G3 Review: The Amazing Spider-Man

Whether a Spider-Man film, especially an origin story, is necessary so soon after the last franchise ended is debatable but ultimately irrelevant. Box office take aside, the real test of a film’s legitimacy is its quality. Is the reboot that no one was clamoring for any good?

Yes, it is. The Amazing Spider-Man doesn’t always live up to the title, but it’s an entertaining, likable popcorn movie that is very lucky to have Andrew Garfield in the lead role. Garfield brings an emotional complexity and unexpected edge to this version of an extremely well-known character. His Peter Parker is a good guy and a nerd all right, but he’s got an undercurrent of anger and nervous energy that makes him exciting to watch. The Amazing Spider-Man is also a love story, and a mighty sweet one at that. Continue reading “G3 Review: The Amazing Spider-Man”

2011 Memorable Moment: Peter Parker’s Ultimate Sacrifice

When you read a lot of comics, it takes something truly special to stand out from the pile of panels and pages. As 2011 winds down, V. and I are taking our annual look back at the moments that stuck with us long after the issues went into the longbox. And we’re not only covering books this year, but also other comics-related delights that struck our fancy. Without further ado, I’m kicking off with a page that had me in tears. Continue reading “2011 Memorable Moment: Peter Parker’s Ultimate Sacrifice”

Spider-Man vs. Red Robin: Who Would Win?

One has arachnid-derived superpowers and exceptional intelligence. The other graduated with honors from Batman’s School of Hard Knocks. Peter Parker and Tim Drake are both highly capable crime fighters with a surplus of combat experience and brain power, and they’re both so doggone likable. Peter’s super-strength and agility, combined with his spider sense and web-shooting are formidable enough, but he also knows how to out-think his opponents. Tim may be an even sharper detective than his mentor, and he’s usually a step (or five) ahead of his foes. He’s also fierce in a battle. But in a face-off between Spider-Man and Red Robin, which young hero would take the title?

Comic Judgment: Best in Show

It’s weeks like this that make me so happy to be a comic book reader. All three titles that I pulled stuck the landing (My Batman and Robin #1 review is here) and marked the beginning of exciting new eras. We’re not just talking DC, either. Let’s get it started Continue reading “Comic Judgment: Best in Show”

Comic Judgment: Marvel Edition

The pull list was pretty meager this week, but discovering Steve McNiven’s art made the drive to my LCS worth it. The lovely Zatanna is unrepresented here only because I overestimated the amount of cash I had on hand Wednesday. She’s coming home with me tomorrow, but here’s a brief, double Marvel rundown.

Captain America #2: By all accounts, longtime writer Ed Brubaker has done a masterful job with his Captain America stories. For people like me who are way late to the party, this freshly-launched volume is an excellent point of entry. As a man out of time, Steve Rogers is constantly confronted by ghosts. His former love and fellow soldier Peggy Carter has just been buried. He knew Jimmy Jankovicz as a boy who could cross dimensions and even touch people’s dreams, but Jimmy is now a catatonic, elderly man in a wheelchair. Continue reading “Comic Judgment: Marvel Edition”

Thanks for the Memories, Spidey

A couple of years ago, a friend and mutual comic book fan handed me the first trade volume of Ultimate Spider-Man. Sure, I liked Peter Parker and had always related to him as a nerdy underdog who was fast with a quip. But I hardly expected this book to become such a treasured and long-lasting part of my comics reading experience. If my budget had ever forced me to reduce my pull list, Ultimate Spider-Man would have been one of the very last to go.

Major comic book character deaths have become so commonplace that they barely register. With rare exceptions, we know the publisher will find some way to bring them back. In the months leading up to Ultimate Spidey’s death in issue #160, I was certain it wouldn’t bother me … much. Of course, by the time Peter gave up the ghost after a brutal showdown with Green Goblin, I was one sad puppy. Continue reading “Thanks for the Memories, Spidey”

Comic Judgment: Ultimate Spidey Continues Reign of Awesome

Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #13
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Pencils: David Lafuente
Colors: Justin Ponsor
Letters: Cory Petit

In its 13 issues so far, Ultimate Comics Spider-Man has proven itself to be just as much of a crackling page-turner as its long-running predecessor, the nearly identically titled Ultimate Spider-Man. Writer Brian Michael Bendis’ style may not be for everyone, but I happen to love his take on beleaguered teen superhero Peter Parker. Even when he’s doing something stupid, Peter is endlessly endearing, and Bendis’ UCSM dialogue often reads like the script for a really good young adult TV show. Think “Freaks and Geeks” meets “Smallville.”

After establishing the nutty state of Peter’s personal life — friends Johnny Storm, Bobby Drake and current girlfriend Gwen Stacy are living with him and Aunt May — Bendis has upped the ante with identity theft: A shape-shifting villain has kidnapped Peter, assumed his visage and … well, let’s just say he’s doing conspicuously uncool things. All comic book villains are bad in their own way, but there’s something unnervingly sinister about this shadowy figure, and he’s not working alone.

