Monday, November 28, 2005

SPIDER-MAN #2 Marvel Comics, 2004

You know what I hate? When you type up a long post full of hilarious jokes and keen insights and then – poof – it vanishes into the ether before you can publish it. So here we go, I’ll try this again, only this time without the jokes and insights.

In this second issue of the Marvel Knights Spider-Man series, Spidey’s Aunt May has been kidnapped. Again. To be fair, this is the first time Aunt May has been kidnapped in a Marvel Knights book, and Spider-Man acts like it’s never happened before. His search for his missing aunt leads him to Avengers Mansion, and the reason why this book is included in Earth’s Mightiest Guest Stars Week here at Dave’s Long Box.

Writer Mark Millar and artists Terry and Rachel Dodson have their own spin on The Avengers, starting with the cover (above). Captain America is wearing a web belt loaded with pouches for his Caparangs or something, and Hawkeye has adopted a high-tech look with an armored sleeve and a futuristic looking quiver. Really, how high-tech can you get with a quiver? Isn’t a quiver just a container for arrows? Hawkeye’s quiver looks like it was designed by NASA, and apparently it screws on to his back. I mean, it looks cool and all, but isn’t it a little over-designed? Seems like it would be heavy, too.
"...the plot is a beast that must be fed..."

The cover is just the first hint that this is a little bit of a different take on The Avengers. Spidey shows up at Avengers Mansion hoping to speak to Captain America. Hopefully Cap can help him contact Nick Fury (doesn’t S.H.I.E.L.D. have a toll-free number?), who Spidey hopes will help him track down his missing Aunt May.

Of course, things don’t go smoothly. Much like an episode of Three’s Company, the plot demands that Spider-Man’s efforts are foiled by misunderstanding, miscommunication, and irrational behavior. It all starts with Jarvis, Earth’s Mightiest Butler, who thinks that Spidey is another damn punk playing a prank when he shows up at their front door:

I call bullshit on that!
Jarvis isn’t a dick, and he’d be accustomed to superheroes stopping by the mansion. At the very least, you’d think The Avengers would have some protocol in the event that a hero showed up asking for help. But no, the plot is a beast that must be fed, so Jarvis acts like a dick and calls security on Spider-Man.

I know what you’re thinking: The Avengers have security guards? Just roll with it.

While Spidey punches out a bunch of S.H.I.EL.D. guards and vaults past the mansion’s auto-defense systems, Tony Stark, aka Iron Man, is downstairs getting ready for a photo shoot with famous photographer Annie Liebowitz:

Never mind how weird Stark looks; we’ll get to that in a minute.

There’s a telling line of dialogue in the panel above: “…like the ones you took of Dick and George when they were plotting the war in Iraq…” You could read a lot into that phrase, like how Millar mentions Dick Cheney before George Bush and his use of the word “plotting” instead of “planning.” I’m not going to go into that, but I do think that Stark’s use of Cheney and Bush’s first names implies a degree of familiarity, if not friendship. I should point out that at the time this book was published, Tony Stark was the U.S. Secretary of Defense. What I’m getting at is that I think Millar’s implying that Tony Stark is a Republican.

I don’t have a problem with that per se. Stark is practically the human embodiment of the military-industrial complex -- if any hero is going to be a Republican, it would be Tony Stark. And Moon Knight. That dude is a full-on Republican. No, I don’t have a problem with that, but what sticks in my craw a little is the mention of the war in Iraq.

Bear with me, I’m not going to get all political on your ass. I recognize that Marvel strives for a greater level of realism than DC, with their fake cities and all that. Hell, Iron Man’s origin is in the Vietnam War. But is there really a war in Iraq going on in the Marvel Universe? I only ask because if Tony Stark is your Secretary of Defense instead of Donald Rumsfield, it kind of changes the dynamic of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, doesn’t it?

If Tony Stark is running the Defense Department, we get some crazy sci-fi overlap into a very real conflict. Helicarriers, jet packs, repulsor rays, mandroids, powered armor… Just by plugging Iron Man into the equation you suddenly have this whole weird logic problem. How would Stark's leadership change the nature of the war? I mean, a car bomb or I.E.D. wouldn’t even dent the most basic Iron Man armor. You see what I mean? Maybe I’m overthinking the whole thing, but that one seemingly trite line of dialogue opens a big can of worms.

Okay, enough. Let’s move on. Doesn’t Tony Stark look kind of funny in the panel above? A lot of the characters in this issue are drawn like weird Doll People.

