Monday, May 31, 2004

Looking To The Stars: Just Say NO To Clones and Symbiotes!

SPOILER ALERT: The following column contains references and links to upcoming Spider-Man storylines. Read no further if you like surprises!

It is no big secret that my favorite superhero as a kid was Spider-Man. Go figure me, a shy yet sharp-tongued drama geek being able to relate to an introverted smartass who only got to be himself when he was being someone else. To this day, Spidey is still one of my favorites. I browse, if not actually buy, any title that promises a hint of a Spidey cameo. All his regular books (except the waste of paper that is Marvel Knights: Spider-Man) are on my pull-list. No use denying it; I am a Spider-Fan.

So it was with a good deal of excitement that I read the news from Wizard World Philadelphia regarding plans for the Spidey Franchise. Excitement, that very quickly turned to dread.

Why? The Spider-Sense is tingling, folks… and I’m getting that same sinking feeling I got when I first heard that they were letting Rob Liefield back in the door at Marvel to do covers on a Cable/Deadpool series. Now X-Force #1 is due out by the end of the summer. Chris Claremont is writing most of the core X-Men books again and Marvel appears to be putting most of their publishing efforts into an endless succession of X-Men solo series rather than trying some new book ideas.

The entire Marvel line appears to slow devolving back to the way things were back in 1993. For those of you who don’t remember that far back, this was the dark age where artistic style became more important than substantial story. Where alternate covers and special edition comics were commonplace and speculators nearly destroyed the industry with their cravings for Hologram, Foil-Logoed Goodness. And now Marvel is going to be publishing more books with alternate covers.

The barbarians aren’t just at the gates, folks. They’re sitting in your living room and complaining about your lousy taste as they raid the liquor cabinet.

Sadly, it appears that the Spidey Line is not immune from this effect…and here’s five big reasons why we should be VERY afraid.

1. Venom and Carnage

Bad enough that we still have the confusing and poorly illustrated Tsunami “Venom” title around. Now we have to bring back the villain who practically personified “90’s Kewlness”? Carnage’s only purpose was to create a greater threat that could actually get Spider-Man to work with Venom back when Marvel editorial was trying to push Venom into becoming an anti-hero. Numerous attempts at a failed monthly series tell the tale of how successful their attempts were.

Venom is a villain. Period. Trying to give him heroic qualities, however well intentioned, has never worked. This does not mean that he cannot be sympathetic. Paul Jenkins showed that in “The Hunger”. But there is a big difference between seeing yourself in the bad guy’s shoes and wanting to emulate the bad guy. Too many modern comic writers don’t get this point. And as for Carnage, the best thing Howard Mackie ever did in his run was kill Carnage off by having Venom eat his disobedient offspring. Let’s hope that the new book finally ends this fight once and for all.

2. Attack Of The Clones

From the look of an upcoming cover, either the most tasteless resurrection in Marvel history is about to take place… or the mess that started The Clone Saga is about to start all over again. And I don’t think I need to explain to ANYONE why that’s a bad thing.

3. Spin-Offs.

There’s too many of them coming out! Actually, I’d go far enough to say that there are too many already. It’s hard enough for some comic newbies to grasp that “Ultimate” and “Amazing” are in different universes. Now that we have “Marvel Age: Spider-Man”, added to that along with the “Spider-Girl” series, that’s four separate universes a Spider-Fan has to keep up with now.

Throw in the reality of the new “Mary Jane” manga and add another Spider-Girl into the mix with “Amazing Fantasy” along with the new Spider-Man Unlimited title… and it’s going to get pretty crowded on the Spider-Shelf. And that’s ignoring the rumors of the return of Spider-Man 2099…

4. Tie-Ins

Going hand-in-hand with the spin-offs, there are a large number of tie-ins, planned between Spider-Man and a lot of other titles. The Pulse, in particular, is going to crossover into Marvel Knight’s Spiderman, The Avengers and Secret War. Spectacular Spider-Man, too, is going to tie into Avengers. While few miss the utilization of the shared Marvel Universe more than me, I would prefer that the concept were coming back as an enhancement of the stories I read instead of a gimmick to get me to buy another title by forcing an odd-couple crossover. (Anyone remember the Thor/Spider-Man crossover in Spider-Man #2?)

5. Ultimate Carnage

‘Nuff Said!

But it is not all dark, True Believers! There are also five signs why as bad as this may look, the Spider-Titles are not about to sink into the same sinkhole as their brothers and sisters in the X-Zone.

1. Great Writers

All the same writers who inspired Spidey to greatness after the doldrums of the 90’s are sticking around a while longer. Paul Jenkins, J. Michael Straczynski and Brian Michael Bendis are in for the long haul on their respective titles. Even if the latest wave of Spidey tie-in series bombs, the fundamentals should remain strong. And while Spidey may be the most heavily crossed-over character this year, he should be in good hands with BMB handling the crossing.

