Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Homesick (Marvel comics)
Spider-man Family #1 When: April 2007
Why: Sean McKeever How: Terrell Bobbett

The story so far...
For much of his life William Baker has struggled with right and wrong. After escaping from prison Baker took a nap on a beach where he was the victim of bizarre radioactive waste which caused a molecular shift in the composition of his body, giving him great power over the sand particles that would now make-up his body.

Rather than using his new powers responsibly, Baker continues his career in crime as the Sandman, clashing with Spider-man time after time. A series of defeats and repeat sentences in jail eventually lead to a shift in the sands of the Sandman.

Desperate for an opportunity to live a normal life free of his criminal history, Sandman tries to adjust in various ways. One way is getting a job lugging crates at the docks, but when Spider-man comes swinging-by looking for trouble, he feels an obligation to step in an help his fellows. But Spidey isn't backing down!

Previous Form:
Spider-man (#1): Spider-man has defeated classic foes like Kraven and Tombstone.
Sandman (#79): Sandman scored the victory over Thing with Thundra and the Frightful Four.

Tale of the tape...
Strength: Sandman 5 (Super-Strength)
Intelligence: Spider-man 5 (Professor)
Speed: Spider-man 4 (Olympian)
Stamina: Sandman 5 (Marathon Man)
Agility: Sandman 7 (Unlimited)
Fighting Ability: Spider-man 3 (Street Wise)
Energy Powers: Draw 2 (Projectiles)

Well, Sandman's an interesting case, isn't he? I think we see part of the point in the situation that's arisen in the Spider-man 3 film. As cool a villain as Sandman is, he might not have the depth or motivation to properly represent an A-list villain. In the case of the movie that means you've got it padded out and mooshed into a bunch of other things, while here, you have an awkward balance between legitimate threat and villain-of-the-week.

Physically Sandman has to be one of Spidey's more physical opponents.
As problematic as a Dr. Octopus or Green Goblin might be, neither of them can really exert the physical dominance Sandman displays, and that's a versatile weapon in this case. Not only can he turn his hands and arms to rock hard clubs and mallets, but he can also form various other objects like stoney walls, or dense, sandy tidal waves.

Without easy quick-solves like something involving water to upset the meta-physical balance, Spider-man struggles to properly compete with someone like this. Especially when you throw that tricky intangibility factor into the mix.

Ultimately in a one-on-one confrontation it's hard to pick against Sandman, given how broad his powers are, and how non-specific Spidey is. As intelligent as he is, he doesn't usually have the resources or super-smarts of a Reed Richards, who might be more likely to get the best of Sandman.

As strange as it feels to do it, I've got to say in the absence of a construction scene with a cement mixer, or a dissipating jet stream from a conveniently placed firehydrant, Spidey's toast.

The Math: Spider-man
The Pick: Sandman

What went down...
Unable to sleep, Peter Parker decides a little late night web-slinging might be the trick needed to tire him out. After foiling a jewellry store robbery, Spidey is discontent to find himself on an adrenaline high, more alert than before.
Lucky for him, his trusty new black alien symbiote costume can lend him a hand, knocking him out cold with a crack from a go-go gadget mallet!

Gently carrying forth it's sleeping host, the symbiote decides to continue into a night of terror, overlooking basic theft and a rendezvous with Black Cat in favour of finding some action with some mooks at the docks.

It just so happens these unwitting mooks are the Sandman's newest pals, and he hasn't taken too kindly to what he thinks is an unprovoked attack by Spider-man! Little does he know, the alien symbiote is driving this ship!

Sandman's clubbing fists flow into a barrage of sand, but even on auto-pilot Spidey's agility is more than sufficient for dodging the attack that shatters some nearby crates.
Sandman isn't discouraged, taking another swing with a giant, rock-hard sand fist that is likewise jumped over. Symbiote-Spidey takes a swing at Baker's sandy mug, but his fist travels straight through, popping out the other side.

Symbiote-Spidey follows up with a double shot of webbing, but the Sandman's metamorphic abilities allow him to open up a hole in his mid-section, whilst shifting sands to make a spiked-club of his fist!
The club hammers down on the attacking Spider-man with devestating force!

As much as he'd love to have heard the final words of the uncharacteristically silent Spider-man, Sandman is content to see to finishing the job. He looms over the symbiote Spider-man before crashing down as a wave of sand that turns into a swirling storm before dissipating.

Before Spidey even realises it, a towering Sandman pushes some of the steel freight containers that litter the docks down upon his tiny frame!

The Sandman's gloating turns to curiosity when Spider-man doesn't emerge from the wreckage, but that changes quickly. The goopy, elastic black costume stretches it's way from beneath the crates and slithers it's way into humanoid form to lurch at Sandman.

