Marvel Round-Up: Comics Released 4/6/16

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We try to stay up-to-date on what’s going on at Marvel, but we can’t always dig deep into every issue. The solution? Our weekly round-up of titles coming out of Marvel Comics. Today, we’re discussing Black Widow 2, Deadpool 9, Old Man Logan 4, Spider-Man 3, Spider-Women Alpha 1, and Vision 6.

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Black Widow 2

I’m in the middle of an interrogation and this moron is giving me everything.

Black Widow, The Avengers

Black Widow 2Drew: Like most folks unfamiliar with the character, that was the line that made me love the Black Widow. She pulls a similar prey-is-actually-the-predator fake-outs later in the film, cementing her skill as a master manipulator, always in control, especially when it seems like she isn’t. Mark Waid and Chris Samnee’s new take on the character seems to embrace all of these aspects, but puts her in a place where she actually isn’t in control.

Or is she? Her new adversary, the Weeping Lion, certainly seems to have the drop on her — and issue one opened with her apparently fulfilling his wishes — but we know she’s got to turn this around somehow. I’ll save the deep speculating for the comments, but I’m impressed at how well this premise manages to balance Natasha’s always-in-control persona with her haunted past. Leveraging the two against one another makes for a much more dynamic conflict than her “we’re both monsters” turn in Avengers: Age of Ultron. Here, her superhuman shame cancels out her superhuman skills (and yes, I understand that she has neither skill nor shame superpowers), leaving a real person at the center of this drama. It’s exactly the kind of mastery I expect from this creative team, but that doesn’t make it any less breathtaking.

It’s several shades darker than the average tone of their Daredevil run (though not as dark as that series’ darkest moments), allowing Samnee the opportunity to flex his hatching skills.

Deal

That’s not an effect we saw very often in Daredevil, which tended to trade more in inky black shadows. It may seem counter-intuitive that this darker series would have lighter shadows, but I think it reflects Natasha’s compromised morality. Matt Murdock’s world was black and white, but Natasha trades in greys — or at least black and white in such fine grain to imply greys.

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Deadpool 9

Deadpool 9Patrick: When it comes to writing about Deadpool, I am frequently a head-up-my-own-ass kind of analyst. It’s okay, it’s okay: I know it. Especially under Gerry Duggan’s thoughtful pen, the character has been able to explore numerous facets of the modern comic book superhero – from over-franchising to breaking the fourth wall, from stunt-weddings to gritty origins, Deadpool’s the perfect avatar of “comics.” But, y’know, sometimes the character does just need to be – and for Deadpool that means some fluid action storytelling and hilariously gratuitous violence. That’s exactly what we get out of issue number 9, beautifully rendered with uncommon clarity by Matteo Lolli.

The bulk of this action occurs in the first half of the issue, as Deadpool and Sabretooth tear the fuck into each other. It all kicks off with a classic two-page splash, depicting the combatants diving at each other, swords drawn and claws bared. It’s an awesome spectacle, and one that I would totally have expected to be a title page. But it’s the two pages that follow that allow Lolli to render some truly impressive gore. Deadpool takes a swipe at Sabretooth’s forehead exposing his… brain? skull? Whatever it is, it’s only half as gross as Sabretooth’s disemboweling a few panels later. Lolli is careful to let the reader’s eye track the motion of Deadpool’s sword throughout this entire sequence – from his hand, across Creed’s face, down to the ground and eventually into Wade’s gut. It’s a steady realism to this totally cartoonish violence that makes this such an effective set-up to the following punchline:

punchline

I’m not sure if it reads the same digitally, but that’s another two-page splash. Lolli and Duggan are using the same visual vocabulary for the jokes as they were for the epic battle, and goddamnitall if that doesn’t make the joke land. Plus, those kids are great! Look at their varied reactions – one is throwing up, one seems to have fallen head over heels, a pair of them are high-fiving. Awesome.

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Old Man Logan 4

Old Man Logan 4Spencer: While we as readers understood that the version of Wolverine featured in Old Man Logan was a survivor of Battleworld and that he could never really succeed in killing characters like Mysterio or (especially) Bruce Banner, up until now writer Jeff Lemire had managed to create just the slightest bit of uncertainty about whether the current Marvel timeline could eventually transform into the one Logan came from. It’s almost disappointing, then, when Old Man Logan 4 conclusively declares that Logan’s future is another timeline entirely, even if it was, ultimately, an inevitability. I actually feel like this direction is a good one for Logan, though; the scope of his revenge was always limited, but adjusting to a timeline that’s not his own and learning how to deal with his guilt without simply slashing people to pieces has far more potential as a premise. This is a Logan who can feel joy and appreciate his friends again, and that widens the scope of this title immensely.

