As I look back on the first 12 months of DC’s “New 52″ (when do we stop calling it that?), I realize that it really has defied my expectations — but not in the way I expected. I had kind of assumed that I would write some kind of companion piece to my previous “halfway” article, where I would sing the praises of DC’s groundbreaking moves, how isn’t it funny how we are so used to it, how we were all worried about it, blah blah blah.
Well, this is not that article. That might come, but for some reason, maybe because DC decided to do all of these “Zero” books (providing origin stories after introducing what were basically new origins a year ago), I am thinking less about the books and more about the paradigms that have shifted, both in DC and Marvel — because Marvel has clearly been going through a fair amount of redefining themselves!
The more I think about it, the more I have to tell you that I am embarrassed to admit how I still haven’t truly embraced Miles Morales as the new Ultimate Spider-Man. Not unlike dubstep, this might be one of those cultural/media/music milestones that I just cannot get myself to really want to care about. Now, this sounds harsh, I guess — Miles Morales represents a pretty bold move on Marvel’s part and has given Bendis an opportunity to tell some really good stories and introduce new characters, but I just find myself not caring at all. I just miss Peter Parker — I loved getting a chance to see Peter, Gwen, Mary Jane and Aunt May. I wasn’t until that (admitted contrived and overly sentimental, if not outright manipulative) Spider-Men miniseries that I realized just how much I was really enjoying where Peter’s story was going. One of the few books that I have been reading since getting back into comics over a decade ago was Ultimate Spider-Man and, for me, the book might as well been called Ultimate Peter Parker, because I got so much out of watching Peter come to grips with becoming a superhero. Same thing with all the other characters in Peter’s life — I truly cared about Peter, his friends and his family.
Now, it is a testament to Bendis, Bagley, and everyone involved with making the book to have created a story that resonates so deeply with me personally that I feel this vague distrust and frustration with the current incarnation of Ultimate Spider-Man, but I honestly just don’t feel it. Perhaps it is because it comes out less often than before that I just haven’t spent enough time with the characters.
No, it is because I miss the teenage Peter Parker as written by Brian Michael Bendis. That really is it. And here I am, months and months later, still lamenting his death. The death of a comic book character. Lamenting.
What an odd thing, to be a comic book fan.
I wonder if this is what what people felt like when Jean Grey died? Or when Supergirl was killed? I remember hearing about Barry Allen dying, but wasn’t “there” to experience it. I wasn’t around to see it, but was there a similar kind of frustration when Wally became The Flash or was it more of a “well that makes sense” kind of thing, like when Dick started wearing the Bat-cowl?
My gut says no. My gut says that that Marvel did something pretty amazing, inasmuch as there was no natural successor to Spider-Man, something that was really kind of daring and, in the end, polarizing. And I don’t buy the notion that I can get my Peter Parker “fix” by reading the other Spider-books. Peter Parker in the Ultimate Universe was a unique character, truly
At the end of the day, I have to hand it to Marvel. Dead, at least so far, is dead, at least when it comes to Peter. Even as I write this I find myself lamenting not only who the character was, but also the possibility of what Peter was going to do with his life. Peter in college? Peter as an adult? I would argue these stories would have been just as compelling (more so, in my opinion) than having to go through the beginnings of an all-new Spider-Man, which is basically just variations on a theme that we’ve all seen before. Yes it’s different, yes, Miles has different powers, yes, Miles has a different relationship with S.H.I.E.L..D. — yes, it’s more than valid and has this transition has been an unqualified success. But that doesn’t mean I have to get used to it, or like it.
The other paradigm shifts that I find myself getting cranky about are probably not unexpected. I find myself constantly distracted by the different versions of Superman that I am getting in Action Comics and the one in Justice League, to the point that they might as well be different characters. I have written enough about Superman in other articles and have precious little to add other than, “the character is still a mess and…” — never mind.
One of the interesting things about the “New 52″ is how not new it all seems. From the start, we knew that books like Batman, Green Lantern and The Flash were all basically going to be the same, which has apparently resulted in my only reading Batman with any kind of urgency, which is kind of sad, given how big a fan of The Flash purport myself to be. The shifts are more about subtle (and sometimes not so) shifts in relationships and character; which necessarily need to take place over a longer time, which is totally fine. The recent events in Daredevil lead me to believe that Waid is returning to the “old” Daredevil, the one who was depressed or going crazy or both and just sabotaging his relationships with everyone he is close to, knowingly or unknowingly — which is a bit disappointing, given how refreshing the first couple of of issues were. I guess Matt is just destined to be teetering on the edge of personal tragedy and misery and I might as well just accept it.
I guess the rule of thumb with comics is that since (with very few and notable exceptions) the main characters can never die, it is up to the creators to play with everything else: relationships, worlds, cities, etc. DC had a chance to touch upon what Marvel did when Bruce “died” in Final Crisis — we all knew that Bruce was coming back but I found myself joining the others who hoped he would be dead for a few years to really feel the impact of his loss, like we are with Peter Parker. And, of course, it is far too early to see what the ramifications will be for Professor Xavier’s death at the hands of Cyclops; I am curious to see just how personally people are taking this news and whether it will forever change how people regard Cyclops.
Other than death and taxes, “change” is one of the few consistencies in life. I find it interesting that I am drawn to this topic not so long after starting a new job, on my way to New York on a visit that really cements what my new life is all about; I guess this is how things work!
The past 12 months have seen great upheavals in the lives of the characters we love (given that I am reading The Walking Dead in annual trades, I can only imagine what is waiting for me!), the death of Peter Parker, and the resulting paradigm shift of having Mile Morales become a new Spider-Man is obviously something that made an impact on me — which ones have stuck with you?
Mike Romo is an actor living in Los Angeles, CA.