2. Flash Closure

We now have promised developments in the story of Flash Thompson, in both Ultimate and Spectacular Spider-Man. Small points to be sure. Still, it’s nice to see something finally being done with these two stories. Flash has all but disappeared from Spectacular in the last three story arcs and the “what does Flash have to say to Peter” subplot has been ignored nearly as long as they “Gwen hates Spider-Man’ story in “Ultimate”. And anything that keeps Spider-Man from going the “here’s a subplot that we’ll keep hanging until I get sick of fans asking me about at conventions” title ala Claremont’s X-Men is a good thing in my book.

3. Variety, If Nothing Else

True, there are a LOT of Spider-Man related titles coming out this summer. And while it stinks for the people who HAVE to have everything Spidey, this does stink. But most of the new titles are aimed at totally different audiences. Marvel Age is aimed mostly at the younger readers who have been too-long ignored by Marvel. Mary Jane and Amazing Fantasy are aimed at the preteen/teenage girl market. With any luck, this diversity in the line will provide something for everyone at the comic shop when Spider-Man 2 and Free Comic Book Day sweep the uninitiated out of the theaters and into the stores.

4. Good Things Come Back Too

Okay. So you don’t like Carnage coming back, seeing Eddie Brock on a more regular basis or anything that smacks of the Clone Saga. Sometimes, a return to classic times is a good thing. Black Cat is supposed to play a prominent role in the Spider-Man books, both the current and Ultimate universes. And Ultimate Venom, who is ten times more interesting than the regular universe counterpart, is also due for a return.

5. Ultimate Hobgoblin is on the way!

Again, ‘Nuff said!

Tune in next week. Same Matt time. Same Matt website.

Thursday, May 27, 2004

Lucifer #50 - A Review

Written by: Mike Carey
Penciled by: P. Craig Russell
Inked by: P. Craig Russell
Cover by: Christopher Moeller
Colored by: Lovern Kindzierski
Lettered by: Jared Fletcher
Editor: Shelly Bond
Publisher: Vertigo Comics

Usually, the 50th issue of a comic is reserved for a big event and the conclusion of some grand, epic storyline. Unusually, as everything Lucifer seems to do is, this 50th issue is involved with an ending but also a beginning. Specifically, this story is the origin of how Lucifer once called Samael, came to “fall” and became the ruler of the fallen angels and the children of Lilith, Adam’s other wife who mated with monsters rather than be subservient to Adam.

This is a rather brief summation of what is a very exciting and interesting story. Both on its’ own terms and a starting point and origin for one of the most enigmatic and mysterious of Neil Gaiman’s characters. Of course, the broad specifics of Lucifer’s story are well known. But Carey’s tale finally gives us the details in The Devil.

P. Craig Russell is hardly new to this world, having been one of the many wonderful artists who worked on Neil Gaiman’s original Sandman series. He is also perhaps the best angel artist in the comic business, having also done the art for Gaiman’s “Murder Mysteries” which involved the world’s first murder… in Heaven. His work is excellent as ever here, being finely detailed without feeling cluttered.

I have said precious little about this book as is my custom when I write about Lucifer. It is such a good title that for me to speak too much about it would rob you of the wonderful experience of reading it. And rogue that I may be, there are some things I will not steal.

Monday, May 24, 2004

Looking To The Stars: Quick Tales for 5/24/04

This last week saw me spending thirty dollars on comic books. And that was just what was in my regular subscription list. Throw in a spattering of new titles I just had to give a chance to, as well as some classics I had yet to discover and I’ve had a busy week of reading to attend to. What follows are my quick takes on some of last week’s books or books that I wanted to review in the past month, but didn’t get a chance to touch.

Amazing Spider-Man #507

Everything mystical gets explained away in part two of “The Book Of Ezekiel”. At least, we get an explanation as to why Peter lucked into his powers, that will likely upset all those Spider-Fans who aren’t fond of the idea of a mystic element to the Spider-Man mythos. But whether or not you like Straczynski’s writing, it cannot be denied that John Romita Jr’s art is particularly good in this issue. Such a shame that he’ll be leaving after the next issue. Regardless, I’ve enjoyed this “dream team” pairing since issue 30 as well as this storyline. Don’t expect me to reveal the shocking final-page secret! 7 Out Of 10.

Batman: Gotham Knights #53

Ignoring all issues of how easily master-plotter Prometheus is bested here and the out-of-character way in which Batman deals with Green Arrow (i.e. Not giving him full information on a case), when GA has always been one of the few vigilantes Batman can work with comfortably, let me ask one question. Why the blue blazing heck can’t Oliver Queen be written this well in his own title? Just for the Ollie we all know and love or love to hate from the Grell days, let’s give this 6 Out Of 10.

