Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Ten things that occurred to me while I was reading Amazing Spider-Man: Election Day

—The blurbs chosen for the back cover reflected the collectible nature of the Obama cover, rather than the contents or quality of the book. There’s one from Geoff Boucher of the Los Angeles Times and another from David Colton of USA Today. The former simply states that Obama hangs out with Spider-Man, and was seemingly from a news story about the issue rather than a review; the latter states “In a growing world of Barack Obama collectibles, one item soon may be swinging above the rest.”

The “collectible” being referred to, however, isn’t this collection, of course, but one of the comic books that originally contained one of the stories found inside this book. There’s therefore something rather…tricksy about the blurb.

There are two more blurbs on the inside of the book jacket; these aren’t from mainstream media outlets like the LA Times or USA Today, which is probably why they’re relegated to the inside, but they do speak to the quality of the work. Adam Chapman of Comixtreme.com says something about writer Marc Gugenheim’s script, and Daniel Schmergel of IGN.com says something nice about John Romita Jr’s artwork (“He is the Spider-Man artist of his generation”).


—Someone really needs to declare a moratorium on the telling-the-story-through-news-anchors device in superhero comics. Marc Guggenheim relies on it extensively throughout the “Election Day” storyline that accounts for most of this collection’s 180-pages, and it’s beyond tiresome. Perhaps it didn’t read quite so cheap and hackneyed when experienced in a serial comic book, one scene every week or two, but man was it irritating to have the same two talking heads appear every 20 pages or so to re-explain what I just read.


—Guggenheim’s five-issue story arc that forms the bulk of this book was surprisingly enjoyable. I haven’t been following ASM regularly, but the plot was easy to follow, the execution was engaging, and the big events and revelations—the identity of Menace, the secret behind The Spider-Tracer Killer, the winner of the New York City mayoral election—still hit with impact.

Guggenheim doesn’t write the best Spider-Man fight chatter—his jokes are neither genuinely funny nor funny in their corny unfunniness—but because the arc was so plot-oriented, Spider-Man’s voice was much less important than what was going on around him.


—John Romita Jr. is awesome. As long as he’s drawing a Spider-Man story, it can’t help but seem right on some level. I can’t help but think “One More Day” would have went down infinitely more smoothly if he were drawing it instead of Joe Quesada.


—While the Spider-Man office has seemingly done a pretty good job of assembling a “brain trust” of comics scripters to keep Amazing Spider-Man going as a fast-paced, plot-driven soap opera comic, finding artist whose style work together quite as smoothly is infinitely more challenging.

Romita dominates this book, and draws almost the entirety of the “Election Day” arc, but there’s a brief, one-issue interlude drawn by Barry Kitson and a pair of inkers, and the style-shift is quite jarring.

The other, shorter stories feature art by Marcos Martin, Andy MacDonald, Todd Nauck and, in the worst example of style shift coming in a single issue penciled by Fabrizio Fiorentino, whose work looks like this:


And Patrick Olliffe, whose work looks like this:

Each artist in that story, “With Great Responsibility Comes Great Power,” were inked and colored by different artists too, so that the two portions of the story—Spider-Man at Night Nurse’s office and Peter Parker checking in with his friends after the events of “Election Day”—look like they’re from entirely different comic books.


—Marcos Martin should draw every Spider-Man story that John Romita Jr. doesn’t have time to draw himself. The story of his collected here, “The Spartacus Gambit” from Amazing Spider-Man: Extra #1, is a court room drama telling some of the events of “Election Day” in much greater detail, and it’s just beautiful, beautiful work. Whether it’s lawyers standing around talking, or a dozen Spider-Men bouncing around a courtroom, every single image is dynamic and fun.


—The “Spidey Meets The President” story in which Spider-Man meets Obama is greatly expanded, and comes across as perhaps too a-political, with Senator John McCain being written into the story, so as to achieve something approaching “equal time” I guess.

The extra pages don’t really add much, other than giving Todd Nauck further opportunity to demonstrate he doesn’t do political likenesses very well.

Here’s his Joe Biden, who doesn’t get all that Biden-esque until the very last panel…

…and here’s his McCain, who, um, doesn’t look a damn thing like McCain…



—Matt Fraction and Andy MacDonald’s six-page Presidents’ Day Special story, “Gettysburg Distress!”, which was originally presented online, is a lot more boring than I would have thought possible for a story featuring this cover. I mean, the first panel has Professor Abraham Von Lincolnstein, “The villain so loopy he steals five dollar bills and “corrects” them with his own twisted image!”—breaking through a band wall with his robot gang, and the last panel has Spider-Man offering Captain America a fruit pie, but in between it’s just Captain America watching President Lincoln deliver the Gettysburg dress.


—The book also contains the covers of the second, third, fourth and fifth printings of ASM #583, “The Obama issue.” They’re all pretty much the exact same image…the backgrounds are swapped out, and different dialogue bubbles pasted up next to Spidey, but it’s just the same drawing of Obama giving a thumbs up while Spidey takes a picture of the back of his head over and over.



—The “Decade Variant” of ASM #599 featuring President Nixon is not included.
That is a damn shame.

7 comments:

caleb said...

First! Okay, I know that last night I promised two posts tonight but, well, I totally lied! I didn't realize the Dancing With the Stars Finale would be TWO HOURS long, and I have to have priorities.

John Foley said...

The first step is admitting you have a problem.

metronome35 said...

Doesn't the Chameleon disguise himself as Obama? That'd probably provide some potential for comedy by having Obama act wildly out of character. They do much with it?

Or am I totally misinformed with this thing?

Randal said...

When the Chairman from Iron Chef got kicked, I quit cold turkey.

Just like I did with Amazing Spider-Man when JMS took over.

See what I did there?

Zach said...

I'm more looking forward to "Army of Darkness: Ash Protects Obama" to be totally honest.

Also, I would blame the news anchors thing on Frank Miller and DKR. Without them telling us what's happening the story would be much more difficult o follow. Now it's a crutch I suppose.

caleb said...

Doesn't the Chameleon disguise himself as Obama? That'd probably provide some potential for comedy by having Obama act wildly out of character. They do much with it?

Yep, that's the plot. He acts like "a grouch" early in the story, and they determine which Obama is the fake by asking them both about basketball, and The Chameleon seems to have never even heard of the sport.


When the Chairman from Iron Chef got kicked, I quit cold turkey.

He and Lacey were robbed!

metronome35 said...

"Yep, that's the plot. He acts like "a grouch" early in the story, and they determine which Obama is the fake by asking them both about basketball, and The Chameleon seems to have never even heard of the sport."

How far does his grouchiness go? I'd probably get a decent laugh if they took it as far as a cartoon villain, or an old Superman cover.