Sunday, September 5, 2010

Marvel Adventures Spider-Man #5 - Mellow Awesome

Call me picky or bitter, but the Marvel Adventures Spider-Man series continues to be the only Spider-Man series I follow. One More day in 616 and the goofy ass art in Ultimate (coupled with the shit storm of Ultimatum) has rendered this book the only readable Spider-Man book in the whole Marvel catalog. Even if it is pure bitterness, it's not like the Marvel Adventure series is without merit. Ever since this series started developing it's own continuity, the stories it has churned out have been remarkably well-told. Paul Tobin hasn't been half-assed about this limited G-rated kids series. He's actually giving enough of a damn to make this series enjoyable and develop Peter Parker in a unique way that is free of the bullshit the other series have spewed onto the pages. It's a given you're not going to see some epic Clone Saga storyline that involves Peter Parker wrestling with clones, saving prostitutes, cussing out Norman Osborn, or going with Gwen Stacy to Victoria's Secret to pick out her favorite brand of edible panties. You'll basically see stories that are cute, simple, and focused. If that's not perverted or violent enough for you I suggest you join your local S&M club. You'd be surprised how understanding they are, just stay away from lit candles with wax.

The previous issue was another solid entry that had Spider-Man go up against Bullseye. It wasn't as bloody as it probably could have been. Had it taken place in 616 or Ultimate, this story could have easily turned into another shock book. Since this book was marketed to kids, it had to be restrained and that's not necessarily detrimental. I love a good blood bath and some flashes of tits as much as the next guy, but I'll gladly opt for an enjoyable story that doesn't butcher the characters or try to reinvent the formula for booze. Each of those are fine the way it is.

Marvel Adventures Spider-Man #5 literally picks up from the last pages of Marvel Adventures Spider-Man #4. Spider-Man just finished his battle with Bullseye and he looks like he just got back from a 5 day bender in Tijuana and was on the wrong side of a Donkey Show. He's so fucked up he can't even make it back home or get in touch with his girlfriend. So he does what most guys do after an unpleasant time south of the boarder. He passes out on the floor of some unknown building. So long as the building isn't a crack house or a male whore house, he should be okay (to a point).

While Peter is getting in touch with his old friend, Agony McNutshot, another story starts to unfold. As has been a trend in many Marvel Adventure comics, writer Paul Tobin likes to spread the spotlight to other secondary characters so that Peter isn't the only star. In previous issues it was usually a larger name like Wolverine or Bullseye. Here, it's a complete unknown. The guy getting the focus looks like a dorkier version of Wolverine mixed with an old school, pre-Scientology version of John Tarvolta. He's shown to be a nice, normal guy with a loving wife and a dog. Except his a collector for the Torino crime family. You know...mob work. A guy being that nice in that kind of work is like a Christian priest in a gay S&M club. Wait, he's Catholic? Okay, bad example. But you get my point.

They guy seems to be good at his job, but he doesn't seem to like it. Seriously, he carries on as if it's like he's cleaning up shit off the floors at a McDonalds. I used to have a job like that too and it only involved occasional threats of violence and intimidation. How a guy gets caught up in that line of work and be so G-rated sounds like a made-for-TV-movie staring Robert DeNiero produced by Disney.

Baring for a moment the many flaws in that premise, the plot with this happy-go-lucky mob employee helps lead the story to the Torino crime family. They were the ones that hired Bullseye in the first place and obviously they did not get their money's worth. So what's their solution? Put a two million dollar bounty on his head. It seemed like that would have saved them some cash if they tried that beforehand, but then again the mob is best known for ruthlessness and Al Pacino movies, not financial savvy.

Now this is where the book's flow gets a little disjointed. In the first few pages it already showed Peter passed out on the floor of an old building looking like he lost a fight with a lawnmower and a methed out Mike Tyson. The message was clear. Bullseye fucked him up good. But then later on we get a flashback scene of how he got there. It's nothing too extreme. He's just crawling through the rain, trying to get home. But he can't make it so he passes out. It feels like this shit should have been the beginning. Do we really need to know the details of how he got to that building? Unless he had to run away from some pit bulls and avoid creepy homeless guy holding an "I'll bet you $1 that you'll read this sign" then it feels unnecessary and out of place. It's dramatic yeah, but has about as much impact as Linsey Lohan giving a lecture on sobriety.

The next scenes make a bit more sense though. Since Spider-Man is sort of passed out he can't check in with his girlfriend, Sophie. Usually when a boyfriend doesn't check in that means he's either getting hammered or dropping the hammer on another flesh nail, but Sophie is thankfully the trusting type and understands that if Peter isn't calling. That usually means his spider powers did not effectively guard him from a routine ass kicking.

Being the good girlfriend she is, she doesn't resort to whining to the police or blowing Peter's identity. She starts making calls to her old friend, the Blond Phantom, and Wolverine from the X-men. Both say they'll keep an eye out for him. Since she's the girlfriend here, that's simply not fast enough. Sophie has shown plenty of times to be dedicated if not obsessive to being Peter's guardian angel. That alone makes her one of the best girlfriends Spidey has ever had in any comic. I know that's saying a lot, but this is my review and I'm sticking to it!

