Waiting for the Trade = Spider-man

Waiting for the Trade

 
Amazing Spider-man:
Flying Blind
Written by Dan Slott
& Mark Waid

Illustrated by
Humberto Ramos, Emma Rios, Giuseppe Camuncoli & Kano

Collects Amazing
Spiderman 674-677 and Daredevil 8

 

Why I Bought This: It
features Black Cat, who is my favorite character in the Spider-verse. Interestingly
it took me two years to track this thing down. Twice I went to several stores
on Free Comic Book Day and none of them carried this trade. I finally bought it
on Amazon a few weeks ago for about $7.

 

The Plot: The
Black Cat story sees her accused of a crime and Spidey getting DD to defend
her. There are also stories involving the Vulture running a teen gang and the
Sinister Six battling the Intelligentsia.

 (spoilers below)

 
Chapter 1 – A dude in wings falls from the sky to his death.
We find there have been a rash of falling deaths of late, which police chalk up
to the recently concluded “Spider-Island” arc: the theory is people who got
spider-powers in that story are web slinging when their powers cut out and they
die. Meanwhile Kingpin is sad that his spider powers cut out but cheers up when
a Horizon employee offers to sell him spider-sense jammers. Meanwhile Spidey
wins a fight with some robot cops. Meanwhile we see a teen runaway recruited
into the flying gang. Meanwhile MJ and Glory Grant go clubbing. Meanwhile Peter
and Carlie Cooper bump into each other for the first time since breaking up.
They realize they are both working on the same case and agree to work together.
Meanwhile teen recruit boy learns this gang is being run by the Vulture.

Chapter 2 – Spidey and Carlie do some CSI stuff at the
police lab. Vulture tells the new kid for being in his gang: they get to fly
around and steal stuff for him then at the end of the day they get to keep a
little bit for themselves. Then for some inexplicable reason we see Vulture’s head
out is above the club MJ and Gloria are at. The gang kids exit through the club
and pick a fight with Glory’s boyfriend. This prompts MJ to call Peter just as
he and Carlie had deduced Vulture’s scheme so Spidey heads off to the club
(without Carlie). The Vulture boys execute a mid-air heist but new kid has too
much conscience for Tooms’ liking so he cuts the power to his wings. Spidey
saves him in the nick of time. Spidey then fights the kids (who have laser
scythes) as Carlie arrives. She deduces the Vulture operates all their wings on
remote and tells Spidey so he can use magnetic webbing to jam the single.
Vulture retaliates by throwing a car at Carlie but Spidey saves her. Vulture
escapes. Carlie decides she can trust Spidey enough to work with him, though
she is still upset he kept his identity from her when they were dating. The
book ends with Carlie going to see MJ to talk about Peter.

Chapter 3 – Doc Ock’s debuts a bulky exoskeleton look as his
call to his together his latest Sinister Six of Sandman, Chameleon, Rhino,
Electro and Mysterio for one final big plan (Ock is terminally ill as of ASM
600). Chameleon has infiltrated the Intelligentsia (a group of super smart Hulk
and FF villains originally led by the Leader but now led by Modok). The
Intelligentsia takes down some Russian superheroes with a teleporter ray that
sends its target into orbit. Ock wants their weapon so the Sinister Six attack
them. The rest of the issue is a big fight that Ock’s team ultimately wins
allowing them to take possession of Modok’s tech.

Chapter 4 – Pete is down in the dumps about Carlie dumping
him and decides to take out his frustrations on some muggers when low and
behold the Black Cat crosses his path. He perks up and hits on her but Felicia
refuses to be the rebound girl. When she gets to her apartment she finds a
spider tracer on her costume and then police bust in and arrest her. The next
morning Pete goes to Horizon to learn that Felicia was arrested for stealing
from the lab. He knows she is innocent since he was fighting the crooks with
her when this went down. Pete tracks down Daredevil and asks him to help clear
Felicia. Felicia meanwhile has already broken out of police custody. Spidey and
DD come across a hostage situation but when DD doesn’t register it Pete
realizes it is all an illusion as it was a hologram projector stolen from
Horizon. They make their way into a tunnel which then collapses and as Pete
tries to crawl out he has the bad luck to grab a livewire as we see Felicia
standing over the heroes.

