Loving Comics, Embracing Change (Mostly)

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.

Comments

  1. wangman31888 wangman31888 says:

    Miles is just too young for me to get into as a character, though the art keeps me coming back. I need the teen angst!

  2. undertak1983 undertak1983 says:

    I miss the true Nightcrawler. There is so much more that he could have done!
    We may have AoA Nightcrawler but he is a different character.
    Nightcrawler has been my favorite character since I was 5 when I got my first comic book.
    I’m 29 years old now and he needs to return! Please just keep Chuck Austin away from Nightcrawler.

  3. markavo markavo says:

    I don’t read as much as others do but I think the only other stories that stuck with me on an emotional level other than Ultimate Spiderman would be Fantastic Four and Saga. I’ve read plenty of great stories that I’d read again but none of the others I’ve been reading stick in my gut like Parkers death and the cathartic journey Bendis has taken us all on through Miles’s eyes.

  4. Bonidex Bonidex says:

    I still think this change is a bold move by the publishers. I’m always excited by big changes in status quo.

    • Skruff Skruff says:

      Me too, particularly when it looks like it will stick. Don’t get me wrong! I miss Ultimate Peter Parker, too… He was a brilliantly written character, and like Mike Romo, it hit me a lot harder than I expected when he was gone.

      But Miles… he has already won me over as the new Spider-Man, and I find myself clamoring for new issues as soon as they come out. UC: Spider-Man is the one title I’m willing to pay $3.99 for digitally the day it’s released!

      I know it’s not his style, but I wish Bendis would pick up the pace a little bit, just so I can get to know the kid better in the span of 20-22 pages. He’s well on his way to being a worthy successor, and as long as Bendis continues to keep May Parker, Gwen Stacy and MJ engaged in the story from time to time, I will be a satisfied fan!

  5. I’m trying to get into Miles Morales but I can’t and after reading Spider-Men I feel even stronger about it.To me seeing him as Spiderman is like Tim Drake taking over as Batman.Not feeling it.

  6. i do like it when publishers take risks and change the status quo. I like Miles enough, and maybe with time i’ll really dig the character, but i really do miss Ultimate Peter Parker. For my money that run was one of my favorite all time superhero stories. Something about that Teenage Peter Parker really worked for me and i could really identify with him in ways that i’ve never been able to with other superheroes. I dare to say it was “perfect” but it was pretty damn close as far as i’m concerned.

    That’s like the one character i never wanted them to change, but at the same time, he couldn’t be that teenager forever. I dunno. Its a tough place to be.

    Part of me wants to take a break from new comics, and go back and read that run over again from start to finish…actually i think its gonna happen.

    I’m also very frustrated with Superman…i just really want a reliably great Supes book in my stack, and that’s just tough to find these days.

  7. fo sho says:

    As much as people hate “temporary” deaths…I honestly really wouldn’t mind Ultimate Peter coming back. The whole “death” felt like it came out of nowhere – the book really felt like it was on the verge of setting up a whole new set of stories. It ended up leaving me feeling kind of robbed of the possibilities. I suppose that’s how real death is like but hey, this is fiction. I wouldn’t mind keeping “reality” out of it if I can get more stories of Ultimate Peter back. Nothing against Miles as he’s a great character too. But it’s not really a substitute.

    • zero2680 zero2680 says:

      i think thats Bendis wanted you to feel, death can come at any notice and stop whatever grand plans you think you are about to go through

  8. bilalben bilalben says:

    I totally agree. If it wasn’t for USM maybe I wouldn’t be a comic book reader today. I never gave attention to American Comics. All I ever read were European comics (Im from Amsterdam) and manga. But in 2009 someone told me to read USM. I loved every freaking panel! I really miss those days. Since Miles Morales took over the spider costume, I don’t know, it became different for me. It never was only about spider-man. The real heart of the story is Peter Parker, it’s all about Peter becoming a man and finding his place in the world. I miss Peter Parker!

  9. ketochase ketochase says:

    I can’t relate to Ultimate Spidey as I haven’t read any of the recent stuff but I definitely can relate to the quandary that is Superman. I keep reading thinking that at some point it is actually going to get good. I read and I read and every month I always end up feeling the same. I wish my three dollars went to another book, six dollars really because Action Supes isn’t quenching my thirst either.

