I hate Spider-Man costume changes. Yep, even the symbiote suit.
Let me amend that just slightly: I hate Spider-Man costume changes that this era's Peter Parker makes, seemingly on a whim. Spider-Man 2099 and others of his ilk look just fine in their respective duds, it's just when I get a splash page shot of a leaping lower-half in a crazy new outfit that I'm taken completely out of the story. It's not the minor changes (under-arm webs, angles on the arms of the spider symbol, etc.), it's the big ones where all I can think of is, "Man, someone's trying to sell a new toy." Then it's whether they sell the toy through the direct market, what kind of packaging this new toy will have, any accessories, price point and then boom! Spidey's saved the day and learned a new lesson about life and putting on his old costume anyways because we always prefer the original.
Now I know that fans do love the symbiote suit and yeah, it is pretty nifty with its simple design in slimming black and lower jaw distention, but it's more nostalgia nifty than a desire for anything permanent. The storyline of how he got the suit, what it became and what it did to Peter Parker changed the style of Spidey stories for a whole decade. The costume was so popular, it got a new guy to wear him and then made a sort of 'spinoff' with Carnage. My sweaters do not do anything that cool when I donate them to the Salvation Army.
This success with the black suit has drilled a tiny hole in the House of Ideas so deep, it's like they think every costume change they go with for Peter Parker is going to dress to impress. Scarlet Spider costume? No. Iron Spider costume? Used in Avengers: the Initiative for a few clones and promptly forgotten in the Heroic Age. There's obviously more I could count but really, let’s not be the costume change that everyone is looking back on in a few years going, “Ha ha! He had glow-in-the-dark bits in his costume! How 2010!”
But do not fret! Now is not the time to panic! Now is the time to plan because, believe it or not, we only have 92 shopping days left until Christmas. Good thing Marvel sent us advance warning so that we can not only budget how much we spend on others so that we can also spend on our comics.
And that’s what Christmas is all about. Join me in looking over the December solicitations for Marvel Comics, won’t you?
There's an interesting approach to the solicitation text for, well, I'll say the two main Spider-Man books: Amazing Spider-Man and Ultimate Spider-Man. One is supposed to gear toward new readers, and the other is just as necessary as air and water and comic storage boxes. Amazing Spider-Man #650 shows off a brand new costume change for our friendly neighborhood hero in a full frontal cover shot, but the actual solicitation text is far more excited about the plot, “To face off against an amped-up HOBGOBLIN, you need an amped-up SPIDER-MAN! What's the story behind Spidey's NEW SUIT? What is it and what can it do? Meanwhile, MACH 5 (from THE THUNDERBOLTS) faces off against one of Spidey's deadliest foes!” Spider-Man will be fighting a tougher villain so he’s going to need a bad ass wardrobe! So what’s the deal? Anyways, Mach-5 everyone! Maybe the hype machine will turn over in December? Maybe this costume change is nothing more than a turn in a long, fulfilling plot that will mean more to us in the long run than a simple wardrobe switch. Amazing Spider-Man #651 goes on to feature the new costume on the cover, but the solicitation text is full of actually exciting stuff (Spidey faces off against the Kingpin! Mac Gargan in the Scorpion suit again! A surprise for Aunt May!) and no costume hoopla.
I like this. When the Iron Spider costume came out in 2008, it's all anyone could talk about. Opinions flowed like wine as Tony Stark bought Peter Parker a jersey for the upcoming Civil War. Now, as Spider-Man gets ready to promote the Tron movie coming out in December, there's a sort of 'meh' attitude from the House of Ideas who really want to sell you on the new Hobgoblin instead. And that's something I'm interested in buying.
However, in the Ultimate universe, Spider-Man isn't fairing so well in casual new changes. Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man #151 shouts: "Spider-Man must now undergo after school super hero training—and the lessons start here!!!" So he's joining the Ultimates? Ultimate Avengers? One of those groups? Nick Fury's wanted him on the payroll forever, so giving in and taking superhero classes is kind of a step backwards. A step backwards toward the 616 universe, where Spider-Man's already on both Avengers teams. Despite the three exclamation points, I don't see any reason to get worked up over this, but hey! Maybe #150 will have some major, game-changing event and it will seem less of a slide backwards and more of a Ultimate shift in Spidey stories.
