Justice League Dark #9. They are all close to the beginning of a new storyline in each book, so it should serve as a good place to pick them up.

Wonder Woman #66

The Good (Funny, Thoughtful Introduction to the storyline)

The story opens with a funny conversation between three mythical creatures that I get the impression I should know. Having not kept up with my comics reading, I don’t. Still, it gets things going pretty quickly. Titans are involved, which means that Wonder Woman has to get Giganta involved. This leads to a touching moment between the two women. Uh, yeah, get your minds out of the gutter, perverts. They talk out their feelings, nothing gets resolved, so I guess that will be a recurring issue in the coming, um, issues.

The Bad (I Miss Greg Rucka)

Having not grown up with DC Comics in my life very much, the only Wonder Woman I really know is Greg Rucka. I enjoy his version of the character very much. Sure, this one might be good and I might eventually even grow to like it. But, it won’t be Greg Rucka. Guess I can look forward to his story in Wonder Woman 1000, whenever that’s going to happen.

The Ugly (Um, That Pegasus Wants to What?!)

Now, perverts, you are free to let your mind wander back to the gutter. I’m pretty sure you’ll arrive at the same place I did. Yeah, that’s a bit weird, even for a comic that got it’s start because the creator had a tie up fetish.

Catwoman 7-9

First, a Note: Issues 7 and 8 were written by Joelle Jones. Issue 9 was written by Ram V. Therefore, I got the hair brained scheme to split the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly and give one for each writer.

The Good (Great Voice and Is Selina auditioning for the next Ocean’s movie?)

Joelle Jones writes very well for Catwoman. She is a strong independent woman who don’t need no man, as evidenced by her leaving Bruce at the alter. *spoiler alert* It comes through in her interactions without going too over the top. Though, I’m sure Incels will find her a bit too much for their delicate sensibilities.

I’m not sure if Ram V is male or female. I’m not even sure if the V is supposed to be a “Vee” or a “5”. If only we had access to technology to figure these things out. Oh well, I may never know. In either case, Cats didn’t quite have the same bite in this issue. Still, it was a great homage to the Ocean’s movies. It might have been the Italian job, but I’ve never seen that one.

The Bad (Too much punchy in Issue 8 and “Cha Cha Cha” isn’t quite “Darkseid is”)

I think I might have complained about not enough punchy in X-23. For me, there was a bit too much in issue 8. Honestly, I’m just quibbling for the sake of quibbling, but if I had to change anything about the two Joelle issues, it would be this.

Issue 9 was called something Cha Cha, so while Cats was laying out the plan, every third panel was “Cha Cha Cha”. If you read Miracle Man, you know that Tom King sprinkled “Darkseid is” throughout the book, at least as far as I read. “Cha Cha Cha” doesn’t quite have the same gravitas.

The Ugly (Come Back Joelle and This story could have gone on longer)

Is Joelle off Catwoman? Did she just take a break? I don’t know, but I want more. I started reading Catwoman issue one after I learned that they were doing a solo series. Heck, I started to like it more than Bats at the time and that’s saying something. Well, hopefully there’s more to come.

While I’ve not always been a fan of the “Bendisization” of comics, this one issue arc felt like it could have at least been 2. The conclusion felt a little rushed. That makes me believe that the Joelle break was only for a few issues. Again, without access to that earlier discussed technology, we may never know.

Justice League Dark 9

The Good (Better than Justice League?)

My interest in justice League came as the result of a recommendation, I think. i do remember liking the book better than the Justice League book at the time. I can’t make that comparison now. Justice League review will probably come next month and I can make the comparison there. This book is still very good. James Tynion IV is one of my favorite writers and i was bummed when he left Detective.

The Bad (Missed the previous issue)

This happened with X-23, too. The reason I had to start with part 2 of this story is because I couldn’t find issue 8. Must have been part of the DCBS order that I missed payment on and it never got shipped. That made it a bit difficult to follow the story, but filling in that issue will hopefully help.

The Ugly (Bobo Messed Things Up Big Time)

One of the things I certainly missed by missing issue 8 is that it seems that Bobo really screwed things up. This is causing a sort of Armageddon of epic proportions across many realms. Oops.

The Verdict (DC Comics is still doing good things)

Having not been a fan of DC Comics growing up, there has been a bit of a learning curve with the characters. I’m glad that I got into them again during the Rebirth so that learning curve was a bit less steep. You may notice that my review for DC Comics for the week of 5/19/19 only contains 3 comics instead of the 5 I included in my Marvel review. That’s because I was also going to do Action Comics 1000 and Detective Comics 1000.

When I started to read Action 1000, I got the idea to do a review of each of the mini stories included in the book. I figured I would do the same for Detective 1000. So, those books are getting their own article separate from this DC Comics for the week of 5/19/19 article. Look for those later in the week in between my planned Minecraft content.

The three books that I read were all good. There aren’t any that I would consider cutting like I thought of doing with Doctor Strange I think? I won’t because Strange is one of my favorite characters. But, this is a DC Comics review, so stick to the subject. I will keep up with these three books as long as they keep producing them and look for more reviews in the future.

Marvel Comics Reviews (Week of 5/19/19)

Introduction

I mentioned in my previous article that I’m catching up on comics from the last six months. I think I might have said that I hadn’t read a comic in that time. That’s not entirely true. I read The Immortal Hulk and a few of the DC Giants that are available at Wal*Mart.

Now, I can also say that I’ve read some Marvel titles. X-23, Doctor Strange, Avengers, and The Immortal Hulk are all included in this review. I’ve been planning this relaunch of the web page again for a few months and I’m finally out of school again. In addition, I didn’t get a class first summer session. I should be able to get some momentum going before summer 2 starts. As always, no promises, but hopefully things get rolling.

X-23 (Issues 7, 9, 10)

You may notice that Issue 8 is not among the ones read for this review. I’ve had some…difficulty…in keeping up with my pull list.

The Good (Mariko Tamaki is one of my favorite writers)

I don’t remember when I was introduced to Mariko Tamaki. I think it might have been during her run on She-Hulk (which was just Hulk at the time because Bruce was “dead”) and the book was amazing. It dealt with death, mourning, and PTSD. When Marvel reshuffled the deck again and killed the newly-minted She Hulk title, I thought Tamaki was out of my life. A random search while sorting titles showed that she was, in fact, still writing. I have been a fan of the X-23 character since her appearance in Logan. While this isn’t quite that, I will read anything that Tamaki writes.