As always, though, the true star of Old Man Logan is the art. Andrea Sorrentino continues to provide bone-crunching action and poster-worthy, iconic imagery (how about those back-to-back spreads contrasting Steve Rogers’ star against Logan’s maple leaf?), but I want to talk a bit about Marcelo Maiolo’s colors. We discussed in a recent Batgirl piece the effectiveness of contrasting red and blue, and Maiolo uses that skill to great effect this month.

Sentinel

The color red is used consistently throughout the issue to represent violence and Logan’s anger, and that’s no different here. The Sentinel’s usual purple hue, though, is diluted with blue to represent its unwillingness to fight; its pacifism is telegraphed to the audience before it even speaks, but Logan is too blinded by rage to catch on himself.

Earlier in the issue, Maiolo also uses red to remind the readers of what drives Logan:

daddy

Even Logan’s dreams and memories of his children are tainted with anger, rage, and pain. It does wonders in explaining Logan’s obsessive quest, but it does lead to my one minor quibble with this issue: I find it hard to believe a man this haunted and driven could give up his quest and so easily find the peace Logan seems to have found by this issue’s end. Still, Old Man Logan’s journey is far from over, and I look forward to seeing how he’ll deal with his pain in this new world of opportunities he’s found himself in.

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Spider-Man 3

Spider-Man 3Drew: Brian Michael Bendis is the perfect fit for Spider-Man. Whatever reservations I may have about his snail-pace plotting and hit-and-miss sense of humor, there’s no denying that his approach to dialogue fits teenage characters — especially famously talkative ones — like a glove. It’s why scenes between Miles and Ganke are always so strong, and its what makes Kamala Khan’s guest spot such a pleasure. Unfortunately, not every character in Spider-Man is a motor-mouthed teenager, but Bendis rarely modulates his dialogue when the teens step out of the room. We’ve often marvelled at the techniques artists resort to to accommodate Bendis-style dialogue, but this issue might feature the most indicative panel of over-writing I’ve seen to date:

Blah blah blah

Cramming figures down to the bottom half of the panel is far from a novel technique, but it’s usually reserved for moments when dialogue is important, and usually features one or two wordy balloons, effectively filling the ceiling space, making the camera angle look much less awkward. The insistence on three back-and-forth exchanges in one panel forces the dialogue into this ungainly vertical stacking of balloons, all to convey exactly zero information. The Grandmother’s suspicion of drugs has already been established, and the announcement that she’s going to the bathroom feels just as abrupt here as it would in either of the two panels around it. That is so say, this panel serves exactly zero narrative purpose, and really only serves to highlight just how unnecessary all of this dialogue is.

It’s not a bad issue, by any means, but it features all of the problems I tend to associate with Bendis stories — too much dialogue that reveals too little about the characters, and a plot that never allows more than one development per issue. These are interrelated problems — cut out all of the fat, and you could fit more plot — but they’re quickly wearing on my patience.

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Spider-Women Alpha 1

Spider-Women Alpha 1Spencer: At their core, crossovers seem simple: let’s take these different characters who all share some common ties — or maybe they don’t, that’s even more fun! — throw them together, and see what happens. That’s the charm of these events, but it takes more than a high concept to make a crossover work. Spider-Women Alpha 1 is the first chapter of a crossover between Robbie Thompson’s Silk, Dennis Hopeless’ Spider-Woman, and Jason Latour’s Spider-Gwen, and thankfully, it manages to lay down all the necessary groundwork for a successful crossover event.

Most importantly, the creative team establishes their three leads both as individuals and as an unit. The most fascinating aspect of this issue is Gwen and Cindy’s adversarial relationship. It doesn’t paint the nicest picture of Gwen, but her distaste for Cindy comes from an understandable place: she’s still upset about Cindy’s reckless actions way back in “Spider-Verse.” This is a clever touch because I know there are some readers who’ve felt the same; even I was frustrated with Silk until she got her own series, actually, after which I came to understand her much better. Gwen hasn’t had that chance yet, but I look forward to (hopefully) seeing her seize it sometime in this story. Meanwhile, Jessica plays an important role in bringing (and keeping) these three women together, and her motivation too comes from a natural, character-based place: her desire to get out of the house (and away from her son) for a few hours to get some adult time.

