maandag 17 december 2012

Ultimate Spiderman Vol 14: Warriors (#79-#85)

Ultimate Spiderman Vol 14: Warriors (#79-#85)

I don’t think I need to recap much about the Ultimate Line. In 2000 Marvel decided to refresh their characters by recreating them in the Ultimate world, giving them a modern origin-story and more realistic versions of previous plots. Ultimate Spider-man was the first (Micheal Brain Bendis and Mark Bagley) and with the success of the series followed as acclaimed long-term serials like Ultimate Fantastic Four, Ultimate X-men and the summer blockbuster comics The Ultimates vol 1 to 3. But let’s first focus on Ultimate Spider-man Vol 14, the Warriors arc.
Why this specifically? Well I feel this being one of the weaker arcs (not the strongest, but there are definitely so weak arcs in USM) where we go in-depth on Peter Parker, his relationship (or the rather the lack of) with Mary-Jane and the introduction of Ultimatized (heheh) characters like Iron Fist, Shang-Shi, Hammerhead and of course Moon Knight (who wears white to a superhero fight? – Spidey). I feel that this arc had a lot of potential and was certainly epic, but stripped down to characters and plot something lacking and juggling. So lets get to it.

Peter and Mary-Jane broke up, because Peter believes MJ brings herself unnecessary into danger during his superheroing. In an annual issue, Peter meets Kitty Pride of the X-men and the two start dating. Kitty doesn’t appear during this arc though, she seems to be grounded. Meanwhile because of Spidey’s previous actions, the Kingpin had been forced to lay low for a while and the mafia-head Hammerhead (hehe, I’m cracking it up today) aspires to take Fisk’s place as the new Kingpin.
We meet the big baddy Hammerhead while he converts the Kingpin’s old crew – the Enforcers – to his own, and then orders the building to be burned. All about sending a message. Spidey sees the fire and goes to help potential people trapped inside, but he is suddenly assaulted by Moon Knight who suspects him of working with Hammerhead. After a bit of fighting and mocking (who wears white at a superhero fight??) The two split as police enters the scene.
So then we start at Peter in class while he’s contemplating why he broke up with MJ. After getting sick of the teacher, he insults him and walks away to do some Spidey work. He proclaims that as Peter he feels useless but as Spider-Man he is actually doing something for the city, and would rather crawl in his Spider world for good.
Meanwhile, Shang-Shi and Iron Fist meet in a Chinese restaurant, the latter just released from prison. But their conversation is stopped when Hammerhead and his crew comes in the restaurant and claims it as his territory, seizing protection money. SS and IF fight through the crew, and even Spidey shows up to knock Hammerhead down….with a broken hand instantly realizing why he’s called Hammerhead.  But then Black Cat shows up and a very annoyed Hammerhead throws a grenade. Black Cat saved Spidey from the grenade and fled to a rooftop. After a bit of talking (Felicia’s father was murdered by William Fisk the Kingpin, and vowed revenge under the name Black Cat) BC makes out with Spidey by only opening up the mouth part of his mask.
Later on, Spidey investigates Fisk’s building but is greeted by Elektra who invites him in. Surprisingly Spidey follows and after a funny scene in the elevator he is brought to Fisk. The Kingpin gives him the address of Hammerhead’s lair and asks him to take him out. Because Hammerhead is much much crueler than Fisk, and should rather be stopped now than when becomes the new Kingpin. Even Spidey’s ally, the police detective Jeanne DeWolfe encourages him to follow Fisk’s advice.

-insert montage scene of Shang-Shi and Iron fist getting into costumed and pumped up, while playboy billionaire Marc Spector (Wait a darn sec-) sees the sun going down and gets in costume – 

Spidey visits the address the Kingpin gave him, but catches Black Cat sneaking around. She says she wants to help Hammerhead rise to power so he can overthrow Fisk and she can have her revenge. Afterwards she’ll help Spidey bring down Hammerhead too, she promises. After another kiss, they hear noises in the building and barge in.

Cue the most epic thing you’ll ever see in a comic gang war.
We have Hammerhead with his goons pulling their guns on Iron Fist and Shang-Shi while Elektra has her weapons raised against Hammerhead and Moonknight lurking on the ceiling. And Spidey and BC just jumped in the middle of this all.

