What Book Are You Currently Reading?

Discussion in 'Books, Comics & Graphic Novels' started by WubbaLubbaDubDub, May 23, 2016.

  1. Matemar

    Matemar The Crow

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    Well... yes and no.

    I don't really go through books aiming at classics, but they are classics for a reason, and since I didn't read most of them and they all interest me I guess you can say that I am going through classics.

    Wow, I really know how to complicate easy answers. :confused:
     
  2. ReymousFumes

    ReymousFumes Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Nerd
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    [​IMG]
    Amazing Spider-Man #688 - 691: No Turning Back

    A while ago, I complained about a Lizard-related story arc called "Shed" and how I loathed it. And I would argue that I still do. It was as much a practice in poor taste as the cover above, not to mention its lazy shock factor.

    This story, however, does show me the potential of such a dark story, how it could exhaust our hero mentally when there's been so many deaths around him. The main reason I was bothered by Billy's death was because it came at a time when The Gauntlet was ending and Grim Hunt was beginning, so there wasn't a lot of payoff that reflect on the little boy's death, and that's just inexcusable for me, making his death feel like a cheap plot-device. This story does a little better to at least show the effect the many deaths have on Spidey's sanity.

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    The fact that the Lizard has literally destroyed Curt Connors' life at this point, however... is a mixed bag. I liked Connors. He's a good friend of Peter and a good supporting role. I don't enjoy seeing Peter's friends having their lives ruined for the sake of cheap shock. On the other hand, the Lizard is now an even more terrifying villain than before, and the whole "Hyde has taken over Jekyll's mind" angle is, I have to admit, rather intriguing and has potentials. Though to be fair, Hulk did it first, so it's not exactly original.

    That being said... this is yet another Dan Slott story that comes to an anticlimactic end after a lot of build-up. The Lizard turned a lot of important supporting characters into his reptilian ilk, but that plan backfired when it's revealed that reptiles are naturally docile towards humans (and it's only The Lizard that's the exception)... lame. I wish there could have been some form of consequence at least, having another of Peter's friends turned into a monster.

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    There was also no big fight scene, and hilariously enough, the "battle" (if you could call it that) was resolved with the appearance of a family member named...? C'mon, any guesses? It's an easy answer. That's right - it's resolved when Curt Connors' wife showed up as the Lizard's hallucination, AKA MARTHA! Oh my god, did Batman v. Superman rip-off from this?! LOL

    Aside from the lackluster revelations, there's also a number of plot-holes I need to point out. First, Spidey claimed that the Connors side of the Lizard might be the evil persona because of his grief over losing Martha and Billy, but that doesn't explain the fact that the Lizard was still aggressive when he had his wife and son back then in his first few appearances. Second, when Spidey was going to pierce the Lizard with the hypodermic harpoon, he noted that it might kill him and hesitated, yet in the first part of the story in #688, he said nothing of the sort and stabbed his throat, violently I might add, with the same harpoon. Why is he hesitating here in the final part, #691 instead? It makes no sense.

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    And finally, the fact that he made such a big deal that the harpoon might kill him and then, after stabbing the Lizard with it for the second time, quickly apologized, that moment just came off as goofy and hilarious for the wrong reason.

    I enjoyed that Slott reaffirmed Spidey's status quo of not letting any one die - his enemies included - and how he tried to play around with the Lizard's character by implying that the Jekyll persona might be the evil being in Mr. Hyde, but the execution here just feels so sloppy. I have a lot of qualms about Slott's writing, but "sloppy" isn't something I'd usually attribute him with.

    That being said, I do like that big reveal at the very end... I was totally stoked about it when I saw that villain's return. YES! He's back! Can't wait to see his confrontation with the wannabe Hobgoblin. But outside of that, this has been the latest disappointing Slott-tale that I've read.