Chapter 5 – Foggy Nelson discovers the grave of Matt’s
father has been dug up. DD recovers and takes out the fuse box before Spidey
dies. He grabs Felicia and she says wasn’t trying to kill Spidey just hurt him
for leading the police to her apartment with his tracer. Spidey denies that and
everyone agrees to work together. They search for clues and find a guy locked
in a closet. He’s the one who sold Horizon out. DD detects the dude is poisoned
and has Spidey rush him to the hospital. While Spidey is gone DD asks Felicia
to steal something for him based on some conspiracy going on his own title with
a group called Black Spectre. They take out some generic thugs and disable an
elaborate security system. The last safeguard are the holograms which DD
ignores. DD and Felicia share a kiss after they complete the theft. Then a
flashback is actually working for these Spectre people and the whole frame-up
of her was a ruse to let her get close to DD. Meanwhile Pete sees them making
out and leaves (with the funny line “I think this is my super villain origin”).
DD takes Felicia home but before they can do the deed Matt gets the phone call
from Foggy about his father’s grave. 

 

Critical Thoughts: I’ll
take these on in order. I found the Vulture story to be a perfectly acceptable
comic book story. It’s not reinventing the wheel but it’s a fine use of one of
Spidey’s classic second tier rogues. I also found the personal life stuff with
Peter and Carlie to be well written and serve the purpose of setting a new
status quo for them. I never hated Carlie like so many other fans did. I
certainly get the general hate for the ending of Peter’s marriage to MJ,
particularly the way it was done; but I don’t think that should prejudice us
against every new love interest that comes down the pike in this title. I think
Carlie is a fine supporting character: she’s not great but she’s not terrible.
More importantly whether Peter dates her or not she can serve a role in the
title as his contact on the police force, something the titles have been
missing since the death of Jean DeWolf and that fits a good niche in
Spider-man’s street crime milieu. I suppose the only real flaw with the story
is the ridiculousness of Vulture (who is a senior citizen) keeping his
headquarters over a nightclub and that MJ happens to go that same nightclub at
just the right time to lead Peter there, but it’s not like Stan Lee and Gerry
Conway didn’t use the same type of coincidences all the time in their Spidey
stories.

I was not over fond of the Sinister Six vs. Intelligentsia
battle. Slott really upped the Six’s threat level his run on the title (they
would go on to take out the Avengers in a subsequent story arc). While I’m not
one to complain about taking villains seriously, I think this reads more like a
downgrade of the Intelligentsia than an upgrade for the Six; which is a real
shame since the team was just debuted a year earlier to be major Hulk villains
so why ruin that credibility so soon? I suppose you could say without the
Leader they are not at their full strength but it still strikes me as an
unnecessary choice.

Onto the main event, I enjoyed the Black Cat story quite a
bit. Admittedly I am prone to liking Black Cat stories anyway but I thought
this one was a fun use of her ambiguous relationship with the law and keeping
the reader guessing which side she is really on. I can’t say I love the idea of
Felicia hooking up with DD but since it is ultimately revealed she’s playing
him I’m okay with it. So much so that I went out and bought the DD trade that
follows this arc up, and I almost never buy DD trades. Again much like the
Vulture story it’s not going to go down in the annals of great Spidey stories
but it uses conventional story-telling and familiar characters well.

 
Grade: B. I
wouldn’t want to pay full price for this but for what Amazon sells it for it is
a rather entertaining collection of Spidey stories.

 

 

 

Waiting for the Trade – Captain America

Waiting for the Trade

by Bill Miller

 

Captain America:
Operation Rebirth

By Mark Waid & Ron
Garney

Collects Captain America 444-448
and 450-454

Before I start I just want to take a few words to honor the passing of Roger Ebert. Anyone who writes any kind of review about any form of popular entertainment owes Ebert a tremendous debt. I’ve read Ebert regularly since high school, own several of his books, and have tried to follow his example of looking at art both intellectually and as entertainment when crafting a review. RIP.

 

Why I Bought This: I
didn’t it. I saw it at the library and based on some feedback from Doomers who
consider it one of the better Cap stories, I figured as a Cap fan I should read
it if it is sitting there in front of me for free.
The Plot: Captain
America
had died at the end of Mark Gruenwald’s long run on the title. Now he finds
himself revived by the Red Skull and fighting alongside his long dead
girlfriend Sharon Carter.


Chapter 1 – Terrorists take the President hostage and demand
Captain America
surrender himself in exchange. The Avengers arrive instead and save the day but
feel the need to explain to the public why Cap didn’t show and hold a press
conference announcing his death. In an undisclosed location we see Cap’s body
in a frozen block of ice.

Chapter 2 – Cap is resurrected and runs into his long time
dead girlfriend Sharon Carter. She explains how she and some non-characters
saved Cap. Cap finds he doesn’t have his Super Soldier strength at the moment
but Sharon
insists on taking him through a teleport portal to “save the free world”
anyway. They fight some guards as Cap’s strength slowly starts to return before
running into the Red Skull. Cap goes to attack him when Skull reveals he is the
one who saved Cap’s life. With Skull around Cap doubts Sharon is real, when suddenly a flash of
light changes the building they’re in front of into a Nazi fortress.

