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“Metaphors will keep me out the projects”

November 16th, 2010 Posted by david brothers

Somebody asked me why I quit reading Amazing Spider-Man last week. I thought about doing a post detailing what I liked and didn’t like, but who cares? Why spend time on something that isn’t working for me? Instead, there is this, which, if you look at it sideways, maybe kinda relates.

My love of rap is directly related to my love of stories, but I’ll come back around to that.

I’ve been reading since I was a kid. I partially learned how to read by looking for my name in the credits of movies, which I would invariably watch all the way to the end. Comic books provided another useful resource, as the dialogue tended to be very simplistic and childish while the word choices were bombastic.

In other words, it wasn’t hard to understand the sentences, but you’d still have to look things up, particularly when you’re too young to figure out context. I remember Claremont/Lee-era X-Men being a treasure trove of new words. I know for a fact I learned “vernacular,” “deadpan,” and “kinetic” from those books. Poring over a stack of well-read comics, some freshly traded from friends, and having to ask someone how to say “Adirondacks” (where X-Force lived) is one of those things that sticks out in my memory.

Years later, I got a library card and was old enough to go there on my own. You could check out, what, five or eight books? Something like that. Enough to pack a backpack with. I’d burn through them and come back the next weekend for a reload. This would’ve been around 1995 or 1996.

In that same stretch of time, I started actually listening to rap. I knew the popular songs, and I knew that Method Man was kinda cool, and I really liked Tupac, OutKast, and Goodie MOb, but I didn’t really hear what they were saying. I couldn’t tell you anything about it, other than that it sounded cool. It was just something that came on the radio. And my mom controlled the radio, so that meant it was gonna be all R&B, all the time.

(Half a memory: Jay-Z’s “Ain’t No Nigga” dropped in 96, and it ran around my school like a brushfire. Tons of pretty little brown girls singing, “Ain’t no nigga like the one I got!” while the boys grunted, “No one can uh you bet-ter!” We couldn’t curse in school, you see.)

Jay-Z’s “Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)” hit in 1998 like an atom bomb. It decimated the airwaves, and my memory may be faulty, but I think the only song that I remember even touching it was OutKast’s “Rosa Parks.” “Hard Knock Life” was huge, and as a result, I heard the song at least a dozen times a week. That bassline is still absurd.

Eventually I started paying attention to the lyrics, and suddenly rap started looking a lot more attractive. There were stories here, people playing roles and creating their own myths. On top of that, there was wordplay, the sort of wordplay you simply didn’t see in R&B or movies. The meaning of words changed based on inflection, position in the bar, or even just because. Flow mattered, and one thing Jay has in spades is flow.

I had an after school job at this point, and one of the guys I worked with was this white dude who was super into underground hip-hop. He introduced me to a site called UGHH, which was full of indie acts and Real Media files at the time. That’s where I discovered Bad Meets Evil, bka Eminem & Royce da 5’9″, and a gang of other groups. At this point, the floodgates were opened wide and I was lost forever. Company Flow, Big L (who I discovered overseas when Rawkus released The Big Picture), Big Pun, Ras Kass, Kane, G Rap, Chino XL–whoever it was, as long as they could spit, I was there.

The kind of rap I’m still the most attracted to is built around the lyrics. Clever turns of phrase, complex wordplay, tongue twisters, double entendres, or even just kicking phrases with three or four meanings are what gets my motor going. Language is immensely powerful, and rap is all about bending language to your will. What you are talking about isn’t half as important as how you say it and the words you choose to express it. A simple chase scene (“The cops came, so I ran”) can become something that puts you right into the scene, and a sad love song (which would be rendered with earnest literalism in R&B, most likely) can turn into a sad first-person story.

