Monday, September 27, 2010
Marvel Adventures Spider-Man #6 - Handicapped Yet Still Awesome
I know there are a ton of Spider-Man comics out there with bigger names, bigger sales, and more mature plots. I also know that only following Marvel Adventures Spider-Man, a book marketed to kids, will leave limited opportunities to see blood, boobs, and big explosions (the three B's of most awesome comics). But what can I do? Ultimate Spider-Man is shit because the damn art looks like something schizoid drew while in mid-seizure and I still haven't been able to read 616 Spider-Man after One More Day. I used to have a healthy Spider-Man addiction with my comics. Now this is all I get. While my wallet may be grateful, it says a lot when the only palatable Spider-Man is the Marvel Adventures series.
It helps that this series is still pretty damn awesome despite not having the three B's and being a kids book. It also helps that in brings in a number of other familiar faces from the Marvel Universe from time to time and does a pretty damn good job of it as well. There are times when it missteps, like the previous issue. However, it usually finds a way to bounce back. The last issue fell short because it was too painfully obvious that this was a kids book. Unlike previous issues, it wasn't subtle enough. But it did move the story along and this issue picks up right from the events of that issue. That may not be a good thing, but at least Paul Tobin is respecting the continuity and not making deals with the devil to get around it. Fuck you, Mephisto!
The scars of the previous issue are literally felt when Peter walks into school the next day looking all beat up and bruised. These are the marks left by Bullseye, who worked Peter over pretty well two issues earlier and not in the Full Metal Jacket sort of way either. He rights it off as a hard fall for when he was taking pictures of Spider-Man. There's even a flashback describing it, even though any kid reading this will know it's bullshit. But that's not a bad thing. At least Tobin is attentive to detail despite the nanosecond attention spans of kids who forgot to take their Ritalin.
He and his girlfriend, Chat, play along with the story around friends like Gwen and Carter Torino (the new guy who happens to be the grandson of a crime lord). At least they try to until he reminds Carter that his family is a bunch of douche-bag gangsters. This is worse considering that Gwen has the hots for Carter and for whatever reason Carter is trying hard NOT to be his father's son. It's a plot that has been unfolding slowly over the past two issues, but it's been unfolding too slowly in many ways. It's like the 800-pound gorrilla in the room with the six foot boner humping a pineapple. You can't ignore it forever. That pineapple won't hold up forever.
Peter and Chat leave that problem behind (again) and focus on more pressing issues. The biggest issue is how is Peter going to be Spider-Man when he's got a busted arm? Is he really going to measure up when he's practically handicapped? Well in this case the benefit of dating a mutant shows. Just like in Ultimate Spider-Man, it helps to have a girlfriend with superpowers to pick up the slack. Chat shows this when they come across two thugs trying to mug a couple and she deals with it by sending an army of animals after the two guys, presumably to bite, piss, and drool over them. In some respects, it's slightly less desirable than a beating by Spider-Man. But it works and shows Peter's love life can be a benefit and not a liability as is so often been shown in those other shitty comics that Mephisto jerks off to.
While things are working out nicely with Chat and Peter, it's easy to forget that the one person who brought them together sort of got the raw deal. That person is Emma Frost. Yeah, that Emma Frost. In this series she's a teenager like Chat and like Chat, she had the hots for Peter (seriously, how can a dork like him get so many hot women wanting to jump his bone?). She's not quite her White Queen vindictive self yet, but she is still a bitch and she doesn't have the baggage she does in the current X-men comics. So in that sense this is the most balanced Emma Frost since Joss Whedon was still writing Astonishing.
Since her introduction to this series, she's taken on the role of a vigilante who isn't a stripper for once. Instead, she's a crime fighting detective who calls herself the Blond Phantom. It's a pretty hot title for a woman that most everyone in the Marvel Universe wants to bone, but she's a lot more watered down here in the sense she's still a teenager and she's friends with Chat. However, things have been strained between them lately and this has left her conflicted. It seems strange that Emma Frost would have that much of a heart, but since there was no Hellfire Club to make her a bigger bitch than she already is it makes sense.
Emma's appearance seems random, but it's a foreboding of things to come. That's not the only round of foreboding. Peter has to get a pep talk from Captain Stacy, who is one of the few who knows Peter's identity. He talks about how Peter has to stay out of the action for a while. When his arm is in a sling, that seems pretty damn obvious. But this is Peter Parker. He has to play macho for a bit. It's kind of pathetic, but when you remember this is a teenage Peter Parker we're dealing with here it's perfectly in character.
As soon as Peter finishes his little conversation with Captain Stacy, he gets a quick reminder of how much it sucks to be sidelined. He's on his way home when he comes across a traditional GTA style carjacking. He's obviously tempted to do something about it. That never happens and rather than be the Spider-Man everyone not named Jameson knows and loves, Daredevil comes in to steal his thunder. It's a nice way to bring in other Marvel characters as this series has been so prone to do. It's also a nice way to remind Peter just how much it sucks to be out of the action. It's like being benched in a football game. He's essentially Drew Bledso watching while some punk named Tom Brady takes his place.
