Friday, March 2, 2012

Best of Spider-Man Since "Brand New Day" Part 1


With Brian Michael Bendis leaving the Avengers - and word that the end of Avengers vs X-Men are going to have large repercussions for the Marvel Universe, it's gotten a lot of speculation going on. Dan Slott, who took over writing duties of Amazing Spider-man, has achieved a lot of that title - with Spider-Island, and the upcoming swan-song of Doctor Octopus in "Ends of the Earth". With all the changes happening at Marvel, could Dan Slott's tenure on Amazing Spider-Man come to and end with that final Doc Ock storyline?

That's only speculation -- BUT... If it was true, it would mean the end of probably one of the greatest and most creative Spider-Man runs since Stan Lee and Steve Ditko wrote the character. This includes not just Dan Slott's solo tenure on the title -- but going all the way back to the controversial "Brand New Day" - where Amazing Spider-Man changed to three issues a month, with a rotating team of writers and artists. (Dan Slott was the most prominent of those writers.)


"Brand New Day" was coming off of "One More Day" - in which Marvel magically divorced Spider-Man from Mary Jane, making him a single bachelor again. A lot of people where decidedly not happy about how that went down -- and I might have been one of them. Spider-Man was married to MJ for all the time I've been reading comics. Marvel attempted to make Spider-Man single previously, with horrible, wretched results - as they seemingly killed off MJ - which made Peter single, but also miserable in every issue afterword. Not exactly relatable. J Michael Straczynski was leaving after his run on Amazing Spider-Man - which I credit him for having saved the character from a decade-long slump the character was suffering through before that. JMS had effectively repaired Peter and MJ's marriage. So when "One More Day" came about, where Spider-Man made a deal with the devil to save Aunt May's life, in exchange for his marriage -- it was just a huge PR disaster. The sole goal was to make Spider-Man single, and supposedly more relatable, again.


One More Day took place after that - and... quite frankly - Spider-Man being single again simply couldn't have been better! Why does Spider-Man work better single? It's really simple, and I wouldn't have thought it true until I saw it in action. Marriage shrinks you're universe. Your spouse obviously should be the center of your world. Your family, especially if it starts growing, becomes you're universe. At least that's my impression of it. That's certainly what happened to Spider-Man. Where Spider-Man once thrived on a soap-opera level of supporting characters; for years he had fewer and fewer supporting characters in his life. Even when MJ was supposedly dead - Peter's biggest supporting character turned into Randy Robertson, his room mate. He use to have Flash Thompson, Gwen Stacy, J Jonah Jameson, Robbie Robertson, Liz Allen, Harry Osborn - and any number of supporting characters making up Spider-Man's world. Mary Jane was now the main supporting character, along with Aunt May. Whooooo! ...... What a full cast! Peter's wife and elderly aunt now pretty much made up the entire Spider-Man cast. Tony Stark, for a time, was welcome addition to that group - until the Civil War made Tony become a jerk.


The married and smaller-social universe for Spider-Man simply didn't work as well as when he was single. Now that he was magically divorced? Suddenly it's the 60s again - and almost every old supporting cast member returned to Spider-Man's life. It was mostly due to the incredible team of writers who set up this new status quo; returning Harry Osborn, Flash, and others to Peter's friends -- and adding in a slew of new and engaging characters to the group. Spider-Man stories was once again a soap-opera! And it's been great ever since.


So anyway -- with the thought of Dan Slott potentially leaving bringing this renaissance of Spider-Man comics to an end, I thought I'd look back at all the best moments since Brand New Day.

Harry Osborn


Harry use to be Peter's best friend. They shared an apartment for a long while. Peter, though, wasn't a very good friend. (At least I never thought so.) His duel life as Spider-Man forced Peter to lie to Harry a lot -- which over time made Harry's life worse. He knew his roommate and friend was never dependable; he famously got hooked on drugs for a while. And when Norman Osborn, the Green Goblin, woke up from his coma -- that made matters worse. Norman Osborn had discovered Spider-Man's secret identity a long time ago - and during his epic campaign of revenge, Spider-Man girlfriend Gwen Stacy was famously murdered. Norman Osborn also died - impaled by his glider. Harry eventually took up the mantle of the Green Goblin in his father's place - which drove Harry insane and eventually killed him.

Norman Osborn eventually came back alive - the Goblin Serum in his veins supposedly giving him a slight regenerative ability. It allowed him to survive and heal - with Osborn laying in wait in Europe for a long while before his return.

With the new marriage-less continuity of Brand New Day - Harry was suddenly back and alive as well. Did Peter get his best friend back as a bonus side-deal with the devil? Harry's return wasn't dealt with for a long while, keeping readers wondering. Yet Harry's return was probably one of the more symbolic "everything is better again". Harry was now being treated like a true friend. He was rich, and also had a girlfriend and possible marriage on the horizon. Harry bought the Coffee Bean - the old hangout they use to frequent during the John Romita era. Peter still had conflicts and problems with Harry, over money, or his Goblin legacy -- but over all he became a great supporting member of the cast.


