Mick vs The Marvel Universe – 03 – Continuity is the fire in which we burn 

Sorting continued after last weeks post. I got it all more or less done by Sunday night. This meant I could now take full advantage of shared reading lists. In short I can download the reading list for an event or comic that someone else has made and Comic Rack populates it using the UUID of the individual issues from Comic Vine’s metadata. Cool, all good so far. But…

The majority of the lists are based on online reading order’s usually sourced from Comic Book Herald or the aptly named Comic Book Reading Orders. Why’s that a problem? Continuity. As I mentioned back in the first post continuity is something I find very hard to ignore. I’d been distracted by organising my collection but when I sat down at lunchtime on Monday to start reading The Amazing Spider-Man I realised “Hey I don’t really remember what happened in Civil War that well after all, maybe I should refresh myself…but then I’ll need to know what happened in House of M….to do that I HAVE to read Avengers Disassembled….” You can see how it quickly snowballs out of control.

“You can just ignore it!” I hear you say. You’re wrong, it is within the realm of human effort to ignore it but I can’t. If I try to it’s like that fucking Raven gently rapping. tapping, slightly louder than before. Still its not like I’m going back to Astonishing Tales #13. I’m also not going to read comics I didn’t particularly enjoy e.g. The Order (a comic so disappointing I still remember it twenty years later). I also don’t think jumping around from comic to comic as the Marvel Master Reading Order suggests is a fun way to read. So what to do? I think I’ll go back to Grant Morrison’s run on New X-Men for two reasons. The first is that it basically represents the start of the new/current era of Marvel comics. The second is that it’s good (or at least I recall enjoying it at the time). Even with Frank Quitely’s garbage artwork. Fuck his re-design of Beast still irritates me.

However, the X-Men titles have a weird relationship to the rest of the Marvel universe. They’re sort of off in their own little ghetto (look at that shocking anti-mutant rhetoric). This isn’t particularly unique as all the big “families” are largely of siloed off e.g. the Spider-Man titles, the Captain America titles, the Hulk titles, etc. While the rest of the Marvel universe exists those titles tend to focus on characters and events within their own “family circle”. The big events muddy this but even then the X titles can sort of be ignored. The Master Reading Order does appeal on one level. I do like the idea of “COMPLETE KNOWLEDGE”. Hmm maybe that’s why continuity annoys me so much. When you know it exists ignoring it is in essence wilful ignorance.

Anyway, I think I’ll take the master reading order as more of a suggestion. I’ll read read whatever titles I want in between events, leaving the X titles off to one side so I can shotgun them all later if I can stomach it. So where does that leave my reading list? Well we’re setting it back to zero. Then the tentative reading order is:

No of comics in reading list: 0

Avengers Disassembled 34 issues

Iron Man: Extremis 6 issues

Secret War 5 issues

House of M 64 issues

No of comics in reading list: 109

At this point I’m torn. It would make sense to read Decimation which deals with the fallout from House of M. But it’s, unsurprisingly, very mutant focused and is 53 issues. So for the moment I’m going to skip it. In chronological order Spider Man: The Other is next. I recall it being good but also sort of weird. I’ve a feeling knowing the outcome kills the tension the story relies on. Its only twelve issues though so we’ll see. For the moment its out though.

That brings us up to Civil War which is a fucking shocking 132 issues. This was the start of the true mega events for Marvel, an occurrence I was not and am not a fan off. It also single-handedly ruined Iron Man as a character for me. Still don’t like him to this day. Why am I reading this again? I honestly might just read the core series and skip the rest…I know I won’t. So our humble reading list is now:

No of comics in reading list: 241

In theory Planet Hulk occurs at the same time as Civil War and I could read it as well. But I’m holding off on it. The plan is to start Spidey (oh yeah I won’t be re-reading the four issues of garbage that are One More Day) after Civil War so when World War Hulk intersects with that I’ll bounce back and read Planet Hulk then.