    Final Rating: [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
     
    #102 ReymousFumes, May 16, 2018
    Last edited: May 16, 2018
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  3. ReymousFumes

    ReymousFumes Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Nerd
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    [​IMG]
    Peter Parker Spider-Man #156.1: Old Haunts

    In celebration of the 50th anniversary of Spider-Man, Marvel published multiple "point 1" issues for all the Spider-Man titles (including the new Ultimate Spider-Man with Miles Morales). And appropriately enough, one of Spidey's greatest writers was invited back to tell a special little tale. Initially, I didn't realize it was him. I thought it was just another Dan Slott story. But as I read on, I noticed that the mood was a little darker, the focus a lot more on the characters' relationship with each other, and that very natural, realistic dialogue they have with each other. That's when I realized, "Wait a minute, this isn't Slott's work," and then I quickly referred to the credits page again. There he is, one of my favorite Spider-Man writers of all time, Roger freaking Stern.

    Looking back, I remember not having a firm grasp on just why I love Stern's work so much. I could never come up with a strong reason. It's not till now, after reading this, that I realized what it is: Roger Stern's Spider-Man reminds me A LOT of Stan Lee and Steve Ditko's Spider-Man.

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    One of my favorite kinds of story that I love to see the webslinger get involved in is fighting gangsters and non-superpowered thugs, not just because Spidey's a street-level hero, and not just because it forces the writers to get creative with these villains with normal human strength (preventing them from losing too fast by having them come up with brilliant strategies), but also because it was so compelling to see Spidey getting involved in something very grounded and relatable: fighting criminals we see on the news everyday. The fact that crime itself is a social problem that will never go away makes it even more engaging to see how he handle these perpetual criminals who will always be out there ruining somebody's life.

    This was often what Lee and Ditko's stories felt like when they featured very grounded criminals like The Enforcers, The Big Man, and The Master Planner, not some colorful supervillain in spandex (not that there's anything wrong with those). And by the time Stern came along, he introduced the Hobgoblin, another realistic villain who isn't some crazy megalomaniac like Norman Osborn trying to conquer the world, but a criminal going after a very common but realistic desire: money.

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    This issue is no different as it's about Spidey fighting a pair of thugs trying to take advantage of foreign workers... which makes me love the story so much. Foreign. Workers. Being taken advantage of. It's a very simple and straightforward concept, and yet because of this little detail, it makes the story so much more interesting. Of course I want to see my favorite superhero get involved in a real world problem!

    As a 50th anniversary story, Stern also revisits the same waterfront building where Spidey confronted his uncle's killer, resulting in a melancholic and somber reflection on how long it has been, and how much Peter has grown since the incident. It's not unusual for an anniversary story to reflect on Uncle Ben, and while the story is a little blend, I greatly enjoyed that Stern focused quite a lot on the plight of these Spanish workers without a proper work permit, letting you know that it's not just another petty robbery we're dealing with here. It's Stern's ability to provide these little details on the problems of ordinary American citizens (foreigner or otherwise) that keeps me interested in his stories till the very end. He doesn't just focus entirely on creating plot-threads for the future or come up with some fancy gimmick like Slott; he focuses on the real world that Peter Parker and you and me live in.

    I'm so glad I was able to read this. It's a bittersweet reminder of what we've lost in the Spidey writing team.

    Final Rating: [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    Footnote: Honorable mention to John Romita Jr. for his cover art. I've always loved his art during Straczynski's run. Another legend we'll dearly miss.
     
  4. ReymousFumes

    ReymousFumes Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Nerd
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    [​IMG]
    The Sensational Spider-Man #33.1 / 33.2: Monsters!

    Reading these "point one" issues, I'm constantly finding myself unsurprised at how the other writers tell better Spider-Man stories than Dan Slott.

    DeFalco was one of the senior editors and writers on the team who gave us some rather ambiguous anti-heroes like The Rose (a underused character who's the son of Kingpin) and Puma (a spiritual being with an honor code as interesting as Kraven's). Next to Roger Stern (and Ditko of course), he was perhaps the third person in running who also explored that street-level side of Spidey fighting against the mob. He also had a strong grasp on the multiple plot-threads that led to some very intriguing plot-twists and reveals that felt a lot more natural than many of Slott's gimmicky twists. I particularly enjoyed his take on the Hobgoblin and setting up Flash Thompson as the fall guy when Hobby's identity was supposedly revealed. He was an excellent editor as well who worked alongside the many greats like Peter David and, of course, Stern himself. But I'm digressing too much in this review with my fanboying over DeFalco. God, I need to reread his run again.