  10. ryanwhodat ryanwhodat says:

    I read the first three or so trades of USM. I really enjoyed them, but there’s so much there. I didn’t want to have to buy all those trades. This article and the accompanying comments are testing my self-control. (Deep, slow inhale and exhale)

  11. Miles Morales is the shit. I hope they don’t get rid of him because of all you haters out there.

  12. I dislike changes just for the sake of change. Recent examples: Superman’s dead parents, Tim Drake’s lamer new origin. I’m undecided on Jason Todd’s origin because it may play into Death of the Family but we’ll see.

    • Skruff Skruff says:

      I thought the revival of Superman’s parents post-Crisis was one of the strongest elements of John Byrne’s reboot in the 80s. It really grounded him and made him relatable, particularly because Byrne and early post-Crisis Superman writers really played up that bond he had with his adoptive parents.

      Unfortunately, Grant Morrison got his way in the New 52 and made him decidedly more alien and a loner, without the bonds of (a living) family to truly anchor him as a resident of this planet.

  13. One thing I like how Ultimate Spider-Man now is that Peter Parker still affects the book and all the supporting cast is still around, yet it is another character’s story and book now. It’s kind of like on a show like CSI or NYPD Blue or ER where they replace the main character every few years and new relationship pathways have to be forged.

    To me it seems like DC had this amazing opportunity to really start fresh and grow these characters with new interactions and iterations… yet after 12 months mostly they have just been putting in easter eggs and winks to previous fans and rushing all the stories to get back to exactly where all the characters were two years ago. There’s a few notable exceptions in Wonder Woman and Earth 2, but apart from those most of the books seem hardly relaunched at all.

    Plus all the effing terrible costumes.

  14. RocketRacoon RocketRacoon says:

    I don’t necessarily disagree with you Mike; Ultimate Peter Parker was great and probably one of the big reasons along with Civil War that I got back into comics in 2006. That said, maybe there’s something to Parker’s run having a definitive beginning middle and end? Sort of like Y: the Last Man, Ex Machina and Scalped but only Marvel’s version?

    I’ve been enjoying Miles. I was very skeptical at first, but Bendis’ has been doing a masterful job. Probably the best work that he’s doing now. The Avengers family just doesn’t have that same feel since the renumbering.

    • I have to disagree with your usage of “end.” What I mean by that is Ultimate Peter Parker is dead, but there are still a large number of plotlines revolving around the character that were not resolved with his end and have continued into the new spider-man. If all of these pieces had been resolved we really might have something unique, but you have to keep reading to find out things like what happened with Mysterio, how peter’s friends are doing, what happened to all those clones, etc.

      Bendis was obviously toying around with the idea of a new spider-man for sometime, I think they used Ultimatum to gauge what the audience response would be, but to say Peter Parker’s story has an end anymore than any other comic story doesn’t seem accurate and that (along with the huge amount of money I spent) is what makes me feel cheated by his death.

      Miles may be a completely interesting character, but I would rather see him side by side with Peter than as a replacement.

  15. Drumanespic Drumanespic says:

    I really enjoyed this article.

    You touched on “a change” which to my surprise packed a big emotional punch; the death of Supergirl in COIE.
    I was so proud of the character, in that moment.
    And distraught.

    I like to think I embrace change & appreciated the reasons for the New-52. Frustratingly, many opportunities have been lost in the execution. They rushed it, pure & simple.

    I totally agree with the opinion that Action Comics should revert to “5 years ago”, there’s a wealth of storytelling opportunities there & I really like the younger, brasher, developing version of Supes.

    I agree, bring on the new. I feel that’s where DC’s best successes in the current line have been achieved.

    My main gripe is Jim Lee’s standardised costume design stylings applied across the line. It’s just juvenile. Lacks all plausibility. The freshness of Nicola Scott’s designs in Earth-2 are a stark contrast. Because they work.

    I say I embrace change, but, in spite of my enjoyment over the last 12 months, I quietly mourn for the traditional Justice Society.

    Truly, what an odd thing, to be a comic-book fan.

  16. jmv jmv says:

    I begrudgingly accept change because what are my options really. Buying back issues? That can only last so long before you want to know what the characters you grew up reading as kid are up to today. I was raised in the pre-Crisis DC and the only reason I read the Legion of Superheroes now is because it’s pretty close to that universe as I’m going to get.

    Change is never easy but we have to accept it because what choice do we have as Marvel or DC comicbook readers?