Birds of Prey #67

The cover says “Girls Rule & Boys Drool.” With Benes and Lei’s artwork fine as ever and a whole lot of wonderful heroines and villainesses to illustrate in this final part of “Sensei & Student”, there is indeed a lot for fans of cheesecake and good artwork to drool over. But we fans of good writings will also find our mouths watering at Gail Simone’s wonderful script. She handles a lot of characters here and all of them (even guest star Catwoman) seem perfectly in place and not the least bit untrue to their usual selves. It is particularly nice to see Simone finally do something with the potential tension between Black Canary and Cheshire that went ignored in the Dixon/Land run. The torch has officially been passed, folks. Simone, Benes and Lei are now officially the best team to work on this book. 10 Out Of 10.

City of Heroes #1

Based on the on-line RPG that has quickly built up quite a following among comic fans, this comic is rather flat stuff. Introduced to three heroes with only the quickest bit of explanation as to their powers and very little look at personality, this comic does capture the feel of the game perfectly. Three people meet randomly, discover a lead and go deal with some crime. A good demo for game players but not so good as a comic. Still, the art is nice. 4 Out Of 10.

Daredevil #60

After three years of taking his time with a story, Bendis switches to extremes and rushes us through a tale. Within the span of one year in comic time and three months real time, Matt Murdock became Kingpin, got married, went nuts, went sane, returned to his costumed roots and now finds his marriage on the rocks. It’s good to see Daredevil back in the pages of his own book… but, and I may kick myself for this one…

Brian? Slow down. It’s okay. We can wait. 6 Out Of 10.

Dork Tower #27

A must have issue if you are a fan of “Vampire: The Masquerade”, if only for the satirical “Clanbook: Mopey” supplement contained within. The comic is good too, centering upon Walden, a.k.a. Sith Bloodheart, leader of all the gamer Goths in the town of Mud Bay. This issue gives some much needed character to a background player who has done little but act as a foil to cheerful goth sister Gilly as well as being a laugh riot. John Kovlaic is a true treasure and the finest cartoonist to cover the subject of gamers and gaming. His artwork is refreshingly simple, bringing to mind the early works of Charles Schultz. 8 Out Of 10.

Dragonlance: The Legend of Huma #4

People pining the loss of CrossGen’s various fantasy titles would do well to check out this, the first in a new line of D&D comics by Devil’s Due Publishing. I never read any of the old Dragonlance fantasy novels, but I may have to go back and give the Legend of Huma series a look, for the story is excellent. While the books do have multiple illustrators, care has been taken to make the change unnoticeable. It is worth noting though, that the anatomy does look odd in a few choice panels… particularly on Gaz the minotaur, whose head keeps changing shape and size in proportion to its’ body. 5 out of 10.

Excalibur #1

Oh. Magneto’s not really dead. I’m so surprised. Really. 1 Out Of 10.

Fables #25

I came on to this title late and just recently caught up with the release of its’ third trade paperback. If you’re a fan of “The Sandman” or just the weird and esoteric, this is one bedtime story you shouldn’t feel ashamed to be caught reading. Not for kiddies or the fait of heart, this is easily one of the best Titles Vertigo has to offer. 9 Out Of 10.

Fantastic Four #513

Waid’s weakest story ever on the title and it stars my favorite Marvel superhero of all. How can you account for it? More, how can you account for me liking it anyway, even if it does play up the fickle nature of the Marvel Universe populace to unrealistic levels and fails to resolve the major issue at the center of it: i.e. How can Spider-Man teach Johnny Storm to deal with being a hero AND unpopular? The answer is that he doesn’t, and Waid simply gives us a throwback to the classic Human Torch/Spider-Man team-ups of the Stan Lee days where they fought each other as much as they did the supervillains. Sure, this comic is silly and lacks serious bones as much as guest-villain Hydroman lacks any bones. It is still a fun read. And those are preciously rare these days. 7 Out Of 10.

Hawkman #28

I’m more familiar with Jimmy Palmiotti as an artist and inker than a writer, but he does a decent job with the plot here. Decent, however, is far below what you get use to on a title written by Geoff Johns for two years. And Ryan Sook is no Rags Morales. Not that this story is bad, mind you. But it is like getting a good cheeseburger when you ordered the steak. And it doesn’t matter how good the cheeseburger is if you keep thinking about the steak. I’ll keep with it for another few issues at least. 5 Out Of 10.