favorite quote:
- Hammerhead

So the next issue starts off with Hammerhead calling a pause to the situation. He immediately buys Elektra from Fisk, and then even Black Cat volunteers to work for him – much to Spidey’s dismay. So then the fight starts and literally everyone throws a punch or kick to everyone, seeing how no one knew each other’s motivation or side. But after some spectacular but jumbled pages, Spidey gets sick of this all and rage-webs everyone tight to their place. The fight is just frozen as everyone is stuck in the webs, and Spidey casually picks up a phone to call the police to sort this all out. This is definitely the one of the funniest thing’s I’ve read. All of the characters are in some way insulting or scolding Spidey and we see him just getting annoyed by this all. But while the police is underway, Elektra manages to get herself free and throws her Sai to spidey, scarcely missing him. More characters use their knives and sharp claws to get free, and Hammerhead finds his gun empty. As the fight continues Elektra smashes Spidey through the window and he’s dropped on an arriving police car. Moon Knight is stabbed by Elektra and after Hammerhead blurs he won’t be able to pay her, she beats him up and throws him out of the window too. Black Cat and her battle, but before she can kill Black Cat, a moon-shaped boomerang (Moonerang?) is thrown in the back of her head.
Well, in the end all the heroes escape and BC and Spidey flee to another rooftop. BC claims she was stupid to use Hammerheads as a means to get to Fisk, and promises Spidey to be more responsible. And then, with the promise of sex, the about 25 year old Black Cat removes Spidey’s mask to see a fifteen year old face.

She barfs on his costume and flees.

So what did I think of this arc? Well its not bad in my eyes, and one of my favorites. Especially because it has some epically comical scenes, and Moon Knight. From all the Ultimate supporting characters, Moon Knight was fleshed out the most – though its not much. We see he has four personalities inside him, two grown men, a little girl and Moon Knight himself. We know that Iron Fist was a prisoner once who couldn’t control his rage but is all right now, and Shiang-Shi…owns a restaurant or something. So the characters are not what really drive this story. Plot wise it seemed okay aside from Fisk asking Spidey to take care of Hammerhead while he knows Spidey doesn’t do this kind of stuff, and then also sending Elektra to kill him off.  Also, during the last chapter when Moon Knight is wounded, Hammerhead manages to pull off his mask and make a picture of his face, mumbling with still his mouth webbed, “I own you!” but this plot point gets no where as HH is thrown out of a window later. Second, there is a difference between a 25 year old body and a 15 year old. How did BC not notice that? She kissed him without mask, wouldn’t she notice something? Even in the new Spider-man movie you can’t really believe that’s a 17 year old playing spidey, but rather a 19 year old at most (the actor is in his twenties). But aside from this the comic had some great gags and epic moments. I like to see a Spider-man movie that associates with the mob just like TDK did; I think the realism would do a grounded character like Spidey good. Less of a CGI villain at the end and more a moral dilemma.
The art is classic Bagley and does very well to convey emotion while also having some pretty rad action scenes.
Check it out for yourself.

Three out of Five stars

zondag 2 december 2012

Spawn Blood Feud

Today we look at a Spawn comic, one written by Alan Moore and drawn & inked by Tony Daniel & Kevin Conrad respectively. Alan Moore we must all already know (if you don't, no shame, just pick up some of his books) the famous English writer/anarchist/magician responsible for some of the most revolutionary comics in times (Watchmen, The Killing Joke, Promethea, Supreme and oh goddess too much to sum up). Tony Daniel gave us the art of Grant Morrison acclaimed run on Batman, several Image comics I dont give a crap about, and has written some Batman and Detective Comics. He should stick with penciling. Really. And then we have Kevin Conrad...whom I don't have much information of. He did some spawn and DC work so far as I can, and isn't half bad. It does seem he like he does alot of the 90's comic art.

But back to Spawn. Spawn was of course created by Tod McFarlane as one of the first series of Image Comics. It outlived Young Blood, and all the other thinly veiled DC/Marvel ripoff books his friends were producing at that time alongside Savage Dragon, and are thus the ONLY two Image runs I can recommend. Of course Spawn is also a rip off. But instead of just taking a Marvel/DC character, changing the colour of costume and sticking lots a guns on it, McFarlane simply took the thematic value of Batman and Spider-man and give the character some damn development. He also used supernatural elements to make stuff possible, but kept the character grounded from becoming an unstoppable magician supreme. Aside from that, he made us actually relate to the character and feel emotion for him. We don't feel sorry if Wolverine-rip-off-no 124 gets a katana in the gut, but we feel genuinely sad to see Al Simmons, family guy, getting gunned down and resurrected as a hellspawn, with holes in his memory. We want to see that character get better, we want to see him kick the asses of the ones who killed him, and yet we also want to see him brood around graveyards or rooftops just as much.

But back to Blood Feud. McFarlane, probable realizing he's a good writer but not good enough, contracted several people to write his Spawn and maybe fill in some holes or something. So Neil Gaiman, Grant Morrison and Alan Moore among some contributed something to the comic. And during 1995 we got this gem: Blood Feud.

