My Top 10 Stories of Brand New Day: No.9: Kraven’s First Hunt

No.9: Kraven’s First Hunt

When I started rereading Brand New Day for this blog, I had a rough idea of the stories that’d be on this list. One I never would have expected to choose is “Kraven’s First Hunt.” I remember when I first read the story really not liking it. I’m not sure what was wrong with it but it distinctly left a bad taste in my mouth. However I think I’ve changed my mind on this story, it’s definitely not a favourite but there’s something in it that I quite like.

What I like about “Kraven’s First Hunt” isn’t the story, or the threat of Ana Kravinoff it’s that this story is an examination of the dangers of being friends with Peter Parker. I think a brief overview of the story will help me explain this better; basically Peter is being hunted by Kraven’s daughter, Ana. Ana unfortunately mistakes Vin Gonzales, Peters roommate, for Spider-Man and Peter is forced to battle the youngest Kravinoff disguised as Daredevil. It’s not exactly the best story and it certainly has a few problems, but after finishing Superior Spider-Man and watching the Amazing Spider-Man 2 I began to see the story differently.

We all know that being a member of Spider-Man’s supporting cast puts a target on your back. We have the ever present memory of those who’ve lost their lives because of Peter’s actions as Spiderman; Gwen Stacy and Uncle Ben being the prime examples. But in Kraven’s First Hunt we see how Peter can put you at risk without you even being a close friend. Just by living with Peter, Vin gets abducted, tortured and drugged all because of Peter. There’s no two ways around it Peter is a liability he puts those around him at risk, completely unintentionally. There’s actually something quite uncomfortable and disturbing about this story. When Vin’s being tortured and hunted in the sewers I felt extremely sorry for him, imagine how confused and scared you’d be. Furthermore it got me reflecting on Peter’s supporting cast in general. At the end of Superior Spider-Man both MJ and Carlie Cooper leave Peter because they can’t deal with the super heroic side of Pete’s life. Can we blame them? Well no, not really especially when we take this story as an example of what can happen to you. What’s worse is that Vin’s interaction with Spidey, in this story, further embitters him against the wall crawler and leads to Vin’s eventual loyalty to the Goblin Cult.

There’s also other smaller things to like in this story, although I never truly believed that Ana was a true threat to Spidey it did introduce the seeds of “The Grim Hunt”, A story that we’ll be getting to later in this list. I always enjoy it when we get some Daredevil and Spidey interaction; the pair have great chemistry. Also despite the darkness of Vin’s situation, there’s still the occasional light heartedness that all Spidey books need.

So there we have it, No 9, maybe I got a bit pretentious with this one but I genuinely did find myself enjoying Kraven’s first hunt more when I read it this way. It’s not a perfect story by any means but it’s nowhere near as bad as I remembered. I hope you enjoyed reading this and will read my next entry for no 8.

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My Top 10 Stories of Brand New Day: No.10

My Top 10 Stories of Brand New Day

In 2007 Marvel published an infamous story known as “One More Day”, in which Spider-man sold his marriage to Mephisto in order to save his dying Aunt. The intent of the story was to bring Spider-Man back to a more recognisable status quo, and therefore prolong the longevity of the character. This meant he’d; be back living with Aunt May, have money problems, girl problems etc. These were things that Marvel believed were integral to the character which had been lost in recent years. Now I’m not going to talk about the fan backlash that this caused, or how I feel about One More Day, instead I want to focus on “Brand New Day”.

Brand New Day was the new direction that all Spider-Man books were taking and focused on the new status quo. The choice however to reboot Spidey left a sour taste in a lot of readers mouths and many left the book as a form of protest, others complained that the book had taken a downturn in quality. Well I’ve read all of Brand New Day and personally I think overall, it was alright. There are a few missteps, some worse than others, but for the most part the stories were interesting. I think that there’s sometimes too much negativity in the comic fandom, so rather than list the stories I hated I decided that I’d list my top 10 favourite stories from this period of Spidey , and explain why I like them. Now these aren’t going to be reviews, more like what they made me think and feel. Starting with no 10!

(For the sake of clarity I personally believe that Big Time was the end of Brand New Day, so any issues after then won’t be included)

10. The Amazing Spider-Man 574

We start of this list with The Amazing Spider-Man 574, a story that doesn’t even feature our favourite web head. Instead the issue focuses on Flash Thompson, or in this case Corporal Flash Thompson and his time in Iraq. The basic premise is simple enough; Flash recovering in hospital is visited by a General. The two discuss Flashes motivation for becoming a soldier, which we learn was the heroism displayed by the wall crawler; however the book then begins to focus on what got Flash put into hospital. It turns out that Flash went above and beyond his duty to save a fellow soldier and ended up sacrificing his legs in the process.

I love this issue I find it really moving. We see the troubles in Flashes past and how he rose above them. Upon rereading this story, and trying to think critically about it, I had a momentary quibble about it. Was this story implying that Flash’s development was all due to Spidey? Well upon reflection, no, of course not. Flash is a brave man who did an extremely brave thing and it was Spidey acting as a role model that compelled him to act, not Spidey himself. It’s what Spidey represents that compelled a man, who was cruel in high school, to mature and develop into a better man. What can I say, I’m a sucker for redemption stories.

It’s always fascinating, when we see the good that Spidey does without even knowing it. He’s not just stopping muggings or super villains; he’s actually making the world a better place by example. Those moments when the web head contemplates whether he’s really making a difference are answered here. It’s an interesting concept that Dan Slott kind of played with in the recent Superior Spider-Man story, that Spidey has these defining moments that can act as an inspiration for others, as well as himself.

Also it has one of my favourite covers which is certainly a big plus. So there we have it, next week I'll reveal no 9.

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5 Things I loved about Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Well Captain America: The Winter Soldier is the latest Marvel blockbuster to hit the silver screen and it seems to be very popular with movie goers and critics alike. I managed to catch a screening of it this weekend, and I thought I’d share what I thought was best about America’s greatest hero’s return. This is less of a traditional review and more a collection of my thoughts on what made the movie work. Now before we begin I’ve only seen the movie once so I apologise if you feel I’ve missed anything critical. Warning there will be spoilers.

5. The Tease: What a tease! With the end of S.H.I.E.L.D I wondered what was going to unite The Avengers again. Well, the reveal of Baron Von Strucker and his possession of Loki’s staff, which looks like it contains one of the Infinity Gems certainly seems like it’ll be enough to unite Marvels mightiest heroes. Even more intriguing was the reveal of a famous brother and sister, who have obviously lost their mutant connection, so how do they have powers now? Is it through the gem? Are they Inhumans? Is it potentially something else? I don’t know but I do know that I’m very excited for The Avengers 2: Age of Ultron now.

4. Nice to see the development of a post Avenger’s world: Something I’ve always wanted to see in a comic film is that action has consequences. I was worried after Iron Man 3 and Thor: The Dark World that Marvel, were shying away from showing just how the world changed after the alien invasion of New York. Even in their books Marvel are guilty of actions never having consequences. The problem with doing that is the tension begins to dissolve and it begins to strain credibility as to why these events don’t reshape the world. I mean look at 9/11 and the impact it had on the world.

Well thankfully this film does a fantastic job of showing us just how S.H.I.E.L.D have reacted to a post Avengers world, and the lengths that Fury would be willing to go to, to protect Earth. The movie is littered with nods to The Avengers, and has more than a few blink and you’ll miss it references, which really help with the world building.

3. The potential for a Black Widow Movie: The Winter Soldier, does a more than competent job at making, Scarlet Johansson’s, Black Widow more than just eye candy in a black leotard. In this film we really begin to see the character beneath the cat suit. She’s morally gray and almost like a secret weapon for Fury, he knows that she’ll cross a line that Cap won’t. There are other nice little character beats which flesh her out beyond her roles in Iron Man 2 and Avengers. The best example of this is the trust that begins to build between her and Rogers, who start the movie in very different

However most intriguing is the end. You see, because of one thing or other, Black Widows past is leaked onto The Internet during this film. It’s kind of brushed off, because more explosive things are literally happening at the same time, but it got me thinking. Was this Marvel’s clever way of setting up for a Black Widow Solo movie? With this film they’ve certainly proven that you can make an interesting superhero spy movie, and the effort Marvel goes to, to make her interesting on her own certainly makes me think this is the direction they’re heading in.

