Some thoughts on today’s comics
In talking about comics with an associate recently, he astutely pointed out that his big problem with today’s comics writers is that they are of the TV-centric Whedon/Abrams variety and were not what you would call “closers” (and so deserve no coffee.) Which, have to agree with. In terms of, and not to go out on too much of a tangent this early on, your Hickman’s and Spencer’s and that ilk is true. Comics now and days it all seems to be a show off of “look how much I learned about writing from pop culture and screenwriting books and graphic design and episodic television” less so than any inner passion or drive or need to express the self or the characters. Positivity and a need to say anything at all has given way to showing off knowledge of structuralism. No matter how much you play around with the form there has to be some heart somewhere and so the problem with today’s comics comes not from a lack of craft, in a way, but OVER craft and very little heart and a sameness of tonality.
That is not to say that the tonality is BAD the problem is that it’s all-pervasive. I suppose it takes a level of mastery to make it distinct. Ed Brubaker I would have to say is the modern master of mainstream and I would have to say, and without exactly being able to put a finger as to how or why, it is because Mr. Brubaker can pull off his writing choices as consistency as opposed to being “one note.” Mike Mignola and the people he chooses to work with have that same quality and a control of craft and economy. Grant Morrison, even now when he’s not as experimental as once was, likes to create dense and emotional comics, Tarantino-like now in their referencing to other works and ability to make me, fuck, feel things, like joy and shit that’s why they have such re-read value. Let’s call this the “I tell you who I like best” paragraph.
“The Death of Ultimate Spider-Man”
I’ve been reading Ultimate Spider-Man since I was 13 years old, since issue #13, where Peter Parker reveals his secret identity 20 or so years ahead of fan schedule. Listen, to me at this point Brian Michael Bendis is a guy whose nothing but a hodgepodge of Mamet and the aforementioned pop culture influences. I’ve dropped off on him bit by bit over the years as his comics became subsumed by his Marvel PR personality (Matt Fraction got the fast track version of this.) But, Ultimate Spider-Man stayed honest somehow and as I grew older I recognized it for having the same organic ability to become different that Chris Claremont’s best X-Men work had as well. The book wrapped its long dangling plot threads really about a year before the 2009(!) relaunch and became a different book that made sense and was enjoyable for a new set of merits. The LaFuente drawn relaunch had so much powerful promise in that first year of beautifully drawn, dense, and interesting comics. But the Ultimate Line it lived in couldn’t keep up and had to be re-tweaked again and so…”Death of Spider-Man.”
The thing is I’m not opposed to “Death of Spider-Man” because they killed off the lead with the plan to replace him. That is actually an interesting idea that takes advantage of the fact that this isn’t “real” Spider-Man. No, my problem was how fucking regressive the whole thing was on a lot of levels. Bringing back Mark Bagley I have not doubt was done with the best of intentions but was the wrong move. Because Mark Bagley wasn’t what the series was anymore. Bringing back the Green Goblin was wrong for the same reason. His story was over. Ultimate Spider-Man’s main antagonist had become Mysterio. The series was LaFuente and Pichelli now and Peter Parker’s sensible haircut. “Death of Ultimate Spider-Man” gave up concluding what the series had become and decided to go for A) Nostalgia of what the series used to be when it had better sales and B) Crossed-Over in stupid disruptive ways with a shitty Mark Millar comic and ruined its own internal story-logic to spike sales for the relaunch. It’s all so mechanical.
And it’s probably mega naive of me to think that any comic book by Marvel would be immune from stupid-ass pointless sales spikes but…shit couldn’t you have given me this one?
-Daniel Von Egidy, 2011