This issue isn’t just character stuff, though: the creative team also comes up with a compelling threat who looks poised to test all three of our leads in different ways. I won’t spoil the surprise for anyone, but I will say that I’m terribly pleased at how well the choice of opponent ties into a lot of the themes Thompson explores throughout the issue.

All-in-all, Spider-Women Alpha 1 is an effective, compelling start to the “Spider-Women” crossover event. There’s only one problem: the art. On an aesthetic level alone, Vanesa Del Rey’s style is a far cry from the work of Javier Rodriguez, Tana Ford, or Robbi Rodriguez on the Spider-Women’s solo titles; it’s jarring getting used to seeing these characters in Del Rey’s style, which would be far better suited to a gritty street-level title than any of the Spider books. There’s still some strong moments, especially when it comes to Del Rey’s interpretation of the Super-Adaptoid, but those are mostly overshadowed by some seriously flawed anatomy and uncanny, cross-eyed expressions.

wonky anatomy

cross-eyed Gwen

It’s the art that keeps me from being able to wholeheartedly, 100% endorse this one as an individual issue, but if we judge Spider-Women Alpha 1 by the story alone, it’s far more successful. Seriously, this thing’s got me pumped about this crossover, so in that sense, I guess this issue worked exactly the way it was supposed to.

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Vision 6

Vision 6Patrick: Tom King and Gabriel Hernandez Walta are so aware of the theme expressed in their own book, it almost doesn’t make sense to write about them. The title of this issue is “P vs. NP” – a concept that is expertly explored on both the literal and metaphorical level by the narration. Basically, NP represents a problem a computer cannot solve, any what’s worrisome about it is that the computer may attempt to solve said problem anyway, throwing possible solutions at the wall until something sticks. Arguably, that’s what we’ve seen Vision doing this whole time, with the “NP” problem being: “how do you have a normal family life?” The answers have been unsettling. Issue 6 crosses over into straight-up horror as Vision tackles the hardest question yet with an answer only a machine could make.

The issue starts from the perspective of the neighbor’s dog, Zeke. (Yes, really.) Zeke gets out of the house and discovers an interesting smell coming from the Visions’ backyard. The narration very cleverly outlines this P vs. NP over Zeke’s instinct-driven adventure, suggesting that “P” is more of a biological imperative. In fact, the copy “this is P” appears in a panel that shows Zeke getting a little bit of success:

P

He’s using his small set of doggy skills to address a problem. What a good boy! Moments later, he’ll apply the same technique to discovering a dead boy to disastrous results. Which of course, foreshadows Vision’s own actions, which are just as driven by a set of rules he believes to be internally consistent. That panel of the vivisected dog-brain in Vision’s hand is seared into my memory, partially because it’s horrific whenever anything happens to a dog, but also because there are serious implications about how Vision will address problems like this in the future. Hell, maybe even implications about where Virginia and the kids came from.

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The conversation doesn’t stop there, because you certainly read something that we didn’t. What do you wanna talk about from this week?

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16 comments on “Marvel Round-Up: Comics Released 4/6/16

  1. The Vision is still great. Black Widow is, at this point, I think better than Waid/Samnee’s Daredevil. I’m not sure what I want Old Man Logan to be at this point. I don’t think there’s anything they could say that would drive me to read it compared to other comics right now. I read Spider-Women because I read to of the three Spider titles associated with it. And… you know, I’m not sure about it. The art is jarring, agreed. I guess I’m going to keep reading Silk (pretty good) and Spider-Woman (great), so I’ll need to pick up the Spider-Gwens… I guess that’s a positive? Deadpool was the first interesting Sabretooth story I’ve ever read. I’m reading too much Deadpool and I do think this series misses Brian Posehn more than anyone seems willing to say.

    Spider-Man 2099 #9 was as disturbing of a mass produced super hero comic I’ve read. It was dark and violent and gross and it was really good. But damn is it dark. I’ve only read Spider-Miguel for the past couple of years, but he goes full fledged berserk twice this comic, torturing Man Mountain Marko for information, then later beating him to an inch of his life and almost not stopping. It was a dark and gruesome issue. At some point he has to find his way home, right?

    Was there an Iron Man write up this week? Did I miss it? This was a weird comic with Tony being a complete moron. It was a good Rhodey comic, though. Deodato can do some War Machine.

    I forgot to put Spider-Man up there. This was Bendis at his worst. Of course, the final page makes you go buy issue 4, right? You have to now. You have to.