One of the interesting things about this arc is the way the nameless bad guy (I call him Anonymous Tool) has pondered Peter’s choices — why a kid with such amazing powers lives in Queens and puts up with idiots like Flash Thompson. He considers Spider-Man a chump who’s wasting his advantages, but he quickly realizes that being him is harder than it looks. Swinging across the New York skyline with a homemade web-shooting device isn’t for the faint of heart, so Anonymous Tool has to give Peter some props, however begrudgingly.

To say that things end on a shocking note is an understatement. Secrets are uncovered (or at least figured out), and without giving too much away, you’ll see newspaper mogul J. Jonah Jameson — or at least an approximation of him — in an entirely new light. Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #13 is a terrific issue overall, and a great deal of credit goes to artist David Lafuente. His pencil work is crisp and energetic, and certain panels — a close-up of a long-faced Jameson comes to mind — really grab and hold the reader.

I’m eager to see if and how Bendis reintroduces Peter’s former flame Kitty Pryde, who remains a fugitive following a disastrous, anti-mutant showdown at school. And now that everyone knows Peter’s immediate ex-girlfriend, Mary Jane, is still in love with him, the unavoidable arguments and relationship renegotiations are sure to be intense. In the meantime, it’s hard to see how Peter is going to escape the truly awful jam he’s in, which has nothing to do with the women in his life. But judging from that last panel, something tells me he’s going to get by with a little help from his super friends.

New Spidey: What Say Ye?

Alas, the movement to cast Donald Glover as the next big-screen Spider-Man fell short, though not for lack of trying. V. and I were among the many “Community” fans who thought it would have been a stroke of genius to have Glover play everynerd/superhero Peter Parker in the forthcoming reboot. However, British actor Andrew Garfield has nabbed the role. OK, fine. He’s certainly got the traditional Peter Parker-y look, and though I have yet to see Garfield in anything, legitimate sources say that he is funny (something a young Spider-Man should be) and talented. That’s a good sign.

I hope the Glover campaign wasn’t completely for naught, though. Maybe the studio will at least offer him a juicy supporting role, or perhaps he’ll now be a serious contender to play another movie hero. The main argument against his casting was that a black Spider-Man might confuse people, but I don’t see how. Young, brilliant man bitten by radioactive spider. Develops super powers. Puts on tights. Fights crime. Where’s the confusion?

What’s your take on Garfield’s casting? Who should play Mary Jane? Aunt Mae? (Helen Mirren in the house!) Do you even care about this franchise?

Donald Glover for Spider-Man!

No joke. We can see it.

The hilarious NBC sitcom “Community” is on a short list of things we love as much as reading comic books. So cast member Donald Glover — aka junior college jock, Troy — had G3 at biblioteca when he began campaigning for the Peter Parker role in the forthcoming “Spider-Man” film reboot. Glover is a gem on a show filled with them, and the studio would be smart to take his interest seriously. The fact that he’s African American isn’t an obstacle — it’s an opportunity to breathe new life into a movie franchise that’s grown a little tired. Here’s why putting Glover in red and blue tights makes perfect sense:

Filmgoers need a reason to care.
The last movie in the Tobey Maguire-led trilogy was released just three years ago, so when news of a reboot began circling a few months ago, even hardcore geeks were asking, “Why?” Spider-Man hasn’t been gone long enough for us to miss him, and there’s a big cloud of been-there-done-that hanging over this idea. Casting someone unexpected — like a nonwhite actor — would certainly heighten filmgoers’ interest, and you could do worse than a guy on a critically acclaimed TV show.

Glover’s a good actor.
When you can hold your own in a scene with Chevy Chase, you’re obviously doing something right. Comedic acting is harder than it looks, and Glover’s take on Troy, a less-than-brilliant former high school football star, is endearing and frequently LOL funny. He’s handsome but accessible in that boy-next-door way, and Glover could easily amp up the intelligence to play reluctant superhero Peter Parker. He’d be awfully cute in glasses, not to mention the suit.

Spidey is familiar enough to re-imagine.
With three very recent live-action movies on DVD shelves, Spider-Man is well known to the general public — so familiar that taking him in a direction shouldn’t be that big of a deal. Besides …

Kids don’t care that much.
On an Around Comics podcast several months ago, one of the panelists mentioned that his nephew, who is white, had this reaction to Ryan Reynolds’ casting as Green Lantern: “Green Lantern’s white now? Aw, man.” This kid had grown up on the Justice League Cartoon Network series, in which the resident Green Lantern is a black man, John Stewart. I could be wrong, but the racial freak-outs — at least as far as entertainment goes — seem to be more of an adult specialty.

Peter is an outsider.
Peter Parker’s origin story is full of teen-outsider angst, and take it from me: Few things are more ‘outside’ than a black, adolescent geek. Glover could take that aspect of Parker’s life in a whole ’nother direction.