Over in Ultimate Doom #1 (of 4), Mr. Bendis brings it on home with his epic trilogy of the universe he helped found. "The enemy has revealed itself and the Ultimate Universe has been rocked to its very core." Oh, so it's Doctor Doom. Maybe it's Quicksilver from the end of Ultimatum? Still, it'd be a shame to call your book 'Ultimate Doom' and then not deliver on the guy in the title. "Now, the surviving heroes must put together the most bad ass covert ops team ever if they have any chance of catching up to the enemy before he/she strikes again." Isn't that what's going on in Ultimate Comics: Ultimates 2? Oh man, whichever one has the Punisher and the new evil Wasp, the Ultimate books are getting confusing. "Ultimate Doom is a story you have never seen in a Marvel Comics, and we promise you--no hype--the Ultimate Universe changes forever."
I feel like we keep drawing on this Ultimate Etch-a-Sketch and every time we don't like it or sales dip, we just shake that thing until we can draw what we really want on it. Somewhere, someone out there jumped up at a convention or a meet-and-greet, and told them that Ultimatum was great and they should do that all the time because it feels like from that point, the Ultimate universe has been in flux. What happened after all that noise? Aside from some fantastic tales in Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man, everything's been preparing or starting over or rediscovering so much that I can't get a foothold on what I want or should be reading. From an interview with Mr. Bendis about Ultimate Enemy at the start of this year:
"What I liked about the Ultimate Universe when it started, and the way it worked for quite a few years, was that every storyline is an event. Every arc of 'Ultimate Spider-Man' and 'The Ultimates' was a big earth shattering event, and post 'Ultimatum' and post 'Siege' [the current Marvel Universe event story that Bendis is writing], I believe that's the way things should be."
So that answers last week's question.
In other Bendis-y news, we've all seen the new Illuminati arising in Avengers #8: "Marvel's super-secret brain trust has reunited because someone is trying to put the Infinity Gauntlet back together. Who is it and will the Avengers be able to stop them in time?" First off, I really wish I had seen a cosmic book in this month's solicitations because the Infinity Gauntlet would so be their bag. I mean, Adam Warlock was right there (and then he went evil, died, came back, died again, etc.)! The Guardians of the Galaxy were just the type of rockin' cosmic heroes who could go on a hunt for concept-breaking powers and solve this mystery! But no, no Guardians or Nova or Thanos books this month.
Instead, we have the Illuminati, who represented the Civil War era: where the super-brains and powers of the MU got together to manipulate events long past so that future stories could arise. It was a time of a sort of tyranny, and the secret club could be looked at as awesome or a threat to the sanctity of super-heroing in general. Either way, we don't need them anymore; we're in a Heroic Age where everyone has a chance to be an Avenger and individuals will be tested on their own merit, not put into place by a secret society. Reed Richards of all people should know how bad an idea this is by now, not only having been on the Illuminati but a cabal of other-dimensional Reed Richards-es (Richardsi?) who had to lose their families in order to make the universe fit their initiative. If the Illuminati were to "gather," then it would just prove they learned nothing from what came before. I, like Namor, will not be in the issue.
As bad an idea as this is, I'm kind of charmed by what's in store for the New Avengers in New Avengers #7 : "After the devastating fallout of last issue’s fatal battle for this dimension, the New Avengers have to figure out who really belongs on the team. Plus, Luke Cage and Jessica Jones need a nanny, and not just any nanny, they need to find a superpowered nanny." Roster change-up and some real-world superhero problems. Bendis seems to be having way more fun writing New Avengers that the adjectiveless one, and the best way to seal the deal for me would be to move these guys to the West Coast. Put 'em in Portland if you have to, just don't keep redundant Avengers around New York City.
Meanwhile, over in Hell's Kitchen, we're rebuilding after Shadowland in the Shadowland: After the Fall one-shot: "After the senses-shattering conclusion of Shadowland, can the people of Hell’s Kitchen rebuild without a champion to guide them?" By the way, the answer is no, no they can't because two books are moving in to take up Daredevil's slack: Black Panther slips into Matt Murdock's old book with Black Panther: the Man Without Fear #513, partially to help Hell's Kitchen, but more importantly, to sort of reconnect with himself. After Doomwar and considering the current events in the X-Men's books, I don't think the Marriage of the Century between him and Storm is going to last. His sister is there to pick up the pieces of a once great nation and they probably don't want the man who destroyed their vibranium wonderland around during that. So, while it might seem a step down for a king to stop purse snatchers, I think the time alone should do him good. Maybe he'll get more of an identity away from his own title and in the angsty streets of Hell's Kitchen.