2. A nice relevant plot with an interesting choice of villains: With everything that’s going on in the media currently about government surveillance, free internet and the whole NSA debacle this film feel very relevant. Where do we draw the line and say that government intrusion has gone beyond protection and become surveillance? It’s a difficult question and one that the film doesn’t shy away from. Rogers being an idealist is obviously opposed to the idea that S.H.I.E.L.D will start attacking targets before they become a threat. While Fury and Black Widow are much more pragmatic believing that this is the best way to protect the world.

Which one’s right is never really decided as the HYDRA plot soon emerges and our heroes are forced to unite to stop this powerful weapon being misused. I was actually impressed at the film for not coming down on anyone side. It would have been very easy for the makers to just decide that Rogers was right because he’s the hero, but they don’t make that distinction. The villains in this are interesting choices, the titular Winter Soldier is a brutal combatant and every way a match for Cap. However it was HYDRA and the way they’ve infiltrated S.H.I.E.L.D which was so interesting. The notion that they’d perverted an organisation with such a noble cause was a perfect allegory for the way in which Bucky had been corrupted and made to fight his old friend. All in all good choices and the plot felt compelling enough especially near the end of the helicarriers flight.

1. Proof of Genre Concept: Comic books are a form of cross genre media. Currently I’m reading a number of different titles, all of which have different genres ranging from action to romance. The problem is that Hollywood’s comic book movie has always been an action adventure. Even the lauded Dark Knight trilogy, while an interesting look at the war on terror and the idea of escalation is at its heart an action film.

Now I’m not going to claim that The Winter Soldier isn’t an action adventurer it clearly is, but it does contain elements of 70’s spy thrillers. The idea of the three “Insight” helicarriers screamed Bond villain to me. I’d like to think that this film is a good proof of concept, we can have superhero films about literally anything, and they can be comedies or sci-fi epics that just happen to star comic characters. I definitely think that this is the way Marvel was taking its movies anyway, Iron Man 3 was definitely a good comedy film and the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy looks like it’ll be an excellent Sci-fi romp. However this was the first film of Marvels, that I’ve seen that gave me a feeling of complete certainty that this idea’s got legs.

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Aquaman Volume 1: The trench, Issues 1-4

Personally I’ve always been part of the crowd when it comes to Aquaman; I always thought he was the Justice Leagues joke character and I totally bought into the Super Friends version of the character. What was his power? Talking to fish and swimming fast? It really didn’t seem like a character I’d be interested in. So he seemed an obvious choice to do a “First Impressions” on. Even better he has a series written by one of my favourite writers, who’s famous for taking goofy characters and making them cool, Geoff Johns. So let’s get started with my First Impressions of the first story arc of Aquaman Volume 1: The trenches.

The first and most noticeable element of this book is Johns approach to Aquaman’s legacy and his attempts to prove to the world, and us the reader, that Arthur is a worthy hero. As I’ve mentioned Aquaman’s always been perceived as a joke character, well it appears that this reputation has leaked into the comic world as well. Throughout the book Aquaman has to deal with people putting him down. The public presume his only ability is talking to fish, the police ask him if he needs a glass of water to stay on land and criminals don’t fear him. So how does Aquaman deal with this? He deals with it by being a total and complete badass. For example in the first issue, the aforementioned thieves attempt to run him over. To deal with this he simply throws their truck upside down and shrugs off a hail of gunfire from the thieves, before backhanding one so hard that the rest simply surrender. I’m going to be honest I thought this scene was amazing, and this attitude carries on throughout the book. Johns writes Aquaman with a quiet self confidence and Ivan Reiss draws him to look powerful and proud. All of this comes together to give the impression of a character who’s constantly being belittled but never lets it get to him. Not once does he let his reputation affect his self confidence. I’ve got to say this really made me rethink the way I thought about Aquaman.

He doesn't talk to fish

I should say though despite Johns clearly respecting the character, he knows that there’s a wealth of humour to be mined from his frankly pitiful reputation. One of the most notable scenes is when Arthur enters a sea food restaurant and orders “fish and chips.” The whole restaurant look mortified at this because he can “talk to fish.” Ivan Reis draws Arthurs face with the perfect degree of irritation, as he explains that he doesn’t really talk to fish. You can tell that he’s explained this hundreds of times before and that people don’t care or listen. It’s a funny little scene and the books peppered with them. Even when the threat of the first 4 issues is dealt with, and Aquaman has proven himself to us the reader, a cop says “I still don’t like him.” I laughed out loud when I read that. It really reminded me of a few other comic readers who refuse to accept Aquaman as cool, despite his dorky image being a thing of the past.

Now despite all the humour in the book, I was glad to see that Johns gave the book a good dramatic foundation. It wasn’t a huge part of the issues I read; however it’s clear that Aquaman had a turbulent childhood. His father did the best he could to raise him, after his mother seemingly abandoned them to return to Atlantis, and they certainly seem happy. However his dads attempt to keep him away from the water, the threat of death from Atlanteans and the enigmatic Dr Shin hint at a deeper mystery in Aquaman’s past. I’m guessing that this is Johns seeding future stories and it’s certainly compelling and intriguing enough to rope me in.

Johns also introduces Mera, Aquaman’s girlfriend, in the first 4 issues. I liked her, despite myself, as I usually find the whole warrior woman from another culture trope a bit over used. Now she hits all the usual beats, she’s standoffish with people who don’t respect her culture and her dialogue can be pretty generic, warrior woman. However I think I know why I like her, it’s because it’s clear to me that she’s sincerely in love with Arthur. This is done through a combination of Johns’s writing and Reis’s art. A scene that stands out is during the second issue. Mera and Arthur sit together and look through old pictures of Arthur’s youth. When she finds one of him skiing, she’s totally bemused by the idea and yet she says she can’t wait to try it. I like that; I think it’s to do with her seemingly genuine excitement to try out everything that makes someone human. Now I get somewhat uncomfortable about Mera seemingly abandoning her old life in Atlantis for a man, but as it seems to be completely her idea I’m ok with it, also it could potentially lead to more stories in the future.

The one thing that I didn’t really like about this book, is unfortunately the story. Now it’s in no way terrible. Johns is a good writer who rarely tells a bad tale, but it is generic. A brief synopsis of the first 4 issues would be that The Trench, angler-fish mermen, attack the surface for food and Aquaman must stop them. It’s basically a monster from the deep tale. I think the reason that I find the story so generic is that The Trench despite their pretty interesting visual design have little to no character. They only think one thought, “Food”. Now while this could be quite scary, I found the tension completely dissolved when we found out that they were taking the people back to their home alive. They’d gone from a monstrous unknowable menace to a generic hostage taking race, and I could see where the story was going. I don’t know maybe it’s just me, but if an enemy isn’t charismatic then I’d at least like them to be a threat, especially as the feral nature of The Trench makes it seem like they’re all consuming. The reveal of a Queen in charge of them all, completely removed their mystique as well, as it confirms them to be nothing but a race of “soldier ants” with no character of their own. Part of my cynically believe that this was done so that Aquaman and Mera could slaughter them without, the reader feeling uncomfortable. This again was probably done to make Aquaman seem more badass and adult.

While the designs, perfect and scary. There isn't much going on under the surface.

With that said The Trench does raise an interesting moral dilemma. You see the Trench, as presented to us, are nothing more than bestial animals. Their ability to think is not evidence of sentience. All animals are driven by a desire for food and to protect their own, so there desire for vengeance on Aquaman and Mera is just instinct. So if their behaviour is just instinctual and they have no real malice, did Aquaman have the right to seal The Trench and kill their queen? They’re no doubt an endangered species with as much right to the planet as us. However they’re also a huge threat to the surface as well, endangering human life. It’s an interesting dilemma; it could be argued that it’s a metaphor for Aquaman siding with the surface. He protects the coastline like his father before him and he will make difficult choices such as this. However Arthurs not without his humanity and he actually apologises to the queen of the Trench before he kills her.

