No, seriously. Does this series come out twice a month just to torture me?
|Plot:||Stan Lee, Steve Ditko|
|Reprinted In:||Spider-Man: Marvel Age Digest #3|
Spider-Man robs a fast food restaurant. He leaps over a police car and takes to the webs to make his getaway. Unfortunately, Peter Parker has no recollection of committing the crime. He goes to bed and wakes up the next morning to find out that Spider-Man has robbed an all-night coffeehouse. Peter begins to wonder if he is doing all of this in his sleep.
Jonah Jameson loves it. He wants any information on Spider-Man's crimes and he draws the attention of a costumed figure who calls himself Mysterio. Jameson agrees to publicize Mysterio's challenge to Spider-Man for a duel on the Brooklyn Bridge. Spidey shows up and is defeated easily. He dives into the East River to make his escape.
Mysterio is touted as a hero. He issues another challenge to Spider-Man. This time the wall-crawler webs a video camera to the wall, pretends to lose so that Mysterio will blab that he disguised himself as Spidey and committed the robberies, and then ends up defeating Mysterio easier than Mysterio defeated him. The video clears Spidey and that's pretty much the end of that.
Todd DeZago takes the issue off and, though I've been fairly hard on him lately, I must admit I miss him. His replacement is Mike Raicht who seems to have a knack for eliminating all of the good scenes from the original. Let's compare for a moment. The scene of Spidey going to a psychiatrist, the scene where Spidey must flee from a crowd that want to capture him for the police, the scene where New York holds a parade for Mysterio, the scene where Peter Parker is formally introduced to Mysterio by J. Jonah Jameson, and the fight scene in which Mysterio and Spidey romp through various movie sets are all in ASM #13, June 1964. They're all gone here. In addition, there is no attempt made to explain how Mysterio accomplishes his feats. After he robs the fast food restaurant, he actually leaps over the police car and swings away on webbing. How does he do this? "I was a special-effects maker in Hollywood." That's about the only explanation we get.
As for the fight scenes... well, it's the same old story. In the original stories, they are dynamic and exciting. In the new versions, they are tiresome and routine. Check out Mysterio standing on the side of the bridge to avoid Spidey's punch on page 10, panel 1 of the original. Check out the web-slinger trying to battle through the smoke in every panel on page 11. Now look at the fights in the new issue. Ho-hum. Two pages, Spidey loses. Ho-hum. Two pages, Spidey wins. And why does the web-slinger lose the first fight and win the second? Who knows? In the original, we can see the way Mysterio's tricks take Spidey by surprise and we watch as, later, the web-slinger adjusts to them. Here there's no attempt to make sense of it at all. The plot says Spidey loses one, then wins one and that's all the script bothers to give us.
A final script point, about changes where no changes are needed: In both versions of the story, Liz Allan gets a new hairstyle and Flash Thompson tries to compliment her. In ASM #13 he says, "Gosh, Liz, I almost didn't recognize you! You're beautiful now!" which prompts Liz to frostily reply, "Really, Mister Thompson? And what was I before, pray tell?" In Marvel Age #12, Flash says, "Hey, Liz! What'd you do to your hair?" which prompts Liz to say, "Thanks a lot, Flash." It isn't until Flash says, "No, I mean... it looks... forget it" that it is clear that Liz has taken Flash's comment as an insult. What is the point of making this change? To make the exchange more subtle? It is so subtle you can practically miss it. Because Flash's original comment is too hamheaded? Well, Flash is a hamhead, isn't he? There is so much in these original versions that is not broken. Why try to fix it?
Let's face it. Rewriting these Lee/Ditko classics is the most thankless job in comics. I don't take any pleasure in raking Mike Raicht over the coals for his first effort in this series. Better luck next time, Mike. Maybe you'll luck out and get a job on a completely different comic.
So much for the words. In the picture department, Derec Aucoin's artwork has been steady in the past but here seems a little too consciously cartoonish. Under his hand, Peter looks like he's aged about ten years since Valentine De Landro's version last issue while Aunt May keeps shedding decades, her breast size growing even as she's looking younger than me! But I do like his "camera angles" (Mysterio's entrance on page 8, panel 3 for instance) and he has a great grasp of perspective (see page 6 panel 4, page 9 panel 4, and page 13 panel 2). Sure wish the fights scenes were more than just pages full of poses, though.
One step forward, two steps back. Last issue was showing some potential but this one is back to two webs. When is Todd coming back?