    Lastly, Scarlet Witch by James Robinson: What a strangely beautiful comic. What a weird closing line of dialogue. This has actually been quite a remarkable string of 5 comics put together by the Scarlet Witch team. I’m curious if they’re going to keep this up with a new artist every month. This is another one where you have to think, are they getting close to resolving the magic problem?

  2. Spiderman: I think I heard Bendis say something like how the first 12 issues would be Spidermen 2. Doesn’t look like it, but certainly looks like a 12 issue story. Because Bendis is still setting things up. The accusation of one development per issue feels disingenuous, when this is an issue that reintroduced Lana, introduced Ms Marvel to the story (odd, as I thought these issues were taking place before Miles joined the Avengers), set the dynamics between the Morales family and Gloria, introduced Goldballs and Black Cat started her plan to deal with Spiderman. It is al just set up, waiting to go off.

    But honestly, the thing I really want to talk about is the art. I love how much care and attention is placed into what people look like. I love all the effort in people’s clothes, especially a character like Lana. Lama could so easily fall into cliche, but the effort put into what she wears, the layers and even things like the pockets sticking out truly let her transcend that. Spiderman is a great example of just how important fashion truly is to a book

    SPiderwomen: Wow, I can’t imagine who thought they had the perfect artist for this. Surely there was an artist that didn’t look like they were supposed to be drawing Daredevil.

    The art aside, it is a good start, but not a great one. Makes you excited for the crossover, instead of being a good issue in itself. And kind of wish that Jessica didn’t identify the Superadaptoid. Isn’t part of the fun of Spider-Gwen the fact that the everything isn’t immediately identifiable as the same? Still, Jessica in Starkbucks is just amazing. In one simple scene, a million stories about Jessica mocking TOny are born

    Vision: Everything I have said has come to pass. I said that the Vision lived in a toxic environment, and thatone would have to destroy the other. But what I love is that this turning point doesn’t take the obvious path. We all know that not everyone is going to come out of this story alive. And it would have been so easy for Vision’s turn to evil to be out of a boringly obvious death. But instead, Vision doesn’t. Vision becomes the villain not because his family has died, but because he was placed the priority on his family. It isn’t about his own pain, it is about the pain of those he cares about. And it is that pain that is going to cause everything to go wrong.

    Masterful

    Invincible Iron man: I disagree with kaif that Tony was being an idiot. Quite simply, he didn’t have all the information. But ultimately, this was a Rhodey comic. Honestly, there is not really much to say, except that Rhodey had a fantastic action sequence, and this issue is just a bridge between issues

    • I didn’t know who Lana was before I read this issue, and I don’t feel like I know who Lana is now — if that was meant to introduce her to us, it failed in every way other than that we’ve now seen what this character looks like. The Ms. Marvel scene is cute, but it doesn’t move the plot forward in any meaningful way, and I would argue that it doesn’t reveal anything about these characters, either. I suppose it emphasizes that Miles wants to leave, but can’t, but I think that was well-established by that point. To that end, I feel like the bulk of this issue is devoted to “Miles gets in trouble with his Grandma” which Bendis and Pichelli managed to capture in one panel in the previous issue — the issue where I actually counted it as a plot development. I kind of feel the same way about Black Cat — all we really know about her plan is that she has one, which I felt like the previous issue established in a much more effective and foreboding way.

      Which leaves introducing Goldballs as the only new development, delivered on the last page in classic Bendis style. If this issue is any indication, issue 4 will spend the bulk of its time also introducing Goldballs, which again, I won’t see a new development so much as a repetition of the development from the previous issue.

      • As I read your comment I couldn’t remember exactly what I’d said myself about Spider-Man 3. I knew I was unsatisfied, but I’d forgotten how unsatisfied I was. The problem is that Bendis writes such a likable Miles that Bendis’ sins of completely forgetting to tell a story are too easily forgiven

        It’s especially egregious in this case because there’s so much to tell right now. Miles suddenly got transported into a new world. What is his story here? We know he’s Spider-Man, but he’s got an entirely new background and his family came back from the dead and… there’s so much! So why dick around with this? And while I’m excited about Goldballs (of course), dammit Bendis, we need some Miles time right now.

      • It is weird that you call Goldballs the only development, when Lana has the exact same sort of scene. Both scenes had the same purpose, introducing a new character to the story (though the Lana one has more to it, as it also serves to enforce both Miles’ mother and grandmother’s opinion. It also hints at characterization through the use of her swearing the moment the poor has closed and she’s out of polite company (a big deal, considering Marvel’s usual language rules)). Same with Ms Marvel, who had her scene to introduce herself to the story and to dramatize Miles’ Avengers responsibilities.