So there they are, my First Impressions of Aquaman. Overall I was a fan. Despite a pretty generic story Johns does excellent work in characterising Aquaman as someone who you’d want to read about. I think in conclusion the take away point of these issues were definitely to show the nobility and heroism of Arthur. He’s constantly belittled and poked at, and yet he has enough confidence and pride to rise above it. He sides with humanity because he knows that despite all their snide remarks humanity can be great, and men like his father remind him of this. I liked this series so much that I actually went out and ordered the next two volumes immediately after finishing the book, I liked it that much. So as a newly converted Aquaman fan, are there any runs that I need to pick up?

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The #1 Issue

Continuity is a sticky problem in comic books; a lot of these series have been running for decades and in the case of a few, over half a century. That’s a lot of clutter for fans and it can be quite intimidating for people who want to get into comics, especially when we compare it to other media such as movies and video games which often have a lot less of a legacy. So how does the industry deal with this? Well quite often it’s though renumbering and re-launches and this is often controversial with current readers.

Now both Marvel and DC have different ways of dealing with this. DC rebooted its entire line with the New 52 and this was hard reboot, cherry picking the best of their continuity and jettisoning the rest. They also re-launched every book they had with a brand new #1. Marvel had a much softer reboot, very recently with Marvel Now and even more recently All New Marvel Now. They kept their old continuity but set their heroes up so it was easy to understand their new status quo’s without having the entire back story. Once again however we got a whole new raft of #1’s.

So why does the industry have this obsession with #1’s? Well, the table below shows the bestselling book for each month of 2013 and the estimated orders. For 8 months of the year the bestselling book, was a 1# issue. So that’s probably why, new #1’s sell extremely well. But why do they sell so well? And is this a good long term strategy?

Month

Title

Issue Number

Company

Est. Orders

January

Superior Spider-Man

1

Marvel

188,182

February

Justice League of America

1

DC

307,734

March

Guardians of the Galaxy

1

Marvel

211,312

April

Batman

19

DC

132,147

May

X-Men

1

Marvel

177,633

June

Superman Unchained

1

DC

251,456

July

Superman Unchained

2

DC

165,754

August

Infinity

1

Marvel

205,819

September

Forever Evil

1

DC

139,976

October

Walking Dead

115

Image

310,584

November

Batman

25

DC

125,602

December

Origin II

1

Marvel

131,724

So what are the arguments for #1’s? Well one of the best argument’s for new #1’s is that they sell well, and the better comics sell, the better the industry does as a whole. We want the industry to flourish so that it can keep going. Industry insiders also seem to think that this is a good way of bringing in new readers and fresh blood. However is this necessarily true?

Below is a graph that I’ve produced, it shows several comic series and the estimated sales figures for the first 10 issues of that series.

It’s plain to see that with only one exception, the #1 sold almost twice as many as the second issue. That and that all the comic series, except for one notable exception have a downwards trend. This seems to indicate, at least to me, that the argument that #1’s are a good way to introduce new readers is a flawed one. It seems that these new readers don’t stick around. We even see spikes in the sales for landmark issues, for example “The Superior Spider-Man #9” was heavily publicised and featured a “landmark moment” but that wasn’t enough to maintain sales.

Another argument for new #1’s is that new books are also new reader friendly. A lot of my friends who want to start comics feel intimidated jumping onto a comic, especially when there’s no way to know quite where a book is up to in a story. However if they see a brand new series launching with a #1, then they’re much more likely to buy it. It’s the same for me; I’m an experienced comic reader who’s generally not afraid to jump on board part way through a series, but when I see new #1 I’m much more likely to pick it up. It always help when you can start a story at the beginning, jumping on part way through can get you easily lost. This is especially true for certain writers like Hickman, who love to write stories which have a deep narrative where every issue counts. However my graph shows that these new readers may not stick around.

1#’s also sell so well is because of speculators. Speculators are comic collectors who but books that they believe will increase in value as time goes on. As some of the highest selling issues in the past have been #1’s they’re a popular buy for speculators. All you need to do is look at EBay and you can see that #1 issue’s sell for more than #2’s. I’ve got one friend in particular who constantly asks when we’re in the comic shop, “Will this be valuable one day?” and purposefully buys #1’s that he believes will inflate in value.

So what are the arguments against constantly printing #1’s? Well one argument is that it alienates long term fans. If you go on any comic book forum you can find people complaining that their favourite series has been rebooted with a new #1. They often say that by doing this these long running series are losing some of their heritage. Now this is a perfectly valid argument and it can be disappointing as a fan that’s followed a book for a long time to have a series “restart. Especially when it’s a hard reboot like the DC re-launch. I’m annoyed that the Wally West I’ve read and loved is gone of course I am. However, I’m placated by knowing he’ll be back. These characters are worth money to the companies which own them, and any property that can make money will be re-launched eventually.

Of course people point out that the new 52 Wally West won’t be “our” Wally West, and it’s hard to argue with that. The fundamental changes that have been made in the new 52 man that’s impossible. But reinvention and retelling is a very important part of storytelling. If these characters, which we love so dearly became static and unchanging, then all of a sudden their adventures start to become boring and repetitive. Consequently the stories told are stagnant and we stop reading.

So are there any solutions to renumbering that’ll please both groups? Well, yes, in fact there are. The first and best solution I can think of is quality storytelling, and there’s no better example than the Walking Dead. The best selling issue of 2013 was the walking dead 115, it wasn’t a number 1, and it was just another issue in a fantastic series. Over the first 10 issues the walking dead is the only series that has positive trend. Personally I believe that this is due to word of mouth and the quality of the series. When a series is well written it doesn’t matter that the books at a high number, you just buckle up and enjoy the ride.

Another solution is Marvels .NOW initiative, which is similar to chapters in a book. When a new arc begins you label it a #1 but keep the original numbering, for example “Iron Man 23.NOW The Rings of the Mandarin #1”. This could potentially please both new and old readers, new readers know where to start and old readers get a series that they feel has some heritage. It’s a good compromise.

So all in all where do I stand on new #1’s. I’m actually for them I think that they do more good than they do bad and that most of the arguments against them are weak or flawed. The best argument is when it’s made against hard reboots to facilitate new #1’s. However I believe that even this falls down eventually. You see I welcome change and reinvention of old characters; it’ll mean I get a whole new story to read about some of old favourites and I’ll learn to love them all over again. As for old Wally West? He may be lost to time in the New 52 but he’s still sat on my bookshelf whenever I want to visit him.

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First Impressions: Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman: The New 52, Volume 1, Blood

Writer Brian Azzarello

Art by Cliff Chang, Tony Akins

I must confess that there are huge gaps in my comic book knowledge that I’m attempting to cover up. Wonder Woman is unfortunately one of the many characters who've fallen through the cracks and I’ve never read one of her books. Considering she’s part of DC’s trinity of heroes it felt wrong to me that I know so much about batman and superman and yet be clueless on arguably the biggest female super hero in the world. So here we are, I decided it was time to plunge into the world Of Diana Prince, princess of the Amazons, Wonder woman! But where to start? Well the most obvious place to me, was with the new 52 reboot. So I went out picked up the first trade and I’ve just finished it, so here are my first impressions.

There was a lot to like in this book! I’m almost annoyed at myself for not reading wonder woman earlier and although I had some issues with this book for the most part it was really enjoyable. I liked the general story, at its most basic Wonder Woman is protecting a woman pregnant with Zeus’s child, from the scheming Hera. I thought it was a brilliant move by Azzarello, to have WW protecting this pregnant woman because it told me so much about the character without being to overt. It was clear to me while reading that this was a compassionate character that would protect those who couldn’t protect themselves. Her first fight against the centaurs made it clear that this was a powerful character that could kick ass and was a totally different beast to Batman and Superman, who tend to be less lethal in there approach.

What really sold me on Wonder Woman though, was a little scene about a quarter of the way through the book. Diana has brought the woman pregnant with the child of Zeus to Paradise Island. Her mother questions the wisdom of doing this as she worries it’ll bring Hera’s wrath down upon them as it appears that they are siding with Zeus. Diana simply states that she’s not siding with either of them instead she’s protecting the one in the middle, the innocent woman and child. I just loved that bit I thought it was brilliant because it showed that Diana has a perfect sense of right and wrong above her own self preservation.

