It’s another of those months with five Wednesdays, so next week is a filler week with a lot of Annuals. For now, we’ll be dealing with most of the remaining books for August. This includes ALL STAR WESTERN #12, THE FLASH #12, GREEN LANTERN: NEW GUARDIANS #12, THE PUNISHER #14, AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #692, and ADVENTURE TIME #7.
As as been the case with most of the issues from DC this month, ALL STAR WESTERN #12 aims to tie up the current story arc in time for the September zero issue. With Jonah Hex and Amadeus Arkham tied up in front of the Cult of the Crime Bible’s steam-powered torture/death machine (which they just have…because steam punk), it’s up to Tallulah Black to save the mens’ posteriors and save the day. Additionally, we receive a flashback to Hex’s meeting with Alan Wayne, who just happened to come under attack from Crime Bible goons aiming for his head.
I don’t like spoiling issues before I can be certain readers have had the chance to read them, but it’s no big surprise that the lords of crime end up all dead at the end of the issue, one way or another. Which is pretty sad for me, because a lot of them had interesting and potentially interesting designs and personalities. That’s the main problem this series is having: an entire group of adversaries are introduced, like the August Seven or the Lords of Crime, and then they’re taken out or imprisoned within a few issues of introduction. Which makes sense given how Jonah Hex plays for keeps and – like the Punisher (who we’ll get to later) – he’s a bit too lethal to have recurring villains. But we could at least stagger the encounters with individual villains in a set.
When you have me asking that stories be drawn out, you have problems. I really think we could get a lot more mileage from these characters if we didn’t take out the entire set every couple issues.
Oh, and apparently after the requisite origin retelling next issue, the one after has the trio meeting Dr Jekyll. Yes, that Dr Jekyll. At least they waited a while before hitting the major icons of the 19th century. Unlike other series I could mention.
The backup story with Dr Terrance Thirteen (or “TH13TEEN” as it were) finishes up as well, on a mostly bitter note. Oh course the Haunted Highwaymen is just a guy in a spooky mask, a flamethrower gun, and chemistry behind his eerie glow. The tragic resolution ends with a hanging (even though to my knowledge the antagonist just stole things; was stealing a hanging offense in the old west?), but not before the villain curses Thirteen and all his descendents. I’m pretty sure Terrance Thirteen is the forebear of Traci Thirteen, which if true is simply hilarious. On his own, this was a decent enough side tale, though a tad simple.
THE FLASH #12 formally introduces us to the new Golden Glider, a classic Flash villain and sister of Captain Cold. Earlier in the series run, Cold’s sister Lisa was dying of a brain tumor, which Cold was trying to get removed, and went on his rampage because there wasn’t any electricity to run the machines. Partly due to the Flash’s work with Dr Elias, Lisa has since been cured, but she hates her brother Leonard for reasons that aren’t entirely clear to me. Now she’s back, and rounding up members of the Rogues to do…something. It’s also not yet clear.
What’s further muddled is her new powers. The original Golden Glider (still Leonard’s brother) was a figure skater who wore ice skates which could create ice as she went, and was equipped with various gadgets. She tried to kill Barry Allen because he was responsible for the death of The Top, Lisa’s boyfriend and long-standing Rogue. Then she died at some point. What confounds me is how she’s now sporting some kind of limited flight powers, intangibility, and possibly mind powers. Oh, and she can apparently also move at super speed just like the Flash. She’s like a phantom, which kind of makes her a glider in that she glides through the air. It’s more a visual thing than anything I can concretely describe at this time. It’s very cool, but we’ll have to wait a week for THE FLASH ANNUAL #1 before we find out what’s going on.
Much less confused about GREEN LANTERN: NEW GUARDIANS #12, which sees fit to explain the reasons any of the events depicted so far happened. In a twist I didn’t quite see coming but probably should have, it turns out that it was Sayd, the female Oan who was banished from the guardians alongside her now brainwashed lover Ganthet, who engineered the stolen rings to congregate to Kyle Rayner. Long run-on sentences aside, this makes sense given that a guardian would need to be the one who manipulated so many rings, considering they designed the rings in the first place.
