Friday, January 04, 2008

Down Among the Dead Men: Part One of Four (Marvel)
Marvel Knights: Spider-man #1 When: June 2004 Why: Mark Millar How: Terry Dodson

The story so far...
Theirs is a rivalry that has spanned decades and brought about great misery in each of their lives. Norman Osborn has waged a war on Spider-man in both his identity as Green Goblin, and otherwise. Among his exploits, the impregnation of Parker's then-girlfriend, Gwen Stacy, and her ultimate demise atop the George Washington Bridge.

Norman Osborn would seemingly perish in battle with Spider-man, but amidst the chaos of believing he was a clone who had usurped the life of the true Peter Parker, Spider-man finds a bittersweet truth when Norman reemerges to finally kill the true clone, Ben Reilly.

Get back on your mango chutney bed...!Yet another skirmish in their lifelong war brings Spider-man to lie resting in an alleyway behind a restaurant. At first mistaking the motionless body for a vagrant sleeping in trash, the store deli employees soon become acquainted with the deadly truth: Enter the Green Goblin!

Tale of the tape...
ARTWORK: Terry DodsonARTWORK: Erik LarsenStrength: Spider-man 5 (Super Strength)
Intelligence: Draw 5 (Professor)
Speed: Spider-man 4 (Olympian)
Stamina: Draw 5 (Marathon Man)
Agility: Spider-man 5 (Cat-like)
Fighting Ability: Draw 3 (Street Wise)
Energy Powers: Green Goblin 4 (Arsenal)

- Self-made millionaire and brilliant industrialist, Norman Osborn, finds himself enhanced physically and mentally when he investigates an experimental formula developed by his crooked colleague, Dr. Mendel Stromm.

Unbeknownst to Norman the formula had undergone tampering, resulting in an explosion that embues him with the formula's properties, resulting in further increases in his physical and intellectual prowess, at the cost of his mental stability.

Using his technologies to adopt the costumed identity of the first Green Goblin; Norman embarks on a quest for money and power, seeking to become the new boss of organized crime in New York. His goals bring him into conflict with Spider-man, and begin a downward spiral that would make them bitter enemies for decades to come.

- A bite from a radioactive spider should have killed highschool nerd, Peter Parker, but instead it would irradiate his own blood, granting him extraordinary powers.

After turning to a life of profit, Peter is inspired to use his gifts for the greater good when his decision to allow a burglar to escape leads to the murder of his adopted parent and uncle, Ben Parker.
Ben's sage-like advice, "with great power comes great responsibility", becomes a mantra for Parker as he becomes Spider-man!

Spider-man possesses the proportional strength, speed, and agility of a spider. Adding to his arsenal is a precognitive spider-sense that warns him of pending danger. Self-made mechanical webshooters round out Spidey's abilities, allowing him to ensnare opponents in a variety of modes; travel through the city by web-line; and form basic constructs based on the available quantities of his own formula of web-fluid.

Additional: The rivalry between Green Goblin and Spider-man is one of the best documented in comics. Over the course of their careers, each would discover the other's true identity, and embark in a bitter personal struggle that would affect a great many innocents around them.

The Infinite Wars previously featured one of the purest representations of this feud as it was depicted in the Spider-man
feature film. Also worth noting is Spider-mans battle with Osborn's gathered Sinister Twelve, although it did not include his active involvement in the melee [Marvel Knights: Spider-man #11].

History: Spider-man (1-0-0)
The Math: Spider-man Ranking: Spider-man (#1)

What went down...
With two restraunt employees unwittingly walking into the battlezone, the Green Goblin descends atop his glider with two flaming pumpkin bombs for Spider-man and the innocents. The web-slinger leaps from the garbage to toss the two men to safety, barely aon his feet as the Goblin begins a new attack.

The pair fly through a light shower, struggling all the way as the glider swoops low above traffic, causing windsheilds to shatter!

Spider-man gains the upperhand and inadvertently starts an upthrust in their trajectory, as he begins to wail on the Green Goblin. He uses the eyesockets of Osborn's mask to drag his face into an opposing action against his fist.

Engrossed in battle, thhe pair find themselves inadvertently plunging through an office window, wreaking havoc through the studio space that no doubt racks up in the thousands!