The other heroes who are here to put Hell's Kitchen back to rights are looking for contract work: Heroes for Hire returns with this #1 issue and two of my favorite writers, Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning. This is probably why there's no cosmic books out this month! Still, if anyone else hade told me that Punisher, Moon Knight, Elektra, Ghost Rider, and Falcon would be all on a team TOGETHER, I would have called them nuts. Or from the mid '90s. But no, some of the most unlikely players will be part of Heroes for Hire along with founder Iron Fist, probably the new Power Man and oh, so much more. Plus it's going to be written by the duo that made the cosmic Marvel Universe come alive for me and a lot of readers. This is worth the $3.99, just to see how they do it.
So, yes, no cosmic books, but instead we're getting some heroes for hire and some heavenly war as this is the month we've all been fearing from the latest event, Chaos War. Along with the #4 issue of the main title, we'll be getting five tie-in books. Yep, it's all $3.99. Now, before anyone tosses their flowered bonnet to the floor and leaves this social club, let's look at each one of these in turn and get brutally honest. Chaos War #4 is a given; if you want to know how this story is progressing with the main plot and characters, it's $3.99 time. Fred Van Lente has kept some absolutely delightful stories going and so my money and trust has been earned. Chaos War: Ares #1 is written by Michael Avon Oeming, who wrote the current God of War's first mini-series where he was awesome. I'll pay $3.99 just to see where the man who brought Ragnarok to Thor and the first War amongst the Gods takes the character now.
Chaos War: God Squad #1 takes a lot of lower-billed heroes with godly roots (Hellstorm, Silver Surfer, Sersi, Venus, "and more") and pits them against the Japanese pantheon. Now, this one is going to be purely personal. Marc Sumerak and Dan Panosian have done solid work in the past, but more than likely you're either big fans of the characters or you'll be passing on this tie-in. Chaos War: Thor #2 is being written by 'Marc DeMatteis;' I guess he dropped the "J.M." because he was too busy getting mobbed with adoration for having written the Kraven's Last Hunt storyline and scripting some amazing issues of the Justice League International. The story says that Donald Blake has lost his memories of Thor and is going through a period of doubt while the Chaos War rages above. It'll be an introspective story, probably less bombastic than the other tie-ins and should prove to be a nice character piece on Thor by a writer who's pure class. Mind you, you might already be reading a dozen different Thor books this month, so no one will blame you if you let this one go.
Chaos War: Dead Avengers #1 is another obscure fan favorite grab bag (Grim Reaper, Captain Mar-Vell, Yellowjacket, Dr. Druid, Deathcry and the Swordsman), plus it's being written by Fred Van Lente, so it's a toss up on it's purchasing power. Chaos War: X-Men #1 looks to be the lowest on the totem pole with writers fueled by nostalgia and dead X-Men. Again, it's always your call and you don't have to buy every one, just the stories you want to read.
The What If? series is having an anniversary, celebrated by a #200th issue and four one-shots boasting stories that look back at our Event Rollercoaster of the past year. In the mighty Marvel tradition, Dark Reign, Siege, Wolverine as a father, Kraven's Last Hunt, Iron Man and Doctor Doom have all been given a unique (and most likely depressing) twist by Jason Henderson, Rob Williams, Marc Sable, Bob Layton & David Michelinie, Marc Guggenheim and, oh yes: STAN LEE. The Generalissimo himself will be delving back into the Coming of Galactus to show us yet another What If? tale of death and surprise. Also, there's a symbiote-possessed Deadpool backup story. The 200th issue will cost you a whopping $4.99, so write to Santa and be very good this year.
If you have been very VERY good this year, you might get the mightiest of all Omnibuses (Omnibusi?): the Thor by Walt Simonson Omnibus. 1192 pages of pure, unadulterated awesomeness, inspirational fantastic stories and THOR AS A FROG. Yes, it's all in here, THOR #337-355, #357-369 & #371-382 and BALDER THE BRAVE #1-4 in one big tome that will crush your thighs if you try and read it on your lap. At a weighty $125, this is what Santa brings in for the nobel prize winners, so be good. Be VERY good.
If you've made it this far, congratulations! Please, continue the adventure by checking out the full list of Marvel's December Solicitations and bring in your best haul from the season of giving. Excelsior!