Although how rings made by different corps, including the red lanterns, the sinestro corps, and the Star Sapphires, would be designed so close to the Green Lantern rings as to be able to be controlled by a guardian, instead of altered enough so as not to allow such a thing, is still beyond me. At least Ganthet and Sayd designed the Blue Lantern rings, so they’d know how those work. What’s the deal with the ones made by the weaponers of Qward or the ones made by Atrocitus’ blood magic?
Anyway, this is also the issue where the entire group comes together, stops bickering, and works as a damn team to fight Archangel Invictus. And it’s pretty rad. But then things go south, mostly due to that whole “stealing power rings and killing many of their members” business coming to light. It’s hard to keep a group together when their cohesion was built on lies and murder.
Moving on to Marvel, THE PUNISHER #14 sees Castle and Cole-Alves using their recently acquired vintage Doc Ock mechanical arm in a ploy to finally kill those Exchange sons-of-bitches, once and for all. Or at least Stephanie Gerard, Exchange founder and the woman responsible for the deaths of Punishette’s friends, family, and husband. That’s about it so far as plot goes.
The thing that saps my feelings for these last few issues is the shift in art, as I recall complaining about last issue. It’s a minor qualm, but it’s very distracting. Other than that, I have little to say about issue fourteen. If I may be frank (he he), this Punisher series is starting to wear on me. Which isn’t surprising, given that there’s only so long one can continue reading the adventures of a psychopath before interest starts to wane. The Punisher exists largely to scratch an itch readers have for watching a person kill other, more evil people in brutal ways. Once that itch is thoroughly scratched to the point of satiation, however, any more and one risks scratching it into a painful, bloody sore.
If that analogy proves disturbing for those reading, keep in mind comics are a medium, not a genre, and a medium by its nature runs the gamut of tones, from family-friendly to disturbing. Two things down, I talk about Adventure Time again.
Before that, let’s shift to a comic between adventure and serial vigilante murder with AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #692. And yes, I did just go over #691 last week. It’s not my fault it’s the 50th anniversary of Spiderman’s debut. Happy birthday, Spidey!
To commemorate the occasion, we have an extra thick issue (that cost six bucks, to my annoyance), and the beginning of a new storyline. Did I say new? I meant “let’s repeat the origin story of Spiderman, except with a new character”. And to elaborate, Peter Parker showcases an invention/particle discovery to assembled press and a group of students from his old high school. Among them is a slacker of a child named Andy McGuire, a boy with no friends, no talent, and no aspirations for the future.
So naturally he’s the one to be hit with an electrical blast of SCIENCE(!) when Peter’s machine goes haywire. And thus, a kid sidekick is born.
We (as in, we who pay attention to comics news) learned that around this time we’d be introduced to Alpha, a mysterious person. Then we learn it’s a kid who Spiderman would take under his wing. A lot of people – a lot of longtime spider-fans – thought this was a stupid idea. They thought it was another lame attempt by Marvel to create either a successor to Spiderman, or to just give him a kid sidekick. It’d be Jason Todd all over again, they said.
Okay, no one made that comparison, but it’s basically what they meant. I for one try to be optimistic if only as a defense mechanism to avoid shaving years off my life with worry, anger, and disappointment. Change is not necessarily bad, and I try to avoid the mentality prominent in comics fandom that it always leads to suck. And if nothing else, Spiderman could use a protege. Since him having kids himself won’t ever happen – especially not in this continuity – anyone the webslinger can be a mentor to is an appreciated effort, if only because Spiderman HAS been around for fifty years. And regardless of how much Marvel insists he’s 25, I maintain Peter Parker is closer to thirty, if not older based on the length of his history. If you aren’t going to allow him to be married, at least give him the chance to be a father of a variety.
And surprisingly, Marvel seems to understand full well how Alpha would go over. Because when the kid gets his superpowers (which by the way are stated to be both a number of stock energy powers, and will certainly grow into Omega level magnitude in the future), he doesn’t act like a Marty Stu. We have no Wesley Crusher on our hands here. Alpha turns into a huge jerk, though not quite intentionally or maliciously. He’s a kid who just became, for lack of a better word, a demi-god who will only become greater as time goes by. So naturally the power is going to his head; he’s marketing his identity (as a spokes superhuman for Horizon Labs, on threat of parental lawsuits), he’s pushing his weight around at school, he’s using his powers to get in with his love interest (who it’s obvious likes him in a fangirl way because he’s a superhero), and he’s showboating around the superpower scene like he owns the place.