Also while sorting my collection I remembered I had obtained but not read the entire run of Thunderbolts. I can’t remember why but it looks interesting to me. It also pre-dates Avengers Disassembled so I may start with that. For now though I need to get the reading lists for Avengers Disassembled and Civil War and get the issues ready to read. Should get that done Tuesday so I can get going Tuesday night. Will I actually be able to talk about a comic I’ve read in this weeks update?

First Blood

Spectacular Spider-Man #15-#20 Vol 2003

Well my first foray didn’t start too positively I read a six issue arc that serves as an extended prologue to Avengers Disassembled. It starts off with a mysterious woman appearing in New York before cutting to Peter Parker and Mary Jane talking and foreshadowing before cutting to Captain America who is just standing on a random building rooftop in full costume in the middle of the afternoon hanging out with pigeons.

Various superhero shenanagins happen, mostly involving the punching of people. The flow of the story is quite awkward both visually, where the art could be described as workmanlike at best, and structurally. The dialogue is terrible. Cap talks like an extra on NCIS and Spider-Man desperately struggles to be wise cracking and witty and fails spectacularly. Likely because the writer is neither. Calling the antagonist a skank and talking about her big arse is neither witty or wise cracking.

What is going on with her head in the last panel?

Oh and if you think that dress looks stupid, you’d be right. She’s constantly clutching it and fighting awkwardly, with the odd panty shot or two for good measure of course. The first issue ends with the villain snogging Spidey, which did lead to the only genuinely funny line in the next issue.

The story continues at a weird staccato where we’re introduced to the villains actually mildly interesting back story and Spider-Man starts mutating. There’s lots of comic bollocks about “the insect gene” which I don’t really mind but doesn’t explain why the villain can telekinetically control missiles and swat helicopters out of the air. This continues for the next few issues with more villain backstory (which in this context will qualify as good) and Peter turning into a literal spider (meh, this is like the fourth or fifth time?).

The artist for some reason switches every two issues and I am not a fan of the second artists (Humberto Ramos’) style. It works for some stuff but it looks really off here.

The diabolical dialogue continues (aptly demonstrated in the image above) along with stupid shit like Aunt May discussing Peter’s secret identity in the grocery aisle or someone telling Nick Fury he doesn’t know what it was like in World War II – a war he famously fought in. Spider-Man eventually turns into a full on spider (who is pregnant), the villain has a nuke and things come to a very, very stupid climax.

How stupid? Well the spider Peter Parker has turned into sprays out goo and dies, for no reason, it wasnt part of the villains plan and shes devastated by it but soldiers on to blow up her bomb. The next page human Peter bursts out of the spider’s corpse, with no explanation given at that point (nor later) as to what happened. He goes on and disarms the bomb and then the villain explodes and dies. Yeah you didnt read that wrong. She’s standing there shouting and then she just explodes, for no fucking reason. The only other thing is the bomb, which Peter defused, and which we see unexploded.

Why and how does she blow up?

It is incredibly stupid. Then Spidey fucks off only now he can mentally hear insects and has organic webbing. If I recall correctly this gets dealt with later in The Other. Oh and on the last page they even mention Spiders arent insects so how did her fucking powers work on him?

This was just bad, its the comic equivalent of shovelware and put me off pushing forward any more today (Tuesday). The villain was actually pretty interesting. But she was poorly realised and used and then was killed in the most inexplicable manner.

First Blood – Part Deux

If the last section didn’t make it clear I was definitely not in the mood to read many more and had no interest in forcing myself. But I was stuck with some time to kill today and opted to give it a shot anyway. It certainly didn’t hurt that the covers were a big step up. I really like the first Iron Man one in particular.

Iron Man handily enough had a “The situation so far” page on the inside cover which told me a) The Avengers had become their own country under the UN and b) Iron Man was currently the US Secretary of Defence and that was leading to some tensions. In an unexpected twist those tensions really kicked off. Tony was tasked to find a secret US super robot that was buried by his Dad under his old house, the current Avengers mansion, without letting the Avengers know. This was because the robot was part of a very stupid US contingency for if the Russians invade which would nuke New York. Interestingly that is basically the same plot behind the villain and her bomb from Spider-Man.