The Bad (That missing Issue 8 is haunting me)

This isn’t the only issue that I’m missing. It might not even be the most important. As I said, I’ve missed a couple of months of my DCBS pull list, so the Midtown order to fill all of them is going to be huge. But, this is the most relevant to this particular discussion.

The Ugly (Where’s the Pew Pew?)

Mariko Tamaki does it all. She writes complex characters around simple and easy to follow, but still compelling, plots. One thing that this book hadn’t had was the old punchy, punchy. I don’t demand a lot of that from my comics, but I was missing it in this series until she delivered in issue 10.

Doctor Strange (Issues 6-11 “The Two Doctors”)

I really wanted to like this story. But, I just don’t.

The Good (Mark Waid is still writing it)

This is going to sound weird with what I’m about to say, but I do like Mark Waid as a writer. I think there has been some Comicsgate nonsense surrounding him, but I don’t care about that. In my experience, he does a good job. Also, I enjoyed the first story in the rebooted Doctor Strange book about him losing his magic and trying to find it again.

The Bad (This Story Just Isn’t All That Compelling)

With all of that being said, I’m not into this story at all. I was initially interested in the “2 Doctors” story, but that resolved too quickly. I don’t care about who the second doctor turned out being. I’m not all that bothered by the fate of the doc’s demon friend. I just didn’t care enough to even finish these issues.

The Ugly (The Story is Also Confusing)

I mean, they can’t all be winners. On top of not being all that interesting, this story is confusing. Generally speaking, you should be able to drop into a new story and more or less know what is happening. That wasn’t the case here. Admittedly, I did skip the first issue. Even so, I went back and read them in order and stopped after the second reading of the second issue.

Avengers (14-17 “Something Something Dracula”)

The Good (When Good, this book is great)

There have been some panels in this book that have made me want to applaud. When Tony and T’Challa are both trying to deal with their vampire massacre in their own way. New Ghost Rider dealing with the aftermath of his freak out. The big reveal at the end of Issue 17, even though I saw it coming a mile away. Marvel is treating one of their marquee books very well.

The Bad (What is this Story?)

It has been interesting and fun. Also, it’s nice to see Blade and New Ghost Rider get some love in the book. But, I have no idea where this story came from. Sure, I’ve missed the lead in issues, so maybe there was some build up, but it seems completely random.

The Ugly (Everyone Sounds Like Tony)

When I started reading the rebooted Avengers book, I said to Chris that I liked Tony more in this book than his standalone book. I do like Tony Stark, Iron Man, but too much Tony is too much. I don’t exactly get that feeling here, but his snark is rubbing off on the other characters every now and then.

Amazing Spider Man (The Hunted)

Starting here on recommendation by Chris.

The Good (Nick Spencer is writing)

Noticing a theme here? I enjoy the art of comics, but I’m a frustrated writer myself. I associate more with them than the artists. Again, I think that some comic fans might be off Nick Spencer since Secret Empire. I understand why they did what they did there, but I can also understand why people feel cheated by it. Even so, I still like Spencer and was excited to see him writing Spider-Man.

The Bad (Kraven Clones?)

Now, this wasn’t a huge plot point. Okay, that’s not true. It is a big plot point. However, it didn’t take long to resolve. Even so, as soon as I saw clones in a Spider-Man book, I rolled my eyes.

The Ugly (Showdown)

Kraven was dead (spoiler alert). He’s not any more (spoiler alert?) He’s very mad about not being dead. And, he seems to be coming for Spidey (Spoiler Alert!) I, for one, hope that this is a big one.

The Immortal Hulk (The Entire Series)

Drop everything and read this book. Seriously, don’t even read this review. Just read the book.

The Good (Everything)

Okay, you’re still reading the review instead of reading the book. I guess that means that I need to explain myself and why I’m breaking the routine to only talk about how good the book is. Perhaps you read that I wrote in my Spawn review this week that this book is probably the only perfect book right now. So, let me explain why.

I seriously cannot find anything wrong with this book. And, I was a skeptic. Chris will text me periodically that some book or another in the series is starting to spike in price. So, it’s understood if I was skeptical. It would seem that Marvel wasn’t sure what they had with this book and have produced low print runs as a result.

The story has tinkered with some of Hulk’s most basic mythology. Even now, I do cringe a bit when I read that headline. So far, though, it has only added to the appeal of the character for me. The horror element of the comic fits well with the Hulk character and the Jekyll and Hyde dynamic that makes Hulk so endearing is there in prime form.

The art is varied and fits the theme. In one of my favorite issues, they had 3 or 4 different pencillers working on different parts of the story based on who was telling that part of the story. It was a nice touch and kept things fresh for what ultimately was just a “we’ve seen the Hulk, why don’t you believe us” type issue.

Now, we are getting into some more familiar Hulk themes, which is welcome, as well. Loss, trauma, mourning, etc. It hasn’t been handled with the deft hand of She Hulk from a few years ago yet, but there is time to grow into that. Even so, I hope they keep the horror element of the book as they go forward.

The Verdict (Marvel is in an okay place right now)

Marvel was hurting for a while there. It seemed like they had no idea what they wanted to do after Secret Empire. They rebooted (but didn’t reboot) with Legacy after they had just rebooted not that long ago. Then, there was talk of another potential reboot. I suggested at the time that they just take the tact of DC and let it ride for a while. Even though they are releasing far too many books a month (and seemingly increasing that monthly), their core of heroes is in good hands. They just need to keep on keeping on and hopefully the lull in movies for a bit will allow them to focus on the books.

Spawn Review (Week of 5/19/19)

Editor’s Note: I haven’t read comics in about six months. Since the only non-Marvel, non-DC book that I consistently collect is Spawn, I will include all of the back issues that I missed in that time. This review covers #289-294. Going forward, I should be able to branch out and include more books in this section of reviews.

Introduction

I have been a fan of Spawn since the beginning. I have discussed on more than one occasion that I remember going into the comic book store as a spry young teenager to see the fresh new #1 comic books from Image. You must understand that this wasn’t at a time when Marvel and DC were rebooting their books every other year and I wasn’t as much of an independent connoisseur as I am these days. That’s not to say that I’m much of one right now. Simply that I knew nothing about them back then. So, these number one books felt special. Hell, they were special to me.