They come to crash land in the storage space of a delivery truck, where Spider-man finds an offensive edge. Taking full advantage of their shaken state, he puts the full extent of his spider-strength to knock Osborn around inside his Goblin mask, whipping away the water amassing from the rain.

With the one-two having the desired effect, Spidey looks around for "something heavy" to deliver the finishing blow to his levelled opponent. Located in the middle of a manhattan crossjunction, Spidey finds advice from one of the onlooking civilians, who suggests a mailbox.

Finding the notion palatable, Spidey again calls upon his super-strength to rip the postbox from it's station, only to use it as a devestating clubbing weapon, bringing it driving down upon the Green Goblin with a sickening impact!

With the Goblin well and truly out of commission, Spidey webs him upsidedown to a lamp post, where he can be discovered later by authorities.
His work, however, proves yet to be done as onlookers both criticize the severity of his methods, and unwittingly put themselves in peril, exploring several spilled pumpkin bombs that emit a gentle luminous glow. Too exhausted to help, Spidey leaves the crowd to their own devices and injuries - victorious?

ARTWORK: Erik LarsenThe hammer...
So, you wanna hear a funny joke?
First, Marvel erases twenty years of history on the whims of the Editor-in-Chief. Then, in response to the laughable outcome, someone talks about giving Spidey a miss for the year. After that, the first entry of the year declares Spider-man victorious.
By the haw of Hoggoth! That's downright absurd! Or is it?...

See, here's the thing; we aren't totally unreasonable. And although the Infinite Wars will make no bones about standing by Spider-Boycott: 2008; we won't let that interfere in certain structural obligations.

Objection to bad storylines: Or DC plot to secure BATMAN #1 spot in 2008? U-DECIDE!!!In 2006 we ended the year with our top five characters, which meant when we started fresh for Season 2007, there were some embarassing labour pains in the top five. From now onward, we intend to compensate for that by ensuring the previous year's top ten characters get first bite at the new year.

So, here we are, taking a look at 2007's #1 character: Spider-man.

There are two things that make this a palatable cease-fire to our fledgling boycott. The first, we've already mentioned, but the second is a little less subversive, and ties directly into our motives. Because, as mentioned in the Annual Report, we believe Spider-man fans have had a long wait for truly enjoyable Spider-man stories -- but we failed to consider one man: Mark Millar.

A simple truth: A website like this should really have an entire wing dedicated to Monsieur Millar, because there's every chance we could run the spine of our operations off of Millar's output alone.

Unlike his countrymen; Millar isn't necessarily the kind of writer who will have Americans trying to figure out which corner of their bucket they should be peeing in. Truth be told, there's a lot of the bold yankee spirit beating deep within the cavernous bowels of his writer's heart.
A penchant for "widescreen" action and unashamed superheroics has earned Millar a special place in the comics industry as the closest you can get to a sure thing. His Marvel comics routinely dish out top ten sales figures, making his infamous twelve issue runs some of the most talked about comics every month.

Mark Millar is to us, what Julian Moore is to him: A very foxy ginger.

This far in we should really get to the point, so here it is. In these measly twenty-three pages, Mark Millar teams with Terry and Rachel Dodson to do exactly what One More Day didn't - without a single one of the drawbacks.

Millar pulls out all the stops in a story that I initially criticized for appearing like Marvel's response to the chart topping, Hush. I was quickly silenced by what was quite clearly an excercise in telling a classic kind of Spider-man tale, with a completely modern context. This was Spider-man with a tilted grill, giving us a contemporary fat-free attitude that managed to fullfil all the flavours we wanted, without the old deep-fried calories of boring B-plot, and corny dialogue.

With all of her humanity on show, Mary-Jane provides a frustrated protagonist unable to accompany Spider-man on his journey to save a kidnapped Aunt May.
Though the damsel in distress/bridge top motiff has been repeated ad nauseum, we almost want to meet it on Millar's terms, welcoming it for at least pointing to one of the many uses of the Mary-Jane character.

