Comics : Bullet Points #5

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This review was first published on: 2007.

Background...

The course of a single bullet has changed history. Steve Rogers became Iron Man and then died. Peter Parker became the Hulk. Reed Richards lost his family and then became director of S.H.I.E.L.D. Smaller changes, such as Bruce Banner becoming Spider-Man and Stephen Strange becoming Wolverine, have occurred. Nonetheless, Galactus stands on the verge of devouring Earth. It remains to be seen if Reed can call upon all the superhero community in order to save the planet Earth.

In Detail...

Bullet Points #5
May 2007 : SM Guest
Summary: Alternate world Peter Parker
Editor:  Mark Paniccia
Writer:  J. Michael Straczynski
Artist:  Tommy Lee Edwards
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Review

Galactus stands ominously amidst the tall skyscrapers of New York City. The U.S. military attempts to intercede. Unfortunately, the Silver Surfer uses the Power Cosmic to annihilate the brave men. On the S.H.I.E.L.D. heli-carrier, Reed tries to devise a plan to stop Galactus. He informs the President that there is very little chance of defeating the galactic entity. Despite the grim chances presented, Reed won't go down without a fight.

.H.I.E.L.D. taps into all worldwide communication systems to inform the world of Reed's decision to fight. The X-Men, Dr. Doom, Magneto, Namor, Cloak and Dagger, Moon Knight, the Punisher, and Tony Stark (in the memory of Steve Rogers he puts on the Iron Man armor) are inspired to heed Reed's call. However, some heroes are not available to fight such as Thor. Reed's TV broadcast is heard by the fugitive Peter Parker. At Reed's request for help, Peter transforms into the Hulk and leaps off to New York.

short time later, Reed and Tony prepare for battle. They come to a mutual understanding. The world's meta-humans all converge on Galactus and the Silver Surfer. A spectacular battle erupts. The combined force of the meta-humans proves to be brave. However, they are still easily out-classed by the might of Galactus. Suddenly, the Hulk makes his appearance known. Peter heroically confronts Galactus. Galactus throws everything at the Hulk but he manages to move forward. Galactus is made aware of a new emotional rage. Peter's defiant stand inspires a guilty conscience in the Silver Surfer.

Peter's stand has left him beaten and broken. He manages to croak out an apology to Aunt May. As the Hulk dies, the Silver Surfer takes action. He manages to annoy Galactus to the point where the world devourer leaves Earth angrily. The Silver Surfer remains relegated to Earth. The heroes look down at the Hulk's corpse realizing that the shunned monster of society saved them all.

Later, a grand funeral is held for those who perished in the defense of Earth. Reed gives a stirring eulogy. His words are interspersed with images of what transpired in the previous four issues (Ben Parker being shot, Steve Rogers dying, Reed's fateful rocket trip, and Peter's transformation into the Hulk). Aunt May lovingly looks down at Peter's gravestone, conveniently placed next to the resting place of Steve Rogers. An inspirational quote by John Donne ends the issue and mini-series.

In General...

Let me start off by saying that Bullet Points was not JMS's best work. Everything that makes a good comic book - characterization, solid plot threads, seamless integration between the panels and script, and personality - Bullet Points did not possess. That being said, issue #5 surprised me by being rising above the level of turgidness into mediocrity. There is just something indefinably good about involving Galactus and Silver Surfer. The threat of cosmic upheaval seems to bring out the best in Marvel's writers.

I actually felt some emotion coming out of the cracks. While the goal was simple, the characters (and hence the plot) were striving for something bigger than introducing moments designed only for comic book sales and coolness. Put quite simply, there was something at stake here.

Peter's resolution and redemption was perhaps the most enjoyable part of this story. JMS finally decided to inject the "everyman" ethos into Peter's mindset - something that has made 616 Spider-Man into an American pop culture icon. His decision to defy the inevitability of Galactus provided plenty of pathos for the reader. For the first time I actually cared about what would happen to these characters, especially Peter.

The "everyman" approach worked well for Reed Richards's character. This was despite the fact that Reed's taking up of the mantle of Nick Fury should've never been developed as a conceivable plot device. The character's story resolution works well if you can suspend the disbelief that the analytic Mr. Fantastic is now the cigar chomping spy smasher. JMS even manages to inject some of the supporting cast with some life. In particular, I wish that Tony Stark's motivations were developed more in the preceding four issues. His taking up of the mantle of Iron Man was a nice touch.

All that being said, most of the problems that infected the previous four issues were still present. Bruce Banner as Spider-Man is a good example of two identities being mashed together with the expectation that the reader will suspend rational thinking by his sheer excitement. It just doesn't work, even to those paying only minimal attention. Secondly, everything feels entirely rushed. There was never a sense of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby rushing to get to the end of their story for those who read Galactus's original appearance in Fantastic Four. A rushed feeling also makes the reader quick to make assumptions about the ending. I found the ending pretty predictable. For a mini-series that prides itself on a grandiose premise (one bullet changes everything), the ending was standard superhero fare.

The art was solid. Particular praise should go to Edwards's coloring job. There's some real diversity on the color palette, particularly in the huge battle that ends the issue. One issue I had was the mishmash of costumes from different eras in Marvel history. For instance, some characters wear their classic uniforms while others wear more modern threads (i.e. Storm wears her first costume while the original five X- Men wear their X-Factor pajamas). It really doesn't matter to a non-Marvel history buff. The again, this mini-series main audience is Marvel history buffs due to the subject matter. The editor, Mark Paniccia, should have emphasized better integration of research and stylistic elements. And Spider- Man just looks odd in a purple (!!!) dominated ensemble.

Overall Rating...

Despite all of negatives accrued over the previous four issues, JMS surprises us all by creating a moderately entertaining ending. However, nobody better be clamoring for Bullet Points 2!