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Back to School: Ultimate Spider-Man #16-17

USM17CoverBack to School is a weekly issue by issue look at the beloved superhero teen comic Ultimate Spider-ManIn this week’s installment, I will be covering Ultimate Spider-Man #16-17 (2002) written by Brian Michael Bendis, penciled by Mark Bagley, inked by Art Thibert, and colored by Digital Transparency

The “Double Trouble” arc continues in Ultimate Spider-Man #16, which reveals a lot more about Dr. Octopus’ motivation and current state. He was conducting industrial espionage on Norman Osborn for another corrupt, billionaire industrialist, Justin Hammer, blames him for his arms fusing to his body situation, and wrecks his mansion. The scene shifts to a TV at the Daily Bugle where Kraven the Hunter (Think a more ripped Steve Irwin) says he’s bringing his show to the United States from Australia. This is while Peter is feeling neurotic about the mysterious Dr. Octavius knowing his secret identity. At the same time, Ben Urich is trying to get info on Octavius from John Stacy and keeps getting hung up on while John scolds Gwen about her pulling a knife last issue. Peter Parker finally goes into action as Spider-Man when he overhears Robbie Robertson talking about a break-in of Hammer property and mechanical arms.

This is when SHIELD, led by Sharon Carter, gets involved in the Octavius investigation and tells Hammer the real story. He was hurt in the Oscorp labs accident, had his arms fused to his body, and is out for revenge against his real employer, Hammer. Spider-Man hears the whole thing before SHIELD starts shooting at him so he bails on his eavesdropping. The issue ends with Kraven getting off his private jet into New York and vowing that he is going to kill Spider-Man with “me bare hands”. That terrible Australian accent just cracks me up.

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Ultimate Spider-Man #17 begins with Aunt May and Peter watching Kraven threaten Spider-Man on a TV morning show, which Peter obviously isn’t a fan of. It cuts to Kraven chatting with his agent. The agent just wants the ratings to increase while Kraven thinks the whole thing is a publicity stunt. Then, we’re back at Midtown High where Gwen Stacy is back in school and apologizes for pulling a knife on Kong. However, she says that Kong should apologize for kicking Peter and continues to have an attitude. The school part ends with Liz Allen saying bigoted things about mutants in connection to their superhero assignment.

Then, we’re back to Justin Hammer in his limo trying to solve the Dr. Octopus situation and realizing that all his superhumans are either in jail (Electro) or still in experimental phases (Sandman). Despite the danger, Hammer unveils the Big Apple Energy Dome, a project that’s supposed to bring sustainable energy to New York. He denies that he is creating superhumans or knows Dr. Octavius. In the middle of his speech, the audience sees Dr. Octopus wrecking the dome on a screen behind him. This emergency is announced at the Midtown High assembly so Spider-Man hitches a ride on a NYPD chopper and heads to the dome. The issue concludes with Spider-Man out on his ass before Dr. Octopus, who is midway through wrecking everything.

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Unlike the previous two arcs of Ultimate Spider-Man, which had a laser guided focus on Norman Osborn and Kingpin as the villains, Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Bagley opt to go the multi-villain route when they introduce Justin Hammer and Kraven the Hunter to go with Dr. Octopus in Ultimate Spider-Man #16. Hammer makes sense and plays a key role in fleshing out Doc Ock’s motivation, but Kraven is a distraction at worst and an amusing riff on “extreme” reality TV at best. The scenes where he’s mugging for the camera or arguing with his agent could be better spent with Peter and his friends or advancing the Doc Ock plot line. However, there’s a hint of the Kraven that beat Spider-Man in the legendary “Kraven’s Last Hunt” storyline in a couple close-up panels of his intense eyes from Bagley when the agent mentions that Spider-Man could be Kraven’s most difficult challenge yet.

The main plot of “Double Trouble” is a tangled web of failed superhuman experiments and corrupt capitalism that a teen superhero in red and blue tights happens to be stuck in the middle of. However, Bendis doesn’t neglect the high school subplots in Ultimate Spider-Man #16-17, especially the emergence of Gwen Stacy and the “superhero” assignment for Peter’s social studies class, which uses the mutant metaphor to comment on ideas about the “appropriateness” of topics to be discussed in the classroom. Liz Allen comes across as the conservative student who wants to completely erase LGBTQ people from actual history because it’s not “age appropriate” and isn’t sympathetic in the slightest for now.