JLA: Another Nail #1

GL/New Gods: Another Nail #1 might have been a more appropriate title for this book Nearly the first half of this book is devoted toward covering the epic battle between The Guardians/New Genesis and Darkseid which took place off-camera (until now) during the events of “JLA: The Nail.” A pity, because this turns out to be more interesting than the quick catch-up on what the JLA of this world has been doing in the time since the end of the first mini-series that takes up the rest of the issue. Still, this story does do a spin on Superman that is new, so I’ll probably keep reading it for that. 5 Out Of 10.

JSA #61

This just in. Hal Jordan screwed up being the Spectre. Again. Thankfully, Johns does some work here to explain why Hal has done such a half-assed job in his new role as the spirit or vengeance turned redemption. Namely, the Spectre is pissed at being turned into a New Testament power. Good read. Good art. But if you’re already reading it, you know that. And if you aren’t reading it, you should be. 8 Out Of 10.

Knights of the Dinner Table Illustrated #34

What could make this unfunny book worse?

An entire issue written in rhyming verse.

Writing this way is a challenging chore.

And reading this mess is a frightening bore.

The story doth stink but the art is all right.

But I would still rather just read Everknights.

3 Out Of 10.

Knights of the Dinner Table: Everknights #12

Oh woe! Woe that this title is published only bi-monthly while the much inferior “Knights of the Dinner Table Illustrated” is allowed to go out once monthly. This issue shows romantic strife among the various members of the Everknights adventuring group and how they settle it with respective boy’s and girl’s nights out. While there is plenty of humor to be found in the characters (especially Drow dominatrix Reniree’s treatment of her lapdancer), the real treat is a funny parody of the show “Insomniac”, with the bald and beardless wizard “O’Tell” showing us the nightlife of the village of Badger Falls. Truly a most underrated title. 7 Out Of 10.

Phantom Jack #2

This book has been disappearing off the shelves at my comic shop. Small wonder, as Epic’s loss is Image’s gain in this magical book about a reporter who can become invisible at will. Beautifully illustrated, with a topical story and a relatable hero, this is one to watch. 7 Out of 10.

Rose and Thorn #6

Can this be a regular series? Please? Can we at least have another mini-series? Please? Or at least a few appearances in the Superman books at some point in the future? 9.5 Out Of 10.

Seaguy #1

Take one no-powered superhero in a world of superheroes where there is no need for heroism. Add one smart-aleck, cigar-chomping, talking flying “chuna-fish” named Charlie. Throw in some living soda, Death as a color-blind gondolier, a moon crying for help in the form of flaming meteor tears and a bearded warrior woman who is saving herself for the first man who can prove his heroism to her and what do you get?

About thirty lawsuits in the making as well as Grant Morrison’s latest work. This is quite possibly the zaniest thing he’s ever written, and yes I am including the complete works of The Invisibles in that statement. Regardless, it is amusing and wonderfully illustrated by Cameron Stewart. Count me onboard for the long haul on this one! 8 Out Of 10.

Sore Thumbs ( )

Depending on whom you ask, this is either one of the funniest Manga satires being published on the web today or the worst propaganda comic ever. Like in most things, I’m somewhere in the middle on this. The artwork is good but nearly every character in this is an exaggerated stereotype, as is typical in Anime and Manga. The problem is that a lot of the political commentary falls flat and that few seem to realize that both sides of the fence are being heavily stereotyped here. The whiny liberal college student protestor protagonist is portrayed as being just as insane as the antagonist of the piece; her racist, homophobic, Bush-worshipping brother who runs the only game store in the country officially endorsed by Joseph Lieberman. (And if you get why that endorsement is funny, give yourself 5 geek points). Sore Thumbs has its moments, but fails to make any real statements of note. Then again, perhaps we should expect little more than big laughs from a comic where the sanest characters are a soldier who has his manhood cut off during the war in Iraq and his midget pet bear. 6.5 out of 10.

Spectacular Spider-Man #14

There seems to be an unwritten rule that there every writer who does Spider-Man must do at least one story where Spider-Man touches the life of either a child, someone who is handicapped or a handicapped child. Jenkins does the second of these stories and manages to pull off the story of a young Spider-Fan with cerebral palsy without it feeling the least bit exploitative or inappropriate. The painted art by Paolo Rivera only ads to the wonder of the story and makes this easily the best issue of the new Spectacular Series. Which is quite a feat considering how good the run has been so far. 10 Out Of 10.

Superman/Batman #10

I want to dislike this story just on the principal that it seems that the sole purpose of the plot is to allow Michael Turner the chance to draw numerous scantily armored amazons. And then we get the scenes with an army of badly-cloned Doomsday replicas attack Paradise island and Batman swinging a broadaxe and I realize that blatant sexism and pandering to the talents of the artist aside, this is one gorgeous book! Jeph Loeb is another writer who isn’t afraid to revel in the sheer silliness of an idea and as much as the idea of a horde of inefficient Doomsday clones might sound like that of Bill Watterson’s infamous “Dinosaurs in Airplanes!” comic, this manages to surpass its unlikely premise and actually deliver some good drama.