Flow is crucial. Evidence once said that “emcees without a voice should write a book.” Any idiot can tell stories. Some idiots even make major cash and fame doing it, and good on them for being able to parlay mediocrity into a living wage. The people who matter–and I’m not just talking about rap here–the ones that stick out in your memory, are the ones that do something different or new. Pick your poison–Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Grant Morrison, Kurosawa, William Gibson, James Ellroy, Scorcese, Michael Mann, Quentin Tarantino. All of these guys either do something new or synthesize something old into something that’s almost entirely new. All of these guys have a voice.

Consider Big Pun dropping this bit of brilliance into an otherwise normal verse: “Dead in the middle of Little Italy, little did we know that we riddled some middleman who didn’t do diddily.”

Or Biggie Smalls going rapid-fire: “Motherfucker better duck quick, cause/ me and my dogs love to buck shit/ Fuck the luck shit, strictly aim/ No aspirations to quit the game/ Spit yo’ game, talk yo’ shit/ Grab yo’ gat, call yo’ click/ Squeeze yo’ clip, hit the right one/ Pass that weed, I got to light one/ All them niggas, I got to fight one/ All them hoes, I got to like one/ Our situation is a tight one/ Whatcha gonna do, fight or run?/ Seems to me that you’ll take B/ Bone and Big, nigga, die slowly/ I’ma tell you like a nigga told me/ Cash Rule Everything Around Me/ Shit, lyrically, niggas can’t see me.”

Or Bun B murdering Jay-Z on “Big Pimpin’” to the point where Jay had to step his game up on the video version: Now, these motherfuckers know we carry mo’ heat than a little bit/ We don’t pull it out over little shit/ And if you catch a lick when I spit, then it won’t be a little hit/ Go read a book you illiterate son of a bitch and step up yo’ vocab/ Don’t be surprised if yo’ hoe step out with me/ and you see us comin down on yo’ slab/ Livin ghetto fab-ulous, so mad, you just can’t take it/ But nigga if you hate now/ then you wait while I get yo’ bitch butt-naked, just break it”

Or Eminem on “Kill You,” after he made his first mil: “It’s like a jungle sometimes, it makes me wonder/ Why I keep on duckin’ under the bed when I hear thunder/ ’cause I ain’t crazy, I say shit that’s crazy to crazy people/ To make ‘em believe I’m crazy so they can relate to me/ And maybe believe in Shady, so they can be evil baby/ I like that!/ I’m only as crazy as people made me”

Or Fabolous mixing the Superman mythos with a stutter-step flow on Lil Mo’s “Superwoman”: “Be whipped? I might/ ’cause usually with my chips I’m tight/ But the only green I keep from you is kryptonite/ The way that blue and red suit fits your hips so right/ I be like duh-duh-duh-duh, duh-duh-duh-duh-duh DAMN”

Or any of the times when Ghostface has built an impressively visceral mood and setting using nothing but free association rhymes, new slang, and nonsense (“Hold up, we at the opera/ Queen Elizabeth rub on my leg/ Had ketchup on her dress from a Whopper/ Chunky ass necklace/ Must be her birthstone”), or when Luda has turned simple nursery rhyme-level lyrics into something that gets you heated just off charisma, or when Black Thought’s impressive technical skill knocks your socks off when you stop to think about his effortless rhymes. Young Jeezy isn’t lyrical, but he’s clever enough that I keep coming back for more. He’s like a supernova of charisma and black superhero music.

This sort of thing is why I listen to rap. It’s why I read books, it’s why I consume comics, and watch movies. It’s probably even why I made a conscious decision to become a writer. The stories and wordplay are what works for me, and if I can’t chew on something for a while, or if it’s just emulating something old, or if it’s just going through the motions, or if it’s just the same old, same old, it’s worthless.

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The Cipher 07/13/10

July 14th, 2010 Posted by david brothers


Amazing Spider-Man 637. Words by Joe Kelly, pictures by Michael Lark and maybe Stefano Gaudiano.

Standin’ my ground, never back down, willin’ to rob, steal, and kill anything that threatens mine

You’re not reading this? You’re missing out. Amazing Spider-Man: Grim Hunt has been fantastic. If you’re still holding a grudge over One More Day… get over yourself and read some good comics.

