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Remember Marvel's cocky reply to DC's Crisis On Infinite Earths? "We got it right the first time." You know what? They were right. Too bad they forgot they were right. Enter John Byrne and Spider-Man Chapter One. Here are just ten reasons why this story sucked. I'm sure there are plenty more.
- Lame dialogue. If you're going to update Spidey's origin for the new millennium, how about having the main characters talk like it's the nineties, not the "Leave It To Beaver" fifties or early sixties. This cornball dialogue is part of the charm of the first 30 or so issues of Amazing Spider-Man, but hearing it again in an "update" is just plain silly.
- Peter Parker and Otto Octavius get their super powers at the same radiation experiment disaster. John Byrne was so proud to have found a way to reduce the number of freak radiation accidents in the Marvel Universe by one. News flash, Mr. Byrne. No one else cared. No one else even thought this was a problem or stretched the bounds of plausibility. Just you. It seems pretty obvious to me that radiation works differently in the Marvel Universe than it does in the real world. Let's just leave it at that, please.
- The Big Man and the Enforcers are nowhere to be found. The more traditional criminal element has been a part of the Spider-Man mythos since Amazing Spider-Man #10. Byrne eliminates the Spider-verse's first representatives of this villain type. Why? Are the Enforcers too hokey? What they are is colorful and interesting and a whole lot of fun to read about. Leaving them out was a mistake. Then again, considering what happened to the other Spidey villains in this series maybe it was a blessing.
- Electro wears a completely generic blue and white costume. Electro, as created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, had one of the most recognizable costumes in the entire Marvel Universe. Now he looks like any number of lame villains that have been created over the last twenty years by writers and artists with extreme creativity disorders. This is also high in the running for most pathetic retcon ever. First, because it was an utterly unnecessary retcon. NO ONE was clamoring for a retroactive Electro costume change. Second, it so blatantly clashes with previous Electro stories for no good reason. What a joke.
- Norman Osborn and William Baker are cousins. Here's where it became really apparent that John Byrne has totally lost his freaking mind. What, every character with brown wavy hair must be related? For Pete's sake, why? It's brown, wavy hair! Millions of people have brown, wavy hair! They aren't all on each others Christmas card lists!
- The Tinkerer is placing magnetic energy generators all over the city so the Vulture can fly. Let me get this straight. This means the Vulture can only fly in New York City. Wonderful, a retcon that severely cripples the abilities and versatility of a major Spider-Man villain. That's what we need. So, what about those stories where he's flying in Las Vegas or in the desert? Did the Tinkerer drive out there too and make magnetic generator slot machines and cactus?
- The burglar was casing the Parker house because Ben bought a computer. As if a computer is such a status symbol that it's going to attract a burglar. Computers are about as uncommon as microwave ovens. Besides, didn't Byrne read or at least hear about Amazing Spider-Man #200? What's the status of that story now in Marvel continuity? Generally speaking a retcon is supposed to fix problems, continuity errors and plausibility gaps, not create new ones.
- The burglar returned to the Parker home to thank Spider-Man for letting him get away. I thought the whole point of the tragedy of Spidey's origin was the shocking coincidence, the randomness, of it all. The idea that it's a small world and what you don't do today can affect what happens tomorrow in completely unexpected ways. But, no, in John Byrne's world everything has to make sense. Everything has to fit together like in a story. The real world is too messy! We don't want Spidey in the real world! But radiation has to act like it does in the real world. But, umm, nevermind.
- Spider-Man fights every other villain because Norman Osborn put them up to it. So, Norman was the puppet master pulling the strings since day one? Byrne tries so hard to make things fit and then he does something that doesn't even pass the stupid check. Norman Osborn had a GROWING hatred and obsession with Spider-Man. Byrne makes it seems like Norman sees Spidey on TV and immediately thinks, "I must devote my every waking moment to making Spider-Man miserable." Yeah, that's MUCH more believable than Stan Lee's evolution of the character and creation of the other Spidey villains. NOT.
- The entire mind-set that produced this series. The very idea that people wouldn't get into Spider-Man because of some plausibility gaps or anachronisms in stories that are nearly forty years old is just ludicrous. I don't have any problems reading these early classic issues and updating them to modern times IN MY HEAD with no help from anyone else. That's all you have to do if you're that concerned about it. I don't need John Byrne fixing everything for me and then forcing it down my throat by saying, "This is the real origin now! If you don't like it, tough! And we're going to remind you of this disaster every time Electro makes an appearance!"
- Because ten just ain't enough... Doctor Octopus holds the staff of an entire research facility hostage and no one notices. Don't these people have families? Mailboxes filling up? If one of your family members went off to work and never returned what would you do? Make some phone calls? Call the police? Make a trip to their place of employment? Not in John Byrne-land, I guess. It's this kind of utter disregard for common sense that sinks this series. To think that Chapter One was created to tidy up the first batch of Spidey stories, and all it accomplished was to make things more ridiculous. In the original Stan Lee tale it appears that Doc Ock just kept the staff past working hours that day. Nothing to get family members in an uproar over. What a disaster. Sad, really.
Thanks, Marvel Comics and John Byrne for breaking something that didn't even need fixing. Let's wipe this whole sorry saga from Spidey history and go back to the Stan Lee and Steve Ditko origin. That one works for me just fine. It's worked for forty years and will continue to work long after Chapter One is forgotten. The first step towards fixing this is to put Electro back in his original costume. Have a nice day.