Many of those books are now dead due to their creators not being able to keep up with the rigorous demands of self imposed deadlines or just not being very good. One, in particular, has stood the test of time and kept Image afloat at a time when comic book companies haven’t exactly had the best time of it. That little comic that could is Spawn. I have to admit that I was a bit worried coming back to Spawn after all this time, but those worries are unfounded as you will soon read.

Besides, we are getting Homage covers again. What a time to be alive.

The Good (Spawn is Still Pretty Good)

Spawn is Still Fresh: Sure, it shows some of the wear and tear of any comic book that has been around for over 25 years. But, let’s save the not so good for those sections. This is all about why you should be reading Spawn right now. The book is still telling great stories quite well. The Dark Horror arc is when I started reading again and it kept me interested enough to keep the book on my pull list in spite of some of the judgy looks and comments I got from my LGS clerk at the time. But, that store is out of business now, so who got the last laugh?

I haven’t been as excited about the latest story. That’s more my issue with the inclusion of the current occupant of the white house in the story. I have taken great strides to even forget that he exists. I understand that I might do so to my detriment, but ignorance is bliss as they say. The rest of the story has been fine, I guess.

Honestly, that hair is the most unrealistic thing about this whole story.

Spawn is Including Current Events: That’s not to say that I consider the inclusion of current events as a bad thing. Sure, we’ve had to see the BLotUS in our beloved pages. But I suppose that’s the price to pay for a comic that likes to dabble in real life for inspiration. And, honestly, he’s played a small role in the story. It’s just my issue that I have with the man and his methods. Your mileage, as always, will vary. The current events have gone miles to keeping the story going and fresh. See the previous comment.

The Bad (There are Inconsistencies in Art)

Two Different Artists: Initially, I liked the odd art of Spawn. It was different from what we are used to seeing out of the book. In my experience, it was always a hyper realistic art style. The dream like quality of the fuzzed borders and muted colors were a nice change. However, another has been bringing a more traditional Spawn art style to the book. It has ruined me for Jason Shawn Alexander’s art. However, that all looks to change as Chris texted me the other day to say that Uncle Todd is going to get together with Greg Capullo on a Spawn project. I’m hoping it is an extended run on the main book. But, we will see. Whatever it is, I’m all over it.

The left is what I consider the more traditional style of art for the book while the right is the the the more “fuzzy” art, so to speak. Both definitely have their advantages and disadvantages. I’m just saying that, for my money, I prefer the left. And, this is my article after all.

The Ugly (In Spite of it All, Spawn Feels Dated)

Spawn Feels A Bit Dated: In spite of all of the changes and attempts to keep it fresh, the book is showing its age as I said earlier. The ultraviolence and swearing feels like it is from a different era. As comic fans have shown, there is still an audience for this type of book, but it doesn’t help the stated goal of trying to expand the audience. Sure, you might argue, maybe that’s not a necessary or realistic goal. Realistic? I’m not sure. Necessary? It sure is. Comics and comic book fans are on the endangered list. Okay, I’m done arguing with myself for now.

The Verdict (While Flawed, Spawn is Worth Your Time)

Is the book perfect? No, but few books are. I would argue that right now, Hulk is a perfect book. Batman, when Tom King isn’t writing filler for in between his big and inspired stories, is a perfect book. Other than that, every book has flaws. Spawns are forgivable. The art style is inconsistent. You can argue that isn’t all bad. And, I sort of did. Also, the overall style of the book makes it feel like it is from a different time and speaks more to teenage me than current adult me. Again, we sort of argued that wasn’t all bad.

In spite of these flaws, you should definitely pick up this book. It is still very entertaining and well worth your time. If you can, get started with the Dark Horror storyline and read through. Besides, 300 is only around the corner and you definitely want to get your hands on that. For me, it’s actually more exciting than Detective Comics or Action 1000.

DC Comics in 2018

Introduction

I’ve done articles for Spawn (the only Image title I currently collect and read) and Marvel in 2018. The natural progression is to do DC Comics in 2018. Well, forget it! Ha! The old bait and switch! I’m actually going to write my thesis on non Newtonian fluids and now you all are going to have to read it. There is literally no other way. Nope. Once you click on a web page, you are bound by ancient internet laws to have to read it the entire way through.

Okay, I think we got rid of the nerds with the word Newtonian and the squares who don’t like comics with talk of ancient internet laws. We are free to talk to our hearts’ content about Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Swamp Thing, Harley Quinn, Booster Gold, and I guess even Superman. Please don’t take offense at that comment. It’s just that traditionally Superman has been my least favorite hero. More on that later. Enough silliness. Let’s dive in to DC’s 2018.

Bendis, as he tends to do, has breathed life into an old and beloved character. More on that later!

DC is killing the competition. I don’t mean that literally. There are more comics and comic companies than at any time in history. Therefore, I might not even mean that universally. I don’t have a lot of time to read comics, so I probably missed 99% of what was released last year. However, they were able to convert a lifelong Marvel zombie such as myself to collect more than just Batman comics. In fact, for the first time, I’m collecting all of their major characters (think movies) and related titles.

The Good (DC Comics in 2018 killed the competition)

Speaking of Batman, Tom King’s Batman is probably my favorite version of the character. His writing has inspired me to reach out to him on Twitter more than once. He’s even liked and retweeted me once or twice! Okay, okay, nobody wants to hear about my Twitter nerdgasms. I’ll get back to the comics. I know that many didn’t enjoy the Batman “wedding” issue, but the whole construction of that book blew me away. Seriously, go back and read it with an open mind. I got chills more than once. It is incredibly moving.

I’m getting chills now just writing about it…

Bendis jumped ship from Marvel Comics to DC. It appears that one stipulation in his contract is that he got to steer the Superman ship. It started with the aforementioned Man of Steel comic. That single book got me interested in Superman in a way that I don’t think I’ve ever been, not even during the All-Star book in the 90s (2000s?) and I absolutely adored that book. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for BMB and Supes.