On that note, I didn’t know Harbinger was still alive. Oh well…. 6.5 Out Of 10.

Swamp Thing #3

The best take on Swamp Thing in quite some time. That, and it has bloody John Constantine in it. That’s all it takes to put this baby on my pull list. 7 Out Of 10.

Ultimate Spider-Man #59

A talking heads issue, but a very effective one. The Ultimate Gwen Stacy gets some major screen time and the issues of “Hollywood” are finally lain to rest. Good thing as the scenes with Peter crashing the film set of the unauthorized movie based on his life were the weakest part of this past story arc. 8 Out Of 10.

Y: The Last Man #22

If you read comics and aren’t reading this book, you had better be a minor or on a fixed income. It is THAT good! 10 Out Of 10.

Tune in next week. Same Matt time. Same Matt website.

Friday, May 21, 2004

Green Arrow #38 - A Review

Written by: Judd Winick
Penciled by: Phil Hester
Inked by: Ande Parks
Colored by: Guy Major
Lettered by: Sean Clem Robins
Editor: Bob Schreck
Publisher: DC Comics

There is a popular new term springing up amongst comic book reviewers and fans alike. It’s called “writing for the trade”. This refers to an increasingly commonplace practice among comic book writers, where in an effort to create a nice big trade paperback (usually made up of at least six single-issues) that the publishing companies can sell off in big bookstores to the teaming masses who won’t buy a comic book, but will pick up a “graphic novel”.

This results in some stories that seem stretched out and padded at times with scenes that do not really need to be there and only serve to prove the old saying about how less is sometimes more. Judd Winnick’s “City Walls” arc is a classic example of this phenomenon. In this issue, nothing much happens to advance the plot. In fact, nothing much happens at all.

The plot thus far is that a millionaire who lost his family to crime hired The Riddler to steal some mystic artifacts and then to act as a distraction while he was busy setting up a magical ritual that would surround the city in a dark shell as well as stopping all technology dead in its tracks. This also brought forth a number of demons, who are summoned to the scene of any crime and slaughter anyone who breaks the law. While this works out fine for murderers and rapists, it does seem a bit extreme for jay-walkers and shoplifters.

In this issue, Oliver tries to form an army to storm the evil millionaire magician’s compound (and one wonders just how many millionaires in Star City DO practice the dark arts in the wake of the current Green Arrow volume). He does this by appealing to the better natures of the police (who Oliver has never been friendly with) and the common sense of the crime lords (i.e., If you don’t help me, you’re going to die) and sets about training them in how to use a bow. Amid this, Mia (the long forgotten adopted daughter) demands to help with the fighting, gives Oliver a run for his money trying to beat him senseless. It ends with Oliver telling Connor to get her a mask.

Ignoring all issues of characterization (which I have been ever since not too long after Winnick took over this title – its just easier on my nerves that way), this book has some major problems besides being more heavily padded than Dame Edna’s chest. Many decried Kevin Smith’s run on the Emerald Archer because there was far too much dependence upon the mystic elements of the DC Universe in regards to Oliver Queen’s return from the dead. Winnick’s run, nearly as long as Smith’s at this point, has contained even more mystic mumbo-jumbo and has shown that Oliver Queen really works at his best as an urban avenger. NOT a demon slayer or a monster-fighter. This was, in fact, what drove Oliver from the Justice League in the first place.

Thankfully, the art is still good. Hester and Parks can still make even the most poorly written of Winnick’s works look good. But to quote Kevin S. Mahoney… “The excellent art effort…merely makes a well-dressed corpse of this story.” The Armani suit makes him look nice, but that doesn’t hide the fact that there is no left in Uncle Albert.

Monday, May 17, 2004

Looking To The Stars: Spider-Bland

SCENE: A Street in New York. Spider-Man is pounding the snot out of Green Goblin and vice versa.

Spider-Man (Voice Over) : It was a typical Sunday morning. Well, for me anyway. The Green Goblin, who I have something of a bad history with in case you haven’t picked up a Spider-Man book before and failed to see the movie, took hostages and demanded I kill myself or they would die. I thought this was kind of weird, seeing as how ol’ Norman Osborn has always tried attacking me from the shadows with complicated plots to corrupt me, drive me crazy or kill me. But then again, he’s nuts, so why bother thinking about a sudden and completely unmotivated change of character and mode of operations?

CUT TO: The office of “Starman” Matt Morrison


Starman: Hello?

Daron, The Dark Overlord: Pick up the pace, Number One! Your ponderous pace is killing the flow of your satire of what was an already dull and irritating story.