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She doesn’t wear a costume, but Gwen is my superhero and speaks out against bullying both to her dad and her class in a genuine, non-PSA way. Sure, she definitely has what would be labeled “attitude problems” and “authority issues” in her permanent file, but Gwen has a real sense of morality and responsibility to her fellow humans. And the tears that Gwen gives her while talking to her dad show how she passionately means every word that passes through her lips.

What’s especially great about Bendis’ writing of Gwen Stacy is that she has her own storyline so far and isn’t forced into the classic love triangle with Peter and Mary Jane just yet. (I do wish Mary Jane got more panel time or spoke a single word in these two issues.) He goes into her relationship with her father John, who is having problems being the police chief and a single dad, and lectures her instead of talking about why she pulled the knife. John is playing off parental cliches instead of having a conversation with his daughter and, of course, she runs off in the chaos of the station after speaking her piece about how no one in the school was there for Peter when Kong kicked him. This thirst for justice continues when she tries to force Kong to apologize to Peter publicly as she disrupts the flow of the social studies class. Gwen wants to do what’s right even if pulling a knife in the middle of a class is a terrible idea. (She apologizes twice for that though.)

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In retrospect and probably at the time too, Brian Michael Bendis sets up Justin Hammer as the Donald Trump of the Ultimate Marvel Universe, but with what seems like an over-the-top Southern accent. (It was definitely more of a joke in 2002, but is downright frightening in 2017.) There’s the obvious fact that he owns a lot of casinos in Atlantic City and has an almost reverential awe for his father from whom he got all of his money. (Justin Hammer loses his mind when Doc Ock slices up Daddy Hammer’s portrait.) Both Trump and Hammer are also obsessed with doing things “bigly”, like the former’s overly gaudy skyscraper hotels and the idea of the Mexico border wall and the latter’s energy dome.

They are also pretty incompetent at business with Hammer sinking money into a sand guy and botched attempt at industrial espionage with Octavius, and Trump’s multiple bankruptcies among other things. Finally, there is their shared hatred of the press with Hammer giving reporters a hard time at the unveiling of the Dome, and the fact that White House press conferences are now off camera and Trump’s press secretary Sean Spicer recently resigned. Ultimate Justin Trump and Donald Trump are both inept, corrupt, and hateful men who squander their great wealth and privilege and are being manipulated by forces they can’t even begin to fathom. (Dr. Octopus, Vladimir Putin) I’m not a big fan of the constant cuts from villain to villain, but the real world connection to Hammer makes his scenes more palatable.

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One of the funniest (and unfortunately the saddest parts) of Ultimate Spider-Man #17 is Justin Hammer’s scientists roasting him while he’s pontificating on national TV about his splashy energy project. Seriously, what’s up with the dome, and I’m no scientist, but mixing solar, electric, and nuclear energy seems like a real bad (and combustible) idea? Bagley nails the looks of bemused boredom in their faces, and they quip about watching Oprah instead of his and just the general fact that Hammer is a total blowhard with no qualms about lying on national TV. But, of course, they’re red shirts, and the horror influence on Dr. Octopus continues with his grabbing and killing them before an audience of the rich and famous and stepping on Justin Hammer’s moment kind of like what Ivan Vanko did to him in Iron Man 2. 

As far as Mark Bagley’s pencils and Art Thibert’s inks, I love how they draw Spider-Man creep and hide while eavesdropping on Justin Hammer and the SHIELD agents. Spidey’s movements are pretty awkward at times like when he’s falling off a helicopter while trying to get to Hammer’s dome thing because he’s just a kid. He has the complete opposite of a superhero landing at the end of Ultimate Spider-Man #17 punctuated by a perfectly timed “Ow”. However, there are some hiccups in the character face department like when Bagley gives Ben Urich and John Stacy the exact same face, and it’s hard to keep track of who is talking. (Ben’s glasses come in handy in this case.) But, for every bump in the road, there’s something interesting or emotional like Dr. Octopus’ face filling the screen during Hammer’s press conference after he denies knowing him. It’s a cathartic moment for the baddie, whose occasionally justified anger has been building up throughout the arc, and really got me amped up for the upcoming fisticuffs between Doc Ock and Spider-Man.

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With the addition of Justin Hammer and especially Kraven the Hunter subplots to the main Dr. Octopus main storyline, Ultimate Spider-Man #16-#17 is “Double Trouble’s” mid-arc slump. In spending time with these characters and connecting the relatively self-contained world of Ultimate Spider-Man into the political corruption and general crappiness of the larger Ultimate universe, we lose sight of Spidey’s heroic journey. But issue 17 ends on a fantastic Spider-Man (and Dr. Octopus) moment, and Gwen Stacy continues to be a firebrand of a supporting character so it’s not a total wash.