DC comics released their Giants series in partnership with Wal*Mart. I want to say that I was skeptical of the “partnership with Wal*Mart” tag, but who are we kidding. Let the millenials have their war on box stores. I love the fact that I can walk into one store and buy a car battery, some peanut butter cups, and rash cream all in one trip. Plus, the books are great and great value. There is one new story and three reprints for only 4.99. The Batman book is reprinting Hush. For a cheap ass nerd like me, these books are gold.

The Bad (DC Comics in 2018 is actually pretty great)

Ha! Gotcha! More good!

Honestly there’s not much bad that I can say about DC Comics. And, yes, that is said even with my perpetual warning that I find it difficult to completely condemn almost any creative project. Honestly, though, there’s not a single DC comic book that I’ve read recently that I have not completely enjoyed. They are all just solidly good.

I don’t enjoy the character as much as I do when Greg Rucka writes her, but Wonder Woman is decent. The Flash has been fun enough to keep me interested. That is Aiden’s favorite character and he voraciously reads every new issue that I get each month. Justice League is awesome, even if I like the companion JL Dark title better, but that’s just personal writer preference. Scott Snyder is fine, but I like Tynion better. Speaking of Tynion, I wish he was still writing Detective Comics. I enjoyed that book almost as much as the main Batman title and that’s saying something.

There’s simply not anything bad that I can say about DC Comics right now. What can I say? I’m just a positive person. Maybe that makes me a terrible critic. Seriously, though, what can you say about them? Unlike their main rival, Marvel, they’ve ironed out many of the wrinkles and they are just doing quality work.

The Ugly (DC Comics in 2018 struggles to make a good film)

Huge asterisk on this one and it remains to be seen for Aquaman.

Years ago, this would not have even been a consideration. Comic book movies were, by and large, crimes against humanity. Then, along came Sam Raimi to make a decent Spider-Man movie. Marvel went on to perfect the craft of comic book movies, got sold out to the undisputed leaders of entertainment and Disney took comic book movies to a whole other level.

DC Comics is struggling to keep up in this particular arms race. While I’m not as down on them for some of the movies (I enjoyed Batman vs. Superman, sort of), the only one that I can say I really liked so far is Wonder Woman. The rest I tolerate and make rationalizations for why they maybe weren’t as bad as they seemed. I still haven’t seen Aquaman yet, but I’ve heard the expected mixed reviews from people.

I don’t understand why DC movies are such a mixed bag. As I said, Marvel has given them the blueprint. Their television series are supposed to be good. I’ve only seen parts of Flash episodes, but it seems to capture the comics pretty well. Maybe because they’ve put so much into their comic talent, they don’t have the resources to dedicate to big budget action movies. Maybe they’re just cursed. For whatever reason, Marvel and Disney rule this space and look to do so for at least the next year.

The Verdict (DC Comics in 2018 makes me excited)

I am an unashamed, avowed, and lifelong Marvel zombie. Marvel got me into comics, kept me in comics, and brought me back to comics several times. With that being said, DC Comics are without a doubt my favorite books to read, by and large, every month when my pull list order comes. There are a couple of Marvel titles on the immediate read list, but the rest are all DC books.

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s me actually caring about Superman for once in my life.

Heck, they’ve even got me excited about Superman. Not simply tolerating the character, but actively liking and looking forward to the book every month. I never thought I’d say that. Sure, their movies leave much to be desired, but they’re not in the movie making business. They’re in the comics business and their business right now is very good. I can’t wait to see what 2019 has in store.

Marvel Comics in 2018

Introduction

Marvel Comics in 2018 have been a bit of a mixed bag. Perhaps that is being too kind to them. I have made no secret of my status as a Marvel zombie for life. Marvel properties, namely the animated Spider-Man and Friends cartoon and the live action Incredible Hulk television show, introduced me to those heroes. When I then started to collect comics, Marvel books were the first ones that I bought. In fact, until Image started as a company, Marvel were the only books that I bought.

I have since branched out from that narrow focus. As my wife can attest, I collect a variety of comic books from all three of the bigger publishers. Perhaps it is this branching out. Maybe I am just getting older. Hey, it could even just be that DC has focused more on comics. For whatever reason, this is the first time in my life that my top 5 comics are not Marvel books.

Though, they have been killing it with the movies.

DC Comics famously rebooted their universe from the mess that was New 52 a few years ago. Marvel has tried the same a few times over the years, including their own version of the New 52. As a collector, this has caused some confusion with the sequence and numbering of their titles. They responded with their Legacy “not quite a reboot” reboot which also offered consistent and official numbering for their more recognizable books. Even this was met with some internet side eye as their numbering schemes were brought into question.

The Good (Marvel Comics in 2018 is back to basics)

We are on to the good section of the article, so let’s keep it positive. There has been some good to come out of this mess. I mentioned in the previous section that Marvel books might not have cracked my Top 5 last year. That’s a bit harsh. There are at least two books from Marvel that are near the top of my read list every month. Before I talk about them, I’ll mention the other books that I’ve been enjoying.

Dr. Strange is one of my favorite Marvel characters and the latest story of him losing his magic has been a fun story. The Extermination story grabbed and kept my interest. X-23 is written by one of my favorite writers. Captain America post Secret Empire is a cool exploration of the soul of the character and, to an extent, our country. Iron Man and Avengers are both decent. On to my two favorite Marvel books.

Another name and theme change for Hulk?

I was skeptical when I heard the announcement about The Immortal Hulk. A horror book? Starring Hulk? Okay, I’ll give it a shot. I’m glad that it did. The tone of the book is completely different, but it is back to the Jekyll and Hyde roots of the character. Highly recommended.

Speaking of horror vibes…

I am not as much of a Venom fan as Hulk, so I wasn’t sure what to expect out of this title. I had enjoyed the pre-Legacy story line of the symbiote being sick and Eddie needing to cure it. They have continued with that thread while also adding some of the same horror as in the Hulk title. I also recommend this book if you are just getting into comics.

The Bad (Marvel Comics in 2018 is inconsistent)

Intergalactic Empire? Again, okay…

Perhaps the epitome of this inconsistency is Black Panther. While many have only discovered the character because of the mega blockbuster movie that came out last year, I have been a fan of Black Panther since the beginning of my comic collecting. After starting with the big boys, I moved on to some of the secondary characters and enjoyed their stories more. I can’t quite put my finger on why I’m not enjoying this book more, but it just has not felt as fun or interesting as some of the others. Admittedly, I haven’t read it in a few months, so maybe it has fleshed out the concept better in the meantime.