Starman: Just trying to set the mood for what’s to come, boss. I mean, everyone is so horribly out of character in this book…

Daron: I know. I can’t stand it either. But try and make it funnier!


Starman: Right…

CUT TO: A Street in New York. Spider-Man is now pounding the snot out of Green Goblin and vice versa, amid a crowd of New Yorkers.

NY One: Hit him with the mailbox!

NY Two: Hit him with this fire hydrant, Spidey!

NY Three: Hit him with the folding chair, Chris Jericho!

*Spidey opts for the mailbox and pounds Green Goblin but good. Green Goblin drops a bandolier of pumpkin bombs as he falls to the ground*

NY One: What the… you didn’t need to hit him THAT hard!

Spider-Man: He was trying to kill you all!

NY One: Yeah, well… I’m sure he’s a decent person deep down.

NY Two: Yeah. I mean, we don’t know him any better than we do you!

Spider-Man: Umm… okay. He dropped this girl off a bridge, tried organizing all the gangs in New York into one force before Kingpin did it, hijacked a TV transmission early today making threats to kill people…any of this ring a bell?

*New Yorker Three moves closer to the bandolier of pumpkin bombs that was dropped*

NY Three: Ooooh! What does this button do?

Spider-Man: No! Dee-Dee get away from that!

*A colossal explosion occurs. Miraculously, New Yorker Three is not vaporized instantly despite being at Ground Zero but does appear mildly singed*

NY Three: *gasp* I am SO suing you for this, Spider-Man!

Spider-Man: What the-

NY One: He’s right! You didn’t save him! I’m a witness!

NY Two: And I’m a lawyer! You’re doomed, Wall-Crawler.

Green Goblin Cheering Squad: Go, Goblin, Go! Squash the Spider! Go, Goblin, Go!

Peter Parker (V/O) : Things were getting weirder. I’ve never been the most popular of heroes, but even I’ve never had people actively cheering on a known super-villain while I was trying to save them. Oh well, at least I can take comfort in the fact that Norman Osborn has finally been exposed for what he is and that he’ll be behind bars for a long, long time. Now my only worries are getting Aunt May moved out of the house, getting myself and MJ moved in and the guy who is permanently bonded to my old sentient alien costume trying to eat my spleen. Yep. Things are looking pretty good now for Ol’ Peter Parker.

CUT TO: A school in Manhattan. Peter’s classroom.

Peter: So, does anyone have any questions about the laws of thermodynamics?

Student: I have a question, Mister Parker? How come a guy like you who was a world famous photographer who had a bunch of pictures published in a book and is married to a fairly prominent model/actress is slumming it out here in a teaching job?

Peter: Thank you for that rather awkward bit of exposition for everyone who has read this far and STILL knows nothing about me.

Student: Hey, I’m a nameless background character. It’s what I do.

CUT TO: A Cemetery

Peter: How could someone destroy my Uncle Ben’s tombstone?

Groundskeeper: Could be punk kids. Or his zombie corpse could have torn it asunder as he rose from the dead to exact a horrible vengeance upon you.

Peter: What?!

Groundskeeper: I’m just saying is all…

*Peter’s cel phone rings*

Peter: Yes?

Voice: Congratulations on your finally besting Norman Osborn, Mr. Parker.

Peter: You know my name and who I am?

Voice: Oh, I know a lot about you, Mr. Parker. And I am going to make your life a living hell. In fact, to give you a hint about what is about to come…

Peter: What?

Voice: “Eat your wheatcakes, Pete.”

Smiling Stan’s Background Box: Kids, Peter’s favorite food is Aunt May’s homemade wheatcakes! See Amazing Fantasy #15, if you can save up your allowance until you’re 42.

Peter: Aunt May is in trouble! No time to lose!

*Peter web-swings across the city without changing into his costume*

Peter (V/O): When will I learn to keep my mouth shut about things looking up for me? It always inevitably gets worse. And weirder. Aunt May has been put in danger before and I always found time to change into my costume before…

CUT TO: Aunt May’s House. It is trashed.

Peter: Well, there’s only one thing to do now.

CUT TO: A Street in Manhattan. Peter stands before a cab. Mary Jane is there.

MJ: There’s no way I’m leaving you, Peter.

Peter: You know, you could have voiced your objections to this before I called the cab and the meter started running…

MJ: But if he was going to come after me, wouldn’t he have come by now?

Peter: Mary Jane, would you please NOT argue with me right now?

MJ: But this isn’t the first time someone found out who you are and put me in danger! And how do we know this person isn’t watching us right now and is going to follow me, striking once I am out of the way and you aren’t around to protect me?

Peter: Just go!

MJ: Okay, Tiger. For you. But be careful and don’t do anything stupid.