Chapter 3 – Skull reveals that a group of Nazi’s got their
hands on a defunct cosmic cube in which he had trapped Hitler’s consciousness
(back in the 1970s in Super Villain Team
Up
). Now they are powering the Cube back up and Hitler is using it from inside
to change history so that he won WWII. Skull doesn’t think Hitler will
appreciate having been trapped by him all these years and is aiding Cap to save
his own hide. Cap takes on the Nazis while Skull makes for the Cube. Cap stops
the Skull which gives the Cube time to teleport away. While the trio flies to
the next location Sharon
reveals how she is alive (it boils down to spy stuff: her death was faked and
she was left behind enemy lines). The Cube is inside an American military base.
Cap tries to talk their way in but Skull attacks and Cap is forced to follow.
He runs into the general commanding the base and is ordered to stand down. Cap
decks the general and proceeds where he finds Skull and Sharon battling the Nazis. The Cube activates
and changes the world, and then Sharon
disappears with the Cube in the confusion.

Chapter 4 – Cap and Skull battle side by side with Cap at
one point saving Skull’s life (thus making them “even”) and Cap remarks he is
finally up to full power. Cap finds Sharon who is trying to use the Cube to
reverse the reality warp but with Hitler inside it cannot be overridden
externally. She volunteers to let the Cube absorb her so she can deal with
Hitler, but Cap takes it from her. He ponders using it when Skull tries to
steal it. Cap stops him and is joined casually by Bucky to celebrate his
victory, at which point we cut away and see Skull has the Cube and has put Cap
inside it in a dream world.

 

Chapter 5 – In the real world Skull’s Cube still has no
power so he and Sharon retreat. In the Cube we get a long 1940s-ish adventure
with Cap and Bucky fighting Nazi saboteurs that occasionally has glimpses of
the modern era breaking thru. What it comes down to is Skull needs Cap and
Hitler to neutralize each other in the Cube so he can use it, but Cap figures
it out from the inside, frees himself and takes the Skull down in a near
murderous rage. Skull tries for the Cube again and Cap literally disarms him
which causes the Cube to explode and presumably kills the Red Skull. Cap and Sharon then leave to get
answers to her spy stuff.

Chapter 6 – Sharon
is at Steve’s apartment when armed men in suits burst in. She escapes and we
learn they are not after her. They are federal agents here to charge Steve with
treason. After they arrest him they learn he’s Cap and take him to President
Clinton. Clinton
lays out the case against Cap. First, that he attacked a military base
alongside the Red Skull and a rogue SHIELD agent. Second, that Machine Smith
has shown up with an anti-aircraft laser cannon that allegedly only Cap and Clinton had the
blueprints to. They believe Cap sold the blueprints to Skull in exchange for
his life. In order to spare the country a public trial, Clinton
strips Cap of his costume, shield and citizenship and exiles him to England. Once
there he meets up with Sharon
and vows to clear his name.

Chapter 7 – Sharon gives Steve a new costume, a replica of
his old one sans stars and stripes (so blue with red boots and gloves) and the
energy shield that is probably the hallmark of Waid’s run makes its first
appearance. They attempt to take a train into Moldavia (the country with the
laser cannon) and are attacked by three low level Iron Man types. The heroes
win, jump off the train and attack another U.S. military base where Cap steals
a fighter jet. He flies right into Moldavia where the laser cannon
promptly shoot him down.

Chapter 8 – Cap saves Sharon
on a single parachute in a scene reminiscent of Terminal Velocity (a highly underrated action film btw). He has a
general idea of where the laser cannon is based on the angle of the blast that
shot their plane down and so he and Sharon storm another military base where
Cap destroys the cannon. They are then captured by Machine Smith’s agents. We
learn Machine Smith has dozens of robot bodies he can jump his consciousness
into and when Cap was mostly dead he managed to read his mind and back it up
onto CD so that he knows everything Cap knows. Then to demonstrate he uses Cap
security codes to shut down the Hellicarrier in mid-air, sending it hurtling
towards a mountain. And finally we see he has sent a robot duplicate to meet
with Clinton in
the form of the Moldavian ambassador.

Chapter 9 – Cap busts free. He leaves it to Sharon to hack into Machine Smith’s system
and save the Hellicarrier while he heads off to save the President. He goes to
the Latverian border and surrenders himself to Doom. Cap then convinces Doom to
make him an ambassador so he can go back to America and Doom gives him a ship
and supplies. At Camp David, Machine Smith
makes his move and seizes the nuclear football. He intends to Nuke the world (I
guess leaving only machines alive ala Terminator).
And because he is a super-villain he also reveals to Clinton how he framed Cap right before he
presses the button. And then in a fabulously drawn set of panels Cap arrives in
the nick of time in his classic costume and emerges through flames to save the
day. In the aftermath Clinton
reinstates Steve’s citizenship and identity as Cap.

