Sunday, 1 January 2012

Why Did The Spider-Man Reboot Fail: Part Six - Plaything Of The Gods

Thor (Volume 2) #8 by Jurgens / Romita Jr. / Janson 
Peter Parker: Spider-Man #2 by Mackie / Romita / Hanna

While Peter Parker: Spider-Man #2 was obviously released before #3, I'm dealing with it afterwards for simplicity's sake as #3 followed on from Amazing Spider-Man #2-3.

Just two issues in and the Spider-Man reboot is already the subject of a crossover - with no less than Marvel's God of Thunder, the Mighty Thor! Crossovers are traditionally maligned devices, often quite transparent in their   desire to attract more readers to the titles in question. This one seems particularly unnecessary, as all of the plot threads introduced in the reboots opening issues are ignored.

Part one, from Thor #8 is the first issue that I have dealt with that hasn't been written by Howard Mackie. Oddly enough it's written by Dan Jurgens, who briefly wrote Sensational Spider-Man for seven issues, following the title's launch in 1997. Jurgens attributed his early departure to his unwillingness to write Ben Reilly as Spider-Man, despite his run being generally well received.

Much of the Part One's first half deals with what seems to have been a plot running through Thor's series. I (perhaps understandably) struggled to follow it, but it seems that Odin and Balder have been taken prisoner by an unpleasant looking cabal of villains. The baddies dispatch one of their funny looking lackeys named Tokkots to cause havoc in the mortal world. Many of the plot's finer nuances passed me by, but this isn't down to poor writing at all - although there was little to draw me in, and I felt that Jurgens could have done a better job at getting non-Thor readers up to speed.

The scene shifts to Memorial hospital, where Peter and Aunt May are picking up a prescription. Aunt May's characterisation is as horrible as it has been since the reboot began, an irritating aspect that is showing no sign of going away. It is understandable that writers would be keen to make use of her so soon after being brought back, but there are several more interesting supporting characters that I would prefer to see in her place. Coincidentally, Peter and May are at the same hospital as Thor's civillian alter ego, Jake Olsen. Both characters hear of a commotion over in Midtown, and head to the scene, Peter leaving Aunt May behind while unknowingly keeping hold of her prescription. Oy.. Olsen's career as a paramedic gives him a convenient excuse to join the festivities. Tokkots is trashing the city, while talking exclusively in verse. His dialogue is intensely annoying, and pretty much ruins him as a villain. He has a dodgy design and poorly defined powers, so for me is a complete failure of a character.After a brief melee between the three characters, Tokkots splits into two (?) and the issue closes with Aunt May fearing for Peter's safety. It's all inoffensive enough, but not a particularly exciting read. The main plot of the Thor book isn't explained terribly well so as a Spider-Man reader there is little to care about. Romita Jr's art is decent, and provides nice continuity between the two books, despite looking a little rushed in some places. I prefer his work when inked by Scott Hanna, but that is just a matter of personal preference.

Part two is a fairly standard slugfest between the Tokkots', Thor and Spider-Man, intercut with a few pages of Aunt May fretting about her nephew, before somewhat predictably collapsing from the strain of it all. Once again, very annoying, not to mention dull, and adds little to the issue. Thankfully the Thor details are kept to a minimum, although this means that the story has little weight beyond its status as a generic superhero battle. Romita Jr. does a capable enough job again, without ever really excelling - there were a number of very bland backgrounds that made the issue a bit of a bland read. With a few pages remaining Peter's beeper goes off, which somehow puts Tokkots out of action. It isn't entirely clear why, but I found it a fun and fairly unexpected way to close the battle, even if it did reek of deus ex-machina. The scene featuring the Bugle staff waiting for Peter to answer was amusingly rendered, and made for a pleasing interlude. Jonah, when written correctly is arguably the strongest member of Spider-Man's supporting cast and his brief cameo utilises him well. The issue closes with Peter reunited with his well again aunt, before shaking hands with Jake Olsen, the irony being that the two are unaware of their superhero alter egos. It's a nice way of rounding off the story, if a little heavy handed.

Overall the two parter was below par, but not a disaster. Most of Spider-Man's subplots are firmly on the back burner and there is barely a mention of his return to the webs - a frustrating detail given how much emphasis was placed on his giving up being Spider-Man. The dichotomy between Thor and Spider-Man can be interesting, not to mention amusing, if written well but that is not the case here, and neither Mackie nor Jurgens do a more than average job of pairing the characters with each other. Tokkots is a bland villain, with any attempts to make him interesting or unique largely falling flat. He may be more engaging for those familiar with Thor's world at the time, but that is little consolation to me. Perhaps this story would have been a solid interlude if positioned a little later along the line, but so early in the reboot it feels like an irritating distraction.


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