In a reversal of mere moments ago, Sandman finds himself swinging at air as the symbiote opens itself up where a sandy fist attempts to strike! As the symbiote looms over Sandman he lets out the cry, "What are YOU?!", before being engulfed beneath the slick black, and white sentient costume.

Sandman manages to burst through the goopy pseudo-fabric, emerging to freedom with a renewed determination to put an end to the creature.

The two malleable beings swirl around each other like two halves of a double helix, each attempting to best the other.
They wrap around one and other, before exploding away like two equal and opposing reactions.

Conceding that the symbiote creature knows how to hit, a staggered Sandman seaches the scene for the missing black costume. It finds him before he finds it, as it leaps into his mid-section.

The formless symbiote buries itself in the particles of Sandman's grainy mid-section, jetting deep inside of him.
Baker clutches at his stomach, before rigidly throwing his limbs out straight in reaction to the internal struggle being inflicted upon his transformed being. The symbiote does it's wicked business.

Stringy black tendrils begin to burst out of the Sandman's body, before he explodes in a grainy spray of sand and bodypart shaped blocks as the symbiote expands itself from the inside out.

Emerging as an erect, but formless black sludge, the symbiote discovers one of the artifacts contained within the freighter crates. An artifact that reminds it of a time long ago. An iron-nickel composite meteorite found in Canada. A piece of home.

The hammer...
Well, since Parker was asleep for most of the thing, I'm going to give this one to the Venom Symbiote, with an assist to Spidey.
Not a bad way to kick off Web-Slinging Wednesdays, even if I am over a week late. Sorry about that, guys.

Parker wakes at the end of the story to find himself tucked into his bed, with the black costume hanging innocently over the back of a chair. Presumably this is indicative of the story's place in Spider-man canon, placing it during the period where Peter Parker was the unwitting slave of the Symbiote's midnight whims.

I picked up Spider-man Family on a whim, and I have to say, it's one of the best things I've seen coming out from Marvel in a while. Though a little pricey, it's ultimately worth it considering this particular issue is jam packed with two brand new stories, two classic re-prints, and the first ever translation of Japan's Spider-man J. Pretty damned good, particularly given the title's slant toward the characters being featured in Spider-man 3. I think it's a fantastic way to introduce and induct new fans into the comics culture!

I actually wanted to feature the other new feature story, which dedicates itself to a fight between Black Cat and Hellcat, way back when we were talking International Woman's Day [New Avengers #27]. It never eventuated, but I'm glad to have at least approached the book here with this month of Spidey 3 fun.

Though initially a little uncertain about whether or not it was a Marvel Adventures story, I still found McKeever's classic comicbook fight style to be more than satisfactory in it's balance of characterization and plot. Granted, it isn't a deep plot, but it provides insight into the nature of the Symbiote and it's historical relationship with Spidey for the uninitiated, who might be curious about how the film's take on the effects differed.

The visual combination of Terrell Bobbett (Pencils), Gary Martin (Inks) and Bruna Brito (Colours) makes for a visual feast. I'm a really big fan of this very clean, slick looking style, and I was pleased to see it loosely carried over into the secondary new story, and hope to see a lot more from these guys in the future!

I probably won't actually get around to seeing Spider-man 3 until it hits DVD, but I feel like there has to be something said for Sandman. He's one of those villains who maybe isn't supremely significant, but like a Tombstone, he's just one of those guys I really love to see done well.

Like Doctor Octopus before him, and maybe even Norman Osborne to a lesser degree, Sandman's suffered for his fame in the comic book world. A resurgence in Sandman appearances has seen something of an over saturation, far beyond this book, expanding out into appearances in various core books, and also a complete annual dedicated to a revised origin.

Unfortunately a lot of Sandman's more recent appearances have rested on a return to his more classic villainous role, ignoring the progress the character had made over the past few decades as a man redeeming himself. I gather this is somewhat translated into the film, despite his shonky connection to Uncle Ben's death, but unfortunately the comics have felt the need to push him back into that corner.

Perhaps what made Sandman's transition into a more heroic role more readily acceptable than even an Eddie Brock-Venom was the fact that he never really had any strong motivation. For the most part Flint Marko/William Baker was always characterized as a petty career criminal who simply took advantage of his powers to continue to look for an easy way to make some bucks, usually by robbing or working as a henchman.

The attempts to redeem himself as an honorary Avenger, and as a member of Silver Sable's Wild Pack, were really the biggest steps made, I feel, to fleshing the man behind the sand out, and developing his character beyond the two-dimensional villain of the week he was beforehand.

Still, I'm not too fussy. I'm usually pretty happy to get my Sandman however I can get him, and even as a mook with the Frightful Four, you've seen me enjoy him for what he is. [Fantastic Four #129]
I just can't help but feel it's worth highlighting that Marvel continues to make fairly uninspired decisions like these, pushed less by well grounded creative decisions, and presumably more by cheap tricks.

The Fight: 5 The Issue: 7

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