Spider-Man is kicking ass on the S.H.I.E.L.D. guys upstairs. Stark’s guards think that Spidey is a monster or a supervillain or something (no video cameras in the mansion?), so they’re starting to freak out. They just need to look at the bottom of the panel – see the cute lil’ Spidey head?

Did Tony Stark just diss Ant Man? The guard says, “Ant Man’s the only active Avenger between you, me, and whatever the hell that thing is…” and Stark’s reaction is, “We are so dead.” That’s funny, and mean.

Normally I am 100% on board with the Dodsons’ artwork, but in this comic there is a strange lack of noses. Check out the panel below. Spidey gets tackled by Quicksilver and finally comes face-to-face with The Avengers, who inexplicably have no noses, except for Quicksilver. How do they breathe? The Wasp looks pretty hot, nose or not. I like the arrow motif on her costume: “This way to fun!”

Millar portrays The Avengers as condescending narcissistic celebrity assholes, for the most part. Cap tells Spidey that Nick Fury is in a parallel dimension and can’t help him while the other Avengers make snide comments and say “God” a lot and stress about the damage done to the mansion. Spider-Man refuses Cap’s entirely reasonable offer of help because, again, the plot demands it. Stark shows up and acts like a dick again:

Dude, what is up with Hawkeye’s eyes in the panel above? He looks like a fifteen year old Japanese kid with a dye job, or like he had one too many face lift. Lay off the plastic surgery, Hawkeye. We all age; accept it.

Spider-Man swings off, leaving The Avengers to half-heartedly protest. “No, wait, Spider-Man… oh, well. Let’s clean up this mess.” I don’t know about you, but I think Captain America would suit up and try to help Spidey regardless. That’s just Cap.

Spidey swings off, moping about how he doesn’t fit in with the “super jocks.” Bitch, bitch, bitch.

You might think that based on my rather picky commentary that I did not enjoy Spider-Man #2 or that I’m offended by the off-note interpretation of The Avengers in the book. Not so! I actually kind of liked it – the dialogue is punchy and sly and the visual storytelling is fantastic, even if everybody does look like Doll People. I’m not so dogmatic that I can’t accept a different take on some of my favorite characters, even if I think it’s kind of goofy.

And that’s what Earth’s Mightiest Guest Stars Week is all about.


Aaron said...

I like Millar's Marvel stuff, and Red Son wasn't bad at all. But good lord, I wish he'd shut up about the political stuff. His comparison of Nazi Germany to post-9/11 America in Wolverine 32 was just completely over the top. Millar sees some need to politicize everything in a medium that is all about escape. And it's not just him, there's lots of people who do it.

I'm not saying that I don't want my comics to be socially charged. I'm reading through the Denny O'Neil/Neal Adams Green Lantern & Green Arrow stuff right now. Is that politically and socially loaded? You bet your ass. BUT! Does it ever mention a real politician by name? No. That's part of its timeless appeal. One of the problems with Millar's snide political references is that they lose ALL of their weight within the next few years, sometimes even months.

Rob Schamberger said...

I love that panel where the focal point is Scarlet Witch and Wasp's asses. Them Dodson's sure can render a nice ass.

Anonymous said...

A lot of times, the lack of noses is the fault of the colorist. Even though the artist doesn't pencil them in, they are implied and the colorist is supposed to render them. Leaving open spaces for the colorist to add a personal touch is actually a common trend in today's industry.

Anonymous said...

WTF is up with the psuedo-nazi logos on the guard's uniforms? Check it out: that's totally half of the SS lightning bolt on top of a black eagle.

Anonymous said...

Well! You've cured me of any lingering desire I might have had to check out the Marvel Knights Spider-Man. I thank you!

Anonymous said...

Umm, I'm pretty sure that's not Wasp's ass. I think that's Hawkeye.

Anonymous said...

Usually, I don't care about continuity, but I spent the whole issue thinking, "but wait, Spider-Man is an Avenger!" Shouldn't he have flashed his i.d. card at the gate? Marvel Knights Spider-Man 2 sucked because it was a case of shoe-horning the characters into a pre-determined plot, characterization be damned.

Oh, and the reason the Avengers are assholes in this book is because the Ultimates are assholes, and Millar couldn't be bothered to write them differently.
I like the Ultimates, but they are not the same characters as the Avengers.

Anonymous said...

gwalla: according to issue #1 of the new series, Tony Stark stepped on a landmine he was testing in Afghanistan or something. No Wong Chu. Something like that. When Busiek did it it was just an unnamed Asian country Stark was selling weapons to.

