Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Why Did The Spider-Man Reboot Fail? Part 19: Cliche

Amazing Spider-Man (Volume 2) #16 By Mackie / Byrne / Green
Peter Parker: Spider-Man (Volume 2) #16 By Mackie / Romita / Hanna 

Perhaps moreso than any other aspect of the reboot, Peter Parker's job at Tricorp, introduced with much fanfare in #1 of the second volume of Amazing Spider-Man, stands as a complete and utter failure. Despite the job making a lot of sense - so much so that it was effectively re-used in Dan Slott's recent run - Mackie appeared reluctant to actually use it, and the subplot was quickly shuffled to one side, with Peter even ending up spending more time at the Daily Bugle.

It is with this issue that Peter's time at Tricorp finally draws to a close, a long and painful demise rather than the quick, clean one that it really should have been. The issue is also a crossover of sorts with the long since forgotten Marvel: The Lost Generation mini series, a fact that does nothing to endear me to it.

The issue begins with the resurrection of a familiar Spider-Man trope - money problems! It turns out that MJ and Peter were not as financially secure as he was led to believe and Aunt May reveals that after her death Mary Jane's former manager has made off with her money, leaving Peter with several bills that he can't pay. Peter is left homeless, and eventually jobless as he turns up at Tricorp only to be told by a bewildered Doctor Twaki that he no longer has a job there.

Peter's money problems, while perhaps being unnecessary extra misery to dump on him ring more true than his status as the mega rich husband of a supermodel. I am not quite of the school of thought that Peter's character is heavily reliant on his status as an everyman, but I felt that his and MJ's lavish lifestyle in the earlier reboot issues strayed a little too far away from the core of the character. Returning him to a more meagre existence, to me leaves Peter as a more recognisable character. I appreciated Mackie taking the time to round off Peter's job at Tricorp, although the execution did make him come across as slightly clueless and stupid. Given the way he has approached the job however, that isn't much of a surprise, and I'm not really sure how else Mackie could have gone about it. While at Tricorp Spidey is called into action to tangle with the industrial saboteur known as 'Ghost', but this is a fairly forgettable fight scene by numbers. The appearance of time travelling historian Cassandra Locke is slightly unnecessary, but does make for a couple of mildly clever pieces of dialogue.

The issue ends with Jonah revealing that he will not be accepting any photos of Spider-Man from Peter, further deepening his financial woes. Jameson's somewhat abrupt decision harks back to a scene a few issues back where he had the opportunity to look under an unconscious Spider-Man's mask - could he have finally learned of Peter Parker's duel life? Probably not, but we'll get to that in a few issues time.

This is a very forgettable issue all around, although it does a good job of manoeuvring Peter's status quo into a more recognisable position. The termination of his job at Tricorp was necessary, and removing his and MJ's wealth initially seemed like a good move too. With Dan Green's inks lending a bit of welcome detail and depth to Byrne's often sketchy pencils, this stands as a fairly decent, if unspectacular reboot issue.


The next issue is slightly more interesting, and shows Howard Mackie to be a much more talented Spider-scribe than he is often given credit for. Titled 'Cliche', it approaches a typical day in the life of a newly penniless Peter Parker, who after foiling a group of armored terrorists robbing a bank returns 'home' to a grubby motel, after having moved out of his and MJ's plush apartment. Peter heads out again as Spider-Man, and tussles with a group of amusingly generic supervillains, calling themselves 'The Wicked Brigade'. Although they are self referentially lame, there are actually a couple of decent designs in there and 'The Squid' has since gone on to make a couple more appearances.

After the group are blasted by yet another generic looking supervillain - this one the Doctor Doom like 'Master Monarch' - Spidey swings by to the Daily Bugle, where he finds the staff hiding away from Venom who has taken them hostage. John Romita Jr was born to draw Venom, and the villain is at his creepy best here, as the pair fight and trade a few relatively well written quips. Sandman soon shows up, and Venom reveals that he still bears a grudge against him after the pairs brief membership of the Sinister Six (in #12 of both titles if you're counting). He proceeds to take a huge bite out of the Sandman who slides off, appearing in deep discomfort.

Spidey and Venom continue their fight for a bit before Spidey defeats him using a rolled up newspaper and fire. Typically, Jameson still blames Spider-Man for everything, and he webs the embittered publisher's mouth shut and swings off. After briefly resolving to quit the crime fighting business after a rotten day at the office, Peter decides against it, revealing that 'being Spider-Man is kinda cool'. The issue ends with Spidey running into the Thing, and the pair on the verge of a typical hero vs hero duel.

Although the issue probably doesn't sound like anything much that is sort of the point. Mackie plays with a number of super hero cliches in a pleasingly knowing fashion. Spider-Man's interior narration through the issue is well written, and actually often quite funny. Romita Jr's pencils are excellent too - moody, dynamic and rich, with excellent renditions of both Venom and Sandman, and even some impressively drawn throwaway villains. In many ways this is Mackie's strongest rendition of the Web Slinger since the reboot began which does beg the question - why can't he write like this every week?


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