Speaking of Hera, I thought she was a really good villain. She was dastardly and vicious as all good villains should be, but as a reader I could sympathise with her. It was funny to me that despite Hera being a goddess her motivations were very human and I could completely sympathise with her, even though what she has planned is about as evil as you can get.

I was big fan of the blending of our modern world with the gods and myths of Ancient Greece. I found myself laughing aloud at Apollo’s “fates” who spoke in the stereotypical party girl voices despite being portrayed as mystic and all knowing. It really reminded me of one of my favourite books “American Gods” by Neil Gaiman. Azzarello really did a good job at showing us how these ancient gods and mythical creatures would act in our modern world. It was good how much humour Azzarello drew from this as well, like having Zeus take the form of a truck driver to seduce Zola

The Art was fantastic and both the pencillers who worked on this book did stunning work. Special mention has to be made of my favourite scene in the book,. Her beheads some horses and uses her ancient magic to turn the corpses in to centaurs. It looked fantastic and was really visually creative. The book had lots of nice little moments like that but the centaur scene really stood out to me.

Cliff Chang did some incredible work on the various gods we meet in this book. Most of the gods introduced are vaguely human but with animal features, unearthly skin tones or completely human looking but with a disregard for human taboos which makes them seem otherworldly. I thought that the way Apollo is dark skinned at night and becomes a blazing bright light in the day was ingenious. I thought Poseidon eschewing human form to be a chimera of sea creatures was interesting. I must admit when I first saw his design I was shocked, but it soon occurred to me “why would he look human? “ He lives underwater so he’s well suited to his environment. All the gods had nice little touches like that.

Like any book though, this story had its issues some small and some big. I’ll get the small ones out of the ay first. I never really liked the Amazon’s they seemed far too antagonistic towards Diana and we’re too keen to overthrow Hippolyta for my tastes. There was never really a reason given for why they were so keen to betray their queen and it felt forced to me. Especially as later on they all rally behind Hippolyta when Hera attacks. But this is a minor quibble which I suppose I could attribute to the warrior personalities of the Amazons. Also I was somewhat confused by all the Greek gods hanging out In London, especially Hades in the sewers.

My biggest complaint about the book thought was that the focus never seemed to be Wonder Woman herself. True we get her back story and an idea of who this character is, but beyond that she never really takes centre stage. Especially with all the interesting and intriguing gods who to me were the big daw of the book Diana herself felt like a rather minor part of the book instead of the lead character. That said the brief snippets of her we got were brilliant. Her feelings of betrayal after the truth of her parentage come out are well executed and the close relationship she forms with Zola, heart warming I just could have done with a bit more of that.

So altogether I thought this book left a good first impression. It was suitably engaging enough for me to purchase the second volume of Wonder Woman’s adventures and I’m hoping that I can quickly catch up with the main series soon enough. One last word on the book, which I’m not sure, is a negative or a positive it didn’t feel like a mainstream DC book reminding me far more of a Vertigo book. Anyway my overall first impression was positive and I can say that this books made a wonder woman fan out of me.

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10 things I didn't like about The Man of Steel

10 things I didn't like about The Man of Steel

So I saw The Man of Steel this weekend and in my opinion it was… ok. Now don’t get me wrong I don’t hate this movie. It’s got quite a bit of hate from professional movie critics who seem to think that this latest flick takes itself just a bit too seriously. Funnily enough the general public seems to really like it and I’ve seen some people really passionately defend this movie. Personally I have my issues with this film. Some are nit-picks, some are real grievances. This entry’s going to be a list of the things I didn’t like. So I’m going to start by quickly running through what I did like; the action, the actors, the humor, the sets, the world, the nods to the DC shared universe and the effects. All were brilliant and a whole article could be written about why they were so good. But this is the internet where only criticism can exist. And with that, on to the bad stuff. I want to make it clear that this is just my opinion; I’ve only seen the film once so there are probably things I’ve missed or explanations for some of my problems so let’s kick off. Oh obviously spoilers ahead.

The Bad

10. The First Natural Birth in Centuries

Ok so in the film it’s established that Kal-El is the first natural born Kryptonian in centuries. Jor- El keeps on mentioning it. He tells The Council, Zod, Clark and at one point I think he mentions it to his wife, who you think would be aware of that. Anyway they bring this up several times, as though it’s going to be important later. It never becomes important. Now I know what people reading this are thinking. It’s important because it shows that Kal-El isn’t bound by destiny like Zod or Jor-El. He can choose who he wants to be. Except that’s not true. Jor-El had a child for the purpose of saving his race. It’s symbolic sure, but other than that it’s just a bit random. I presumed while watching that his natural birth was going to mean that he was stronger than the other Kryptonians on Earth and allow him to beat them. But nope, it’s just some symbolism that’s not as deep as it thinks it is.

I've chosen to have you naturally because... reasons?

9. Zod can fly!!!! Oh wait, I don’t care.

This one’s more of a nit-pick but during the scene when Zod revealed he had learned how to fly I actually laughed aloud. I could see what they were going for, it was supposed to be an “oh crap Zod’s gaining control he’s going to be more dangerous now” moment. Instead it just looked bizarre. He throws Superman in to some rails and spouts out that he’s better trained than Clark and gasp he starts to fly!!! But at this point flying’s a bit of an old hat; Clark’s been doing it since the end of the first act. I think it would have been a much more powerful moment if Clark hadn’t learnt how to fly at that point. It could have been a really tense moment, where Zod appears to have more control than Clark and seems more powerful. This would have meant when Clark eventually won his victory would have been all the more heroic. But nope instead Zod reveals he can fly and then it’s on with the destruction of what’s left of metropolis.

8. Its below freezing out. Best put on a hat.

Lois travels to … somewhere in the Arctic Circle? I forget. Anyway it’s obviously cold there. Lois even gets told by soldier man that the temperature reaches -40 at night. Ok. But at night she’s wandering around the camp in a coat with the hood down. She doesn’t even bother to look as though she’s cold! Even when she follows Clark into the glacier she doesn’t bother with the hood. I know it’s a nitpick but you have no idea how much it bugged me. If the film hadn’t pointed it out I probably wouldn’t have noticed or cared but it goes out of its way to tell us it’s cold. Then completely ignores it. Not that it won’t do that with other things.

7. Metropolis estimated population: probably like 7 now?

Ok this one’s going to be short everyone’s mentioning it. The collateral damage in this film is huge. Smallville’s main street is obliterated by a Kryptonian wrestling match and the army. Then pretty much half of Metropolis is destroyed by a combination of Kryptonian doomsday machines, military incompetence and superman just not caring. Superman should have cared. He should have tried to convince the Kryptonians to fight somewhere else; he’s supposed to be compassionate. But nope, in this film he’s more than happy to let the people of Metropolis be the padding for his and Zods cage fight.

A terrforming ship? that'd come in handy for a doomed space faring race. oh well?

6. Why would the destruction of their home world be a problem for an interplanetary race?

Ok so I have to ask, can anyone explain why the Kryptonians stopped colonising worlds? Me and my friends can’t remember them giving a reason. Jor-El mentions something about the Matrix and designer babies but that’s not really an excuse. So why did they stop? The thing is, I know Krypton blowing up is integral to Superman’s story but by establishing that in the past they had a space empire and still had access to the technology which made that space empire possible you’ve created a big problem. They could all have easily escaped the planet and terraformed a new world. But nope they don’t because… reasons? Why didn’t Jor-El warn people earlier? Why didn’t the council try and escape the planet when it became obvious that Krpyton was doomed? Arrogance? Why not get an impartial person to review his results? How can a civilisation with such advanced space ships (who can open wholes to other dimensions!) run out of resources so they’re forced to cannibalise their own core? Don’t say that they probably stripped all the planets near them of anything worth having, because it clearly shows us how there phantom drive things works, it seemed pretty quick to get to our solar system. I’m rambling now... next point.

Thank god this was actually in my size.