Millar's Marvel Knights arc was always tripped up by painful plot hammering like that. TBH, I think he liked writing the Black Cat far more than he did Spider-Man.

Chris said...

And this is why I don't enjoy the Ultimates as much as I should. Millar uses every single opportunity he gets to espouse his views on the war; whether I agree with them or not is besides the point --- enough with the pointed social commentary and let's get back to fighting Skrulls!

This was the only issue of MK Spider-Man that I bought, and was disappointed to see the Avengers behaving like Earth's Mightiest Frat House boys.

Martin Wisse said...

It's Teamup syndrome writ large: two heroes meeting each other gotta fight first, no matter how contrived the plot is.

And Mark Millar is a bad writer.

David Campbell said...

They updated Iron Man's origin to a more contemporary setting? I totally missed that, I'm going to have to track down that issue.

For the record, I like Millar's work OK. I like Ultimates well enough, even though all the characters seem like assholes. Red Son ruled. I'm pretty sure that Wanted sucked, though.

Rob Schamberger said...

"Umm, I'm pretty sure that's not Wasp's ass. I think that's Hawkeye."


Peter said...

Dave, Warren Ellis changed the Iron Man origin it a year ago in Iron Man v4 #1. Yes, a year ago, and we're still at #4. Poor Golden Avenger, eh?

Luckily, I've got Iron Man: The Inevitable to look forward to. I hope Casey will be on his game!

Anonymous said...

When I first got back into comics one of the first books the comic book store recommended was Wanted.
I am still reading comics despite that. I really did not enjoy that.
I liked the first Ultimate series quite a bit. Like others I don't care about Millars little political asides and I agree with him so go figure.

Peter said...

And oh yeah, I'm betting that you'll look at an issue of Alpha Flight, with the Avengers guest-starring. And, hmm, there's been a couple great FF ones too. Then there's been a couple nice Hulk ones... Perhaps they showed up in something like Transformers too? ;)

Edward Liu said...


Not that there's anything wrong with that.

I think that's the Wasp's ass all the way on the left side of the panel, so I'm sure that's the assage you meant to be snarking on.

"This way to fun!" == teh funny.

re: Iron Man. Wasn't the punch line to the John Jackson Miller arc that Tony Stark DIDN'T get confirmed as the new SecDef? For what it's worth, I vaguely remember him mentioning there that he was a registered Republican, but I don't remember too much from the arc. Besides, these days, trying to tie in comics in continuity is a sure way to a headache, especially where Mark Millar is involved.

Pretty sure the new origin also involves a war in a desert country rather than an Asian war, though. I wonder what they're gonna do with the Punisher -- as it is, he's gotta be pushing retirement age if he served in Vietnam.

Anonymous said...

Edward Liu said...

re: Iron Man. Wasn't the punch line to the John Jackson Miller arc that Tony Stark DIDN'T get confirmed as the new SecDef?

Not quite. The punchline was that the Senate rejected Tony's nomination, but they reconvened and changed their minds after Iron Man saved Washington DC from a bunch of missles or something. Fickle people, those legislators.

The arc (which was actually one of my favorite recent Iron Man stories... all of ya'll should go track it down) never confirmed Tony Stark's political affiliation, and actually dodged it quite skillfully in a couple of places. That said, I have no problem with Tony being a republican, and I've always had him pegged as such.

Dave said...

But is there really a war in Iraq going on in the Marvel Universe? I only ask because if Tony Stark is your Secretary of Defense instead of Donald Rumsfield, it kind of changes the dynamic of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, doesn’t it?

Some of this was addressed later on in John Jackson Miller's run, and the answer was "not really". Tony got sent to Iraq to fight an Iraqi supervillain, and that was about as far as the innovation went. In Miller's defense, I think he would have gotten more into the ramifications of Tony as Secretary of Defense if he hadn't been unceremoniously yanked off the title, and the whole plotline dropped, as a result of "Avengers Disassembled".

Just one more reason to have sour grapes about "Avengers Disassembled", I guess.

Oh yeah. Marvel Knights: Spider-Man #2. I remember reading this issue when it came out and really disliking it, and that feeling hasn't really gone away. Millar's whole 12-issue arc ended up having way more bark than bite, and the storyline really didn't do anything unique or terribly interesting, another than some stuff with the Venom symbiote which is probably going to get overturned anyway.

The Avengers did redeem themselves for their lame performance in this issue later on in the series, though, when they saved Spidey's ass from the Sinister Twelve. I guess they felt bad.

Anonymous said...

The Sinister Twelve? Shouldn't they be the Terrible Twelve or something?

Anonymous said...

