Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Why Did The Spider-Man Reboot Fail: Part Four - Because Nobody Demanded It

Amazing Spider-Man (Vol.2) #2- by Mackie / Byrne / Hanna

If you've read my previous two entries, you may be surprised to hear that the debut issues of Amazing Spider-Man and Peter Parker: Spider-Man's second volumes weren't too bad. They were fairly dull, and had their flaws of course, but they were not complete failures. With the reboot's first multi-part story, writer Howard Mackie had the chance to tell a gripping, elaborate tale, and hook readers onto what had so far proved to be an underwhelming new direction for the two titles.

Mackie actually makes a solid enough start, and the first issue of this three parter is a decent enough story, perhaps the most enjoyable of the reboot so far. I complained in the previous part that the new Spider-Man lacked characterisation, and lo and behold! The first four pages of Amazing Spider-Man's second issue are given over to fleshing out 'his' character, as he stops a mugger. The scene is nothing special really, but it is interesting to get a glimpse into the character's head. The idea of a fan of Spider-Man replacing him is fairly obvious, but is played out well, and a character who I had complained of being unlikeable is made far more engaging in the space of a few pages. Very nice.

What follows, however is less pleasing, as Mackie gives us the latest in a series of 'stock scenes' that have plagued the reboot. The two scenes in question remind us of how young and in love Peter and Mary-Jane are , as well as looking in on Aunt May who is in typically irritating form. The scenes add literally nothing that we do not already know, save for a worrying early sign that Jill Stacy may 'like' Peter. The first step on the road to what eventually made a welcome supporting character into a loathsome presence in the titles. More on that soon, I'm sure.

The villain of the piece is then introduced, Shadrac - a shabby looking bandaged man in a long overcoat. His appearance is actually more interesting than the previous two villains to appear in the reboot, and although his personality is barely glimpsed, we are given a look at a 'mysterious figure in the background' who appears to be controlling him as he breaks into Osborn Industries (not Oscorp) demanding to see new CEO 'John Stone'.

The rest of the issue passes by more quickly. Peter is actually shown at his new place of work (take a picture), clearly the darling of his new colleagues. One of his co-workers, Javier, appears to be Tricorp's resident douche, and acts very off towards Peter for no apparent reason - although he does correctly guess that Peter has made a mistake in one of his calculations. The resulting explosion is quickly forgotten about as the team are relayed footage of Spider-Man and Shadrac dueling outside Osborn Industries. Presumably his meeting with John Stone didn't go so well. Conveniently enough Peter is required to head into the field to procure a DNA sample, and he promptly heads over there.

We are given another glimpse into the new Spider-Man's head as 'he' battles Shadrac, who after a few pages trading punches has his bandages torn off, revealing him to be a glowing skeleton-thing. It looks cooler than it sounds, honest. His design is probably the best thing about the character, particularly as he still doesn't have much of a personality to speak of. Shadrac beats up Spider-Man, before Peter Parker breaks his no-powers rule to carry him to safety. He unmasks him, and shock horror - he, is a her, a teenage girl to be precise. The new Spider-Man is revealed to be Mattie Franklin, a minor character from the much maligned Gathering of Five storyline, where she took part in the ceremony in question, in place of her father and received vaguely defined superpowers. She will not shut up either, and grates a lot in this scene. After glancing guiltily at a billboard of his wife, Peter changes into Mattie's conveniently stretchy costume, and swings off into action. That lasted long.

Despite how predictable it was, it is good to see Peter Parker back in costume, although the excitement quickly wears off. Much is done in the issue's early stages to endear the new Spider-Man to the reader, so in that respect it is a massive disappointment that she is written in such an irritating way after being unmasked. Ultimately there weren't any real clues as to the new Spider-Man's identity, and it is resolved too quickly to be a truly satisfying arc. On paper Mattie makes sense, but in practice she turned out to be a massive disappointment.

The bulk of this issue is fine though. Shadrac is a much more interesting adversary than the Ranger and the Scorpion, and although he isn't given much in the way of personality his design is very cool and makes for a fun fight scene. Byrne's artwork is once again excellent, and Mackie's pacing is very good. None of the scenes are particularly interesting in their own right, but the action zips along very nicely and this issue is certainly more exciting than the previous two. The links introduced in this story to the Gathering of Five storyline are somewhat less welcome. It was a dreadful, universally reviled story that did not even need to be told. Its presence here also makes the reboot's intentions seem very confused. Was it intended to be a clean break from the previous titles? If so then why reference them in just the third comic book to be released since the reboot. In any case, if they had to carry on pre-reboot storylines then there were far more interesting ones than the Gathering of Five. While this issue doesn't bode well for the future, it is actually an entertaining story in its own right. Nothing special of course, and still nothing to justify a character-wide reboot, but a fun enough start to what eventually turned out to be an abysmal story-arc.


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