5. Here’s one we made earlier.

A minor nitpick again but it made me laugh in the cinema. So Clark goes on the space ship which has been there for like 20,000 years. Holo-El is telling him all about his heritage and blah blah blah you’re the bridge between two people. Holo-El leads him to a cupboard? Arming chamber? Wardrobe? Whatever and the doors open revealing the new Superman suit. It was supposed to be another moment where the audience goes, “Oh there it is!” and is awed or at least pleased. All I could think is, whys the suit in there? Clark arrived 33 years ago that ship’s been there 20,000 years so why does it have a house of El suit? Did Jor-El know it was there? If so How? I know the prequel comic explains the Arctic ship but that doesn’t count. If it’s not in the movie don’t expect me to know why there’s suddenly a superman suit on the ship. Just a minor thing but it took me out of the picture.

4. We want the woman as well! Why?

Why did the Kryptonians take Lois on the ship? This is one of the first things a friend said to me as we left the theatre. I didn’t know why. Do you? At first I thought it was to get information on Clark, they do mention a mind scanner thing. But then Clark presumably knew everything about himself anyway and they do the mind scan on him as well. Sooooo why take Lois? To provide a convenient escape for Supes? As some kind of hostage to keep Supes obedient? How did they know she mattered to him?

3. Superman killed Zod.

Ok here’s the big one. Just for the record one of my favourite Superman stories is “What's so funny about truth justice and the American way”. In case you’ve not read it, basically Superman gets confronted by a new group of antiheroes who kill villains. They scoff at Superman’s methods of dealing with criminals and it’s an interesting look at a difficult issue. In the story Superman refuses to kill on principal it’s one of his rules. In this film Superman snaps Zod’s neck at the end, to save a human family. (Why he didn’t just turn his head, I’ll never know.)Mark Waids gone on record as saying that it ruined the film for him. Others have said that superman should never kill it’s against the core of the character, and I agree. But I understand why they killed Zod. They’d made him so powerful and deadly that realistically it was Superman’s only option. My problem is with the reaction, Superman basically snaps his neck, cries for a bit and then gets a kiss from the lovely Lois which makes everything A-okay! That’s not Superman. How much more powerful would the scene have been if superman had fled after killing Zod. Lois tracks him down and he reveals his resolve to never kill again. He realises that there’s always another way. Then he comes back to Metropolis with a renewed purpose. It would have shown some real growth in the character into the superman who we all know and love.

Oh god! they told me there was no kryptonite in this one!

2. Kryptonians are allergic to Earth’s atmosphere?

So Zack Snyder, or whoever, was very happy to have written a superman movie that didn’t have kryptonite. Except it did, they just never called it kryptonite, instead it’s Kryptonian air? You see when Superman goes on the Kryptonian ship he starts feeling weak and coughing blood. Zod says it’s because his body has adapted to Earth’s atmosphere. Ok fair enough, they established earlier that when Clark first arrived he struggled with breathing. Then Holo-El swaps the Kryptonian air on the ship with Earth’s air (why would you design that feature on your ship?). Supes regains his strength but the Kryptonians don’t lose theirs? Ok let’s say they were all wearing helmets. They weren’t, but let’s just say they were invisible. Anyway later on Zod needs the baby matrix machine so he goes to the 20,000 year old ship and while there he confronts Holo-El. Holo-El tells him to stop trying to conquer Earth and live in peace. Zod chews him out saying he doesn’t want to spend years struggling to adapt like Kal-El did. So they’ve now brought up the struggling to breathe thing 3 times. So like a rational person I presumed that this would play a role in the final defeat of Zod. It doesn’t. Nope it’s completely forgotten about. Despite setting up a logical reason for superman defeating Zod we instead get a violent neck snap... I did like the sensory overload stuff though. i thought it was clever.

1. JONATHAN KENT!!!

I hate, hate, hated this depiction of Jonathan Kent. I’m not a Superman expert by any means but my god! they got his character wrong. When Clark saves the school bus his dad basically tells him that he should have let the kids drown rather than expose himself. Superman is supposed to value life, this value was instilled in him by his adopted parents. If it was a choice between exposing his secret and saving a single life, Clark would always save them, damn the consequences. He learned this from Jonathan! But not in this movie. Then there’s the death scene. I was crying with laughter during this scene. He goes back to save the dog, despite his indestructible son being there with him. I understand why Jonathan didn’t want Clark to help. But no, just no. The film didn't earn that moment. Jonathan just looked like he was some crazy death seeker. Killing him was a mistake as well because now they can’t use the best scene from a superman comic ever. When Jonathan Kent dies of a heart attack and Superman hears it happen. It’s such a powerful scene in the comics because it shows that superman despite his great power is just as vulnerable to human tragedy as the next man. In the film it’s not a tragedy, it’s ridiculous. Anyway I’m done with this now, thinking about this film has annoyed me.

Heart breaking

Well there we go 10 things I didn't like. Anything you didn't like? Think I'm wrong? Feel free to tell me. Also I really wanted Zod to react to the eye beams. He acts like he totally knew that they could do that.

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Is Doctor Octopus becoming a better man? "The Superior Spider-Man 3"

So last issue we saw Otto do something Peter never could. He let Mary Jane go. A shockingly, selfless act from the once super villain and I’ve got to admit when I first read that issue I was impressed by Otto. I thought it showed Doc Ock realising that MJ’s relationship with Spidey and how it constantly put her in danger was a somewhat selfish act. So there we are I’m relatively impressed by Otto, now let’s see if Otto can continue on his path to redemption as he meets his old friend The Vulture in The Superior Spider-Man #3.

The issue opens with Jameson, Carlie Cooper and Police Chief Pratchett stood on a roof below a “spider signal” waiting for Otto to arrive. Sure enough our “hero” soon arrives swinging on to the roof and the first words out of his mouth are, “idiot”. Oh dear, looks like Otto’s going to have to work on that whole respecting people thing. You see Otto thinks that a signal broadcasting his current location to the whole city is a pretty stupid thing considering how many enemies Spidey has. So Otto quickly disables the light and Jameson chews him about it, until Otto smooth’s things over by claiming he thought it was just a test. Now I’ve read people online saying that Otto’s’ whole, “this was obviously a test” was a sincere belief Otto and that Otto genuinely believed JJ was testing him. But I disagree. Throughout this series we've seen that Otto has no respect for anyone but himself, I think this is more proof of that. His language is sneering with sarcasm in my interpretation of events; he calls J.J “Your honor”. Secondly Otto’s a man with a bit of an ego, I don’t think he’d appreciate being summoned by anyone else, sure he gives JJ a secure number to ring if he needs him later but that’s different. That’s Otto operating on his own terms not J.J’s. When he gives J.J the number it’s a clear order “You may reach me that way, is that understood?” this is Otto taking charge and dominating the mayor.

Good opener!

It’s a bit too early to say whether this is a good or bad thing. The whole spider-signal was obviously a terrible idea and Otto’s point has merit. The way he went about dealing with it was rude and it’s certainly not how Peter would have handled the situation. Neither would Peter have tried to dominate J.J this way. But then again Peter never really had any respect for J.J either, even when he became mayor. So really I don’t think Otto’s doing anything too outrageous. He’s obviously rude but it’s not too different from the way Peter acted. Carlie calls him out on his domineering attitude asking him “what is he doing?” but Otto brushes her off, saying that Spidey’s always messed with Jonah. He’s not wrong but neither is she it’s an odd point which is only used to show that she suspects “Peter” of being Doc Ock. So Otto uses the police lab to change his mask lenses so he can track the magnetic signature that The Vultures wings emit and before long he’s swinging off to confront his “old” friend The Vulture.

As Otto swings through the city tracking the vulture he begins to reminisce on the old days when they were in the Sinister Six. Before I discuss the Otto/Adrian relationship I just want to take a moment to discuss Otto’s use of tech. I think it’s brilliant, Peter as Spidey was somewhat unfocused he basically swung around beating up petty thugs until one of them would finally reveal where the villain was or alternatively he’d blunder across them. Otto’s much cleverer than that and would probably consider it a colossal waste of time. Peters heart was definitely in the right place but he’s a clever guy, I’m sure that with a bit of thought he could have used similar methods to Otto. I do think Otto’s a much more efficient Spidey and Peter. But more on that next time back to Otto and The Vulture.