    This story has a lot of good things going for it. For starters, it's topical, touching on yet another real world problem; this time, illegal immigrants shipped from Russia and Pakistan forced into prostitution and slavery. I'm really not surprised this was DeFalco's work. He's known for such gritty storylines that touch on relevant topics. This kind of story can distract from the story if the spotlight is shed on the social problem itself than the characters, but I feel like it's not a problem here as the characters still have meaningful development to keep them from being just observers reacting to a horrific crime.

    For example, there's the other good thing about this story, Carlie Cooper, whose return I much despised after Spider-Island. But for some reason, reading DeFalco's take on Cooper and her detective work makes her grow on me! And looking back, I might have been too harsh on Cooper. As could be seen here, she can make an interesting supporting character as a significant ally of Peter who's also part of the police, something we haven't seen in a while (I don't really count Watanabe since her role in Spidey's life has often been minor compared to Carlie and, of course, Jean DeWolff). I don't know why it's taken me until now to really appreciate Carlie's CSI skills, but it might have something to do with how Carlie's always berating Peter about something, an annoyance that's still visible in DeFalco's story here, albeit in small doses.

    There's one lapse in logic that feel more like a nitpick in the big picture, like how the immigrants managed to survive the fall within the cargo container when it's dropped from at least three stories high (a fall that destroyed the container, but leaving the immigrants intact). I usually don't criticize too much on these points UNLESS the story is boring and unentertaining (like "No Turning Back" that I reviewed recently). Here, DeFalco's writing keeps me distracted enough that such trivial points barely bother me.

    The second issue is also a little weaker, but it doesn't ruin the story for me. What I don't really like is how the story just ends without Spidey being involved in taking down the main villain. On the other hand, it feels appropriate. The entire story is meant to convey Carlie's frustrations about the limitations of the law and how complete monsters like Vorski gets away with manipulating the system to his will while innocents screwed over by the system (the immigrants) are punished, so it's only fitting here that the hero doesn't get to catch the bad guy. And besides, Vorski does get his just desserts at the end, which is satisfying.

    I love the analogy DeFalco use regarding monsters of the literal and figurative form, the Vulture and Spidey being the former, and Vorski the latter. Such strong parallels is yet another display of DeFalco's writing, as he's always been able to ensure his stories embody specific themes throughout their entirety. This isn't easy. Themes can be an effective way to send a meaningful message to your readers, but many writers I know (Slott included) are more interested in weaving multiple plot-threads for future stories than focus on a specific theme in the present one (which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but can often dilute the impact of the writing). I particularly like how Spidey is a little more violent in this story, further conveying the theme of how Spidey has a little monstrous side to him. Now, Vorski is obviously the real monster here, but such parallels to show the length of which Spidey is willing to go to in pursuit of justice makes for a compelling read.

    As a Spidey anniversary story, it does seem an odd choice to focus on such a heavy story, touching on a very significant subject that can distract the readers from Spider-Man himself. But I can't say I hate it either, because this is a very good story nonetheless. It's not often that Spider-Man stories tackle the human condition and the state of our society, but when it does, it feels very appropriate. I've often said that the defining trait of Spider-Man is that he's one of us, an average everyman. It's only fitting that he fights the same social problems that we are troubled by in real life. I only wish more writers like Slott could learn from this.

    Final Rating: [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
     
    #104 ReymousFumes, May 16, 2018
    Last edited: May 23, 2018 at 9:49 PM
  5. ReymousFumes

    ReymousFumes Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Nerd
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    [​IMG]
    Amazing Spider-Man #692-694: Alpha

    What if Justin Bieber was Spider-Man? Brr. Horrifying thought, ain't it?

    Last time in Spider-Island, I complained that it didn't focus enough on the whole "what if irresponsible people became Spider-Man" theme. This story fixed that. The result is a very annoying and self-entitled brat. And yet, it makes sense in a real world perspective. Teenage celebrities have often let their fame go to their head before they inevitably crash and burn with all the bad press.

    There were many stories over the past few issues prior to this story, but this was the one that supposedly marked the actual birthday of Spider-Man, so it's fitting that it's related Spider-Man's origin - this time, by creating a modern Peter Parker. With geeks and nerds being cool now, the modern day outcast is a little more different now, and Andy Maguire (whose name might be a homage to a certain Spider-Man actor, perhaps) seems to fit the bill pretty well, a kinda anti-social recluse whose parents are neglectful, too busy with their career to shower the child with proper affection.