        Here’s a list of things that happened

        – Miles gets grounded and loses phone because of bad grades
        – Mother and Grandmother build opinions, and have the opinions seemingly confirmed by the appearance of Lana
        – Lana/Bombshell, supporting cast member, is reintroduced into the story
        – Miles’ father relationship with his Grandmother is defined
        – Ms Marvel is introduced as a character in the story in a role other than ‘generic Avenger’
        – Dramatized conversation about how Miles being grounded will affect his life as a superhero
        – Black Cat hires Hammerhead to kill Miles
        – Goldballs is introduced

        Very little ‘happened’ happened, what what we have is all set up. If the first two issues is an introduction, issue 3 is starting the story itself. What we have here is a whole bunch of different puzzle pieces. The point is that now that everyone is introduced, we can continue and see what happens now that Miles has to deal with his poor grades, Lana, his mother’s suspicions about Lana, his responsibilities with Ms Marvel and the Avengers etc while Black Cat tries to kill him. We can argue about the need to wait till the third issue to do this (was it necessary to spend most of the first two issues on a prologue/cold open?) but this has the same flaws as Black Panther did. Unlike Black Panther, it just had characters talking about things instead of explosions, as Spiderman is a Coming of Age story and Black Panther is a geopolitical thriller. We’ll see what happens afterwards, when both of them try and take advantage of all that set up

        • I’ll admit some bias, in that I know who Goldballs is, and have no idea who Lana is, but the Goldballs scene at least establishes that Goldballs is a mutant. Not knowing who Lana was, I left her scene knowing that she’s a friend who doesn’t go to school with Miles, and has apparently never dropped by his house (or at least met his parents) before. How has she interacted with him in the past? How will she interact with him in the future? Why was she showing up unannounced at his door? There was nothing in this issue to suggest that the answer to any of these questions were in any way interesting, so I couldn’t really be bothered to ask them. I think this issue and her character would have been better served if she was just introduced whenever she was actually going to be relevant to the story.

          I suppose, in my mind, your list of events are all things that would normally be established while other things are happening. Like, a character could be introduced because they have some bearing on the actual events of the issue, or a conversation that explicates a relationship could also advance the story in a meaningful way. I don’t mind some amount of exposition this early in a run, but I also expect some kind of progress beyond simply introducing the characters and their relationships. Moreover, that list is decidedly thin for a 22-page issue — even if we gave each one of those points its own page to establish (and I genuinely believe many of these points were made perfectly clearly in MUCH less time), that leaves over half the issue that’s just drawing out, repeating, and padding these events.

        • Other things are happening. When Lana is at the door, or Black Cat is hiring Hammerhead, Miles is busy. He’s busy sulking in his room being grounded. It isn’t the usual superhero ‘these events happen while Miles fights Mysterio’, but that’s because this is not just a superhero story (few superhero stories are). This is also a Coming of Age story, and sometimes other events can be as simple as being grounded. What Miles is doing in this issue while everyone else is doing stuff is just as meaningful if this was happening when he is fighting Mysterio – probably more meaningful as instead of being a diversion, it is a direct consequence of the narrative.

          Lana could certainly have been explored more, especially as I feel her swearing the moment the door closed was not adequately signposted enough to make the reader understand what that means charactization wise. Bendis likes to go slow to truly build the relationships (which is why everything could be done in one page, but isn’t), so he should have used some of that time on Lana, instead of focusing entirely on what Lana’s arrival meant for Miles’ family.

          Quite simply, I like it when Bendis does this stuff. I do think the slower pace actually lets Bendis put more information in than you would get in a normal comic. I guess the way to look at it is that if the average comic has 1 issue of stuff in it, Bendis goes at half the speed. But Bendis, at half the speed, has three quarters of an issue of ‘stuff’. Which is bad. But all of that stuff goes into depth, which leads to clever stuff like the effect of Lana on Miles mother and grandmother (very cleverly defining their stances but having them face ‘evidence’ that they are correct, so that they have a particular stance instead of just wishy washy ideas). But it is still 3/4 of a normal issue.

          It creates a value judgement. Bendis chooses to take a very specific flaw, because it gives him advantages no one else has. Just like, for example, Shane Black’s movies often feel like they are wheel spinning in their second acts, only to surprise you that each and every aspect mattered. The strength and the flaw are one in the same. Intentionally weakening one aspect of the storytelling to make another that much stronger

        • I absolutely respect Bendis’ commitment to showing us (rather than telling us about) character relationships, but I don’t agree that this is an effective investment of narrative space. I honestly don’t feel like we got anything from these conversations that would have been lost if they’d been compressed even a great deal — I simply don’t see the level of texture you’re talking about. Moreover, I think one or two well-crafted lines can communicate just as much about a character, a relationship, or a situation, as entire conversations Bendis writes — much of the skill of writing is distilling these things down so that we can fill in the rest for ourselves.