Hot off the presses. That actually makes sense, but I meant to invoke the movie, so hot off the reels? That sounds dumb. Speaking of dumb, let’s move on.

If you know me at all, you know that I will give any creative outlet a chance. I’m a frustrated writer myself (imagine that, a failed novelist as blogger), so I understand all too well the crushing defeat of something you spent 10 years of your life on failing completely. Sorry, fell into therapy mode there.

With all of that being said, I didn’t like Infinity Wars. I really wanted to. I liked the first comic series and I loved the movie. I collected all of this title and even got the connecting covers. Then, I started to read it and it is a confusing mess. I don’t understand any of the motivation of the characters or reason for the plot. It was so bad, that I reconsidered my collection of the Infinity Warps offshoot books. I still have yet to buy any of them. Maybe Marvel needs to take a break from events.

The Ugly (Marvel Comics in 2018 is frustrating)

Worst year ever…

While I don’t want to sound like one of those internet guys who hates on everything, I’m going to do exactly that. This also probably is not entirely the fault of 2018. Marvel Comics has felt like a rudderless ship for several years now. They introduce new heroes, build them up for years, and then cave to the whims of those internet grumps and kill off those heroes. I get it. Sales drive industry. Perhaps I’m more frustrated with the grumps who won’t give something new a chance than with Marvel.

Comic books need to grow and change from their lonely nerd boy roots if they are going to continue. Perhaps the New 52 was the worst thing to happen to DC. Maybe Totally Awesome Hulk and Miles Morales Spider-Man were an anathema in the Marvel Universe. Spoiler Alert: I read both titles. They weren’t. Even so, comic sales have not kept up with the reality. Comic books are very popular except for the comics themselves. Maybe that is the reality. People that don’t buy comics never will. But, I commend the companies for continuing to try to find a new audience.

The Verdict (Marvel Comics in 2018 is in transition)

It’s been no secret that Marvel’s focus is more on its cinematic and television properties over the last decade. They have been building an integrated storyline over that time that they used to invest in their comics. Chris and I have had the conversation numerous times and I was under the impression that comics had become more or less a loss leader for the company under their Disney overlords. While that might be true to some extent, Marvel Comics still considers itself an integral part of the family.

It remains to be seen if that is actually true. When I go to comic shows, I do see people younger than me there. My kids are all into comics and read at least one title a month that I buy. Aiden likes Flash. Liam reads Batman. Quinn’s favorite is Teen Titans. I don’t know if they are going to continue to read comics past childhood. Maybe they’ll be like me and go into comics hibernation for a time until nostalgia brings them back.

Overall, I’m happy with what Marvel is doing with their comic books. If they can sustain this for a few years like DC has done with their Rebirth line, which has become the new DC universe, then I think they’ll be able to build their audience a little bit more. So far, so good. Quite an unsatisfying conclusion perhaps, but that’s the state of comics in 2018.

Spawn in 2018

Introduction

Seeing as how we are entering the 3rd week of the new year, I’m a bit behind on my 2018 retrospectives. Better late than never, right? Perhaps not, but there’s nothing I can do about it now. So, without much further ado, let’s start our look back at comics in 2018 with Spawn.

In the past, I might have titled this article as independent books, but probably not. I know that I’ve talked about independent books as a concept in the past. The truth is that I’ve only read Image besides Marvel and DC. Further, I gave up on The Walking Dead. Spawn is the only other Image book in my pull list. Perhaps that says something about the state of Image comics. More likely, it says something about me. Okay, on with the show.

The Good (Spawn in 2018 is surprisingly consistent)

I can’t speak on the past as comic book plots are notoriously inconsistent and require numerous reboots. I will say that, not having read Spawn for the better part of 5 (maybe 10), years, I still understood and followed the plot without a problem. That’s not always the case with some of the more recent attempts to redefine the various Marvel and DC properties.

I never read The New 52, but I’ve read that it was a disaster. Also, Marvel Legacy was pretty much DOA after trying to undo the new heroes they spent several years constructing.

Also, creative teams change quite often. Sure, you have the occasional team that stays together for a few years and writers tend to stick to a title for a long run. However, the recent trend seems to be to shuffle guys from title to title and even from company to company. I’m not sure if this is their attempt to keep things fresh and interesting.

Granted, Spawn isn’t all that different. Though, I will say that in the time I’ve been reading it, the title has had the same writer and artist for most of the issues. Also, Todd McFarlane isn’t as involved as he once was. Still, he writes occasionally and does a variant cover every now and then.

Speaking of variants, in this day and age of overpriced (in my opinion) variants, that hasn’t been the case with Spawn. Seeing as how I’m not quite the variant hawk that Chris is, I might be wrong. However, I am aware of many of the covers available and will buy the ones that I find interesting or attractive. The only variants that I’ve seen for Spawn were for cover price, which is great for a collector on a limited budget like me.

The Bad (Spawn in 2018 is showing its age a bit)

I don’t mean in the Old Man Logan way, either.

Even with all of the good about the comic, Spawn is beginning to show its age a bit. Seeing as how the book is 25 years old, that isn’t a surprise. However, I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t notice it while reading the title last year. It is still a fun title in the nostalgia sense, but I don’t know if it is something that would grab my attention if it wasn’t already something that I knew about. It is absolutely a title conceived in another time. This is only a minor gripe as they seem to be in the process of updating the title in terms of style and content. It remains to be seen if that continues.

The only other negative about the title is also nostalgic. Those of us who were there at the beginning of Image remember delay after delay. Some titles came out months after they were scheduled. It did little to dampen my excitement, but others were understandably upset. Most companies have been able to avoid significant delays. I probably wouldn’t have even noticed the delays in Spawn if not for the notifications from my online pull list. But, I noticed, and it’s odd that there are shipping delays in the age of on demand printing

The Ugly (Spawn in 2018 is a bargain)

Speaking of bargains, why can’t I get this book for cover price?

How is the comic book being a bargain an ugly? Also, $2.99 for a comic book? Is that really that much of a bargain? Let me answer those questions in reverse order. While I decry the price of comics, they actually haven’t increased as much relative to other things over the last 2 or 3 decades. Would I like nickel or dime comics? Sure, but that’s simply not realistic. Plus, Spawn is on the lower end of the price spectrum.