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Exclusive Joe Jusko Marvel Spider-Man Print from Upper Deck at San Diego Comic-Con

Upper Deck has announced a last-minute, never-before-seen Comic-Con exclusive print from famed Marvel comic artist Joe Jusko. As Spider-Man remains among the highest grossing superhero titles of all time, this limited-edition print featuring Spiderman swinging through New York City is a must-have!

The print, featuring a facsimile autograph by Jusko, will be unveiled for the first time this Wednesday at Upper Deck Booth #307. It is limited to just 100 prints, which are available for purchase at the show.

In addition, Upper Deck will host free signings on Friday and Saturday with leading artists; including Crystal Graziano, John Stanko, Dave Dorman, Bryan Tillman and Eric Wilkerson. At the booth, Upper Deck will showcase its complete Gallery Collection, with prints from entertainment properties such as Marvel and more. All merchandise is available for attendees to purchase right off the show floor.

Spider-Man: Homecoming: On Diverse NYC, Public Schools and Teen Movies. Listen on Demand

On demand: iTunes ¦ Sound Cloud ¦ Stitcher ¦ BlogTalkRadio ¦ Listed on podcastdirectory.com

Graphic Policy discusses Spider-Man: Homecoming with two perfect experts for the job: Brandon Wilson and the Blerdgurl Karama Horne!

Brandon Wilson is a Los Angeles-based filmmaker and educator. He’s been a classroom teacher since 2005. He has directed numerous short films and two feature films, most recently “Sepulveda” http://www.sepulvedathemovie.com which he co-directed with his wife Jena English. “Sepulveda” has won awards at local festivals and is currently available for rent or purchase on Vimeo On Demand. He writes essays on film and culture at http://geniusbastard.com. He also tweets @Genius_Bastard.

and

Karama Horne (a.k.a. – “the blerdgurl”) is a freelance commercial video editor by day and comic book reading, anime watching, TV live tweeting, K-Pop listening, blog writing, superhero geek gurl by night. On a mission to shine a light on both characters and sequential artists of color, she provides commentary, reviews and interviews on her popular tumblr and official website theblerdgurl.com. Karama is busy fixing up her century old brownstone in the Bedford Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn.

Underrated: The Amazing Spider-Man

This is a column that focuses on something or some things from the comic book sphere of influence that may not get the credit and recognition it deserves. Whether that’s a list of comic book movies, ongoing comics, or a set of stories featuring a certain character. The columns may take the form of a bullet pointed list, or a slightly longer thinkpiece – there’s really no formula for this other than whether the things being covered are Underrated in some way. This week: The Amazing Spiderman


amazing-spider-man-movie-posterToday I wanted to talk about the first reboot of the Spider-Man movie franchise from waaaaaaaay back in 2012. After the Sam Raimi trilogy which, lets be honest, didn’t exactly end on a high note, Sony would eventually decide to relaunch the Spider-Man movie franchise, and it’s the result of that reboot that I wanted to talk about today.

If you’re surprised that this is the movie we’re focusing on today, then you may have missed that the Marvel Studios/Sony collaboration Spider-Man Homecoming is in theaters  (and the MCU!) now; and you may also have been unaware of the amount of people who are now complaining about this movie (or maybe that’s just the people I hang out with?) – or you may have never really enjoyed this movie. But regardless of where you sit, I’ve always really enjoyed this movie, and feel that it’s stronger than a lot of people give it credit.

Why? To the bullet points!

The chemistry between the leads
One of the strongest aspects of the Amazing franchise is the relationship between Andrew Garfield’s Peter Parker and Emma Stone’s Gwen Stacy. Their interactions on screen approach poetry in some scenes, and without a doubt these two actors elevate the film beyond what a typical pair of romantic leads can do.

 Andrew Garfield’s Spider-Man
Garfield may have been to cool to genuinely pull off a nerdy Peter Parker, but his Spider-Man was top notch; his boundless energy and fast mouth was unlike anything we had seen before in live action, and Garfield pulled it off spectacularly. This was a Spider-Man whose failures were a palpable weight on his spandex clad shoulders, and in the quiet moments throughout the movie you can genuinely sense that through Garfield’s body language.

 The webswinging
The effects team did a wonderful job guiding Spider-Man’s journey through the skies in what is, for my money, the most realistic depiction of a man flying through the air on super strong glue to date.