    In the story, Andy goes through a very similar origin story as Peter, but ends up living "the good life" by utilizing his powers for self-gain. And in spite of his parents being put in danger because of him, he never mellowed the way Peter did, which makes sense since Andy and his parents barely have that strong relationship Peter had with his uncle. I've often liked stories with characters that parallel Peter's personality and morals, and it's honestly enjoyable to see another troubled kid use his newfound powers to live the fantasy of all that fame and fortune. Very similar to what Parker went through. The problem lies in how the story wrapped up in the final issue. It's a Dan Slott story with an interesting gimmick; can you guess how it ends? Yep. With a freaking anticlimax and a rushed ending. Phewie, didn't see that coming, now did ya?

    Once again, we are deprived of a big dramatic fight scene between Spidey and Alpha in the end (despite what the cover of #694 tells you). We didn't get to see Alpha's own pride swallowing him up in a karmic manner, which would have been more appropriate and a hell lot more interesting than how he was eventually brought down: by having his powers zapped away in a single page. That's it. Sigh.

    It's a shame. This could have led to the next stage of Spidey's life as a role model and mentor like in MC2 Spider-Girl. But I guess that will make Peter too "mature", and I know the Marvel house wants Spider-Man to stay "youthful" and "hip" with the kids to sell books... Cue eye-roll. :rolleyes:

    The only saving grace is the two back-up stories in the first part of the story, #692. One's a heartwrenching tragedy about a father and his Spider-Man fan of a daughter with terminal illness ("Spider-Man For A Night"), bearing similarity to the also tear-inducing "The Kid Who Collects Spider-Man"; the other is an uplifting tale exploring the inner-kid still existing in Spidey ("Just Right"). I think I've always preferred these smaller and more somber stories over the big over-the-top ones sometimes (especially where Spider-Island was concerned with "Infested"). Hope to see more of them.

    Are we done with Slott yet? Oh right, still have another 6 years of comics to go through. Sigh. Can't wait to see how messed up #700 will be.

    Final Rating: [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    Good concept with very emotional back-up stories; horrible ending and execution.
     
    #105 ReymousFumes, May 17, 2018
    Last edited: May 18, 2018
  6. Oh Snape

    Oh Snape House Bantsratheon
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    I loved that Killer Croc cover. Is there a darker Spider Man series ala Frank Millers Dark Night Returns?
     
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  7. ReymousFumes

    ReymousFumes Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Nerd
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    Good question. Actually, there was a line of Spider-Man comics titled, "Marvel Knights: Spider-Man that ran from 2004 to 2006, before it got changed to the volume 2 of "The Sensational Spider-Man".

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    I enjoyed that series. It was meant to tell more mature stories that might not be appropriate for the main title. The swearing isn't censored, and the content is a lot darker. I kinda wished that this series got turned into a Netflix show like Daredevil and Jessica Jones, which would have made sense since he's a street-level hero like the Netflix heroes (not to mention allowing him interact with Kingpin the way he did in the comics).

    There is one negative point that might put you off though: it's written by Mark Millar, notorious for his sleazy stories like Kick-Ass and Wanted. Millar isn't a bad writer per se, but many people might find his writing in poor taste. That being said, Marvel Knights: Spider-Man had some pretty solid stories though, which I recommend checking out. Shame it ended too soon.

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    There's also an actual "Dark Knight Returns" inspiration titled "Spider-Man: Reign"... That one had Spidey killing MJ with his radioactive sperm. Yeah. It does have a good concept though, a much older (elderly even) Spider-Man who's exhausted by the many deaths around him (basically Dark Knight Returns but with Spidey), and it's set in an alternate New York City controlled by a authoritarian government utilizing a merciless police force, "The Reign", but that sperm shtick just brought it down a little, so I don't know if you would be willing to look past that flaw to get to the story.

    For all the faults that whole Spider-sperm nonsense had, I've actually read some pretty good reviews for it. It's also written by Kaare Andrews, who also wrote Spider-Man/Doctor Octopus: Year One. Lots of Batman inspirations there.
     
    #107 ReymousFumes, May 17, 2018
    Last edited: May 17, 2018

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