As far as the ugly, it is alluded to in the picture above. Let’s take one more nostalgic trip back in time. When I started reading Spawn again a couple of years ago, I noticed that it was close to issue #300. That inspired me to try to go back to fill in the issues I was missing. For the most part, that was easy. What is not easy is there is a run of book around the time of the cover in the picture that run anywhere from 20 dollars to over 100. As someone who doesn’t want to pay 3.99 for a book, 20 bucks is way too much. As I said in the previous section, we live in an age of on demand everything. Why can’t they reprint these books so that people can get their hands on them for cheaper than what the secondary market charges?

The Verdict (Spawn in 2018 is still worth collecting)

Sure, it is 25 years old and showing its age. But, they seem to be trying to change that somewhat. As with most renovations in comics, we will see if it continues, but I like what they’re doing so far. Focusing on Spawn’s daughter has proven to be an interesting story. There have been delays recently, but that doesn’t bother me too much. I think that they’ve figured it out and it is just one month delay that has continued for the past few months. The older issues are very expensive, but that’s the same with any collectibles. Overall, the story is strong, the art is cool, and the book is cheap compared to other books on the market today. If you are looking for something new and potentially different from other comic books, definitely pick up the most recent issue.

Marvel Comics in the 2000s

Introduction

Promised for a week or so and finally recorded, Chris and I talked about 1990s comics. I already did three articles on Marvel, DC, and Image comics in the 1990s. But, I like to make sure that the articles match what is on the podcast for that week. Therefore, I have to keep writing about comic books this week. In keeping with my previous theme of reminiscing about my time in Magic the Gathering, I figured I can keep talking about my recent history with comic books.

The 1990s are when I discovered comics. The 2000s are when I rediscovered comics. I found a local comic store in the neighboring town of Athol. Due to rent concerns and low profit margins on comics, he moved the store to Orange. It was right down the street from my house. Instead of having to drive 5 minutes, I only had to walk 5 minutes. It didn’t hurt that the guy was friendly and would talk to me every time I was in the store. Also, it was just a great time to get back into comic books.

It was wonderful. Then, of course, my backwards town somehow screwed it up and the guy closed shop permanently.

Marvel Comics Pop Culture in the 2000s

I went into great detail in my Marvel Comics in the 1990s article about how pop culture was instrumental in shaping my comic book interests. While my interests were mostly cemented by the time I rediscovered comics in the 2000s, it was the time that comic book movies started to grow up. We were still a couple of years away from the birth of the current golden age of the MCU, but something big happened in the early 2000s.

Marvel Comics took a bit of a risk. They released a new Spider-Man movie. Even though it doesn’t seem like it now, I say that they took a risk. Historically comic book movies were terrible. Even as they figured things out in those early days, there was still a clunker every now and then.

While I didn’t mind it, the first Hulk got mostly negative reception and it took them a while to find a Hulk that worked on the big screen.

Spider-Man was the first comic movie experience that was positive. Somehow, I convinced my wife (who is not a comic book fan at all) to come see the movie with me. I also convinced her to see the re-released Star Wars movie. While it took her until Episode 7 and Rey to truly embrace Star Wars, she was on board with Spider-Man from the beginning. Granted, things got weird at the end when they tried to do Spider-Man No More and Venom in the same movie, but I think we can all agree that they’ve figured things out.

Marvel Comics (Not Civil War or Hulk) in the 2000s

You are probably wondering why I’m not including Civil War in my discussion. It is the defining event of the decade and it might be (since the movie) one of the most recognizable crossover events in comics. Sure, Infinity War has recently surpassed it. When Captain America Civil War released into the theaters, though, it got my formerly comics deficient friend to start talking about comics and he is willing to discuss the movies with me if not the books.

He’s a history guy, though, so this might have been his idea of comic book civil war.

Because it was so influential, I’m going to give it a separate section for discussion. Why Planet Hulk? Even though it isn’t as influential outside of the comic book world, I prefer Planet Hulk to Civil War. Therefore, it gets its own section.

Other than those two events, Marvel had a pretty good run during the decade. Books that I continued to collect after the events were over include Cable and Deadpool and Thunderbolts. Warren Ellis wrote Thunderbolts. He gained a fan for life with his depiction of the dysfunctional super villain team. In fact, I started my Warren Ellis collection with his series New Universal.

Perhaps the most interesting thing Marvel comics did during the decade was the Ultimate line. It reinvented the Marvel comics universe to possibly new fans. Familiar faces acted in unfamiliar ways. It didn’t always work. Weirdly, Hulk was a cannibal. Often, it did. Ultimate Fantastic Four introduced the Marvel zombies. Sometimes it reminded me of the “good old days”. I experienced one of the most frustrating release delays since the days of Image.

I’m looking at you Ultimate Wolverine vs. Hulk. You don’t rip a man in half and then delay the next issue indefinitely.

Planet Hulk

I don’t know what the reaction to Planet Hulk was from most comic book fans. I do know that it hasn’t been turned into a movie. Oh, sure, there was the animated movie. Also, it was given a minor treatment in Thor: Ragnarok. We have yet to see Planet Hulk staring Mark Ruffalo. It’s too bad, too, because the Hulk in Ragnarok was so much fun and I’d love to see a movie starring him.

My only request is that Greg Pak is consulted if the movie is green lit. Initially, I didn’t pay attention to writers and artists. I knew names from my previous experience with comic books. But, the fallout from the creation of Image comics brought an influx of new talent. One of the new writers that I would come to enjoy (and ultimately admire due to his Twitter feed) is Greg Pak.

Planet Hulk is pretty much the whole reason I’m a Greg Pak fan.

I’ve always been a fan of the Hulk. I enjoy the Jeckyll and Hyde nature of the character. It intrigues me that Marvel made their heroes more human with potential human issues. Hulk explores the psychological terror of multiple personalities with respect. Sure, as with all comics, they lose their way and go off the rails sometimes. Mostly, though, the Hulk struggle is one worth following.

This story dealt less with that because Hulk was the dominant personality. But, seeing Hulk finally get his wish of “wanting to be alone” initially. Then, he became the leader of the rag tag group of gladiators. Finally, he fulfilled his destiny as the Worldbreaker. It is probably one of the most fun Hulk stories ever.