 The costume
I’m kidding. I wasn’t exactly fond of this movie’s Spider-Man look.

 The lack of the actual words “With great power there must also come great responsibility”
I know this is probably a contentious point to make, but loved that Peter learned this lesson throughout the film without having the quote used just for the audience who feel they must hear those words in the movie. It was far more powerful for Peter to learn it through his actions and reactions than have the lesson spelled out in what could have been an awkward and stilted scene. Plus, it lent a much heavier weight to Uncle Ben’s voice message at the end.

There are quite a few aspects of The Amazing Spider-Man that I thoroughly enjoyed, more than I should probably talk about in this article, but I’m aware that this isn’t a flawless movie – it’s not even the best Spider-Man movie- that honour is reserved for Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 2. Yes, The Amazing Spider-Man  did have its issues; the Lizard wasn’t the most compelling villain, and his design was somewhat weak, but he isn’t the weakest in any of the Spider-Man movies (Topher Grace a Venom will hold that title for quite some time). His rationale is still just understandable enough when you break it down for yourself, but you do need to be aware of his misguided, yet deeply hidden altruistic thought process. And only a few years removed from Spider-Man 3, did we really need to see Uncle Ben die again? Not really.

I’m aware that it had it’s problems, but I don’t care; I love it anyway.

 


There we have it. Are there other comic book related stuff out there that is, for whatever reason, underrated and under-appreciated?

Absolutely.

Because of that, Underrated will return to highlight more comic book related stuff  that either gets ignored despite it’s high quality, or maybe isn’t quite as bad as we tend to think it is. In the meantime, though, if you do get a chance check out the characters in thisUnderrated, then you may need to hunt through the back issue bins for some, but others do have some stories collected in trades.

Until next time!

Back to School: Ultimate Spider-Man #14-#15

USM14CoverBack to School is a weekly issue by issue look at the beloved superhero teen comic Ultimate Spider-ManIn this week’s installment, I will be covering Ultimate Spider-Man #14-15 (2001-2002) written by Brian Michael Bendis, penciled by Mark Bagley, inked by Art Thibert, and colored by Digital Transparency

Welcome to “Back to School”, a weekly column where I break down the fan favorite superhero series Ultimate Spider-Man by Brian Michael Bendis, Mark Bagley, and several other artists that was a huge influence on the recent, critically acclaimed Spider-Man Homecoming film. When I first read Ultimate Spider-Man in 2010, I was a high schooler and just a couple years older than Peter Parker in the comic.  Almost seven years later, I’m really excited to see what my older, if not necessarily wiser self thinks about this teen soap opera meets longform superhero epic starring Peter Parker and later Miles Morales as Spider-Man. (Also, I’m heading to graduate school in the fall so this column title is semi-autobiographical in a way.)

I tried to write about Ultimate Spider-Man in its entirety 2013 for Sequart, a publisher of excellent books and documentaries on comics creators like Grant Morrison, Warren Ellis, and Chris Claremont. Unfortunately, I only made it to issue 13, a classic story where Peter Parker reveals his secret identity to Mary Jane Watson. This is why I’m starting “Back to School” with issue 14, which kicks off the “Double Trouble” storyline, not issue 1.

And who really wants a rehash of a rehash of Spider-Man’s origin…

Ultimate Spider-Man #14 kicks off with Peter Parker’s civics (I guess) teacher giving them the on the nose assignment of delivering an oral report as either a real life superhero or one of their own creation. It cuts to Otto Octavius, who we find out is being held in a secret installment, and has eight arms of an exoskeleton he patented grafted to his body. He was injured in the Green Goblin’s attack on Oscorp several issues ago. Back at Midtown High, it’s pep rally time, and no one is invested. Instead, Peter has a discussion about superheroes with Mary Jane, Kong, Flash Thompson, and Liz Allen, who doesn’t like mutants because of something with her uncle. Then, Gwen Stacy makes her first appearance and shows them up in intensity and knowledge. In the super secret lab, Dr. Octopus realizes that the scientists who were supposedly saving his life were actually experimenting on him with his own tech, and he goes on a violent rampage. The issue closes with Kong laying on his bed and putting together the pieces that Peter Parker is Spider-Man.