CUT TO: Peter’s Apartment.

Peter (V/O) : Mary Jane was right. I was being stupid. I guess that in the rush of anger over Aunt May, I wasn’t working at my best. But that didn’t matter. What mattered was that I needed help if I was going to find Aunt May.

CUT TO: Somewhere in Florida. Black Cat is forcing a guy face down into sewage.

Black Cat: Yeah?

Peter: Felicia? It’s Peter?

Black Cat: I’m kinda busy, Peter.

Peter: But I need your help! Aunt May has been kidnapped!

Black Cat: Well, I’d love to help normally. But I’ve got this thing…

Peter: Yeah, but nobody else really knows my secret identity and can help me on this…

Black Cat: What about Matt Murdock? You’ve known him since before he was outed, right? Or Doctor Strange? You know where he lives. And for that matter…

Peter: Felicia, I really have nobody who can help me.

Black Cat: Okay, okay. I’ll be there as soon as I can. In the meantime, you should probably figure out who knows your secret identity that might have a grudge.

Peter: Well, let’s see… there’s Venom… Doctor Octopus if his amnesia got cured... that sick boy with Leukemia who I revealed my secret identity to…

Black Cat: What about the mad scientist who has devoted his life to driving you crazy or killing you?

Peter: Which one?

Black Cat: Osborn.

CUT TO: Riker’s Island. The Cell of Norman Osborn.

Spider-Man: Hello, Norman.

Norman: Guard? We have an unexpected visitor! And my mini-fridge is out of Evian!

Spider-Man: There’s only one and he’s on a bathroom break.

Norman: I thought it was customary practice to at least pair guards off in Maxim Security Prisons.

Spider-Man: Budget cuts. What can you do?

Norman: So why ARE you here?

Spider-Man: You kidnapped my Aunt May. I want to know where she is.

Norman: You know, it is rather difficult for me to do that from behind bars… unless I told someone else your secret identity.

Spider-Man: What?

Norman: Or at the very least, I paid someone off and told them that if I was ever arrested, they were to kidnap a certain old woman.

Spider-Man: What?

Norman: Or maybe I’m completely innocent and just having fun with you.

Spider-Man: What?

Norman: Oh, this IS fun. I could keep this up all night.

Spider-Man: What?

Norman: Apparently so can you.

Spider-Man: What?

Norman: That’s enough.

Spider-Man: What?

Norman: Hush, Parker!

Spider-Man: What?

CUT TO: The Avengers Mansion

Spider-Man (V/O) : Two hours later and I was running low on ideas. After all, I couldn’t just swing around the city and use my Spider-Sense to find Aunt May… even though I once found Mary Jane the same way. I couldn’t go to my good friend Matt Murdock, whose hypersonic senses could let him find one man by his cough in all of New York and ask him for help. I couldn’t go to Dr. Strange, even though I know where he lives and he’s helped me out with a lot less in the past. I couldn’t even go to Luke Cage and ask him to help me rough up people so it would look a lot less conspicuous for just one person to be looking for one missing old woman. No, I had to go to the biggest group of superheroes that there is… even though they don’t like me very much.

*Spider-Man pushes the doorbell*

Jarvis: Yes?

Spider-Man: Um, yeah I need to speak with Captain America?

Jarvis: And may I ask who sir is?

Spider-Man: Who am I? I’m Spider-Man!

Jarvis: Indeed. Well, rather than take your word for it or use some of the amazing technology we have here to do a DNA scan or perhaps analyze your voice based on some record that we have of it from the countless times you helped the Avengers before or even ask to see your Avengers Reserves ID card…

Spider-Man: I have no pockets! Where would I keep it?!? For that matter, where does Scarlet Witch keep hers in that belly dancing outfit she calls a costume?!

Jarvis: Well, you DO have the running gag and witty banter down. Regardless, I’m just going to release the hounds. And by hounds, I mean heavily armed security guards.

Spider-Man: Security guards? You’re the world’s greatest superhero team, with another combined power between you to nuke a city block! What do you need with security guards for?!?!

*A Massive Battle ensues, as Spider-Man single-handedly fights off all of the Security team, Hawkeye and Scarlet Witch. Too bad we don’t get to see more than a few panels of it as all the action is explained to Tony Stark by a security officer.*

Captain America: Okay. Would you care to explain what the heck just happened?

Spider-Man: *gasping for breath* Aunt kidnapped. Wanted help. Need you to call Nick Fury for me.

Captain America: Well, I’d like to son. But he’s in a parallel reality and I can’t reach his celphone.

Spider-Man: Parallel Reality? I asked for Nick Fury, not Reed freaking Richards!

Captain America: Well, can’t we help you with this?

Spider-Man: No! You don’t know my secret identity!