He gets a cheap thrill out of seeing Daredevil. He also gets some extra motivation as well. He goes back to Chat who is already feeling the stress of being Spider-Man's backup. She can't even pick out a costume or a codename. She's ill-prepared to be Spider-Man's replacement. In other words, she is JaMarcus Russel of the Oakland Raiders, completely unfit to step up only not an overweight drug addict. Now excuse me while I change my name and address to avoid crazy Raider fans.
Flash forward a day and his school is on a field trip to see something called the Octavious exhibit, a tribute to the world of Doctor Octavious before he went batshit insane. Yeah, like nothing can go wrong there. Again, it's not very subtle. This is a kids comic. Paul Tobin can't afford to be too smart with kids who probably haven't learned how to find Switzerland on a map yet. This may qualify as being too obvious even for kids because I doubt even they would be surprised when Doctor Octopus comes storming in looking to be the douche bag we all know and love.
This isn't something a bunch of animals can solve by biting and pooping. So Peter does exactly what Captain Stacy warned him not to do, showing yet again how little respect even teenage heroes have for the authorities. Despite his injuries, he suits up and goes to attack Doc Ock. Now too his credit, this is pretty badass because he's able to hold his own. Anytime a hero goes into fight handicapped they deserve a little cred. Not only that, he still manages to pull off his trademark one-liners. To be able to do that through what has to be some burning pain shows this Spider-Man is way more badass than the poorly drawn Ultimate or devil loving 616 version.
However, being badass isn't enough to win a fight. Spider-Man does need help with this one and he gets it. This time it's not from Chat's animals. It's from the friend who once screwed her over, Emma Frost. She finally makes the call, patches things up with her BFF, and Emma suits up as the Blond Phantom to come help Peter. At first Doc Ock isn't impressed. His reaction is the kind of reaction that would piss a ton of feminists off, but Emma proves to be remarkably cool and assertive as fans of hers know her to be. That alone makes this Emma Frost more in line with her character than the bombastic butchering Matt Fraction is doing with his current Uncanny run.
She not only flaunts her power by showing that her mind can basically bitchslap Doc Ocks until he believes he's five-year-old girl who just pissed himself at day care. He also shows that she can distract him and without flashing him her boobs (which would have been far more appropriate if this wasn't a kids comic). It works out nicely. Doc Ock is distracted by a pretty girl, Spider-Man sees a window to move in and punch Doc Ock out cold, and that's that. Emma doesn't even let Peter say thank you. She just gives him a kiss and runs off.
Now there are a lot of great rewards to being a hero in Marvel Comics. Those rewards can be praise, redemption, and respect. But there are a great many who would gladly sacrifice that and a few limbs for a kiss from Emma Frost. That only makes readers love and hate Peter Parker even more. Once again, he attracts more hot tail than a rich rock star underwear model with a doctorate from Yale. Some guys have all the luck.
It's a great way to end the story. Spider-Man beats the bad guys despite his injuries and gets a kiss form a hot blond. Overall, that's a pretty solid victory if ever there was one. Of course Chat doesn't like it. Another woman kissing her boyfriend doesn't sit well, even if it is a friend. It doesn't help that Peter can't wipe that goofy grin off his face. Who wouldn't be grinning after a kiss from Emma Frost? It's only fitting he get brought down a peg before his ego gets too big.
It all makes for an issue that feels very complete. This issue didn't hide from the previous issue even if it did suck. It also moved some long-standing plots forward, even if it wasn't by much in some areas. It even offers a compelling plot point that is underutilized even in the mainstream comics. It shows what Spider-Man has to do when Peter Parker is injured. It's great stuff that will make some think "Why the fuck do they tell this only in the fucking kids books and not the main books?" Well unlike those main books, this one doesn't suck.
There's not a lot to hate about this book. It shows equal amounts of Peter Parker and Spider-Man. It throws in some relationship drama and highlights the rough logistics of being a hero that so often go unnoticed. And it has Emma Frost. If that's not enough for you, then you're just being difficult. As I said earlier, it's easy for this series to bounce back from a lousy issue. This one certainly did and in a very big way. Paul Tobin once again shows that you don't need deals with the devil or shitty anime art to make a good Spider-Man comic. You just need Peter Parker, the women that love him, and some web-swinging action and that's it!
The final score for Marvel Adventures Spider-Man #6 is a well-deserved 5 out of 5. If you're a Spider-Man fan, you'll have little to be disappointed about here. If you're still bitter about One More Day and the shitty art of Ultimate, this is more than enough to scratch that spider itch. Nuff said.