Book-wise, this week is light for me. I got a preview copy of Matt Kindt’s Revolver and burned through that in one sitting. Review coming soon on Comics Alliance, but the short version is “That was a good’un.” Art’s good, story’s interesting, hook’s cool, go on ahead and get that one. I’m also working my way through Takehiko Inoue’s wheelchair basketball drama Real. Trying to keep my consumption to a couple volumes a month. I finished the fourth volume last night, so I’ll probably read Real 5 before bed tonight. This is another one that’s full of good stuff. Great characters, great art, blah blah blah. Read Real if you aren’t. The bulk of my reading right now are older books for this 6 Writers thing I’ve been doing. Next week may be a little different.

Oh, next week is San Diego Comic-con. So much for getting any reading done there.

Speaking of Good Comics
David: Amazing Spider-Man 637, Captain America/Black Panther 4
Gavin: Authority: Lost Year 10, Batman 701, Booster Gold 34, JL: Generation Lost 5, Magog 11, Astonishing Spider-Man and Wolverine 2, Avengers Academy 2, Deadpool Corps 4, Gorilla Man 1, Invincible Iron Man 28, Iron Man Noir 4, X-Men Origins: Deadpool
Esther: Definitely: Batgirl 12. Maybe: Batman 701, Brave and the Bold 35, Doc Savage 4, Power Girl 14, Superman 701

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The Cipher 07/07/10

July 8th, 2010 Posted by david brothers


Casanova 01. words by Matt Fraction, art by Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon, colors by Cris Peters, cover by Gabriel Ba. Preview.

I’m living in that 21st century, doing something mean to it–Do it better than anybody you’ve ever seen do it

I used to really love Casanova. It wasn’t my introduction to Matt Fraction (I think that was Last of the Independents?), but it was the first book of his that I really genuinely liked. Something about it–the superspy stuff, dimension hopping, interesting storytelling–clicked with me and I ended up buying every issue, plus the hardcover of the first series. This post is full of hyperbole and mistakes I wouldn’t make today, but it shows you how high I was on this comic at the time.

This year sees the return of Casanova, but maybe return should be in “douchebag quotes.” It’s being re-serialized from the very beginning, recolored and re-lettered, and the entire series is going to get the deluxe treatment out of Marvel. On the one hand-great! I loved reading these. On the other hand–it’s not 2007 any more. I buy comics differently. If I leap into this, which I have read and liked and appears to be improved, I’m looking at possibly quadruple dipping on this series. I bought the originals, bought the trade, and bought the originals for the second series. I could buy the new issues, but what I really want are the trades of the stuff I’ve already read (with the new colors and etc).

There’s a dilemma for you. Support in singles after having already supported in singles or be selfish and buy the trades several months down the line?

(I’m buying the trades because this really isn’t a dilemma at all, but if you haven’t read Casanova, give it a look.)

What’s 4l! buying?!
David: Amazing Spider-Man 636, King City 10
Esther: Batman and Robin 13, Secret Six 23, Batman Confidential 46, Red Robin 14
Gavin: Batman & Robin 13, Secret Six 23, Avengers: Children’s Crusade 1, Avengers: The Origin 4, Hawkeye & Mockingbird 2, Hit-Monkey 1, Steve Rogers: Super-Soldier 1, Irredeemable 15

Book-wise, I just got Shade the Changing Man: The American Scream, Human Target: Chance Meetings, Hellblazer: Hooked, Batwoman: Elegy, The Life and Times of Martha Washington in the Twenty-First Century, and One Piece 54. I didn’t own Human Target: Final Cut, so I went ahead and grabbed that trade. I haven’t read Shade before, or at least not to my memory, so I’m starting in on that. And HellblazerHellblazer is just good. Let Tucker convince you. He’s right. So yeah, it’s a heavy Milligan week for me, but I can’t complain. And I get King City and One Piece and a follow-up to one of the top three greatest Spider-Man stories of all time? Comics should always be this good.

