Thursday, June 09, 2005

So Long, and Thanks for the Homage: Spectacular Spider-Man 27

One of the good things about having a large chain bookstore around, and one thing I miss about comics in grocery and convenience stores, is that you can often find month or two old issues that are already marked up in back issue bins at comic shops for cover price, if you hunt a little. Such was the case yesterday, when I picked up Spectacular Spider-Man 27, which is both the final issue of that incarnation of the title (I'm sure it will come back in to circulation again, maybe when I'm writing the ol' web head), and also of Paul Jenkins's tenure writing in the character.

Drawn by Jenkins's collaborator on some of his early stories with the character in Peter Parker, Spider-Man, Mark Buckingham, with beautiful coloring by D'Israeli, it's a fitting farewell issues, as it mines the same territory that made his initial stories so good. It's a quiet, character based story with Peter reminiscing about his childhood and talking to Uncle Ben. Peter never appears in costume or fights a supervillian, but it doesn't matter, as you can't help but smile at Peter remembering his childhood, and even be touched at times. It's a good stand alone story and a fitting farewell that reminds you of the best qualities of Jenkins work on the character.

That said, as emotionally satisfying as it is, especially if you've read those early issues, something about it bothered me (beyond the slightly disturbing acknowledgement by Ben that he was a figment of Peter's imagination); the use of imagery from Calvin and Hobbes. The first few pages, a flashback to a snowball fight between Ben and Peter, look like they could have been taken from a Sunday Calvin strip, probably as much due to D'Israeli's coloring and what it's evoking more than anything else. It's the use of snowmen in various stages of mischief, though, taken directly from Calvin's repetoire of gags that marred an otherwise beautifully done issue for me. Because I'm really not sure how to feel about it.

The question that immediately springs to mind is whether it's a blatant swipe from Bill Watterson or a tribute to his work, but I think the more pressing question is whether the distinction matters, especially in a comic that otherwise did not have to draw comparisons to other people's work to evoke an emotional reaction.

The odd thing is, I've never cared about this sort of thing before. While I'm not as fond of them as Cronin is, I like cover homages. I'd rather read something like Alan Moore's run (with roughly 12 dozen artists) on Supreme than any "real" Superman comic you'd care to think of published in who-knows-how long (at least until we finally get All Star Superman.). One of the things I love about my favorite cartoonists is that they evoke masters like Kirby and Toth.

I think it's a combination of the lack of neccessity and the fact that it tied in to the most emotional moment in the issue. I don't want to spoil it for any of the four of you reading who might now want to read it, so I won't describe it in detail. But it's part of the climax of the story, a very touching scene involving Aunt May at Ben's grave. And while it's still affecting, it's hindered a bit by the voice in the back of my head yelling "That's from Calvin and Hobbes."

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Anonymous Puffy Treat said...

Now I wonder what your reaction to PAD's "Calvin and Guido" story from his first X-Factor annual would have been!

6/10/2005 02:25:00 AM  
Blogger Brad Curran said...

I'll have to find that. It's may be the only David X-Factor comic I don't own. Well, besides the Madrox mini.

6/11/2005 01:27:00 PM  
Blogger Bill Reed said...

Army of Darkness and Hitchhiker's Guide references in the same week?

This is heaven.

6/11/2005 08:49:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anybody know what was in the fershluginer box????
(I know that's sort of a spoiler, but I figure it will tweak someone's interest as much as it might give anything away.)

7/16/2005 08:23:00 PM  

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