Tony Stark: Do you realize how stupid your whole secret identity is in the first place? I outed myself and I’ve never felt better.

Captain America: I have to agree. Ever since I revealed myself to the world, life has been much easier.

Spider-Man: Yeah, well he’s a gazillionare with body guards and you’re a refuge from the Golden Age.

Captain America: And what does that mean?

Spider-Man: Gee. I dunno. That everyone you love and care about is dead. Gone. Deceased. Dust. No longer a potential hostage. Besides, none of you understand how hard it is to be me and not be trusted…

Scarlet Witch: I do. My brother and I are mutants, despised by the greater part of human society…

Spider-Man: Oh, boo-hoo! Get over yourself. This was a big mistake! I’m gone!

CUT TO: The Streets of New York

Spider-Man (V/O): No, I had no idea why the Avengers didn’t seem to like me. But that wasn’t my problem now. Aunt May was still out there and I was still confused and lost. Still, if none of my fellow heroes could help me… maybe a villain could.

CUT TO: The Owl’s Nest

Spider-Man: Nice place you have here.

The Owl: Thank you. I bought it used from a gentleman named Cobblepot. I also assumed his position as a defacto crimelord and information broker for heroes who need plot points.

Spider-Man: Well, that’s great. I’m trying to find a kidnapping victim by the name of May Parker. Early 70’s. White hair to mid-shoulder. Blue eyes. Enjoys macramé, baking wheatcakes…. Precious, delicious wheatcakes… and kick-boxing. I went to the Avengers, but they’re jerks.

The Owl: And why should I help you?

Spider-Man: Because then I’ll owe you a favor.

The Owl: So let me see if I have this straight. You are making a deal with me, a known and convicted criminal….

Spider-Man: Yes.

The Owl: Entrusting me with more information than you were willing to give a bunch of other superheroes…

Spider-Man: Yes.

The Owl: In order to get information about this missing person that you have no other vested interest in finding other than simple decency demands it?

Spider-Man: Ummm, oh yes. Exactly.

The Owl: Right. Let me see what I can do. Wait here and my goon will amuse you with some pointless drivel about his stomach problems and his day job.

Spider-Man: What?

Thug: Oh yeah. I’m a certified CFP. I just turned to hired gooning at night to make a little extra cash.

Spider-Man: Temp goons? Wait, how much does that pay?

The Owl: Electro and Vulture.

Spider-Man: What?

The Owl: Electro and Vulture have this woman. I have no idea why or where they are, but they have her. My source is very certain about this.

Spider-Man: What?

The Owl: Oh, would you hush up and get out of here?

CUT TO: The Cliché Seedy Bar

Vulture: So you and Sandman used to come here a lot?

Electro: Oh yeah. We came here a lot to meet with Commie Spies back before historical retcons turned them into The Russian Mafia.

Vulture: You know, I find the whole idea of paying a Russian woman to sleep with me very distasteful. Particular in a PG comic book. And I’ve dropped babies to their deaths!

Electro: Oh, try and enjoy yourself! I know I will cause my favorite girl is back in town.

*Enter a fair, large Russian woman*

Vulture: Her?

Electro: Don’t be so quick to judge. She’s a shape-shifting mutant!

Russian Shapeshifter: So who shall I be for you tonight, my love?

CUT TO: The Office of “Starman” Matt Morrison.

Starman: Okay. Jeph Loeb writing style rip-off . Check. Batman story shoe-horned into Spider-Man world. Check. Super-villains getting cheered on instead of heroes. Check. And there’s the Grant Morison X-Men idea rip-off. Big ol’ Check Yep. Looks like a typical Mark Millar story so far. But at least he’s kept out any references to forced sodomy.

CUT TO: The Cliché Seedy Bar

Electro: Actually, when I was in Riker’s I got… exposed to a whole new side of myself.

CUT TO : The Officer of “Starman” Matt Morrison.

Starman: *sighs* Check and Bingo.

CUT TO: The Cliché Seedy Bar

Russian Shapeshifter: Ah. And you want me to turn into handsome guy for you?

*She leads Electro into a room where Spider-Man is already waiting*

Electro: What the? How did you get in here? And how did you know I would be coming to this room?

Spider-Man: Ummm… darned if I know. Maybe that will be explained next month?

Looking To The Stars is a critique/satire published by, and is not intended maliciously. has invented all names and situations in its stories, except in cases when public figures are being satirized. Any other use of real names is accidental and coincidental, or used as a fictional depiction or personality parody (permitted under Hustler Magazine v. Fallwell, 485 US 46, 108 S.Ct 876, 99 L.Ed.2d 41 (1988)). makes no representation as to the truth or accuracy of the preceding information.

Tune in next week. Same Matt time. Same Matt website.