(If you’re not reading Amazing Spider-Man: Grim Hunt, you’re making a mistake. The last page this week is on bomb status.)

Tell me what you’re buying and how you liked it.

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Death to Canon

April 28th, 2010 Posted by david brothers

A large part of the appeal of superheroes is the ongoing narrative. Like soap operas, wrestling, and movie franchises, people like to drop in and see what’s going on with a character. While there are Elseworlds, What Ifs, dreams, alternate universes, and house shows, there’s a clear series of stories that are “real.” You can trace the biography of Clark Kent from 1938 to 2010, and buy books that tell that story from the beginning. Regular reinventions re-tell his origin, but with rotary phones replaced with touchtone phones, and then newspapers replaced by the internet, and then the internet replaced by newspapers again.

This has expanded from a biography into a mythology. It’s not enough to have Clark Kent from ’39 to ’10. You need to know Clark Kent’s place in the DC Universe, and how he relates to thousands of other characters. There is a narrative, whether on a small scale or a macro scale, that you can follow from A-Z. Superman died [mumble] years ago and this is how it affected Blue Beetle. Peter Parker fought Norman Osborn in college, and here is how that affects the Marvel Universe. Stories that do not fit into that narrative are either handwaved away in favor of the new interpretation of the character or deprecated and consigned to the realm of “imaginary stories.”

The idea of “real” stories is one that Marvel and DC both have wholly embraced. It is the stuff that runs in the veins of big events, and the reason why comics fans claim that they hate events but buy them anyway. “I want to know what happens! This matters!” You want that next chapter in the ongoing story, you need to know what happens to Peter Parker in Civil War, and you want to know the effects of Secret Invasion on the greater Marvel Universe. You’re invested in the narrative.

That investment leads to the immediacy that drives the direct market. You can go to the comic shop every week and get an update on whichever universe you prefer. If you don’t have that immediacy, that lust for the periodical, you have no reason to hit a comic shop and can just order the completed stories a few months down the line and read them at your leisure. DC’s recently stated wish to push back against trade waiters and emphasize the monthly comics (a move I find, frankly, idiotic and backwards) is their latest attempt to maintain their stranglehold on that market. These are the lifers, the ones who go in, buy their comics, complain, and buy them again the next month.

Series that don’t tie into the narrative sink like rocks. Barring aberrations like Deadpool’s current status, who ride a bubble of interest until it fizzles out, anecdotal knowledge says that niche books don’t sell. Recent casualties: Blade, Blue Beetle, Captain Britain & MI-13, SWORD, and Brother Voodoo. Books like Runaways and Agents of Atlas are repeatedly relaunched, repositioned, and revamped in an attempt to keep readers. Runaways in particular was changed to tie directly into the greater Marvel Universe for its second volume.

Those books get cancelled because retailers know that readers want important stories, so they order accordingly. Who cares what happened in Runaways? Is Spider-Man even in that? And The Mighty? Who is that? Is Green Lantern ever gonna guest star? “Save ______” campaigns, barring the amazing dedication of Spider-Girl fans, rarely work. The books get resurrected, retailers order a couple extra copies at best, since the last series failed, and then we’re left right back where we started: “Save ______.”

Simple question: why? Why are the books that are “real” considered more “real” than the others? In the end, the only thing you get out of reading a “real” story is a different set of fake information about a fake character. Both results are equally fake. You think somebody who only ever watched The Dark Knight cares that Batman once fought a dude with eyeballs where his fingertips go? Or that Spider-Man getting married matters more than that time Venom drove a truck in the Spider-Man cartoon? No, because here is the truth: all stories are fake stories. Granted, there is a certain amount of pleasure in following a character’s ongoing adventures, but let’s be real: all stories are fake stories. Being part of a string of fake stories doesn’t make it any more real than the other fake story.