When the origin of Harry's eventual return was finally revealed - it was satisfying, even if a bit forced, given the narrative they had to work within. It essentially posited that, if Norman Osborn was able to survive being impaled by his own glider - then Harry could have survived his supposed death. So where was he all this time if he was really alive? Osborn had had his body transported to Europe and held him prisoner in "rehab" - to help his recover from a possible relapse on drugs.

Menace


The first big mystery in the pages of Brand New Day was the secret identity of a new foe called "Menace". Essentially a Red-themed Goblin knock-off -- this new foe nonetheless managed to fuel a rather large storyline going forward.


When Menace was eventually unmasked and revealed, it was explosively bad - as Menace turned out to be Harry Osborn's girlfriend and soon-to-be wife: Lily Hollister. Lily ended up ruining her father's bid for mayor of New York, and sent Harry's life into a new tailspin.

It got even more worse down the line. (I'll get into that later.)

Norman Osborn/Thunderbolts


Norman Osborn returned to Spider-Man's life in a big way - as the new supposedly "reformed" criminal was now in charge of the reformed villain squad "The Thunderbolts". Osborn brought the Thunderbolts to New York and fought against Spider-Man.


Since the new Venom, the former Scorpion Mac Gargan, was among the ranks of the Thunderbolts -- coming into conflict with Spider-Man was a big thing. Osborn went upped the confrontation by temporarily suiting Venom up like as a Venom/Scorpion.

Osborn was royally abusing his power to bring down Spider-Man. Questions of wether Harry would loose it, with his insane Dad returning, abounded. Harry stayed on the straight and narrow and even opposed his father.

This storyline was essentially Spider-Man's biggest event since starting this new three times a month publishing experiment. John Romita Jr., famous for his tenure on Spider-Man during JMS' run, was also drawing his arch - so it really couldn't have been any bigger.

Anti-Venom


As if a new Venom in Spider-Man's life wasn't bad enough -- the original Venom host, Eddie Brock, was transformed into the new Anti-Venom. Brock had been on the outs for a long while, drifting around and trying to put his life back on track ever since being freed from the symbiote. Brock was trying to live the life of a born-again Christian. Eddie got a big calling from God (he thought, at least) being Anti-Venom. This new posion/cleansing Symbiote suit allowed Eddie to be a hero again; thought Spider-Man didn't see it that way when Eddie tried to "cure" Spider-Man of his irradiated blood (the source of his Spider Powers).


Naturally Anti-Venom got into a big fight with the new Venom as well. It was really awesome - all culminating alongside Norman Osborn's return.

But how did Brock become Anti-Venom?

Mr. Negative


When Brand New Day started - there was a mandate to create new villains, instead of just relying on old ones. Mr. Negative was Dan Slott's first villainous contribution -- a Chinese-American crime lord, and new foe to Spider-Man. Mr. Negative was more than just a photo-negative gimmick -- as his white and black persona masked his other identity as good-hearted Martian Li, charity worker and soup kitchen owner. Aunt May even worked at his soup kitchen! The thing is - Martian Li wasn't aware of his due identity. He would periodically change from regular Li to his Negative form.


Eddie Brock was also at that soup kitchen - and with a touch was infected by Mr. Negative into becoming Anti-Venom. An photo-negative symbiote was suddenly gifted to Brock -- but all as a plan to bother Spider-Man. Taking down Mr. Negative would actually become Anti-Venom's major goal in life - as Brock learned Martian Li's secret. But as the monstrous Anti-Venom, no one would believe his wild story.

Mr. Negative also effected Spider-Man's life in a more subtle way - when he negatively effected Aunt May. Suddenly the kind hearted and sweet Aunt May was mean and cruel - berating Peter and nearly ruining her own life. I don't think Peter or Aunt May ever learned of the forced-upon nature of these mood swings.


Aunt May's kind nature and love for Peter eventually broke the spell, and everything was back to normal again. (Wheatcakes for everyone!)

I'll be back later with more of my favorite moments from this great time in Spider-Man Comics.

2 comments:

  1. Ey man,

    Great blog you have here, keep it going :-) Just wanted to say thanks for your comment on my Chris Claremont mind control blogs a while back. I recently started writing new entries again, so if you want, feel free to check it out: http://clarmindcontrol.blogspot.com/

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  2. hey man i got your blog booked marked i love comics and im just starting to read them again i have allways red the ultimate line becasue the guy i buy comics from is a ass and wont help me out and tell me how to get into the reading any other kind of spiderman but this brought me up to speed on alot of stuff.thx.love the blog u sould do a summery of amazing spiderman if ya got the time keep it up

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