The kid actually rips off The Thing’s catchphrase. Right in front of the Thing no less. We’re not being snubbed here, Marvel sees how we’d react; Marvel is right there with us when it says, “yes, this kid is a poser, we agree.” Not that we’re meant to hate him per se, just that this will end badly because Andy McGuire simply was not Peter Parker in the sixties, humble science nerd with loving and supportive parents in the form of his aunt and uncle (the latter for a limited time, but still much so due to his death).
Speaking of the sixties, this issue comes not only with the standard cover of Spiderman in his various suits, but also five alternate covers by artist Marcos Martin. Each uses a different color and represent a different decade in Spiderman’s history. From the yellow sixties where Peter first got his spider bite, to the red seventies where he mourned the loss of Gwen Stacey, to the white eighties where his struggled with the black outfit, to the blue nineties which I think represents the clone saga, to the maroon 2000s where he hung out with the Avengers. I assume my own comic shop didn’t receive any such alt covers yet, since I only saw the standard cover. Because I don’t like spending money on issues I already own, I’ll stick with the version I have, but feel free to buy the other versions when they become available.
Since this is an extra large issue, they rightfully back up the main feature with two extra stories. One is a short tale involving an elderly robber who finds Spiderman’s costume in the garbage – presumably after one of the many, many times Peter tried to abandon his alternate identity on a bi-issue basis – and decides to try it on. It’s pretty silly, but it’s got a lot of heart. I can’t believe I actually said something so cliché, but I mean it. The other story has Spiderman running late for a guest lecture, and all the misadventures he gets into that day. And he sort of mentors a small child.
Two child mentoring stories in one issue? Is it Spiderman’s birthday, or my own? In all seriousness, I liked this one too, if only because it rounds out five decades of stories nicely. Also, the art makes Peter in a business suit look like Phoenix Wright, sans the spikes in the back.
Here’s to fifty more years, Spiderman! Hopefully I won’t die of a heart attack or get raptured before the 100 year celebration.
Lastly, we have ADVENTURE TIME #7, which to my surprise actually continues directly where the last left off. I know right? I too thought it’d just be a succession of one-off tales for this adaptation. Last issue, Jake abused Princess Bubblegum’s reset button time machine, and when she found out how many times he used it, she smashed it to bits. Of course Jake tried to fix the device to take back all the crazy stuff he got into, but what would be just a comic closer turned out to be a plot point. Finn and Jake get their pie-throwing robot Nepter (don’t ask) to Engineer-whack the time machine better, but since Nepter’s single from of reference is pie-throwing (and princess capturing, but again don’t ask) the machine ends up sending the two into the bodies of their future selves. In the FUTURE!
And naturally, it’s a dystopia. Because the future is always a dystopia, at least when it’s not being a utopia that actively derides the present for one reason or another.
Remember BMO? The pair’s other robot/computer/game console? He/she has been working on some creepy robot duplicates of Finn and Jake for the last few issues, and as of now the subplot becomes relevant. Standard Terminator style robot apocalypse/eternal machine war. Read the issue yourself to get the details, but as stated before the future is all crummy and filled with killer robots. And you thought this was a comic just for kids.
The backup stories involve a conversation between Princess Bubblegum and BMO about the various kinds of time travel theory, and how they can muck up reality. The writer even includes apologies to Kurt Vonnegut and Ray Bradbury, among others, when referencing their models. It’s a nice nod to classic SF literature that made me chuckle. And the one-page ending story is just various instances of Lumpy Space Princess being a lumping bitch of a teenager, complete with shallow priorities and lack of proper perspective about life.
So basically every single appearance LSP has ever made. And I’d thought she’d learned something from that time she raised breakfast organisms after she ate their bacon habitat…God I love this comic.
What’s your favorite off-beat model of time travel theory? Do you think All Star Western should keep its villains around longer than like three issues? Will you be picking up any of the DC Annuals next week? Who is the Punisher to you? Was including Alpha in Amazing Spider-man a good idea? And what are your personal experiences with the Spiderman comics/media? Leave a comment below.