So, why is Amazing Spider-Man more real than Spider-Man Noir? Easy: Marvel says so. Or DC says so. Or whoever. They have a vested interest in keeping their captive audience, for lack of a better phrase, so they maintain something approaching a canon, a group of stories that are “real.” Those other stories, Elseworlds and What Ifs and whatever, are fake, and you don’t need them to know what’s going on. If you buy them, that’s great, but look–Siege is what you need. Buy Green Lantern because it’s important.

My least favorite question in comics is “Is this in continuity?” That’s a frustrating question, especially when recommending a book to someone. There is the implication that stories that are in continuity matter more than ones that don’t, when that is undeniably false. I read Spider-Man comics for a few years without ever picking up Amazing Spider-Man.

Nowadays, I think the thrice-weekly Amazing Spider-Man is a great book, one of the most consistently good cape books on the stands. It has had its low points, its dips in quality, but the overall package is good. Last January, it was moving about sixty thousand units.

Spider-Man Noir is honestly one of my favorite Spider-Man stories. The writing was on point, the art was excellent, and it all came together very well. As far as Spidey stories go, it hits all the notes to make it a classic. It shipped thirty-one thousand copies.

Why the discrepancy? One is real, the other is not.

The problem with this system is that quality does not matter. Avengers Disassembled and Ultimatum were deck-clearing exercises. Everyone hated Spider-Man: One More Day, but it sold 150k. Identity Crisis was a terrible mystery and Blackest Night ended when a ghost popped up in the last issue and told everyone how to beat the bad guy. But, since these books are important, they sold gangbusters. Add a logo or a banner to a low-selling comic, script a tie-in to the important event, and watch the sales jump while people see what’s going on with the greater continuity. And then watch them fall once the continuity cop stuff is over.

Death to canon.

I hate the way it’s used in comics. Rather than having stories that matter, treat every story like it matters, Elseworlds or no. You can still do the ground-shaking status quo events, you can do sequels, and you can do long-running series. In fact, the way Marvel collects its events already does this. If you go to the store to buy Annihilation, you have Annihilation Book One, Annihilation Book Two, and Annihilation Book Three. They contain several stories from a variety of writers, but all tell the story of the Annihilation Wave. House of M has been collected into several softcovers. And in the bookstore, these books do not have any primacy over Spider-Man Noir or Agents of Atlas.

What’s important is the story and the creators. Not the canon, not the format, not the wrapper, not the company that made it. The story and the people who created it are the only ones that matter in this equation. By removing that fixation on the canon from the situation, comics fans can find themselves dozens of new books that are just as good, and sometimes better, than the canon-centric titles they buy in droves and talk about online.

We get the comics industry we deserve. By focusing only on the Universes, you miss the good stuff. I shifted my perception and found a wealth of books I would’ve otherwise ignored that rocked my socks off. I’m a firm believer in liking what you like, but at the same time, if I ruled the world? Comics would be a whole lot different than they are now. Fake stories are fake stories, no matter what anyone says. Once I started treating them like that, I started liking comics a whole lot more than I did already.

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Fourcast! 33: Last Week in Comics

February 15th, 2010 Posted by david brothers

-6th Sense’s 4a.m. Instrumental for the theme music
-Oh snap, comics reviews!
-Batman & Robin #8? Good stuff! Cameron Stewart drew a great fight scene, Grant Morrison writes a fun Batwoman (“I have to die.”) and the British stuff is pretty fun.
-Esther wants Damian to disappear, though. That sucks.
-Amazing Spider-Man #620? Pretty good, with a great Mysterio bit and amazing art from Marcos Martin and Javier Pulido.
-Secret Six #18? Blackest Night crossover, Amanda Waller runs things, and Deadshot shoots dudes.
-Fact: I cannot say “Deadshot” without saying “Deathstroke” first.
-Fact: Deadshot’s miniseries from a while back ruled.
-Jormungand volume 2 from Viz features a child soldier who goes into two separate suicidal rages in this volume, a wacky arms dealer, and the hijinx they get into. David likes it because he probably has a gun fetish. Good stuff!
-See you, space cowboy!