So Otto’s swinging after The Vulture and he starts to remember the old days in the Sinister Six. Shockingly despite The Vultures minions throwing MJ out of a window only a few days earlier Otto still thinks of the Vulture as “Adrian”. His use of the first name, I believe, shows that he still considers The Vulture a friend, and in the flashback we start to see why. You see Otto and Adrian were both thinking men, inventing their own tech to further there villainous goals. But I think the real reason that Otto liked Adrian was that Adrian praised Otto’s inventions. We all know that all it takes to get Otto onside is a bit of a compliment or some recognition. In the flashback The Vulture reveals a secret, he only got involved in villainy to pull off one successful heist and after he’d made his money doing that he was planning on retiring. When I looked at the first issue I spoke about how Otto seemed fond of the name “Sinister Six” and didn’t like Boomerangs gang besmirching it’s good name. Now as he reminisces fondly on “the early years” I can’t help but feel that there’s still residual pride in his Old team. But maybe that’s just me?

So Otto finally finds The Vultures lair when he does the stupidest thing he’s done so far. He reveals his position shouting “Adrian, Don’t move!” and then jumps into the middle of The Vulture and his minions. You see Otto’s plan is to give Adrian what he always wanted. A nest egg on which to build a new life and he tells him that he’s got millions hidden, presumably from his days as a super villain? Of course the Vulture doesn’t believe him and his minions attack. I don’t have to tell you why this is stupid do I? I mean come on it’s obvious. As far as The Vultures concerned this isn’t his old friend, it’s his arch enemy Spider-Man. Did Otto believe that he’d just take the money and go? Of course he did. You see Otto’s a man who’s somewhat blinded by pride and he’s highly logical , that’s obvious enough. So when he gives Adrian what he always wanted he probably expected him to thank him and be on his way. Never in a million years did Otto think he’d refuse, I mean that would be illogical he was giving him a way out of this life of supervillainry (is that word). As much as I think his is a stupid tactical move though I have to admit I like it.

You see this issue has made one thing clear. Adrian and Otto were good friends and Otto still considers the Vulture his friend. What do people do for their friends? They help them of course. Otto’s offer to Adrian is an offer out of the life of a super villain. This money would offer Adrian a similar opportunity which the body swap offered to Otto a fresh start free from your old life. A chance to be born anew. But Adrian rejects him, out of pride? Mistrust? Whatever the reason Otto’s offer is rejected and Otto is attacked. But here’s the point, Adrian’s refusal to escape his old life is analogous to the way that Otto’s falling in to old traps. He wants to have a fresh start away from his old life as a super villain. But he’s quickly falling back in to old habits. It’s a nice bit of symbolism and I like it but anyway on with the story. So Otto’s attacked by the Vultures diminutive minions and he smacks one away revealing that they are…….tiny Peter Parker clones!!!! No just joking there little children, imagine if they’d ever done that.

Jack, another character from the clone saga I think needs a solo title.

The reveal is a pivotal moment and my favourite panel in the comic. Seeing the little children reminds Otto of his abusive father and Ghost Peter is treated to a scene of Otto’s father smacking young Otto about. It’s clear that Otto’s protective of children and he flies into a rage. The lettering and art on this panel are fantastic you really feel Otto’s outrage at being made to hit a child and he begs his old friend to give him a reason as to why he’s been using children. As Adrian exposes that he’d always preyed on the young and declares that “this is what he is” Otto comes to a realisation. Adrian is not his friend and needs to be stopped.

Otto’s shock at finding out how cruel his friend truly is is a brilliant moment and shows some growth in Otto’s character. He was looking at Adrian Toomes through the goggles of Doctor Octopus and he saw a proud old man who was using his smarts to try and make some money so he could retire. He never saw the vicious acts such a man would commit to get his “big score”. Now he sees Adrian Toomes as he truly is, The Vulture, a man who preys on the weak taking what he wants at the expense at all others. In this case he’s taken young children and made them into his willing servants, sacrificing their innocence to feed his own greed. These kids tried to kill MJ last issue that’s how corrupted by The Vulture they’ve become. Now when we look at this through the lens of Otto’s abused childhood, things begin to fall into place. Otto grew up to become a super-villain. Was his own innocence taken by his abusive father? I’ll talk more about this later but it’s worth thinking about.

Another Stegman Panel that I love

So Otto chases after Adrian and they have an aerial battle. Otto runs out of web fluid and Adrian gains the upper hand. You’ve got to love that Otto blames his running out of web fluid on the “infernal Parker luck”. The man just can’t believe that he made a mistake; he has to make it someone else’s fault. So The Vulture has Otto in a chokehold and things look bleak. But thanks to some plot convenience the pair happens to be above the Spider-signal and Otto reactivates it. This blinds Adrian and Otto steers his fall into the signal, burning and lacerating the Vultures body. More extreme violence towards a villain? Yeah it’s not good, but I’ve got to point out that when Peter’s been enraged he’s been rather “forceful” with opponents. Look what he did to the kingpin when he had Aunt May shot. I’m going to give Otto a bit of leeway here. He was very emotional after realising quite what his old friend truly was and he’s got some history with child abuse. I don’t condone what Otto did, but Otto’s reaction was understandable. Next time we’ll see Otto’s handling of Massacre and that’s a very different case. Finally Carlie Cooper chastises Otto on his treatment of the vulture and her suspicions about Otto being in Peter’s body are pretty much confirmed.

When I first read this I squeeeeeed

Okay before I get to the question as to whether Otto’s improved at all this issue I want to quickly discuss Otto’s abused past. Doc Ock, had a pretty crappy childhood, his dad Torbert was abusive and hated that Otto wasn’t a physical man. His mother was overbearing and kept him on a short leash. Without going into too much detail, it was a recipe for disaster. I’ll say this, Otto’s abused childhood makes him more sympathetic and it’s understandable why such a child may grow up to be such a disturbed young man. But does that give Otto an excuse for the things he’s done in his past life? No. No it doesn’t. It makes Otto a reflection of his own father. Otto grew up to be a violent and cruel man just like his dad, even worse as Otto’s plans have threatened the entire world! Otto’s backstory is a sad one, but don’t for a second let it be used as an excuse for his current behaviour. He’s killed and will kill again. He doesn’t deserve sympathy, pity perhaps? But don’t sympathise with him. Also looking at his reaction to the reveal of the children and his outburst I can’t help but think of an alternative interpretation of events. You see Otto’s a narcissist, he’s very self-involved to a pathological degree. So when he hits a child and it reminds him of himself, that what allows Otto to become so enraged. It has nothing to do with empathy for the child, instead the act of hitting a child reminds him of his old life, and how he felt when his father hit him. This diminishes Otto’s pride reminding him that he still feels fear and isn’t as strong as he likes to think of himself.

So has Otto put another foot forward on the path to redemption? It’s difficult to say. His reaction to Adrian’s actions is brutal but understandable far more so than his treatment of Boomerang. There are still worrying signs that point to Otto being proud of the Sinister Six, but then again he starts to see the truth behind his old colleagues this issue so? Perhaps he’s changing his mind. Anyway I’m going to say that this issue Otto doesn’t really improve on where he was on issue 2 so he’s not doing badly. But everything will change next issue when Otto takes his darkest turn yet when he deals with Massacre.

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Is Doctor Octopus becoming a better man? "The Superior Spider-Man 2"

Last time I looked at the first issue of Superior Spider-Man and whether Otto was living up to his promise to Peter to be a better man. Unfortunately it seemed to me that Doc Ock wasn’t living up to that promise … to say the least. But you know I’ll give Otto the benefit of the doubt, it’s his first week or so in the body I presume, he’ll need some time to adjust to his time as a hero. So maybe things will improve with “The Superior Spider-Man #2”.

I am totally doing this because I want praise... mean to help people

Ok so the issue opens with Otto returning the barometric oscillator which the Sinister Six stole last issue. Already I take issue with this. You see thanks to his nano-tracers Otto knew where the Sinister Six’s base was, he used those tracers to snoop on the Six and he made the decision not to attack them then and there. Instead he allowed them to attack Horizon Labs, something Peter never would have done, and it was there that he stopped there crime spree. Otto made sure however thought that he got maximum media exposure while apprehending the six by inviting local news crews to the attempted burglary. Now, I’ll give Otto the benefit of the doubt there and say he wants to foster a good relations with the people of New York in a way that Peter struggled to for years. To do this he allowed the media to actually see Spidey doing good. However an alternate interpretation could be that Otto was using the media to massage his ego. This interpretation seems further validated in this issue when we see that he waited a whole day before returning the barometric oscillator, allowing himself to be lead story for “two days in a row”. There’s more evidence to him simply seeking self-aggrandisement when he’s thanked personally by Mayor J.J and the dialogue makes it perfectly clear that he knew the Mayor would be there, allowing for maximum exposure of his “heroic” act. Now this isn’t necessarily a bad thing it’s different from how Peter would handle things and yes Otto may be doing this out of a need for recognition … but it has the side effect of improving Spidey’s image so I‘ll say it’s a good idea and the start of Otto making himself a better Spider-Man.

