Monday, June 18, 2012


It’s an old but inherently entertaining premise in comics: two incarnations of a hero meet, most likely get into some misunderstanding or other, fight, make up, become friends and unite to defeat the enemy. SPIDER-MEN, the 5 issue mini series from writer Brian Bendis and artist Sara Pichelli, unites Peter Parker’s amazing Spider-Man with the Marvel’s “Ultimate Universe” version of the character, Miles Morales. As some may or may not know, the “Ultimate” universe is a sort of variation of the Marvel Universe “proper” aka the “616” universe. The 616 universe is where all the original Marvel characters reside. The “Ultimate” universe is a sort of alternate universe where we are given different incarnations of the Marvel Superheroes. In the 616 universe, Peter Parker is alive and well and fighting crime. In the Ultimate Universe, Peter Parker is murdered and a young man of African American-Latino descent named Miles Morales has taken over the role of the web swinging crime fighter. He’s younger than Peter Parker, still in high school and his powers are slightly different than those of his predecessor (although still based on those of a spider). 

 In SPIDER-MEN #1, Peter discovers his old nemesis Mysterio is up to no good. Mysterio is behind some sort of light that engulfs Peter and sends him to a parallel world where he has died and everyone knows his real identity. By the end of issue one, Peter meets a new version of Spider-Man. Unfortunately, not much happens in this first issue. In fact, the first half dozen pages doesn’t achieve much at all except to let us know that we are looking at a very much alive Peter Parker who foils a rather mundane crime and swings around thinking about how swell New York is. Things do pick up when Mysterio enters the picture and we get a little mystery going. Then Spider-Man is zapped to an alternate New York where he quickly runs into the Ultimate Universe version of himself.

Sara Pichelli’s art is pleasant enough to look at. I like how she draws Spider-Man with the 70s tv show “pinhole” eye slits. She’s got a great feel for the lanky hero. Her panel layouts are very attractive and the action, what there is of it, moves along at a nice clip. I haven’t read SpiderMan in a long while. Too many terrible stories that damaged the integrity of the character during the late 90s thru 2006 or so. But I enjoy the character when written well and I like what I’ve seen of the Ultimate Universe Spider-Man. Also, I’m a sucker for stories where the hero meets an alternate world version of himself. The thing is, this is only a 5 issue miniseries and as such, the story has no business being this decompressed. I’ll give the second issue a chance, but if there isn’t a whole lot more story in #2 then chances are I won’t be buying #3.

SUPER CROOKS #3 continues to be one crazy, rollicking, insane rollercoaster ride. Tired of dealing with Superheroes with powers that dwarf their own, a group of mid level super crooks decides to leave the “Superhero” rich United States and head to the superhero free Europe for a big score that will make them all rich and save an old friend and mentor who is in deep financial trouble with a particularly nasty super villain. In issue 3, the team of crooks decide to run a con on a retired criminal who just happens to be one of the most powerful and evil of all super powered villains. Humor, gore, insane violence, blackmail, embarrassing costumes and more fill the pages of Super Crooks #3. This series is a blast.

Conan The Barbarian #5 continues the “Argos Deception” story arc started in issue 4. Conan is still imprisoned in Argos and soon to be hanged for his crimes. Conan’s lover and partner, the deadly and passionate Belit has assured him that their plan to loot the city of it’s gold is still on and that she will not abandon him. But can Conan trust her? As Conan is led to the hangman’s noose, a mysterious woman steps forward and pleads on his behalf to let Conan fight for his life in a battle to the death with Argos’ greatest swordsman.

Brian Wood continues to deliver some great storytelling and James Harren’s art is simply amazing. Harren draws in an interesting and unique style and that’s rare in comics. His renditions of Conan and the bloodthirsty Belit is some of the most attractive art I’ve seen in a while. This is a must buy.

BEFORE WATCHMEN: SILK SPECTRE #1 by writer Darwyn Cooke and artist Amanda Conner shows us the early years of Silk Spectre 2 aka Laurie Jupiter. In this first issue we see Laurie dealing with typical high school problems, a cute boy, a group of mean girls and training with her mother Sally Jupiter aka the first Silk Spectre, to carry on the family superhero tradition. Well, almost typical problems. The story begins in the aftermath of Sally’s divorce and then years later when her daughter is a teenager who is beginning to rebel against her controlling mother. A mother who is dealing with the loss of fame and the limelight through alcoholism and living vicariously through her daughter.

The real treat here is the art of Amanda Conner. Every panel is simply a visual and emotional delight. Facial expressions that are comical and poignant. Wonderful detail and layouts that are beautifully rendered. While not as visually dynamic as her now legendary run on Power Girl, Conner still gives us quite a show here and given that Watchmen is inherently a more bleak and depressing story than Power Girl, it's nice to see her vibrant style shine though regardless. Every panel of Conner’s art is a treat. Of all the Before Watchmen prequels, Silk Spectre looks like it will be my personal favorite.

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