Subscribe to the Fourcast! via:
-Podcast Alley feed!
-RSS feed via Feedburner
-iTunes Store

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This Week in Panels: Week 18

January 24th, 2010 Posted by Gavok

Welcome to this week’s edition of This Week in Agents of Atlas. We have a lot of Agents of Atlas this time around, so let’s get to the Agents of Atlas!

(Not shown: the Agents of Atlas backup story in Incredible Hercules)

Amazing Spider-Man #618
Dan Slott and Marcos Martin

Authority: The Lost Year #5
Grant Morrison, Keith Giffen and Jonathan Wayshak

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Best of Marvel 2009: Keemia’s Castle

December 23rd, 2009 Posted by david brothers

I’m pretty sure the best Marvel story of the year just ended in Amazing Spider-Man. I asked some friends and they mentioned Matt Fraction and Salvador Larroca’s Iron Man: World’s Most Wanted and Jonathan Hickman and Dale Eaglesham’s Fantastic Four: Solve Everything. Those are perfectly fine whiz-bang superhero stories, which I overall dug, but Amazing Spider-Man: Keemia’s Castle, a Fred Van Lente and Javier Pulido joint, with able color art by Javier Rodriguez, is the real deal.

The covers suggest that Keemia’s Castle is about Sandman vs Spider-Man in a knock-down drag-out battle. Well, it is, but that’s just the dressing the story is wrapped in. It’s really about Keemia and her father, Flint Marko, better known as Sandman. Keemia lives on an island with her father, and he does his best to make all of her dreams come true. Keemia’s Castle is a tragedy in two parts.

The conflict comes when Keemia’s mother and the person who wanted to develop the island end up murdered, with Sandman being Spider-Man’s #1 suspect. Spider-Man, in attempting to do the right thing, sets out to rescue the little girl and return her to her grandmother.

And in the end, after the fighting is done and Spider-Man is feeling good about himself, the rug’s pulled out from under him, leaving him feeling less than heroic. It’s like something out of Ann Nocenti’s Daredevil, where heroism isn’t as simple as punching a dude and calling it a good day’s work. Sometimes the heroes lose and win at the same time.

Spider-Man approaches the Sandman fight as if it’s just another supervillain battle, coming equipped with special webbing to counteract Sandman’s powers and essentially ready to throw down. In actuality, though, Sandman is trying to protect his daughter and hold on to the only good thing in his life. He wants to provide a safe haven, and Keemia means everything to him. And though circumstances end up keeping him from being able to fulfill his goal, it never seems like he’s lying. He’s genuine about what he feels.

At the end of the book, Spider-Man delivers Keemia to Glory Grant, who in turn notified CPS. Keemia’s grandmother, who was watching TV when Keemia was kidnapped, was found to be an unfit guardian. So, the little girl gets to go into the system and placed in a foster home. The kids are mean and there are a lot of them.

Maybe it’s because my mom was a social worker when I was younger, but I’ve always been aware of child abuse and DFACS-related issues. I know that the job involves constant misery for all involved and that sometimes good people just aren’t good enough. I know that my mom quit doing it and switched careers entirely, in part because working as a social worker means that you’re going to want to cry or you’re going to want to strangle someone until they die, and both reactions are equally valid and acceptable.

Being put into foster care doesn’t always work out how it should, even when people mean the best or there’s no other choice. Kids don’t get the childhood they deserve. All I can think of is how Keemia is about to go through it and come out the other side different. She still has the image of her father in her mind, and that’s a bright light for her, but even that can dim over time.

Van Lente ending the story there, with Keemia facing an ugly future, a hero who was stuck between a rock and a hard place, and a family left torn apart, is a kick in the junk. These stories aren’t supposed to end like this. The cape has to save the day, everyone is supposed to smile, and we can close the book, content in the fact that being a superhero is awesome and life is good and simple and safe.

Except it isn’t. And that sucks, but it’s true. It’s nice to see the Amazing Spider-Man gang dig into it without getting preachy. It gives you a little bit to think about and digest. It’s something Spidey, as a franchise, hasn’t done in a long while.