So after returning the gizmo to the Marla Jameson Memorial building Otto makes his way to another date with Mary Jane. Now when the cover to this issue was released a lot of fuss was made as to whether Otto’s “relationship” was leading to a potential rape or not. This isn’t something I want to discuss. I have my opinions on it but they're not really relevant now. I will say this, Otto’s attempted interaction with Mary Jane is extremely dishonest and the interactions between Mary Jane and Otto creep me out that being said I think that they were supposed to. Ok that's all I’ll say on the “rape” matter. So Otto and MJ meet for coffee and the dialogue is, well the dialogue shows us Otto’s arrogance apparently peter was a “fool” to keep such a “ravishing creature” away. This dialogue tells us so much about Otto he’s a man who still even after seeing Peters sacrifices and heroism can't help but think of him as a fool and beneath him. Next his interest in MJ, as we discussed last time, is purely physical he seems to take no interest in her as a person. I’ll talk more about this later because thankfully Otto’s date is interrupted by a fire engine leading to Otto rushing off to save the day.

I know they're the start of an Orwellian nightmare but if they make that a toy. I'd buy one

Ok, so Otto seems infuriated that being Spider-Man interrupts his social life and he resolves to fix this leading to the creation of the Spider-bots! The Spider-bots are tiny robots that patrol the city for Otto and report crimes to him. I love this. It’s smart, it’s efficient and it’s an improvement on how peter patrolled the city. A lot can be said about Peter and his flakiness, we the reader know that Peter always has a good reason for being late to a date, a party or work but the rest of the world didn’t and it always led to him having problems. Otto’s robots and patrol app remove that as a problem. The spider-bots are brilliant, simple and a perfectly valid way to help fight crime. Best of all it actually makes Spidey more effective as we find out in a few issues. Of course they have potential problems and they’re not strictly in the spirit off Spider-Man but I think there a genuine improvement to the way Peter was living his life. Even ghost Peter admits that it’s quite clever (I love the petulant look on his face as he grudgingly admits this.) So now with his army of 800 Spider-bots patrolling the city Otto finally has the time to actively pursue MJ. And this is when it gets creepy again.

The narration, which is Otto’s, describes the dates as “trials” as though this is a science project. Already there’s a clinical approach to the dates, Otto has an end goal in mind. He wants to be with MJ and he’s experimenting with different dates to find the perfect combination that’ll finally get him and MJ together. Otto’s not exactly a romantic soul and the way MJ insists on “taking things slowly” clearly infuriates him. Especially as he only seems to be getting pecks on the cheek each time. This leads to my least favourite and most favourite part of the book. Otto’s failure to get with MJ has annoyed him so much that he’s once again reverted to his old super villain ways and is monologuing in MJ’s club while she dances around the club, when eureka! He finally realise how to get him and MJ together, Danger. Otto’s spider sense warns him that danger is close by, and rather than attempt to get MJ to safety as Peter would, he willingly endangers MJ by taking them both web slinging. Not to mention the people in MJ’s club who just get left there without so much as a word of warning. For all Otto knows they could all be in real peril. This is where any promise Otto made about being a better man falls down to me. He promised Peter that he would protect his family, and he willingly takes MJ out into potential danger. I can forgive Otto for beating villains senseless or being rude to his colleagues, Otto’s a different man from Peter and he may see this as being a better man. But taking MJ web swinging is a clear violation of his final promise to Peter. The man is scum. He can’t hold a candle up to Peter Parker. The only redeeming part of this is Ryan Stegmans art and my favourite image of the series so far. Its Otto and MJ web swinging with Peter looming over them, the image is just fantastic and really captures Peters feeling of helplessness.

This is haunting.

Anyway thankfully for MJ there wasn’t any real danger and Otto’s once again given the brush off after their fun web slinging. Otto’s furious that he’s once again been blue balled and starts getting a bit narky until he has an extremely creepy realisation. You see he has all of Peter’s memories, including the ones of all the past times MJ and Peter had been intimate. And he relishes reliving them, the subtext in my opinion being that he used those memories to pleasure himself, especially as Ghost Peter asks him “does he have to keep touching my body”. This for me is the final nail in the coffin for Otto actually caring for MJ; he was only interested in her for the sake of outdoing Peter and getting some action. However I do have an alternate theory about something which happens later which I’ll explain later but as for now Otto is satisfied and is ready for “a day free of obsessing over Mary Jane Watson” and he can “move on to other conquests”. I really don’t like the way Otto talks about women by the way; his language is aggressive and talks volumes about his wish for control and dominance.

Shockingly thought the most unlucky woman in New York, Mary Jane, is attacked by the vulturettes? vultureites? some green cherubs in her own club. Luckily for her one of Otto’s spider-bots sees the attack and he swings into action. Otto make it to the club and saves MJ when the cherubs defenestrate her, I love that word. A quick aside for a moment, as MJ falls Otto goes to use his webs to catch her and Ghost peter shouts “web net” not “web line” sure enough Otto makes the web net and Mary Jane is saved. Was this peters influence? Or is it Otto’s own scientific knowledge of momentum and inertia? You see it was a similar mistake made by peter in his early career which led to the death of Gwen Stacy. I’d like to give it to Otto, but unfortunately I’m going to have to say I believe it was Peter’s influence you see the web was shot by the right hand, the hand which we know Peter gains control of later in the series. Anyway just a quick aside back to judging Otto. So Otto’s rescued MJ and it turns out Otto was right, when put in danger MJ can’t resist Spidey and she goes to kiss him! But shock of shocks he rejects her and tells her that they can’t be together.

Is Ock turning over a new leaf?

If you’re reading this blog it’s probably clear that I don’t like Otto as a person. I do like the series and I do like to hate Otto. He does something here very noble and peter admits that there are things which Otto can do which peter can’t. It’s a moment which really shows that Otto does have the potential to be a better man than Peter and I like this moment. Now to rip it apart. It’s been clear since Amazing Spider-Man #698 that Otto wanted to be with MJ. In what way is left intentionally vague but the subtext is that Otto wanted a sexual relationship with MJ and he’s done a lot of things to get with MJ. Now here he has the opportunity and he balks at the last moment. Out of a new found sense of pride? I doubt it. I personally believe that it was reliving all the moments of Peter and MJ’s love life that changed Otto. Without getting into the metaphysics of having someone else’s memories I don’t think Otto has instant access to Peters memories, if he does why does he have to think “Accessing Parker Memories” instead I believe that he has to install them almost like software on a computer. He’s now installed Peter’s true feelings for MJ in his brain and that’s rewired him as a person, changing him. He’s not Peter Parker and he’s no longer just Otto Octavius he’s becoming a hybrid and he uses the logic of his Octavius brain to finally end things with MJ. His was not an active choice by Otto more of a natural evolution of his personality due to the influence of Parker’s memories. To be fair though I will say this Otto has finally started his path to being a better man.

So at the end of issue 2 I think we’re starting to see Otto’s reformation, he’s improved on Peters crime fighting methods and he’s done something noble and lived up to his promise to Peter by letting MJ go. He’s not a good man yet but I’ll accept that he’s trying and improving. We’ll see whether he can continue this trend in Superior Spider-Man #3.

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“Is Doctor Octopus becoming a better man?” Superior Spider-Man 1

Well here we are the first issue of “The Superior Spider-Man” and well Otto’s not off to a good start in his quest to be a better man.

