Sunday, September 18, 2011

Guess who's coming to dinner? Can The New Ultimate Spider Man win the hearts and minds of comic book fans?

Marvel's latest gamble and ploy to snatch your hard earned dollars is to kill off Peter Parker/ The Amazing Spider Man and replace him with a bi-racial 13 year old named Miles Morales. News of this sweeping change in one of Marvel's most successful titles in recent years (Ultimate Spider Man...kind of an alternate universe for a younger generation of fans and newcomers to the Marvel Universe) caused quite a bit of upheaval in the comic world and the realm of pop culture. The obvious objections were bandied about by FOX NEWS jack balls and politically incorrect blow-hards who saw this as an opportunity to pull a race card...but I thought that the whole thing was interesting because of my current endeavors to establish a book about a black superhero in the marketplace. As a lifelong fan of Spider Man, I will freely admit that I have often entertained the thought of creating an African American version of old webhead (in fact I have done so in the latest edition of Lucius Hammer Issue 2...on sale Oct 1...check for details) just because I always felt that there are so many people of different ethnicity out there that might want to vicariously experience the thrill and pain of being Spider Man. On the reverse side of this issue...I love Peter Parker. There's really no way that anybody is ever going to replicate what Stan Lee did as a creator/writer with Spider Man. Spider Man is just as valid as any Greek Myth or Norse Poetry. He is a hero that represents all of us in terms of balancing his great powers with responsibility and the rigors of everyday life. I was very unsure if morphing this great pop icon into a poster child for racial diversity was a good move. I knew that it would incense white fans because Peter Parker is white and for that is Spider Man. But it could also insult Black/Hispanic fans as well if not done properly or treated in a stereotypical manner. After having mulled it over a few times, me not really being one to dabble in the Ultimate line of comics too much, I picked this inaugural issue of BLACK/LATINO Spider-Man up with a stack of NEW DC 52's and was more than pleasantly surprised. The first issue is a brilliant set-up to what could turn out to be a milestone in Marvel Comics publishing history. The story is written by Brian Michael Bendis, a writer that I have mixed feelings about but nonetheless have always considered him to be very competent and a cut above the rest. Bendis has written thousands of stories featuring Marvel characters for the past ten years (most notably Spider Man, Daredevil and The Avengers) an old school Marvel fan...sometimes I feel in his effort to try and update or hit the refresh button on these characters...they sometimes get lost in translation. His run on DAREDEVIL came across as more of a POLICE PROCEDURAL/COURTROOM drama which I found to be in direct conflict with the very nature of a SUPERHERO COMIC...but he knows how to craft a story using real world events and newspaper headlines. His characterization of black folks has also been something that has annoyed me in the past. Bendis is solely responsible for the current incarnation of possibly my favorite Marvel Comics Minority Super-Hero, Luke Cage. I detest his version of Luke Cage and have refused to purchase the Avengers comic for years because of his presence. He seems to get all of his knowledge of black folks from popular gangster hood movies and jumbled episodes of COPS and Law and Order. I went into reading his new Ultimate Spider Man with all of these thoughts in my head and was forced to dismiss them due to some really inspired writing. Kudos, Mr. got me. This story is current...the characters are well thought out and all of the amazing fantasy that was present in Spider Man's early adventures seems to be here as well. Stealing some inspiration from the recent docu-film Waiting For Superman, Bendis drops Miles Morales into the world of charter school lotteries where the precocious thirteen year old and his parents have cautious optimism over being picked to attend a quality school. There's also a mysterious but cool Uncle in the mix who is very influential to Miles but his presence is unwanted by Miles' parents. I will not spoil the source of Miles and his newly found super powers but it's cool and should appeal to thirteen year old boys all over the world. This book is damn good and I can't wait to see if Bendis can deliver the goods. The art is also hot...Sara Pichelli has a clean yet vibrant fluidity to her panel flow and visuals. It's just like watching a movie. Take my word...the change from Caucasian to African American/ Latino brings with it an interesting alternative storyline that may make Spidey even more accessible to millions of people who have never been exposed. And aint nothing wrong with that.



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