She even calls Gwen Stacy, which brings up another ongoing plot. Gwen continues her streak of attracting the wrong kind of men at every turn in being hot and heavy with Carter Tornio, the son of the Tornio's top boss. Apparently they were studying and by studying I don't mean the fun kind. I mean the boring kind with books and clothes still on. However, when Gwen's father (who is a cop mind you) gets home she reacts as if they're in the middle of shooting porn for a Japanese TV show and rushes him out as if he's he one with the weed. Even if it is a messy relationship, Carter still hasn't impregnated her with goblin twins so he's still not the worst guy Gwen could be with.

The search continues and we revisit our friendly mob guy (who they're calling Flip now) with a heart of gold. He's in the middle of roughing up some rough biker type who can't seem to pay his bills. He's armed with a lead pipe so he can't have a heart of too much gold. Maybe silver or whatever funky metal China needs to import too much of at the moment, but not gold. Since the guy can't pay, he gives Flip something else of value. He tells him he knows where Spider-Man is. Now as a guy who looks like a standard deviant, you would think he would try to follow him and look into getting that sweet two million dollar bounty that could have settled this debt. But for reasons that aren't entirely clear or logical, he doesn't and just gives the address to Flip. He's either the worst thug wannabe or the dumbest.

With time now a factor, Sophie meets up with her Blond BFF and uses her loyal animal hoards to track her boy toy. But first, she has to do a favor for her friend. Apparently, friendship isn't enough to warrant free service. In that sense she's like a prostitute, but given that Sophie has made friends with Emma Frost that's actually not too unbelievable. So with the help of Sophie's animal hoards, they're able to collect what are described as "love letters" when it may just as easily be photos somebody shot at a frat party that involved nudity, crazy glue, and any number of dicks being drawn on a face. Either way, they get what they need so they can now move onto Peter.

The animal hoards continue to work their magic. They lead Chat closer to her wounded boyfriend while Flip is already on his way. It becomes a race against time and seems to be setting the stage for a good struggle. It seems Flip is going to beat Chat to the punch and that two million bucks is as good as his. Chat races to catch up and when she finally gets there, she sees Flip standing over Spider-Man. Except he's not carving him up like a Thanksgiving turkey. He's helping him by patching him up.

No that's not a misprint and no I'm not high (for the most part). This mob collector who a few pages ago was threatening some guy with a pipe just up and had a change of heart despite the promise of two million dollars. He starts patching Spider-Man up and doesn't fight Sophie for him. He claims some inner voice was telling him to ignore the two million and help the kid. Now for a great many people who don't work for the mob, that's perfectly believable. But this guy does work for the mob. He's a collector and was right in the room when the two million dollars was offered. I know this is a G-rated comic and all, but this is pushing it even by comic standards. Does Paul Tobin really want the reader to believe that Flip's inner voice telling him help Spider-Man was louder than the voice saying "Holy shit! It's Spider-Man! I'm fucking rich as shit!" when confronted with this opportunity? I've seen some crazy shit (including a man wearing a woman's dress made completely out of duct tape), but even I can't believe that shit.

That's essentially the end of the action. Flip helps Sophie get Spider-Man into Blond Phantom's car, says goodbye, and goes home to his loving wife to tell her he's quit his job and is unemployed. Yet they're still all smiles. Again, it's too unbelievable even for a comic. A man telling his wife he's out of work and they're both smiling? Either they're high or it's the most fucked up marriage in the history of marriage. There's no other insight offered from here on out. Flip's wife doesn't say something like "Aww, I'm sorry sweetie. Guess I'll have to work overtime now" or "Sorry babe, no romance without finance." The book just ends. It doesn't even show where Sophie takes Peter to heal up. For a series that has finished strong since it's inception, this is as week as it gets without being an offensive lineman for the Detroit Lions.

Now don't get me wrong. I'm not jumping ship on Marvel Adventures Spider-Man. This book still has a long way to go before it's anywhere near as fucked up as 616 or Ultimate. But this issue was a pretty big disappointment. I can appreciate the kind of story Tobin is trying to tell here, but usually he's able to make these stories seem like they aren't part of some G-rated series. He's able to be tactful in a ways that keeps it awesome. This issue boarded on the grounds of being a fucking fairy tale. A mob collector turns into a saint while Sophie spends most of the issue being a worried girlfriend. As for Spider-Man, he's basically out cold the whole issue. Now that's not too bad because he did get a lot of action in the previous issue, but everything in between feels like filler laced with sugar to match a horribly bland taste.

I'll still follow this series. Where the fuck else am I going to get my Spider-Man fix? But this issue was a big disappointment. It has a decent premise and Tobin didn't do anything too radial to ruin it in the tradition of One More Day or the Clone Saga. But he did choke on the very high bar he himself set. It's not even one of those "it seems like a good idea at the time" stories. It's more of a "let's see how G-rated we can get without being too lame" kind of moment and in that sense it's an idea that fails. So for Marvel Adventures Spider-Man #5, I give it a score of 2 out of 5. I'm confident the next issue will be better, but this is an issue I would rather forget and exchange for credit to by more X-Force books (preferably with Domino naked). If that's not possible, I can only wait and hope that Marvel Adventures continues to be one of the most solid Spider-Man books on the market even if that's like saying it's the least smelliest piece of shit. Nuff said.

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