          When I talk about “other things happening,” I mean within the actual scenes where these more expository events are happening. Most good stories can introduce a character, characterize them, and give us a sense of their motivations all at the same time, often while also advancing the plot. Stories are more interesting when characters are developed along with the plot, when their personalities and relationships are highlighted by conflict or tension. Bendis does this well when he chooses to, but it’s hard not to see an issue like this — which repeats the conflict far beyond its utility in exploring the characters or their relationships — as wheel spinning.

          Why not introduce Lana when she can be characterized meaningfully, or her relationship with Miles can be explored, or even when she’ll actually play a role in the plot? Here, she’s barely introduced, and mostly serves to show us that Grandma is taking things further than Miles’ parents want — a point that had been made several times over by that point.

          And then there’s that Black Cat scene, which is clearly there just to remind us that she’s eventually going to matter in this story. That’s its only purpose. If the next time we saw her, she had already teamed up with Hammerhead, we could pretty much imagine this scene without losing anything important — plot- or character-wise. If this series moved at a more reasonable pace, we wouldn’t need to waste five whole pages (and I emphasize that because I remembered it as only being one or two) reminding us that this character is gunning for Miles; we’d just see her actually gunning for him.

        • Different tools work for different ends. Yes, a single line can provide powerful characterization, but only in specific ways. Bendis conversations can create characterization in other ways. Generally, the single line characterization stuff creates something… I want to say archetypal and broad, but feel that gives a negative vibe. Creates a point of characterization that is singular.
          Bendis’ style creates something less singular. He removes certainty, and lets the character’s belief be tinged with doubt. The whole point is that, for example, Miles’ mother’s belief about what is happening isn’t certain. Instead, Miles’ mother is trying to understand, and actually has a level of self doubt on what she is saying.
          Bendis is using things like conversational rhythms and stuff to do a specific sort of characterization that requires that sort of dialogue. There’s all sorts of character stuff you are ignoring, like how Black Cat’s is defining herself as opposed to the previous kingpins.

          But honestly, I feel your problem is that you seem to have a very limited view of what plot is. You keep talking about the need for a plot, yet dismiss actual events happening. What are things like Miles getting grounded, the (grand)parents meeting the girl who seemingly confirms their suspicions or Black Cat hiring a hitman are if they aren’t plot. Just because most of the plotting comes from Coming of Age stories doesn’t change the fact that events still happen, and plot and characterization happen interconnected with each other. Spiderman has always been a Coming of Age story, so it will always use many of these sorts of plot points. It is a big part of how you plot a Spiderman story

        • I was ready to chalk this up to a matter of taste — I truly believe that comics as a medium demand economy (of dialogue, of line, of page space, etc), and that that demand supersedes generic and stylistic considerations — but even putting taste aside, I simply don’t agree that this comic accomplishes what you’re suggesting. This kind of back and forth works great on the stage or screen, where actors can pace the lines and imbue each one with a specific emotion. Comics don’t have the benefit of live actors, so those “performances” can only be communicated through the art and words on the page. Skilled creators can still conjure remarkably subtle performances, but those moments are few and far between in this issue.

          Take the panel I included in the article: it’s straight up not possible to convey subtle emotions when one image has to represent three successive exchanges between two characters. Does Gloria’s attitude/emotion change between her first and third lines? If yes, then there should be a second image (at least). If not, then (at least) one of those lines is unnecessary. Bendis is failing to utilize Pichelli’s contribution to its fullest potential, which is a cardinal sin in a visual medium.

          This really isn’t a matter of me being insensitive to genre — I appreciate that Spider-Man is part teen drama, part action, and while I think more efficient use of space would allow those parts to feature more evenly in each issue (issue one struck the best balance, but issue two was almost all action, while this one is almost all drama), I’m happy to accept that there are issues where Miles never puts on the mask. BUT, I honestly don’t think these things qualify as plot developments in ANY genre. My definition of plot development is “something that changes the course of the narrative,” which I don’t think is particularly narrow, but I’d love to hear an alternative definition.