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Ultimate Spider-Man #15 begins with a rather hackneyed take on a slasher movie when Dr. Octopus kills a sweaty, blonde woman, who is living in his old apartment. Then, it’s back to school where Kong is playing Agent Scully and feeding Flash and Liz evidence that Peter Parker is Spider-Man like the fact that he was bitten by a spider, randomly became good at basketball, and beat Kong and Flash up. However, Peter’s cover remains intact when he takes a literal kick to his ass from Kong instead of dodging it with his powers. Gwen Stacy won’t stand for this and ends up threatening to stab Kong with a switchblade that falls out of her pocket. This leads to the principal calling her dad John Stacy, who is the primary detective investigating the previously mentioned blonde woman’s murder. There is also a Daily Bugle subplot where Spider-Man pretends to attack J. Jonah Jameson, and he faints. On a more serious note, Ben Urich is writing a story about the murders and thinks Dr. Octopus is a suspect because he was the previous owner of the apartment and also didn’t actually die in the attack on Oscorp. Jameson is skeptical, and the issue ends with Doc Ock ready to go on a rampage. Uh oh!

I could say this about most issues of Ultimate Spider-Man, which is a predominantly character driven book except when Bagley drew a whole issue of Spidey fighting Venom because symbiote power, but he and Bendis do a great job of making the non Mary Jane supporting cast interesting. First up is Kong, who gets to be the page end cliffhanger despite not being a nefarious supervillain.

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Kong is pretty clueless and insensitive towards both Peter Parker and mutants. He can’t really process their existence and thinks something should be “done” to them. Bagley shows this by giving him awkward facial expressions and gestures during the conversation about the superhero assignment unlike Peter’s determination to defend mutants and superbeings. However, like Shakespeare’s Fool, he has the wisdom and insight to see the rise of superheroes as a harbinger of the apocalypse, which ended up happening in the terrible 2009 Ultimatum storyline.

This insight extends to Kong piecing together the events of the past 14 issues and realizing that Peter Parker is Spider-Man in a great flashback sequence that looks like an old VHS tape thanks to the colorists at Transparency Digital. Memories are like a movie in my head, and Bagley and the colorist transpose this feeling to the comic. The most obvious clue is Peter Parker going from Carlton Banks to LeBron James in basketball skills as well as the broken desks and the fact that he flat out broke Flash’s hand. Even though Liz and Flash don’t believe him, kudos to the big guy for his common sense and deductive skills. And of course, he has this epiphany while a copy of Maxim magazine is lying across his chest.

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Mark Bagley gives Gwen Stacy quite the intro in Ultimate Spider-Man when she jumps into Peter and his frenemies’ discussion about superheroes and mutants with a thoughtful monologue about how they’re like the meteor, and we’re like the dinosaur. (This would later be disproven, oops.) She literally fills the page. But Gwen’s not a doomsayer and thinks that the dawn of superheroes will motivate human beings to be the best at whatever they’re good at and not be lazy bums. “Everyone has superpowers” is her thesis statement.

This well-articulated theory of superheroes sounds a lot like Grant Morrison, especially his then-contemporary work on JLA and New X-Men. The mutant as meteor metaphor seems ripped from Morrison and Frank Quitely’s “E is for Extinction” storyline of New X-Men where it’s revealed that humans are going extinct and will be replaced by homo superior aka mutants. The whole everybody having superpowers spiel reminded me of the ending of Grant Morrison’s JLA where the entire population of Earth gets special abilities to fight the villainous, Mageddon. It’s also a sentiment that wouldn’t be out of place in his Supergods aka the best self-help book ever written disguised as a memoir/history of superhero comics.

Sounding like someone who has read Grant Morrison comics instantly makes Gwen Stacy the coolest character in Peter Parker’s supporting cast. She isn’t the shy, blushing, headband wearing girl from the Stan Lee and John Romita Sr, but immediately plays an active role in the school plotlines, including standing up for Peter against bullies. Bendis and Bagley also introduce an interesting family dynamic between her and her policeman father John Stacy, who had previously appeared in the first arc of Ultimate Spider-Man. The combo of a bright, yet rebellious punk rock daughter and hard nosed single dad cop father could make an interesting comic in and of itself.

John Stacy is the connective tissue between the Dr. Octopus murders and the high school drama plots, but has quite the personality just like his daughter, Gwen. He tells off Midtown High’s principal on the phone when their tone gets “accusatory” and points out the ridiculousness of her being sent home when he’s at work and can’t discipline or talk to her. Bagley draws John as a strong jawed, go-getter homicide detective like Jimmy from The Wire, but he’s a little exasperated when he gets his case interrupted by a call from the school and the press.