Chapter 10 – Cap and Sharon
liberate slaves in a fake Asian country and Cap retrieves the CD with his
memories on it.

 
Critical Thoughts: I
like the second story a lot more than the first, but overall I think time has
been kind to this.

I say time has been kind because that first story arc with
Skull and the Cube is the story that caused me to drop Cap’s monthly book back
in the day. My main problem with it at the time was it felt so retro compared
with what Gruenwald had been doing. It’s like Sharon is back with no reason and then when
Skull wants to trap Cap in a dream world it is with Bucky’s memory. Neither of
those two are characters I’d ever cared much for to begin with. With Bucky in
particular I felt Cap should be over his death by now. In Marvel time Cap’s
been awake 10 years when this story is occurring and that’s plenty of time for
Cap to have made his peace with Bucky’s death. And other writers had agreed as
we hadn’t seen Cap whine about Bucky for more than a decade prior to Waid. Yet here
Cap comes out of the Cube in an absolute fury that Skull would use Bucky’s
memory; but the Skull has done scores of things much worse than that to Cap in
the past. And then it ends with Cap’s Shield ripping the Skull’s arm off, and I
was just like I’m done. It’s not that I don’t think Cap wouldn’t do whatever it
takes to stop the Skull from creating a Nazi apocalypse with the Cube but it’s
gratuitous for no reason and doesn’t jive with what we know of the shield and
Cap’s skill with it. I conclude by noting we’ve never seen an errant throw of
the shield sever limbs before or since; and with good reason.

I’ll also add it really irked me at the time that Waid flat
out refused to address any of Gruenwald’s lingering plot threads like the fate
of Jack Flagg and Free Spirit, who were his current partners at the time of his
death. He doesn’t want to write about those characters fine, but at least
dedicate a panel to Cap thanking them for handling his hotline calls (the fate
of which was also never addressed) during his death and then send them on their
way. By contrast when Gruenwald took over the title he clearly didn’t care for
his predecessor’s supporting characters like partner Nomad and fiancée Bernie
Rosenthal; but Gru didn’t have Cap just wake up one day and forget they existed:
rather by his third issue he had Nomad solve a solo case and decide he was
ready to strike out on his own and six months later Bernie went to law school
and left the title as a character so that a little while later Cap and her
could break up citing long distance relationship stuff. A writer has to follow
their own story inspiration but in a serialized title like this the switch
between writers should still be a smooth transition for both readers and the
integrity of the central character.

However, those criticisms are grounded to the moment.
Looking at this story in a vacuum as a trade, I think the first arc is an
average Cap vs. the Skull story. I still feel the tone of the Bucky chapter is
flawed but certainly the idea of a Cosmic Cube with Hitler inside of it is very
high stakes and gist for a classical Cap story. Sharon’s return also doesn’t feel as
flagrantly retro reading this now as it did then since now everyone comes back
from the dead (and in the long term her return has worked out pretty well for
future writers). Skull’s motivations certainly make sense as well in this
story, i.e. self preservation with a hidden plan to the seize power for himself.

The second arc is actually something I was reading here for
the first time. Again there are parts that are ludicrous. Cap gets stripped of
his citizenship way too easily, but I can let that slide realizing this was
issue 450 and the writers of Cap tend to explore big ideas that are fundamental
to the character in Cap’s anniversary issues, and so in that sense this is a
challenge that would affect Cap on deeply personal level and that usually
translates into a good story idea for any character. So how we get to that
point isn’t so important, although the idea of the laser cannon being the
MacGuffin that triggers this story is deeply nonsensical. First of all given
the state of technology in the Marvel Universe, this isn’t much of a state secret
in the grand scheme of things to trigger the reaction it does from the
President. But even on its own terms the plot device fails logic 101, in that
neither Clinton
nor Cap could build or design that laser cannon thus the idea that only those
two men have seen the plans for it is fundamentally flawed.

However, I did like that story as it has some really nice
Cap moments in it. On the quiet moment front his romantic tension with Sharon feels a lot more
natural in this arc than the first one; as is his range of reactions to being
exiled. I also liked the interplay between Cap and Doom; two major Marvel
characters that I think really should interact more often than they do. On the
big moment front, I love that Cap triangulates the location of the laser cannon
by deliberately getting his plane shot down—it’s a totally ballsy move that
feels absolutely right for the character’s confidence that he can do that and
survive. Plus the moment where Cap saves the day in the climax is so well
drawn, it practically makes you want to get up and cheer “f*ck yea!”
Grade C+. I still
don’t particularly love Waid’s take on Cap, but I can absolutely understand why
that second story arc is held in such high esteem by so many.