It’s handled much better here. The dialogue from all the characters feel’s natural and distinct. Unfortunately the interior art can’t hold up to the cover and is a bit sub-par, a lot of it looks like it was computer generated and then traced over and some of it is just bad. Can anyone tell me who the female character is? I didn’t know who she was until next issue when they finally used her name.

Anyhow, Iron Man tries to sneak into his basement after standing up in the middle of a conversation in the most awkward manner imaginable. Thankfully for my sanity the other people there instantly realise what’s up and tale him. It was sort of jarring seeing Henry Gyrich as a sort of good guy here as usually he’s an asshole at best. When Tony is disarming the robot the signal gets cut off, the robot wakes up and goes ham, your standard big robot fight through a mansion ensues. Wasp (now you know) nearly gets crushed, War Bird shows up on behalf of the US military establishment (thats Carol Danvers for those who dont know). Then there’s some recrimination and later we see Tony realising that maybe being a politician and an Avenger aren’t compatible.

That summary was a little glib. But it was a solid outing. There was some interesting stuff like the Avengers not being able to get their trash collected because they were now foreign territory, US first people picketing them, etc. Tony was done well, even if he looked weirdly old in the artwork and he didn’t come across as the establishment yes man he will in, oh, say Civil War.

It actually made me think, in terms of his larger arc it makes sense that he sides with the establishment. He’s the head of weapons manufacturer, like his father before him and while it might be sad daddy didnt love him right he’s still a very rich, white American male. Put’s things more in context.

Feeling pretty positive I moved on to Thor. Which started with a lot of third party exposition about the history of how Mjolnir was forged and how the things used to forge it were still around and wanted by Loki. It was told in a “myths and legends” style and worked pretty well. Oh in the prologue Loki ends up with the thing he was looking for. The comic didnt have a “Last time on Thor…” page so I was a little lost. However using my mastery of context I gathered Odin has died a while ago and Thor is currently the King of Asgard. When the story time prologue ends we see all the big Asgardians at the funeral of a dwarf (who forged Mjolnir and died in the prologue).

Then things go downhill very fast. Turns out Loki gave the Mjolnir forging tools to Surtur who was pumping out magic hammers for the last month. With hammer armed lackeys in hand Loki attack the funeral. During the course of which the Enchantress get’s one shot, Sif loses an arm, basically all the dwarves get wiped out, and culminates in this.

Then Loki blasts Thor and the island they’re on out of existence and Thor sinks into the sea. Where he thinks about just saying fuck it but summons up Friendship, Hard Work, and Victory…shit wrong comic, ahem, summons up the last of his will and manages to dodge Jormungandr and teleport to Midgard. Where he appears before Iron Man and Captain America (along with half of Jormungandr’s head) where he chokes out Avengers Assemble.

The next issues sees Thor and his two compañeros return to Asgard where things have gone to shit. They head through the ruined land into the destroyed capital city littered with the dead. They manage to find a survivor and Thor talks about the kind of existence Asgardians lead. While said in passing I thought the implications of being “born into doom” were very interesting. A theme I find very interesting when dealing with stories about gods, especially when they have pre-determined cycle, is the issue of fate vs personal agency.

Loki and the hammer boys show up again and fisticuffs ensue. The Avengers replicate their first victory and manage to drive Loki away after shattering his minions pseudo hammers. Thor uses the fragment to sort of repair Mjolnir. They then proceed on where they find some more survivors and the body of Balder (must be awesome being him, destined to die and from a weakness everyone knows). We find out that Loki’s ground troops were armed with spears tipped with metal plated mistletoe. Which is quite the shiny fuck you to old Balder. Thor fatalistically accepts that Ragnarok is upon them and rather than drag Tony and Steve into it he sends them back to Earth and rallies his people for their final conflict.

I enjoyed these two issues. The art was decent and the story in terms of dialogue and structure had a suitably mythic feel to it. I enjoyed paraphrasing stuff from the völva about an axe age, a sword age, etc. Also apropos of nothing I just prefer comic Thor without a beard.

These four issues were both a big step up over Spider-Man and were decent in their own right. While I’m tempted to just push on with Thor I’ll stick to the (mighty Marvel) reading order which means that next up is Captain America and then Avengers.

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