Thursday, August 9, 2012

Paul's Picks - August 8, 2012

Well, it's that time again folks: Wednesday! And you know what Wednesday is?... Well, of course you do, you're reading a blog about comics, so you obviously know it's New Comics Day, a.k.a. Paul's favorite weekly holiday! And now for his much-anticipated pick-of-the-week...

Another week, another huge stack of comics (and files of digital comics) to read. I couldn't wait to get my pulls from the LCS this week, but once I nabbed my stack, I realized that many of my books are in a strange place right now. I wouldn't say we're in a dull moment, I mean AvX is rapidly approaching its climactic end, and many series are in the middle of an arc (some more enthralling than others), but I found myself a bit disinterested in some of the titles I've been reading over the last couple of weeks. A keen example would be New Avengers by BMB. It's a good title, and it has contained some of the best tie-ins from the event so far, but when I flipped over to it on my iPad, I was a bit nonplussed. It wasn't a bad book, I guess it's just that I'm feeling the longevity of this event in the tie-ins more than anything else. The one book that I immediately lifted to the top of the pile was Scott Snyder's Batman #12, but I'm sad to say it just didn't blow me away. I think I was pulled in by all of the Twitter hype singing its praises, so once I had it behind me I was a bit let down (although the guest art by Becky Cloonan was top notch).

But never fear! There were two books that totally rocked my world this week, but as in Highlander (and the Phoenix Five), "there can be only one." And so, without further whining/yapping/introducing, my pick this week goes to...

Spider-Men #4 by Brian Michael Bendis and Sara Pichelli

Since this series began in June, my feelings have been decidedly mixed. While I love Spider-Man banter via BMB any day of the week, the first couple of issues left me wondering if that was supposed to be the hook for entire 5 issue miniseries. More than once I found myself trying to figure out if there was any point at all, or if the creative minds at Marvel had indeed "run out of ideas." With that being said, issue 3 made me a believer with the final moments, where 616 Peter reveals himself to the Ultimate universe Aunt May and Gwen Stacy. With the look on Peter's face, filled with emotion in a way that just goes to show Pichelli's strength, I finally realized what the point of this miniseries was.

To say that we've seen Marvel and DC play the "alternate universe" card in the past in an understatement, so simply placing Peter in the Ultimate universe alongside Miles Morales wasn't enough to make for something worth paying $3.99 an issue. There needed to be more than Spidey seeing his villains with a new twist, or even the shock of meeting his replacement or the African American Nick Fury. I had a thought going in that this series would be about humor, about Bendis on Spider-Man at his best, and perhaps even about an awesome blow-out battle in a new yet familiar dimension. But I was wrong. This is a story about the heart of the Spider-Man universe.

There are two sides to this coin. The first comes from the perspective of the 616 universe. Adult Peter Parker has been down the road a bit. He's lost loved ones, he's had his heart broken, and he's saved the world more times than he can count. Heck, he even saw all of New York turned into a gigantic island of Spider mutated people. But this world holds things that he doesn't have. One of those things is a living, breathing Gwen. He lost Gwen, and yet here she stands in the flesh. Not only is Gwen alive, but she knows Peter's secret, alongside Aunt May (of course, Aunt May knew before One More Day in the 616, but you get the point). Peter is seeing the parts of his life that couldn't be, or at least hadn't been, in his own world. He sees a New York that mourned the loss of Spider-Man and finally gives him the respect and honor that he deserves. Many of the aspects of life that he always wanted are in place here, in another world.

However, in my opinion, the pieces of this issue that are the most powerful come from the view of Aunt May, Gwen, and ultimately, Mary Jane. These are three women who knew Peter in their own world, who grew up with him or watched him grow up, who held his secret and supported him... But they lost him. He died and left them all behind to mourn him at a young age. And yet, in the pages of this issue, Aunt May gets to see her son, for all intents and purposes, a grown man. She sees his future, the one that he lost, and it hits her right in the heart. Gwen gets a chance to just sit and spend another day laughing and sharing stories with the one person she misses the most. The moments with Aunt May speaking to Peter about how proud she is... Man, if you don't tear up, something just isn't right. It's moving, it's heartbreaking, and it's powerful. It's a moment that's good enough to build a miniseries around. And if you needed anymore convincing, the look on MJ's face right before she runs away from seeing Peter drives home just how hard and painful this all must be. It's one of the most human moments I've read in comics.

Issue four makes the whole series worth it all. Bendis and Pichelli make something beautiful here, something that won't be forgotten. And if you haven't been reading it, you're missing out. Go on a Spidey binge, read all kinds from the 616 and Ultimate universes, then go find these issues and read them. I promise, you won't regret it.

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