While we’re on this topic, can the filmmakers please cast a better Mary Jane this time around? It would be cool for the studio to cast a talented, non-white performer in that role, too, but that (unfortunately) might be asking too much. If so, I hereby nominate cute-as-a-button Alison Brie, another fabulous “Community” cast member. She and Glover have such good chemistry, and in her recurring role on “Mad Men,” she’s proven that she can do drama as well as comedy. Bring on the Clairol #44 red hair coloring, and it’s a wrap. Hollywood, you’re welcome!

Comic Judgment: A Pull List Overview

I got caught up on a bunch of comics this week. Here’s the lowdown:

Brave and the Bold #33 (Yeah, I know this came out last week, but whatever.): DC’s Brave and the Bold hasn’t been on my pull list since the “Book of Destiny” arc closed out a few years ago, but I approached issue #33 with cautious optimism. Jesus Saiz’s cover image of Zatanna, Wonder Woman and original Batgirl Barbara Gordon walking over the bodies of felled bad guys was irresistible. And since current B&B writer J. Michael Straczynski begins writing Wonder Woman in July, I wanted to get a sense of his vision for my favorite comic book character of all time. No pressure. Continue reading “Comic Judgment: A Pull List Overview”

Comic Judgment: A Pull List Overview

Cover art by Frank Quitely

I read a bunch of comics this week. Here’s how they stack up, from best to worst:

1. Batman and Robin #10
During its short run, this title has ranged from brilliant to odd to plain inscrutable — in other words, classic Grant Morrison. Fortunately, things are back on the upswing with Andy Clarke’s wonderful art and a storyline pitting Damian Wayne (Robin) against Dick Grayson (Batman). Actually, it’s not Damian who’s gunning for Dick so much as his mama, Talia al-Ghul, who wants her son back at her side. Damian may be an arrogant little sod, but there are signs that he’s grown to respect Dick and even enjoy their partnership. As they search Wayne family portraits for signs that Bruce is alive, Damian seems genuinely glum about the end of his crime-fighting relationship with Dick: “If my father returns, we can’t be Batman and Robin anymore, can we?” Things get even more interesting with the appearance of the mysterious Oberon Sexton, and I’ll be very interested to see how these plot threads tie in with Morrison’s The Return of Bruce Wayne saga.

2. Secret Six #19
Black Alice develops a big, honking crush on Ragdoll. If that doesn’t move you, turn in your longboxes immediately.

3. Ultimate Spider-Man #8
This has long been one of my favorite comics, and the recent focus on Peter Parker’s crowded home life — new girlfriend Gwen Stacey, Johnny Storm, Bobby Drake and ex-girlfriend Kitty Pryde — plays to Brian Michael Bendis’ strengths as a writer. This issue is full of the usual crackling dialogue, but I just wasn’t that into Peter’s neighbor, Rick Jones, who spends roughly half of the book complaining about his new found superpowers as Nova. Being chosen by an alien to help save mankind is heavy stuff for a 16-year-old, but Jones’ extensive, why-me tantrum made me want to smack him. Come to think of it, Johnny Storm wanted to do the same thing. But even on the rare occasion when Ultimate Spidey doesn’t fire on all cylinders, it’s still a good read.

4. Red Robin #10
I love me some Tim Drake, but I didn’t really connect with this book until the last couple of issues. However, #7-9 were downright delightful, illustrating Tim’s considerable ass-whipping/detective skills while introducing a perfect potential girlfriend: button-cute Tam Fox, daughter of Wayne confidante Lucius Fox. Since I’m already way too invested in the Tim/Tam flirtation, Stephanie Brown’s appearance was a serious buzzkill. On the other hand, it was fun to see Stephanie’s Batgirl beat the snot out of a particularly annoying member of the League of Assassins. And I’m still giggling over Alfred’s withering reply to reporter Vicki Vale, who shows up at Wayne Manor looking for Tim: “Master Timothy is far too young for you.” Hee!

5. Justice League Rise and Fall Special
Despite our well-documented loathing of the Black Canary/Green Arrow relationship, there’s no denying that Oliver Queen’s sketchy personal life is good plot fodder. But this one-shot, which takes place immediately after Green Arrow offs Prometheus in Cry for Justice, isn’t about action so much as brooding: Ollie brooding about his maimed son and dead granddaughter; Ollie brooding about hunting down The Electrocutioner; Dinah brooding about Ollie’s fragile state of mind; Justice League members brooding about Ollie’s slide toward the dark side. I’ve generally enjoyed J.T. Krul’s work, but this issue is pretty stagnant. And like V., I’m way over Black Canary following her angry husband around like a wounded groupie. However, there are a few noteworthy moments, like Ollie’s ice-cold rejection of Dick Grayson’s assistance in Star City (It’s my city, “Batman.” Ouch!)  and Barry Allen getting all Judgy McJudgypants when Green Arrow’s lethal act comes to light. But for $3.99, I’d have liked a little more than panels of glowering and fretting.

What did you like this week?