Blood Feud #1
This story opens up with a horrible sequence where something is going on a bloodthirsty rampage through the city. We never get to see what's attacking the people, since it's behind the camera. We have broad horizontal panels of people looking at us and screaming while with thick red letters "WUBUB" is given as sound-effect (Dubstep is evil?) and after 3 pages of adults and kids being ripped apart unmercifully we get a vision of Spawn's uniform being a sentient vicious creature. Spawn wakes up, implying that everything we saw was just a dream. But he does keep lamenting about his costume, even suggesting that the spikes on his arms might be the creature's teeth. (Note here, that Spawn lives in an ally way with his hobo friends). Meanwhile, a certain Mr John Sansker is introduced in the story as a paranormal investigator. He's researching the killings and has come to the conclusion that Spawn is a vampire. He hands out leaflets and instructions how to kill a vampire. When Spawn hears that he's furious ofcourse. But he inexplicable collapse.
Another massacre sequence comes up, spanning 4 pages and a few more splash pages of the costume taking a sentient and gruesome pose. And finally on the last page of the comic we see Spawn has woken up, surrounded by police...with blood on his hand and dead people around him.


Also, this comic has some extra stuff like lay-out pencils by Alan Moore which McFarlane encourages us to compare to Daniel's finished work. I really like this kind of stuff in my comics.

Blood Feud #2
In this issue Spawn evades the police, but is now hunted down all of New York.He sees himself being ratted out by most of his friends, as everyone is afraid of him as a vampire.Man while our favorite detectives Sam and Twitch see something fishy about the whole case. While visiting a friend who ratted him out, Spawn is attacked by Sansker who doesn't appear to be quite human himself. He seemingly kills the paranormal investigator in an uncontrollable rage, and is now genuinely afraid of himself. He decides to get rid of his costume, ripping it off and locking it up in a chest which he throws in the river. When he goes to his ally way to sleep, he is still haunted by disturbing dreams, but then he wakes to see his hobo friends, and a big giant stake in his chest.

Not as good as the first issue, but it still keeps up. This comic is really fast pace and frentic, and I accuse the art of doing so. Plain 90's art looks pretty ugly, even by Tony Daniel. But I've seen worse, so I can't call it bad art either. sigh.

Blood Feud #3
I don't have the physical copy of this comic, though I did read it. In this issue we see a Spawn who is now alone in the world. All of his friends fear him and betrayed him, and he isn't even with his powerful costume anymore. Sam and Twitch decide that something isn't right with Sansker, but when Twitch is confronted with him alone Sansker turns into some demon thingy and we cut away, making us fear that the famous Twitch has undergone an Alan Moore fate. Meanwhile, Spawn is helped by his old enemy Violator (surprising) and the ugly clown reveals him some things about the costume (it feeds on souls, not blood, and is apparently female). More so, Spawn can't live without his costume, so he has to retrieve it. Hot-wiring a car he tries to drive to the docks, but is attacked by Sansker - who reveals he framed him -. and the car crashes into the river.

Artwork here is less clear than the first, and very hard to make out. What I do like here is the back up info about the costume. Neil Gaiman added some characters to increase the historical scope of the series, and Alan Moore explains a bit about the costume. It;s also fun to see Spawn hijack a car.

Blood Feud #4

The Last issue starts with Spawn and Sansker battling it down there, but Sansker for some reason goes up to the docks again. There the police arrives lead by Sam. Via radio we hear that Twitch is alive, but barely, and Sam vows to take Sansker in. Sansker however fights back, killing almost everyone there. He also quips that he has no real motivation for this crime, and is simply doing an exercise to prepare himself for Hong Kong 2070 (how does he know a Hellspawn will appear at that time in Hong Kong??). Meanwhile Spawn reunites with his costume and goes back up to kick Sansker's ass. Though the ass turns into a snake-like being and after a short fight, Sansker flees and disappears. Sam says that he can clear Spawn's name, but Spawn decides to embrace the darkness and dives back into the water.

Well....that was disappointing. It wasn't a bad comic, for one, but it wasn't something to stand out either. Why is this a miniseries? Why does it need "Blood Feud" written on the covers so prominently? The comic tries to seal some holes that McFarlane left open, but it didn't feel pretty satisfying. The villain is lackluster and apparent since issue 1, and nothing extraordinary happens with him either. It ends very anti-climatic. What I do like about Blood Feud is the relationship of Spawn with his suits and humans. The paranoia was well done, the dream sequences as well. I think the dream sequences were the only sequences the art really suited. Everything else seems too rushed and dirty. Not one of Moore's best works, but a good effort nonetheless.

3 out of 5 stars (Weakest I've given to an Alan Moore story).