"It all serves to set up not only the end of the arc, but also the broader emasculation of Spider-Man[snip]"

Heeeey, maybe before that Morlun guy ate Spidey's eye, he gorged on the Avengers' noses!

Well, if I had his freaky-ass hairline, I'd be eating body parts, too.

Spencer Carnage said...

I'm sorry to say, but Raging Alcoholic Tony Stark just doesn't have the same appeal for me if he's not a Vietnam vet. Being of a veteran of the Gulf War just reminds me of that Fed Ex guy in Slackers.

call me jack... said...

I'd make some sort of "your mom" joke about Jarvis dating Aunt May, but I can't figure out how to deliver it as Aunt May is Peter's Aunt not his mom.

IIRC, the "new" Avengers were kinda dicks to Spidey during the first few issues of new avengers, but now everyone is friendly with each other.

Greg said...

Moon Knight, however, "suffers" from multiple personality, and one of his personas would probably be Democrat. Marc Spector and Steven Grant are Republicans, but Jake Lockley is Democrat.

I love going all nerdy sometimes.

Anonymous said...

Patrick: actually, IIRC Miller said in interviews that he considered Tony to be a liberal Democrat, though I'm not sure it was ever stated in the comic proper. Too bad the only issues of his run are collected in the Disassembled trade; Marvel is seriously lax in their IM trades.

Ellis' Iron Man has a streak of liberal thinking in it, particuarly in issue #1 where Tony gets to ideologically sideswipe John Freaking Pilger of all people. And the villain is clearly meant to be a Ruby Ridge style victim, though Ellis cheats by making him punch off a goth chick's head in issue #4, as if blowing up an FBI building and threatening innocent motorist wasn't enough, he'd have to remind us this guy would kill the "right" people too, if they pissed him off.

It's too bad Ellis and the artist feel the need to drag their ass so much, or "Extremis" might have been one of the best books of the year.

Chris said...

"Marvel is seriously lax in their IM trades."

Although, to be fair, there hasn't been much worth collecting recently (outside of JJM's arc, which I think was overrated because of the two years of dreck that came before it).

Anonymous said...

"How would Stark's leadership change the nature of the war? I mean, a car bomb or I.E.D. wouldn’t even dent the most basic Iron Man armor. You see what I mean?"

Well, yeah, but that shit's expensive. We can't even ship enough humvees over that have sufficient regular-old-metal armor.

Anonymous said...

to Anon 5:06pm

Oh, please. That "un-armored Humvees" canard has been sunk for ages now. Find something new to gripe about.

The "this way to fun!" line was tremendous, Dave.

Bully said...

Now, review this issue again, knowing what you now know about Wanda.

Anonymous said...

Chris: Good point, since Mike Grell was freakin' AWFUL. Still, why wasn't there an Iron Man Legends line, collecting the Layton/Michelinie stuff? Or the Busiek/Chen run, since Busiek's such a top name? At least they're bringing Demon in A Bottle back out in trade in a few months.

Chris said...

Dan Coyle: exactly. Grell was like the Anti-Iron Man.

And, yes, there absolutely should be a Layton/Michelinie IM Legends volume, along with a George Tuska and Gene Colan Masterworks book. And I happen to think that Sean Chen is the best contemporary IM artist in the last 15 years.

But then again, I'm an IM whore.

thekelvingreen said...

Yeah, as an Avengers fan, this issue bothered me a lot. Why are they acting like asshats? Why doesn't Spidey use his Avengers membership card to get in? And so on.

Millar did a slightly better job later on with the brief Avengers vs Sinister Twelve fight, but that whole arc was a horrible mess from start to finish.

Anonymous said...

Four college friends were so confident that the weekend before finals, they decided to go up to Dallas and party with some friends up there. They had a great time. However, after all the partying, they slept all day Sunday and didn't make it back to Austin until early Monday morning.

Rather than taking the final then, they decided to find their professor after the final and explain to him why they missed it.

They explained that they had gone to Dallas for the weekend with the plan to come back and study but, unfortunately, they had a flat tire on the way back, didn't have a spare, and couldn't get help for a long time. As a result, they missed the final.

The Professor thought it over and then agreed they could make up the final the following day. The guys were elated and relieved.

They studied that night and went in the next day at the time the professor had told them. He placed them in separate rooms and handed each of them a test booklet, and told them to begin.

They looked at the first problem, worth 5 points. It was something simple about free radical formation. "Cool," they thought at the same time, each one in his separate room. "This is going to be easy."

Each finished the problem and then turned the page. On the second page was written:

(For 95 points): Which tire?