Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Superhero mania

As we get to within a few days of the release of the last of four superhero movies for this current summer blockbuster season--and perhaps oddly, the one I've been anticipating the most--I'm going to continue talking briefly about superheroes and comic books. I still find it odd--the social neoteny that has made comic books into mainstream entertainment fare that isn't even targetted at kids at all anymore--but I'm definately one of the neotenous folks who refuses to grow up and quit caring about superheroes and comic books. Or dinosaurs, for that matter. Or Dungeons & Dragons.

I think my interest was re-sparked after watching Thor and even more especially after watching X-Men: First Class earlier this summer. And of course, I've been excited about the upcoming Captain America for quite a long time. I wasn't always a big fan of the character of Cap. In fact, in the past I found him tiring and boring. Perhaps it was Marc Millar's approach to Cap (and all the rest of the Avengers for that matter--in The Ultimates) that changed my mind, but for whatever reason, the character has been growing on me for years.

But most recently, I've read all kinds of comic book compilations, and Cap has only been a player in a few of them. I've long ago lost track of how many of these trade paperbacks I've read already, or how many I've got from the library or the store now waiting to be read, but it'll be over fifty that I've gone through in the last month or two. Some of them will have been relatively slim compilations of only 4-5 comics, like Daredevil Noir for example, while others of them will be massive hardcovers with about twenty issues worth of material in them, like War of Kings. When I'm done, I'll be pretty darn up to date with all kinds of things going on in the Marvel World--including the standard Marvel U, the Ultimate Universe, and even several alternate universes. And I will also have read I think almost all of the Noir compilations, which have been kinda fun. What can I say, I've long been a Marvel guy, and while I've occasionally dipped my toes in the Distinguished Competitor's pool, I've never found the water quite to my liking for reasons that I'm not even sure I can easily put into words. They just didn't click with me, for whatever reason.

When it started about ten or eleven years ago, I was a huge fan of the Ultimate Marvel line. If you're not in the loop, I don't want to explain the conceit behind the Ultimate Marvel Universe, so I'll just point you to the Wikipedia article on it. It's not very long. Ultimate Spiderman in particular was a big hit, selling in bigger numbers than the "regular" Spiderman in many cases, and making superstars out of the creative team behind it: Brian Michael Bendis as writer and Mark Bagley--who had the longest writer/artist team-up in Marvel's entire history; well over a hundred consecutive issues.

As much as I've loved the Ultimate Universe over the years, I have to say that getting caught up with it has left me with some reservations. Jeph Loeb write the controversial Ultimates 3 and Ultimatum stories, which essentially "blew up" the universe; killing off so many well-known characters (especially from the X-franchise) as to render future Ultimate X-books unrecognizable. Granted, the finality of comic book death is so flimsy that comic book death has even been coined as a phrase, but the magnitude of deaths here was just overwhelming and it doesn't seem likely that many of these characters will be making reappearances any time soon. And while I've come to trust Bendis' writing on Spiderman, I haven't loved every step he's taken, and the current storyline, complete with spoilers in the title, "The Death of Spider-man" is one that I'm intensely skeptical about.

I attached, for kicks and grins, a promotional artwork of the "new" Spiderman that will be part of August's Ultimate Rebirth line of comics. But unlike other reboot attempts, this one maintains continuity with the past Ultimate universe. That Spiderman there isn't Peter Parker... coz he's dead.

An attempt to do Ben Reilly all over again? Hope not. While I liked the concept of Ben Reilly well enough, I didn't--and apparently neither did many of the Spider-man fans--like the idea of him replacing Peter Parker. Having the Scarlet Spider feature as another character in his own mag, or as a member of some team, or something, would have been fine. In fact, a great way to develop the character. Honestly, I hope Ultimate does that with Jessica Drew. But I'm really skeptical about someone other than Peter actually being Spiderman in the Ultimate Comics line.

I'll probably check it out. I admit to being intensely curious, actually, about what they do. But I honestly hope that eventually what they do is find some way that isn't hoaky to bring Peter back, or reboot the series and do it again, or something.

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