Dr. Octopus is in obscure full force as a wildcard, playing to a hateful history between he and the Goblin, who provides both an immediate threat, and a sinister mastermind to much larger plots, in his own right. Plots ultimately carried out by Mac Gargan, who gets a revamp not only as Osborn's shadowy super-stooge, but eventually as the much anticipated new Venom.

With Electro, Vulture, and Black Cat in feature positions, this is easily the most inviting experience for fans looking to make the transition from films, to comics, giving them a glimpse of what they sorta know, and what they can come to expect. I almost find a naughty glee in recognising a book that's arguably more ultimate than Ultimate.

In fact, so full of joy for this story am I, that I seem to be getting farther and farther away from my original points. This really is just such a fun read that inspires all of those classic Spider-man feelings, but does so with a vibrant contemporary sheen of confident, velvety inks, and bouncy, kinetic curves.
It's the best of all worlds. It's got the domestic turmoil of Stan Lee, the continuing epic struggle of Gerry Conway, the superhero action of David Michelinie, and the arcing scope of Tom DeFalco. War Mongers, reflecting on One More Day, I don't know whether to laugh, or cry.

To see the same apparent goal achieved so beautifully without any of the disgracefully sloppy writing, or dismissive fan-fiction of blanket retcons, is a bittersweet marvel. Millar seems to understand both Spider-man and modern comics so perfectly, it almost makes you wish the man behind Civil War could've assumed a Geoff Johns/Grant Morrison like hold on his company, to have steered this character to the greener pastures desired, albeit, in a superior way.

At this point, amidst my unashamed fawning, I don't know I've engaged in any kind of coherrent discussion, let alone made an argument for a better way.
I just know that at some point in the future we'll be compelled to end the boycott. It might be the right decision, it might not be, but I know for sure, when that happens, the Infinite Wars will revisit Marvel Knights: Spider-man.

This comic wasn't One More Day.
This comic was smart.

The Fight: 5 The Issue: 6.5

Down Among the Dead Men takes advantage of an awkwardly resurrected Norman Osborn. Though this was uncomfortable, the return of Harry Osborn, post-OMD, breaks the friendship. If you feel the same about the comedy of errors, and are looking for an outlet for some great Spider-man reading, you might like to head over to Amazon to pick up MK: Spider-man! Also feel welcome to save and brandish the Spider-Boycott: 2008 banner featured in this entry, with a link back to us. Because... It's just the kind of hype-driven hit response we could use! Oh no, I'm drowning in irony!!!


Pedro Cruz said...

Ever notice how the Dodsons, while impecable artist in every other aspect, make everything look "plastic"? It sort of looks like everything is sort of almost liquid and shiny...

Krod said...

I wonder if that "plastic" effect is a result of the drawings/inkings or the coloring...

I'm generally a fan of their art---it's aesthetically pleasing, dynamic, good with characters (facial expression AND body language) and sometimes a little sexy. As long as they keep their story-telling up (I have seen it down), they will provide some of the best contemporary art in comics. At least in my book.

Mike Haseloff said...

I think that sense of movement was definitely a strength on Spider-man, though. I don't think it ever breaks a sense of reality enough to stop being appropriate.

If anything, I wish Spidey pencillers could regress back to the eighties, when he was a more fluid character in general. His movements, though still strange (ie; sticking to walls), seem far too human to me. I suppose that might be a symptom of more movie-baggage.

I can't say the sheen has ever jumped out at me. I suppose I much prefer the more cartoony colours and inks of this stuff, to the... deliberately ugly stuff you usually see on Bryan Hitch's work, or Finch...

I suppose part of that shiney (rubbery) quality, at least on the surface, is part of a creative conceit that runs through the whole story. I don't know if it was a response to the Dodson's usual output, or ramped up by Millar for this story, but it plays a lot into some costume changes that occur.

There seems to be a more deliberate recognition of the mechanical/physical design of the costumes, which is probably compliments things like the Vulture's new costume (returning in the upcoming Spectacular cartoon), and then just inadvertently carries onto Spidey for consistency.

I don't know. I'm not really trying to defend it one way or the other, but I think there's a logic there, and a balance between the fiction and reality of materials and graphic design.

I like it a lot.
My biggest complaint would be the tiny Spidey eyes, but maybe I've just never let go of Erik Larsen. :-p