          Lana showing up, for example, doesn’t change the course of the narrative. You suggest that it confirms Gloria’s suspicion, but it doesn’t change the tenor of her conversation/accusations (she was accusing him of using drugs before and after that moment), and doesn’t warrant resolution before Gloria’s eventual heart-to-heart with Miles. Take it out, and the story is the same. To me, that means it isn’t a plot development. Things can certainly happen in a story that don’t advance the plot, but they have to serve some purpose. Often times, that other purpose is character development — it’s best when those purposes are one in the same, but some degree of autonomy is common enough to be acceptable. In my mind, that scene fails at characterization, too. Gloria was already accusing Miles of using drugs, Miles’ parents were already getting exasperated, and Lana’s introduction doesn’t actually tell us anything about her character. My understanding of these characters would be in no way affected if that scene was removed. Rules of narrative economy (which admittedly, can be broken) dictate that a scene that fails to advance either the plot or our understanding of the characters should be cut. I absolutely think this issue would have been better served if scenes like this one had been cut to make room for more that actually do serve a narrative purpose.

        • The difficult thing about narrative economy is the necessary economy is dependent on a whole bunch of factors. Bendis has always written chapters of a book instead of issues that are released month after month, which has a major effect on how his stuff are read (they work so much better collected, because you can read the chapter immediately after). But that is how Bendis works.

          On the panel you showed, I get what you are saying there. But comics are also a complex beast that require you to balance the number of panels you have with the need to use aspects like size of panel, story pacing and the page. THere will always be things that could be better, because the team had aspects they felt were more important. Yes, you could have three panels, but that cuts into other stuff. Which is why instead, they used a single panel that gave a generalized representation, and let the dialogue do the heavy lifting (maybe you interpreted it differently, by I saw that panel as representing an escalation. To me, Gloria was getting angrier and angrier, while Rio is getting more and more frustrated. Even if Bendis didn’t have the space for three panels, the escalation was obvious from the dialogue. Or at least it was to me. Honestly, the stuff I like from this issue comes from the fact that instead of trying to be perfectly efficient, I get to see things like that escalation. Would it be better with actors on film? Of course. Film will always have the advantage over any written medium when it comes to dialogue. That doesn’t change the fact that subtlety can be presented in many ways, even with just the lines itself. Bendis uses Pichelli’s art for great effect throughout, but he’s also willing to use his dialogue further to add more stuff that he doesn’t have the space for to represent visually.

          Also, isn’t ‘Things happen while the hero is busy’ a classic plotline in just about everything? So is ‘two characters from different sides of a lead’s life meet, causing miscommunication’. If you look up the definition of plot, it is as simple as ‘a causal sequence of events’. And this issue is causal.
          Because of Miles’ bad grades, Miles loses his phone and is grounded by his grandmother. HOWEVER, Gloria oversteps and angers Miles’ parents, who believe that Miles’ poor grades are for different reasons. Lana arrives to see Miles, BUT because Miles is grounded, she meets Gloria and Rio instead. THEREFORE, their opinions on Miles are both reinforced, THEREFORE leading Gloria to anger Jefferson to the point where he walks out the door. BECAUSE Miles is grounded, Ms Marvel arrives to see why he isn’t on patrol with her BUT Miles has to refuse in order to deal with his family. MEANWHILE, while Miles is distracted, Black Cat hires a hitman against Miles.
          Each event is connected to the other, the buildup of previous events of the issue. Just because the major climaxes of none of the threads haven’t occurred yet doesn’t mean that things haven’t happened. In fact, I think the problem with your definition is quite simply you have a too high requirement for something that changes the course of the narrative. What would have happened to the narrative if Miles had rebelled at any point? What would have happened if Rio and Jefferson stood up to Gloria more and actually took control of the situation? These would have led to different narrative outcomes.

          I mean, I’ve already admitted Lana wasn’t characterized well enough. THey should have signposted the difference between her personality with Rio and GLoria, and her personality the moment the door was closed. But you also have to ask if there is a reason why Lana was introduced to them first, instead of Miles. For example, Bendis may want to emphasize that Miles, being grounded, no longer knows about events happening in his personal life (just as Black Cat proves he doesn’t know the same in his professional life). But also, Bendis used the introduction of Lana as a catalyst to the current events – the family unit arguing. Maybe a big part of it is that you don’t seem to see the argument escalating. To me, this issue has a steady escalation, with each line and action building the intensity of the entire family unit and gets nastier and nastier until the cruel line by Gloria viciously insulting Jefferson (a great example of how Bendis actually does use the artist to tell the story visually). For me, I am taking each line as the cumulation of everything that happened before – Bendis isn’t repeating himself, because the line means more now than it did because the argument is out a harsher point. Escalation of an argument like that is always going to be harder to do in a comic than on film, but I felt there was more than enough contextual clues that the argument was escalating – I mean, Jefferson literally walked out of the house in anger. To me, there was more than enough context to see things weren’t getting repeated, they were getting worse