Marvel Civil War

When I was in the comic book store looking for books, I noticed a banner in the corner of the Marvel comics. It said, “Whose side are you on?” There might have even been the Civil War logo. But, there was definitely a date when the event was scheduled to start. Instead of guessing, I just went searching through my books for an example, but I can’t find one.

I hope this isn’t one of those Mandela effect things.

In any case, I went home to research Marvel Civil War. I learned that it was going to be a huge crossover event that was going to sucker me into buying 25-30 books a month for the duration. Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating a bit. Some of them even became a part of my regular collection. Most of the titles, though, I just bought for the event. Even so, it was all worth it.

I wasn’t around for Inifinity War. I do understand that it was probably the most ambitious crossover event of the time and maybe in history at that time. So, I can understand the nostalgia that people have for the event and why all others are compared to it. I might go back and read it sometime to see if it lives up to the hype.

As Civil War was my first mega crossover event, I will compare all future events to that one. If you look back on my Secret Empire review articles, I mention Civil War more than once. It was a well crafted story that dealt with current events. Some people have recently decried the inclusion of politics into their comics, but that’s usually just a deflection because they don’t agree with the politics. While Secret Empire felt a bit too real for me and I had to take a break, I never had that problem with Civil War. Probably just too young and dumb.

The Verdict

I discovered comics during the 1990s. I fell in love with them during the 2000s. Marvel went a long way to making sure that love stayed true. I will talk about my experiences with DC and Image, of course, but what kept me going back to the comic book store (that was only a 5 minute walk away, I stress) were Civil War and Planet Hulk.

Marvel Zombies were cool for a while, too. I’m not sure why I wasn’t on board with them beyond the first title. Zombie fatigue, probably.

So, when I say that I’m a lifelong Marvel zombie, that’s not entirely true. Traditionally, I do like the Marvel characters better than the DC characters. Also, the last two times that I’ve gotten back into comics have been because of Marvel events. My sentiment is changing some recently because I prefer DC to Marvel right now. However, in the 1990s and 2000s, you could make mine Marvel.

DC in the 1990s

Introduction

In my previous article, I mentioned that Chris and I are going to talk about our affection for a forgotten decade in comics, the 1990s. Some of you out there might argue that they were forgotten for good reasons. Both Marvel and DC lost a lot of their most promising talent to independent books due to their archaic rules and sometimes draconian treatment of talent. Comics, like sports cards, were overproduced. This reduced potential future value and upset speculators. Personally, I don’t care much about that. If I can get my hands on a book, I don’t care about your future value.

I also mentioned in that article that we would not be able to travel to That’s Entertainment, but we would be able to record. Plans changed yet again. Chris’s schedule opened up so that we could go to the store, but mine was more restrictive, so we haven’t recorded yet. Fear not! We will be sure to get together over the weekend and scratch that comics discussion itch for you next week.

I promise you. It will feel this good.

DC on Television

Like Marvel, I was introduced to DC comic book heroes through television. Of course there was the live action Wonder Woman starring Lynda Carter. Like The Incredible Hulk, if you were alive in that time period, you watched those shows. It wasn’t like today where almost everything is on demand and you can consume entertainment at your leisure. There was this thing called appointment viewing where everyone watched the show at the same time and then talked about it the next day around the water cooler. At least I imagine that there was a water cooler as I often hear that as a saying, too.

What might be surprising is that I originally discovered Batman through television, too. Well, you might think, that’s not so bad. I loved (Batman: The Animated Series, Batman Beyond, *insert your favorite Batman series here*) too. DC might not be able to make a decent movie, but their TV series are pretty good. Ah, youth, so innocent and sometimes naive.

You never forget your first.

That’s right, ladies and gentlemen. As a child of the 70s, who came of age in the 90s, my first and defining Batman was Adam West. But, I have an excuse. My father loved the show. He wanted to share that love with his sons. I took that love very much to heart. When the Tim Burton Batman movies came out, my father warned me, “This isn’t anything like the TV show. Historically, Batman can be a bit dark.” I responded by not seeing the movie until it was on cable. Boy, did I show them! They responded by killing the series by making a decent sequel and then two terrible follow ups that seemed to try to split the difference. It did not work.

DC Comics in the 90s

Eventually, I loved the Tim Burton films and heaped the proper scorn on the other two movies in the franchise. My Batman was no longer the blue and grey suited “dad bod” of Adam West. Joker wasn’t a benign practical joker with hand buzzers and squirty flowers. It was a black suited solitary Dark Knight fighting against a sociopathic murderer in spotty clown makeup who still wears a squirty flower, but with acid.

Can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs.

This shift in attitude and my status as a casual collector meant I only collected Batman and one other DC book. Luckily, it was during the Knightfall story and I collected them all. Unluckily, during one of my moves I didn’t want to move the comic book collection. I also erroneously assumed that I’d never collect comics again. Well, you win some and you lose some.

The second DC hero that I paid attention to at the time was Superman. DC decided to radically alter both of their most popular heroes. Killing Superman (spoiler alert) was such a big deal that they talked about it on the nightly news. That doesn’t seem like much in this era of the 24/7/365 news. Then it meant more. Stations only had three hours dedicated to news. Time was precious. Everyone wanted to see how they would kill the Superman.

I remember the story being good up to the actual death. DC followed it up with “Rise of the Supermen”. I collected those books, too, but the only one I enjoyed was Steel. If you didn’t get a chance to read the story, I recommend picking up the trade. Sure, they redid the story in Batman vs. Superman, but it was a shadow of itself in that movie.

The Verdict

I think that I was more into DC comics back then. The Death of Superman was enough to get me and Kevin to convince his dad to drive us to the local comic book store so that we could get the books on the day that they released. This is while we were both on vacation visiting him in Maryland. The Batman story was less interesting to me, but I did prefer that over almost everything that Marvel was doing at the time other than their 2099 books.

Sure, both stories that got me into collecting DC books in the 1990s were gimmicks meant to sell comics. Well, I never said that I was above falling for gimmicks. Next week, when I talk about my history with comics in the 2000s, you’ll see that both companies got me again with gimmicks. But, heck, the stories were good and I’m glad to have been able to experience them as they unfolded.