The issue opens with Otto at his own grave saying au revoir to his old life, which must be a bit weird. However things are looking good at first, Otto stands over his grave thinking how his previous life “was wasted on villainy and failed schemes”. Is this Otto showing some self-awareness? I mean the man was a certifiable genius. As he stands over his own grave, is the former super villain realising all the good he potentially could have done? Has the whole experience of living through Peter’s highs and lows affected him? It’s conceivable and in Amazing Spider-Man #700 Otto seemed genuinely shocked when he realised the depth of Peter’s heroism and altruism, especially when he saw that Peter didn’t regret saving Otto despite it leading to his own demise. So is Otto finally getting some perspective on his old life? Well probably not but we’ll get to that later.

Anyway Otto is interrupted from his musings by his police scanner and he swings into action. Once again we’re shown that Otto seems to be taking the Spider-Man gig very seriously he hears that people are in danger and he rushes in to help people. Or so it seems. Upon arriving at the crime scene Otto is appalled to see the most pathetic incarnation of the Sinister Six ever. Otto is gob smacked at this group of wieners calling themselves the “Sinister Six”, declaring that there use of the name is “unbelievable” and that they’re “letting anyone call themselves the sinister six these days”. Now at this point I’ve got to take issue, as Otto swiftly dispatches the New sinister six he insults them as “jokes” and “pathetic” the issue I have with this is that Otto is clearly still proud of his days with the sinister six. He’s annoyed at a group of losers using the name especially because we know that Ock has a huge ego and that he was the original founder of the Sinister Six it’s like he doesn’t want them tainting his brand. But surely if he’s turned over a new leaf and dedicated himself to being a “superior Spider-Man” he shouldn’t really have any attachment to his old team name and yet he does, it’s a red flag to me especially as he later declares them “unworthy of the sinister six!”

THE BEST INCARNATION!!!
There is the NITRO-RANG!!!

So where was I, Oh yeah. So Otto fights “The New Sinister Six” handily defeating a third of them in 6 panels (I love that boomerang shouts ELECTRO-RANG! as he throws it) and genuinely making them look like buffoons. Otto’s smug until Speed Demon blindsides him, hitting Otto more times than he’s been hit in his entire life, which is hilarious when you consider how his old body died. So Otto’s had the snot beaten out of him when he has had enough. However unlike the usual scene of heroic resolve and defeating a superior enemy Otto just runs away thinking to himself “Can’t believe Parker put up with this. The man must have been insane.” So here we are, if it comes down to his own personal discomfort or pain Otto isn’t willing to put up with it, he knows Peter would have and he walks away. I’ll go into how Otto will legitimise these decisions later but as I say Otto’s not doing enough to live up to the man he thinks he’s superior too. Any way Otto had better watch his back because Boomerang has thrown a NITRO-RANG!! Boomerang needs his own title.

Otto deftly dodges the NITRO-RANG!! when it flies at a nearby policeman. Otto throws himself into the path of the boomerang and saves the cop. Great Otto’s finally started being selfless it looked a bit wobbly there, what with the running away a minute ago but major brownie points there Otto. And then he speaks, ”Why on Earth did I do that?” I’m presuming that anyone reading the blog ( I don’t think anyone will be reading) reads the book but just in case spoilers ahead. You see this is a problem because Otto admits that he had no intention of saving the cop, he only did it because of the influence of Ghost Peter. If he had actually meant to do it he wouldn’t be questioning himself. I know it’s open to interpretation how much control Ghost Peter has but we know later that he can influence Otto’s decisions and stop his movements so I don’t think it’s completely out of the realm of speculation that he made Otto save that man. Regardless, Spidey saves the police man and boomerang capitalises on Otto’s injury by pouncing on him. However poor poor boomerang, Otto uses his newly installed claws to rip deep gouges in his chest and inject him with his new nano tracers and the Sinister Six flee.

Now we move on from the superior Spider-Man to the superior Peter Parker and we see how Ock treats Pete’s old friends and colleagues. I’ll go over this quickly because it doesn’t need much explanation. Otto is perhaps the rudest man on the planet! He won’t accept help from Grady and he’s extremely dismissive of Max Modell. Peter always treated Grady like an equal and had huge respect for Max Modell and what he had done at Horizon labs, but Otto doesn’t. Again these people are just annoyances or opportunity to Otto. Grady is “prone to mistakes” so Otto believes he has nothing offer. Meanwhile Max is the head honcho at Horizon where Otto works, so he has to keep him sweet or he’ll lose the “good pay and state of the art lab”. But Max’s interference in his work clearly exasperates Otto and his annoyance is clear when Max congratulates “Peter Parker”. Peter was many things but he wasn’t rude and he didn’t have an ego the size of a planet (Usually) once again I’m going to have to say I’m struggling to see how Otto is being a better man than Peter.

Not creepy at all

After work it’s date night for Otto and MJ, in one of the creepiest scenes ever. Now if I’m honest Peter Parker was very self-involved, he was a worrier and probably had a martyr complex. But Peter Parker genuinely loved Mary Jane and even at his worst he’d listen to MJ. But not Otto, oh no while MJ talks he’s far too busy thinking about himself and how well he’s doing now he’s got “super powers, youth and vigour”. The creepiest bit is when were treated to Otto’s perspective and he’s staring at her chest. Yeah. Well MJ and Otto talk about the sinister six attack and Otto dismisses her concerns that he knows where they are but isn’t acting because ”he knows exactly what he’s doing.” These bits particularly infuriating, Otto keeps on thinking how he’s so superior to peter but Pete would never sit by while his enemies schemed and he knows where the six are thanks to the nano tracers! Especially as the Six are about to attack peters work, the place where his friends work, but of course Otto feels these people are beneath him so he’s not concerned at all.

So the six attack Horizon labs and steal a techno whatzit but Otto’s prepared. I will say this new Spidey is much more efficient than the amazing spider-man so there’s one way in which he’s superior. However this is where the book takes its dark turn. You see using a combination of smarts and spider powers he easily defeats the sinister six. But the sadism he displays while doing so is … disturbing. When the six run into Otto he welcomes them to his “parlor” and there’s a real sense that he’s playing with the six (Ryan Stegmans art makes Otto’s web lair look particularly sinister.) Otto’s sadism is obvious when he disables the six’s’ powers and could have had them surrender but instead he crushes them under the Big Wheel, yeah the Big Wheel was there didn't I mention that? So here we have Otto seriously injuring 5 people who are no longer a threat to him and he’s still declaring himself the superior spider-man. So now it’s down to Otto and Boomerang… and boomerangs powers, by which I mean various boomerangs which he throws, aren't working. Otto mercilessly beats Boomerang until ghost peter stops him. As Otto beat him he screams “I get to win!!” and it seems obvious to me that despite how Otto seems himself he’s a petulant bully whose finally got the power to take his vengeance on a world that he feels treated him unfairly. You see as I’ve kept on saying Otto has a huge ego, a colossal one and his career as Doc Ock was less than magnanimous, Spidey always webbed up his glasses and beat him. But he’s finally got a chance to be a winner and he seizes that opportunity with both hands (no jokes about his tentacles, I was tempted) nearly killing Boomerang, and admitting he was going to. As I keep on mentioning boomerangs powers are kind of not dangerous to Otto at all, I mean he got hit by the NITRO-RANG!! And all it seemed to do was wind him, this level of brutality is totally uncalled for. So again all I’ll say is that Otto had better be a bit nicer next issue if he’s going to try and be a better Peter Parker.

As a quick aside though it occurred to me as I reread this book Otto was doomed to a slow death by the relentless punches of various super heroes. Is this how he saw the actions of the various heroes who beat him? An unfair punishment? Or even more disturbingly does Otto believe that he’s saving these people from a slow lingering death like the one he experienced at the “gentler” hands of the more moderate heroes? Is a quick death a mercy for a super villain?

Its for your own good Boomerang!

Well that’s the first issue and in conclusion I think it’s pretty obvious that I don’t think Otto’s living up to his vow to be a better man. I know he’s doing it his way and he’s an unbalanced megalomaniac but its like Otto’s not even trying to be a better man, instead he’s just approaching Peter’s life the way he approached his own. He’s violent, rude and uncaring, so far the only thing he’s got going for him is that he’s managed to be a more efficient fighter. Most disturbingly though is his lingering pride and concern over the Sinister Six name and his treatment of Mary Jane. But more on that in the next article.

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