        • I’m going to revert back to the “different tastes” explanation here: I think we can both agree that “plot” isn’t just a summary of all of the verbs that would be required to summarize a story (Gloria going to the bathroom, for example, hasn’t come up as a plot development in either of our arguments). In that way, let’s just agree that there’s a line between “verbs” and “plot developments” and that we disagree on exactly where it should be placed.

          I will say, though, that treating comics as the inferior little brother to film is a HUGE pet peeve of mine. They’re different mediums, and they each have their own strengths. I don’t bring this up to accuse you of suggesting that comics are inferior (you absolutely didn’t say anything like that), but to emphasize how disappointed I am when writers ignore the limitations and strengths of the medium. If a scene as written would obviously be better on film, it’s failing to take full advantage of what the medium has to offer. I don’t expect every comic to be Watchmen, but I do expect them to be more than stills from a movie production. Most comics fall somewhere in between those two extremes, but I personally feel like this one hews a little too close to the movie stills extreme for me to really enjoy. Different strokes, I guess.

        • The idea that comics are the inferior little brother is a bullshit idea. Everything has their own strengths, and the stuff you can do with the clever manipulation of the comic page can never be matched by film, just has film can do things with motion that comics will never be able to do.

          But I don’t think Bendis is ignoring the limitations. I would argue he is pushing against them. It is the realization that he has the space for another line, but not another panel, and making the choice to use that space to push closer to the limits.

          We were talking about economy earlier, and I think it is an example of that, honestly. He wanted escalation, but he also had a whole bunch of other scenes he could fit in. So, he uses dialogue to handle the escalation, because it is the most economic way of fitting both in.

          Because the thing about discussing the strengths and limits of a medium is that they shouldn’t be used as a reason not to do something. If you are approaching the limits, it is a sign to be smart, to try harder. Because finding the space to add a little more is a benefit

        • To me, the spirit of narrative economy isn’t to cram in as much as you can, but to only add what is absolutely necessary. But like I said, I think we’re just getting into aesthetic differences that can’t (and don’t need to) be resolved.

        • Yeah, I believe there is just an aesthetic difference. You enjoy elegance, while I will allow messiness if it improves the final product. Both perfectly reasonable viewpoints

        • My problems with this issue are different. I’m the guy that has read every Ultimate Spider-Man that Miles Morales has been in. I have his first appearance, the variant of his first appearance, the second printing of his first appearance. It’s quite possible I physically own every comic he has appeared in (with the exception of the abominable All New Avengers, which I’ll find in dollar bins soon and the even more abominable and actually embarrassing to read All New Ultimates, which should be stricken from public record, but I’ll eventually find in quarter bins).

          Anyway, I’m invested in this character.

          I understand that the Universe was reformed. But Miles’ history is that of a kid who became Spider-Man after the real Spider-Man had died. Publicly. As a hero. A large part of Miles character is based on living up to what Peter Parker did and not being like his terrible Uncle. So I want some answers as to Miles’ place in this universe, like how does fucking Hammerhead NOT know about him, why the Black Cat is still trying to kill anyone who looks like Spider-Man, even if he’s not her Spider-Pete, and how his character fits in.

          Instead we get pages of talk where stuff happens, but it’s not about what Miles is doing, it’s about what is happening around him.

          I like the story fine. It’s Bendis, I know it’s going to take time. I can even take, “He’s here, now deal with it, stop worrying about consistency because Richards/Molecule Man have their own consistency.” I just think that adding a grandma (who I’m 99% certain is new) and having every other page be “He’s on drugs” “I’m not on drugs” to be sort of grating when there are so many GOOD stories out there dying to be told, because this isn’t coming of age, this is bad 1980’s afterschool special he’s not really on drugs comedy type shit writing, and I expect more.

          End thought: This comic can’t go truly bad because Bendis has created a character that honestly is my Spider-Man of the last 3 or 4 years. I think Miles has better stories than Pete has. Shoot, I think Pete’s best Spider-Man story was being dead. Now, Peter Parker will always be my *real* Spider-Man, but right now Miles Morales is a more interesting character, especially under Bendis’ pencil. This just did’t work right considering the All-New All-Different world we’re in.

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