Definitely my pick for the best Marvel story in ’09. Van Lente and Pulido snuck it in under the wire, I’ve gotta say, but it was great. If you’re at your store, pick up Amazing Spider-Man #615 and #616. I was reading comics in bed, dozing off, and ASM made me hop back out so that I could talk about it with Uzumeri and some other dudes. That’s kind of a big deal.

(In an odd coincidence, my first issue of ASM was #316, the big Venom comeback issue. That’s three hundred issues gone.)

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This Week in Panels: Week 5

October 25th, 2009 Posted by Gavok

To make up for last week’s lackluster batch, we’ve returned with more substance this time.

Amazing Spider-Man #609
Marc Guggenheim, Marco Checchetto and Luke Ross

Azrael #1
Fabian Nicieza and Ramon Bachs

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This Week in Panels: Week 2

October 4th, 2009 Posted by Gavok

Back for another week of panels that give you a vague essence of the comics we have read this week without any real context. Let the non-reviews begin!

Amazing Spider-Man #607
Joe Kelly, Mike McKone and Adriana Melo

The Boys: Herogasm #5
Garth Ennis, John McCrea and Keith Burns

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“Could ya see yourself with a Spider workin’ harder than 9 to 5?”

September 29th, 2009 Posted by david brothers

Sometimes you don’t realize how much you miss something until it comes back.

One of the best parts of Spider-Man’s supporting cast are the female characters he meets, befriends, and sometimes dates. Glory Grant, Gwen Stacy, Mary Jane, Betty Brant, Liz Allan, and probably a dozen others. They ran the gamut from weepy and hot-for-teenager Lee/Ditko-era Betty Brant to determined Gwen Stacy to party girl with a heart of gold MJ.

While Aunt May and MJ’s Aunt Anna were both pretty much cut from the same cloth, with Aunt May being a little more frail on occasion, the rest of the women came from all walks of life, and the series benefitted from it. One woman who is absolutely in my top three, though, is Felicia Hardy, the Black Cat.

Felicia brought a more realistic version of the Clark/Lois/Superman love triangle to comics. In a world where you honestly have a choice between the heroic hot dude and the shlub who just kinda stutters a little, who in the world would choose the shlub? Felicia is an attractive cat burglar and lives the high life. When Spider-Man reveals his identity, all she can say is, “Put your mask back on!” It’s Spider-Man she loves, fabulous man of mystery and amazing hero, not Peter Parker, Dude Who Worries About His Rent.

Felicia brings something to the Spider-books that MJ or Gwen never could. She’s got abilities that raise her above the level of “normal comic book girl.” Her bad luck powers are only icing on the cake for her agility, general physical fitness, and ability to plan a crime. She knows the risks and enters into them of her own free will. Her fun-loving nature, too, provides a wonderful contrast to Peter Parker’s constant gnashing of teeth.

She was actually in my first comic, though she jobbed to Venom there. Amazing Spider-Man #316, the beginning of Venom’s big comeback tour. She comes looking for Spider-Man, not knowing that 1) he’s married and 2) moved out. Venom catches her while she’s in Spider’s old apartment, beats the snot out of her, and leaves her in tears. Great going, guys.

Amazing Spidey #606 brought the Black Cat back into the Spider-Man family proper, with her first appearance in the flagship book since Maximum Carnage. Do the math: that’s 16 years. She showed up in various miniseries and probably Spectacular or Web Of, but Amazing is the Spidey book. Seems like a long time, doesn’t it? Luckily, her return to Amazing Spider-Man is also a return to form, as she reminds me of the character that I loved back in the day.

From Amazing Spidey 606, words by Joe Kelly, pictures by Mike McKone, with Chris Chuckry on colors:

blackcat_001blackcat_002blackcat_003
blackcat_004blackcat_005
blackcat_006blackcat_007

Welcome back, Felicia Hardy.

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