Monday, 19 December 2011

Why The Spider-Man Reboot Failed: Part One - Background

There is a reason that Spider-Man is arguably the most popular comic book character of all time. With a few notable exceptions his titles have been consistently good for a number of years and have encompassed some of the finest (and often groundbreaking) super hero stories of all time. The likes of 'The Night Gwen Stacy Died', 'Kraven's Last Hunt' and 'The Death of Jean Dewolff' are all held up as high points in comic book storytelling, and the character has been the subject of many other classic stories, with many comic book greats having tackled his universe.

With that in mind, it often comes as a surprise when the Spider-Man books are struggling. When he is the victim of, not just one poor story but a seemingly never ending succession of uninspired and sometimes downright awful tales. There have been several periods of Spider-Man's history that have polarised opinion - The Clone Saga or Brand New Day for example, yet none have been as universally reviled as the era that saw both Amazing Spider-Man and Peter Parker: Spider-Man relaunched with new #1's for the first time in the character's history. Despite the era that it followed not being one of the more commercially successful spells for the Spider-Man titles, it had, broadly speaking, a good time to be a fan of the character. All four Spider-Man books were telling solid, easily distinguishable stories, with more than passable artwork. A number of intriguing subplots appeared to be heading a conclusion - in short, the era was one of my most memorable as a Spider-Man fan. And then came the 'Final Chapter'. Advertised as the culmination of several long running and noticeably popular story arcs, the Final Chapter was a widely criticised storyline for a number of reasons. Aunt May's death - widely known as one of the finest Spider-Man stories of all time - was undone, and following a climactic (off panel) duel with the Green Goblin, Peter Parker decided to retire from his career as Spider-Man. The story was ill conceived, poorly paced, and a sloppy way to close Amazing Spider-Man's 35 year run. Issue #441, released in November 1998 was the title's final issue, and after a month long break both it, and sister title Peter Parker: Spider-Man were relaunched with new #1's. Long running Spider-Man writer Howard Mackie was tasked with writing both comics, with legendary artists John Romita Jr and John Byrne tackling art duties on one title each.

The stage had been set for the latest acclaimed Spider-Man run, yet what followed was one of the worst eras in the character's history - both critically and commercially. What went wrong? Although I read the issues in question a number of years ago, I have lacked the will to return to them since. With this in mind I thought it would be interesting to return to the period and read the issues in order, noting down my thoughts, and finally aiming to pinpoint what exactly went wrong, and whether the period deserves to be called the worst in Spider-Man's history. With that in mind, read on as I tackle the very first issue of a phase that has become synonymous with failure, lack of inspiration and all round suckage - 'The Reboot'!

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