 

Tales from Marvel Civil War: I am Spider-Man

Disclaimer

The following is a work of fan fiction. As eluded to in the title, it happens during the events of Marvel Civil War. All properties are the trademarks or copyrights of their respective companies.

Introduction: Spider-Man is Not as Cool as Batman

He loved this city. Correction: He loved this city from up here. Perched on the edge of a gargoyle hundreds of stories above the ground, eh felt almost like that man who liked to dress as a bat. What was his name? Oh well, it doesn’t matter. That guy is way cooler.

He can drive and takes advantage of that by driving the coolest vehicles ever invented. J. Jonah barely pays me enough–for pictures that he then uses to demonize me–to keep a roof over my head. Not that Bat-Guy (Bat-Dude)? He has way better PR. I always see him in the papers shaking the hands of the commissioner even after letting that clown blow up a few city blocks. Sometimes life is so unfair.

Heck, he’s even cooler up here. He stands on the edge of these things, cape blowing in the wind, his scowl somehow penetrating that mask of his to remind all the bad guys who is in charge. Maybe I need a cape. I already have the mask, but it covers my whole face. How do you show off a scowl with a full mask?

He tried a few scowls underneath the mask and just felt ridiculous. Taking off the mask, he tried a few more scowls. He felt no less ridiculous. Holding the mask in front of his face, he imagined it as Doc Ock or maybe Gobby. After one or two more practiced scowls, he felt even more ridiculous.

It’s just hard to scowl as your Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man.

He looked closer at the mask. He did need it, right? Set aside the face that J. Jonah had this weird vendetta against it. He had to protect his family. From what, though?

He put the mask back on.

Act 1: Who is Spider-Man Really Protecting?

At first, I needed the mask to keep those around me safe. I might be imbued with the awesome powers of the spider, but not many others have been. If anyone found out my secret, those around me would have been put in danger and I couldn’t live with myself if any of them got hurt. Not even J. Jonah.

He thought back over the years that he had been Spider-Man. Several times over, the mask had proven to be necessary for just that purpose. He grimaced under the mask. Too many times. He hadn’t exactly been careful about protecting that trade secret. Sometimes it felt like J. Jonah was the only one in the world who didn’t know.

Maybe Tony Stark is right.

That voice that had taken up permanent residence in the back of his mind spoke up. He could always hear it muttering back there. It only became audible at times like these when everything else in his brain went completely silent. Once it took over, there was no stopping it. It picked up on his thought train from earlier.

We are super powered beings. Granted (or born with) powers that far beyond the comprehension of the average person, ee are dangerous. There is collateral damage. What happened in Connecticut must never happen again. Something had to be done.

Do I really have to be one of the faces of it, though?

Well, why not, Peter? Honestly, why not? You already had to admit that the mask doesn’t always serve the purpose of saving those around you. You bemoaned that sometimes you feel like the only one who doesn’t know that you are Spider-Man is J. Jonah. Who is the mask protecting?

Act Two: The Death of Spider-Man

He stood up–and jumped, executing a perfect swan dive. Windows flashed by and he dropped through the air. Most were dark, but a few had lights on and he saw men and women still working at their desks at this hour and one overly excited custodian waved gleefully as he passed. Tomorrow morning, he was going to have one hell of a story to tell his family. I was there when Spider-Man killed himself.

I’m only kidding, of course. Or, am I? It would be so easy to just let it happen. Make it look like my web slingers malfunctioned. Thinking about it now, it’s actually quite easy. Plus, it solves my problem of having to make the decision to reveal my identity.

His Spider-Sense tingled, interrupting his train of thought. That was strange. Granted, it often went off during times of pending harm and he was hurtling towards the ground to certain death. What he had learned during his occasional non-suicidal leaps from buildings is that it only generally worked when that pending harm wasn’t self-inflicted. Someone needed help and they were close. A faint burglar alarm confirmed this. He shot a web in the direction of the sound.

Act Three: Spider-Man Saves the Day

He quickly discovered the source of the alarm. It was one of those mom and pop deli shops that somehow survived in this city and made it unique. He smiled under the mask. He may not always love this city up close, but it had its moments. Busting petty crooks holding up a neighborhood deli was always a highlight of an evening. Landing amidst the chaos of the scene, he opened the door and entered the deli.

Compared with the street, the deli was quiet. The only sound was a burglar alarm blaring its tones, that he found that surprisingly easy to ignore. Quickly surveying the store, he saw that the register was in the back, so the crook stood with his back to the entrance. He’s a real amateur. He hadn’t even looked back to see if the police had arrived. Thank goodness for small miracles.

Grabbing a bag of Doritos and a Dr. Pepper, he stood behind the robber in an odd mockery of normalcy. The thief was so engrossed in his potential pay day that he didn’t even notice. Spider-Man tried to act as nonchalantly as possible. One wrong move and things could go very wrong very quickly. As he often did in these situations, he thought back to that first fateful encounter.

“Sir, could you please finish your business? Some of us have to get to work.” Spider-Man said.

The thug started and turned to face him, a look of pure surprise on his face. Spider-Man took advantage of the distraction, disarming the man and webbing him to the ceiling in his customary fashion. Walking to the register, he placed the items on the counter to pay. Looking no less shocked than the thief, the deli owner stammered before finally speaking.

“Please, take them. On the house. As thanks.”

Epilogue: I Am Spider-Man

Spider-Man shook his head. Grabbing a pen and a scrap of paper, he started jotting down an IOU.

“What’s your name?”

“My friends call me Bob. You can call me Bob.”

Spider-Man put his hands over his heart and tilted his head in a pantomime of the “Awwww” gesture. Expressions were tough in this mask.  After he finished the note and handed it to Bob, he turned to leave the deli. Pausing briefly at the door he turned his head.

“Keep that note, Bob. I will be back to pay it. This probably isn’t your first rodeo, but make sure that gun gets to the police. By the way, there’s no camera in here, right?

Bob pointed to the corner.

“Besides that fake one?”

Bob shook his head Spider-Man removed his mask. The look of surprise on Bob’s face became exaggerated. It mirrored the one he imagined J. Jonah would have before the old goat keeled over.

“My name is Peter Parker,” Peter said, “and I am Spider-Man.”

He put the mask back on and swung off into the night.

END.