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Yes, John Stacy and ace reporter Ben Urich, who recently wrote an article that caused the Kingpin to go into exile, face off in Ultimate Spider-Man #15, and it’s delicious. Ben is trying to do a story for the Daily Bugle on the murder, but John doesn’t serve up any quotes, only sass. He tells Ben off for the Kingpin article and said that “300 goombahs” are running loose and wreaking havoc around New York. It goes back to the old question of if organized crime is better than chaotic, disorganize crime in the scheme of things. These one-liners establish John as a hard edged, seasoned police detective who isn’t idealistic, and just does his job well. He’s the kind of guy who would call open murder cases “red balls” and easily solved ones “dunkers”. (Oops, most of my knowledge of homicide detectives comes from the works of David Simon.) The inclusion of John and Daily Bugle figures, like Ben Urich and J. Jonah Jameson in “Double Trouble”, show that Brian Michael Bendis hasn’t abandoned his roots in the crime genre even though Ultimate Spider-Man is a bright, splashy superhero comic.

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For the “origin” of Dr. Octopus, Bendis and Bagley dip into the horror genre to make him a slightly sympathetic figure.  There’s a little bit of Frankenstein’s Monster and a little bit of Cronenberg body horror when he first pops up in Ultimate Spider-Man #14. Bagley makes sure you can see some of his innards and his almost blind eyes from the optic nerve trauma he suffered in the Green Goblin’s attack. The reveal of the arms show that Octavius isn’t a patient recovering in a hospital, but an experiment to be poked, prodded, made fun of, and eventually profited on. He’s a brilliant scientist, who became a monster. And this monstrousness is being exploited for gain and not being cured or treated at all. Dr. Octopus is a killer, but his first murders are kind of justified revenge killings of people that treated him like a lab rat and not a human being beginning by calling him Dr. Octopus and not by his real name.

On the flip side, Ultimate Spider-Man #15 uses the horror genre in a pretty cheap way. There’s an opening scene where Dr. Octopus slaughters an unnamed, attractive blonde woman, who is exercising. There’s tension or fright to the scene because it’s one we’ve seen hundreds of times. Bendis and Bagley are trying to do the first ten minutes of Scream with a Spider-Man villain, but it feels more like one of those slasher flicks that is packaged onto those “10 Great Horror Movies” DVDs and sold for $5 at your local Walmart. The scene is a bad one, but it also makes Octavius less of a sympathetic villain and more of a serial killer with an octopus gimmick, which is selling him very short.

In the first couple issues of “Double Trouble”, Brian Michael Bendis exhibits some cleverness and turns a dangling plot thread and a possible plot hole into, well, a plot. Otto Octavius popped up in the first arc of Ultimate Spider-Man as one of Norman Osborn’s scientists, and he gets brought back in the nick of time as a scientist/villain, who was forcibly experimented on instead of Osborn, who took on the Oz formula (Super soldier serum) of his own free will. The U.S. government in the Ultimate Universe is pretty shady, and reporter Ben Urich knows this when he uses anonymous sources to find out that Octavius was held in a black site called (*groan*) the Octagon. These places are yet another reason why Peter Parker has only told Mary Jane about his secret identity because the government would likely run experiments on him like they did with Otto Octavius or force him to join the Ultimates and use his powers to help fight the George W. Bush era War on Terror.

The connection to Oscorp is also an organic way to create a villain instead of just having a random mad scientist with octopus arms show up. Peter and Octavius also met when Harry brought him over for a tour of Oscorp so there’s a personal dimension to be exploited when they square off later.

I already mentioned that Kong, who is the not the smartest student at Midtown High, realized that Peter Parker was Spider-Man all by himself. This is Brian Michael Bendis sort of covering his own ass because Peter Parker has done a terrible job keeping his secret identity under wraps, especially with the whole miraculously being good basketball thing. But he plugs the plot hole in one fell swoop when Peter takes a drop kick from Kong straight in his behind complete with painful facial expressions and speed lines from Mark Bagley and Art Thibert. It’s also a growing moment for him as he gets hurt for his secret identity and sets up Gwen Stacy as an anti-bullying badass. This one kick covers up a multitude of “sins” in the annoying Cinema Sins sense…

In Ultimate Spider-Man #14-15, Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Bagley draw attention to the varied supporting cast of Peter Parker and also incorporate the crime and horror genres into their teen superhero/romance saga. It’s a hell of the way to start the “Double Trouble” arc, and they make a hallway drop kick more suspenseful than a man with mechanical octopus arms wrecking a random apartment.

