Thursday, August 14, 2008

Team-ups ain't what they used to be...

As most comic book readers probably know by now, in the wake of the events occurred in the One More Day storyarc, Spider-man's continuity has been radically altered.
I'll summarize it for those who don't know. Joe Quesada, current Marvel EiC, believing that Spider-man being a married man was aging the character, and thus scaring away potential new, younger readers from the related books, decided that the marriage was to somehow be erased from Spider-man's past history.
They did so by having Peter Parker and his wife Mary Jane Watson strike a deal with Mephisto (a powerful demonic entity of the Marvel Universe), in exchange for the life of Aunt May, who at that time was on the brink of death after having being shot by a sniper sent to kill Peter.

Along with the erasing of the marriage, the new "younger readers-friendly" Spider-man was given, in the same package, a number of other significant continuity changes.
Among these changes, in particular, there was this one:

Absolutely no one knows that Peter Parker is Spider-man. Not Daredevil, not the Avengers, not anyone. His identity is truly secret, although some people seem to recall that Spidey unmasked himself during civil war, no one quite remembers whose face was under the mask.


If you're about to ask, yes. That is retarded. Accepting this and the rest of the continuity implies a significant number of ramificated absurdities and contradictions. But apart from that, why on earth did they feel to introduce this change also? Was Spidey's revelation of his secret identity aging the character as well, like the marriage?
No, it was more likely because, after the big fat event of Spidey's outing (which gave Marvel an enormous mediatic visibility and made sales sky-rocket), they realized that mess had deprived Spidey of a huge chunk of his character and they didn't know what the heck they could do with him anymore. Sure, initially they had him go hunt for the instigator of the sniping, back in his black costume because he had become all angsty (or better yet, to reflect the look of the contemporary Spider-man 3 movie, and attract new readers), but what else could he do after that? Nothing, unless the status quo was to be dramatically (and irreversibly) altered.

Daredevil didn't have this luxury. He didn't have the same visibility when he unmasked, relatively recently, and didn't get a similar plenary indulgence after the party was over. In fact, Matt Murdock's life is still a mess in large part because of his outing, and he's still paying the price for it. But I digress.

All these gratuitous changes to the character's continuity have pretty much had the effect of a reset button. Spider-man started his Brand New Day as a hard luck hero, young, pennyless, with a fixation on mantaining his identity a secret, with a new supporting cast and a new set of bad guys (in addition to the existing ones). Plus, he got to somehow fit in the continuity of the other characters - like Daredevil or the New Avengers - as if nothing had happened. With DD this was particularly weird, because there is really no way to concile their past mutual history - rich with encounters both in and out of costume, team-ups, shared adventures - with the fact that Daredevil doesn't know who Spider-man is (especially considering he has heightened senses).

In addition to this, the all new continuity (I'm struggling not to use the term "new status quo" they have used, because, as anyone who understands some Latin knows, it is an oxymoron) sort of gave the authors the illusion that they could, for the moment, write any Spidey story they wanted without putting much attention to the details. This lead to the poorly written Spider-Man/Matt Murdock interaction seen in Amazing Spider-Man #566, by Guggenheim with art by Phil Jimenez and others.

In this story, a villain captures Peter Parker's roommate, believing him to be Spider-man, and takes him away after having forced him to wear the Spider-Man costume, which she had stolen right before. Peter has to do something about it, but needs another costume to conceal his identity before getting into action.
Instead of just putting a potato sack over his head, he decides to borrow a Daredevil costume from Matt Murdock. Don't ask me why.
He heads to Matt's law office at Hell's Kitchen, calling him on the phone at the same time:

So he calls and Matt Murdock doesn't believe him to be Spider-man and thinks it's a prank call, because, y'see, Peter is a clumsy hard luck hero. Ha ha ha. How funny.
Yeah, funny. Apart from the fact that Matt Murdock is blind and has been training himself for a lifetime to not only recognize voices, but also to detect anomalies in the voice and speech patterns (enabling him to tell if someone is saying the truth or not even when he cannot hear that person's heartbeat, like in this case). You really think that the blind superhero with heightened senses cannot tell the voice of a long time ally from that of a prank calling nut? I say thee nay.
The Superman bit was a nice touch, though.

Peter then tells Matt to look out of the window, so that he can see him - wearing a facial disguise made of webbing - sticking on the outside wall of the building and be convinced that it was actually the real Spider-Man calling him.
I repeat. He's telling a person whom he knows he's blind to look out of his window. According to Guggenheim's twisted logic, not only Matt Murdock doesn't believe the identity of a person he was talking to on the phone (not an unknown guy, a person he should be familiar with), he also has to put his head out of the window to detect the presence of someone outside in the immediate vicinities.
This is ridiculous. Last time I checked his powers were "superhumanly heightened senses and radar sense", not "is a lawyer and wears shirts and red sunglasses when out of costume"

Sure, anything for you, webhead. After all, it's not like I'm currently having a hard time now, with my wife having been driven mad by a maniac and a case of an innocent in death row who will be executed in a handful of days. Oh, also, do you realize how irrelevant is to me the mask you're wearing? I can recognize your odor and track you by scent if I ever wanted. By the way, how is aunt May?

Peter, anyway specifically asks for a costume with eyeholes on the mask. He apparently knows that DD doesn't need those, being blind. And to think that just three panels before he had asked Matt to "look" out of the window...

Wow. What do ya know? Brand New Day Spidey is also somehow aware that there are cartoon series about him with characteristic theme songs, and he's made up a Daredevil variant! I don't know, it's supposed to be a witty/funny thing, I guess.
Anyway, he goes to the police precinct to gather some informations on the kidnapper. He is aware that Spider-man, to the public, is menace, and so he expects to be treated with more respect by the police, since he's posing as Daredevil.

About that, I'm sure everyone at the precinct loves DD, especially considered that Daredevil is unregistered too and that he has beaten two policemen to near death in recent issues, under the effect of Mr Fear's gas. But this is "younger readers-friendly BND Spidey", it's a safe bet to say that 90% of them don't read a book like Daredevil (which is commonly considered to be dark and depressing).

As for the remaining 10%, they can suck it up, just like they did with the rest of the One More Day/Brand New Day mess.


Gloria said...

"That is retarded"

Nowadays, it may be pollitically incorrect to use this term, as i may nbe disrespectful to mentally handicapped persons... BUT... OMD (and many of the comics it has spawned so far) may be about the most RETARDED stuff ever printed.

Francesco said...

Gloria, I'll tell you a secret. A celebrated series in this blog was originally intended to be titled "Retarded" instead of "Preposterous".
Someone thankfully talked me out of doing it, but still there are instances in which you just _can't_ afford to be PC.