Anyone who has read this column, any of my other writing, is my friend on Facebook, shops at my comic shop, knows me in person, or happens to sit beside me on the bus knows that my hatred for Brian Michael Bendis. Granted the man does know how to write true crime. See his amazing take on the Cleveland Torso Murderer, Torso, published by Image Comics back in 2001, if you don’t believe me. But the rest of his books? The superheroes books? Even his initially strong Powers, by the time Marvel took it from Image and put it on its Icon imprint, was floundering.
The man, in my opinion, simply skates by, coming up with interesting and exciting story lines only to not really seem to want to do the work and letting them fall, filling the pages with postage stamp sized panels with talking heads who take twenty word balloons to impart neither story movement or interest whatsoever. All of his characters have the same voice, no matter their age, cultural upbringing, or even sex. Plus, every one of his pictures has him smirking like an oversized chubby, bald imp, and I want to punch him in the face because of it.
But, I was very interested in Spider-Men, because I am a fan of alternate reality stories. I like the path not taken, or the different choices made, aspects of this sort of story has to offer. I like the thought of one character meeting another version of himself and the potential of development and growth. It’s almost as fun as redemption stories which are my all time favorites. For years, Marvel has had their Ultimate line, which is about the similar but still different Earth-1610, where most of the staples from Earth-616 can be found, but often in different forms. The Fantastic Four are much younger, and met as students of a think tank. Many of the X-Men are dead including Cyclops and Wolverine. The Avengers are almost unrecognizable.
Most shockingly though is what happened in the Spider-Man family. In a battle with the monstrous Green Goblin, a much more horrible a creature in this carnation than kooky old Norman Osborn is in the main continuity, Peter Benjamin Parker, our friendly neighbor Spider-Man, was killed and a thirteen year old half black/half hispanic boy named Miles Morales who has nearly identical powers has taken his place.
Spider-Men brings these two versions of Marvel’s iconic character together for the first time ever.
616 Spidey is having a tough night, but he’s feeling pretty good. He’s caught some thieves, made some snarky jokes with the police, and has nothing really pressing on his mind but girls, New York and the sheer pleasure of being a superhero, when something catches his eye, a flash, an explosion, something bright and strange coming from an abandoned warehouse. Webslinging off to investigate, Spidey discovers that it is Mysterio, the movie magic themed villain who has been tampering with some sort of wacky device. But what Spidey doesn’t know is that this is not the Mysterio of his world, and this device is a gateway to somewhere else. Falling through the rabbit hole, and into a world where he is dead was not how Peter was planning on spending his night, especially when he comes face to face with his successor!
Well, so far so good. Bendis has managed to avoid the circular conversations that are his hallmark, but my guess is because this first issue is mostly Spider-Man talking to himself and there aren’t really very many actual back and forth dialogs, but this book’s best feature isn’t the writing anyhow. It’s is ALL about the art. Sara Pichelli, an artist I am totally unfamiliar with, is AMAZING! Her pencils are remarkably crisp and clean, without being simplistic and boring. The characters move fluidly, each has his or her own face (rather than the distinct stylization that hampers some lesser artists. With expertly applied colors by Justin Ponsor, rich and almost luxurious somehow, Pichelli’s story telling is without equal in my opinion. Sure, her panel shapes don’t deviate from standard rectangles and squares, but simple does not necessarily equal boring.
Basically, despite Bendis, I recommend this to others, just because I think there is a lot of potential for this to be awesome.
Don’t blow it, BMB, my patience is not endless.
Spider-Men Issue 1
Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Art by Sara Pichelli