Bluefin Reveals Iron Studios’ Superhero/Supervillian Battle Dioramas

Bluefin has reveled an exciting new series of high-detail Limited Edition products from collectibles brand, Iron Studios, with the forthcoming release of the Battle Diorama Series.

Set to be unveiled for the first time at the San Diego Comic-Con 2017, these Limited Edition 1/10 scale statues depict an array of beloved heroes and supervillains. Bluefin will be located in Booth #401.

Each one is hand-painted and rendered in Polystone and presented on a detailed display base and ready for battle. Combine each 10-inch statue with others in the series to create a kinetic diorama that is sure to become a centerpiece of any fans’ personal collection.

The first statues in the Iron Studios Battle Diorama series will be on prominent display at Bluefin’s booth during SDCC and will include Spider-Man, Spider-Gwen, Venom, and Carnage! The first of these figures will be available via retail channels beginning in November with additional ones set for release in early 2018. Pre-orders are available now from authorized Bluefin retailers nationwide and also from a variety of leading online outlets.

Also set to be showcased for the first time at Comic-Con will be new Batman: Arkham Knight statues along with prototypes for additional upcoming Iron Studios statues based on the recent Wonder Woman movie by Warner Bros. and several Marvel-based characters.

Available in Limited Edition quantities as a 2017 Comic-Con Exclusive will be the Iron Studios 1/10 Art Scale Batman: Arkham Knight Bronze Version. This stunning 10-inch statue is available only from Bluefin for $149.99 and based on original 3D references from the action-adventure video game developed by Rocksteady Studios and published by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment.

Batman: Arkham Knight

Height: Approx. 9 inches; MSRP: $109.99
Available November 2017!

Limited Edition hand-painted statue based on original 3D references from the action-adventure video game developed by Rocksteady Studios and published by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment

Spider Man

Height: Approx. 10 inches; MSRP: $164.99
Available November 2017!

Limited Edition hand-painted statue based on the concept art of Raphael Albuquerque from Chiaroscuro Studios; includes base display.

Spider Gwen

Height: Approx. 6 inches; MSRP: $129.99
Available December 2017!

Limited Edition hand-painted statue based on the concept art of Raphael Albuquerque from Chiaroscuro Studios; includes base display.

Carnage Spider Man

Height: Approx. 10 inches; MSRP: $144.99
Available January 2018!

Limited Edition hand-painted statue based on the concept art of Raphael Albuquerque from Chiaroscuro Studios; includes base display.

Venom Spider Man

Height: Approx. 14 inches; MSRP: $159.99
Available January 2018!

Limited Edition hand-painted statue based on the concept art of Raphael Albuquerque from Chiaroscuro Studios; includes base display.

Spider-Man: Homecoming: On Diverse NYC, Public Schools and Teen Movies. Listen this Thursday.

Graphic Policy discusses Spider-Man: Homecoming with two perfect experts for the job: Brandon Wilson and the Blerdgurl Karma Horne!

Listen in to the show LIVE this Thursday at 10pm ET.

Brandon Wilson is a Los Angeles-based filmmaker and educator. He’s been a classroom teacher since 2005. He has directed numerous short films and two feature films, most recently “Sepulveda” http://www.sepulvedathemovie.com  which he co-directed with his wife Jena English. “Sepulveda” has won awards at local festivals and is currently available for rent or purchase on Vimeo On Demand. He writes essays on film and culture at http://geniusbastard.com . He also tweets @Genius_Bastard.

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Karama Horne (a.k.a. – “the blerdgurl”) is a freelance commercial video editor by day and comic book reading, anime watching, TV live tweeting, K-Pop listening, blog writing, superhero geek gurl by night. On a mission to shine a light on both characters and sequential artists of color, she provides commentary, reviews and interviews on her popular tumblr and official website theblerdgurl.com. Karama is busy fixing up her century old brownstone in the Bedford Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn.

Preview: Spider-Man #18

Spider-Man #18

(W) Brian Michael Bendis (A) Oscar Bazaldua (CA) Patrick Brown
Rated T
In Shops: Jul 05, 2017
SRP: $3.99

• Spider-Man finds out that Hammerhead isn’t so funny after all.
• The NYC crime-land gang war is heating up, and Miles is getting a little too involved.
• This won’t end well.

Movie Review: Spider-Man: Homecoming is the Spider-Man movie you have been waiting for

Greetings, True Believers! Rest assured– Spider-Man: Homecoming is the Spider-Man movie you have been waiting for.

When we last left our friendly neighborhood wall-crawler, he made a small, but memorable, appearance in last summer’s Captain America: Civil War. He stole Cap’s shield, and basically the entire movie, in just a couple of scenes.

Our film opens with a video diary from his point of view of everything that happened in Germany. “a Film by Peter Parker” it says in courier script as he narrates, “Queens, New York. A rough borough, but it’s home.”

“Who are you talking to?” an irate Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau) asks from the driver’s seat, as he puts up the privacy divider in the car to stop being pestered by the teen’s questions: “Why do they call you Happy?”

As Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) drops Peter Parker (Tom Holland) off at his Queens apartment, he tells him, “Can’t you be more of a. . .  friendly neighborhood Spider-Man? . . . Just don’t do anything I would do. And definitely don’t do anything I wouldn’t do. There’s a little gray area in there– and that’s where you operate.”

And there is no better summation of how this movie fits in with the broader Marvel Cinematic Universe. Those movies span the globe– the universe, even– and this is a story that is mostly confined to Queens and a single school field trip to Washington, DC. Instead of this being about fighting a galactic menace, he’s focused on the people robbing the ATM in his neighborhood or a stolen bike. The Avengers handle the big stuff. Peter Parker handles the little stuff. Manhattan vs. Queens.

But, oh, he does not like that. At all. Every day he’s texting, asking when the next time they’ll need him is. He spends all of his time trying to prove himself, and when he bites off a little more than he can chew with Adrian Toomes aka the Vulture (Michael Keaton), we actually see what a screw-up he is. No, he isn’t ready for the big time, and that’s perhaps the hardest lesson of adolescence.

But one of the best things they did right in this movie is what they don’t do. There’s no origin story of being bitten by a radioactive spider. No Uncle Ben. And while I kind of wanted to see Spidey being motivated by his great power and great responsibility, this just isn’t that story. This is the teenager who wants to grow up too fast. It’s the MCU colliding with John Hughes. The simple fact that there are two very obvious homages to Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (one right after the other in case you didn’t get the first one) tells you that’s exactly what they’re going for. And they nail it. I can’t decide if this is a reason I dislike the film or that I like it so much, but it’s that it’s so full of teen angst. And that’s a bold move for a superhero genre movie to stray so far from the formula of what we expect in a reboot.

I only briefly mentioned Keaton before, but he is the real breakout star of this movie. (Insert obligatory Birdman joke). Possibly other than Loki he’s the best MCU villain– because he’s not a bad guy. He starts off a normal guy who gets stepped on and decides to use stolen space technology to provide for his family. Even his name makes sense– the Vulture– because he’s picking the scraps off of whatever fight The Avengers and SHIELD just had. 

But he’s menacing. A scene near the end reminds you just how amazing an actor Keaton is. You can almost see the gears in his head turning as he figures things out. And he also has a sense of honor about what he’s doing. But despite his bluster about being against the 1%– let’s be super real, here. We find out he’s doing just fine financially. Yes, he’s worried about providing for his family, but he provides for them in a pretty upper-middle-class way. There’s something to be said here about the rise of the Trump voter and the fear of loss of privilege. . .  but I’ll save that diatribe until more people have had a chance to see the movie and can discuss this in more depth with spoilers.

This is not to say the film is flawless. Again, the emphasis on teen angst was certainly intended, but I would’ve liked to see the other side of the character. And as many comedic moments as there are in the film, none were quite as memorable as some of the Joss Whedon or James Gunn moments from The Avengers or Guardians of the Galaxy, or even the most recent Thor: Ragnarok trailer. And a final nighttime action sequence set against the black sky on top of a dark stealth aircraft made the action harder to see and follow. See this in the best theater with the best contrast you possibly can.

This is the Spider-Man movie we’ve all wanted to see. And it’s a great reminder that Marvel Studios understands their characters better than anyone else out there. This should be a wakeup call to Fox or anyone else who has a languishing piece of the Marvel intellectual property– please let Marvel Studios co-produce your next Fantastic Four movie. They might make it not suck. Because Spider-Man: Homecoming does anything but that.

4 out of 5 stars

 

Unboxing: Loot Crate’s June 2017 Box “Alter Egos”

Loot Crate‘s June 2017 release has arrived and here’s what you can find inside. The theme for this month is “Alter Egos” so check out what’s inside including items from Spider-Man, Hulk, Transformers, and DC Comics.

There’s a decent amount of items in the box and some cool properties, but how do they stack up?! Find out!

You can get your Loot Crate here!

 

Loot Crate provided a FREE box for review
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