That new Spider-Man movie was tight as hell.

Probably becoming jaded in my old age, but I tried to walk into this thing with a healthy degree of skepticism, bracing myself for the very real possibility that it’d fall horribly short of those considerable expectations standing in front of it. Apparently, Sony was feeling a bit nervous about it too, using every trailer and commercial spot to frantically cycle through half of the movie’s notable frames, as if they couldn’t simply project the movie’s logo and release date on a screen somewhere, and start counting money. I’ve heard of these people, highly disciplined bastards all of them, that can resist the commanding urge to stare wide-eyed at nearly every piece of preview footage they can get their hands and Internet browsers on, and I’m very close to adopting their philosophy. Movie studios have no love for the undisciplined, I’ve found. Anyway, it could’ve been wack, I was ready for it to be wack, but man, there’s wack and then there’s the farthest point from, and in that lonely spot sits Spider-Man 2.

I get to the theater right, well amongst friends, and I’m feelin’ that vibe, you know? That uncontrollable childlike excitement that gets caged in your chest, right before you experience something new. Was trying to keep it under control, thinking that it makes absolutely no sense for a grown ass man such as myself to be bouncing off the ceiling, right before seeing the new Spider-Man flick. It was too late though, completely out of my hands at this point, everything an inevitable reflex in the face of that new shit. It always gets me too, whether we’re talking about music, movies, television, or those comic book things I’m always droning on about. Ripping the plastic free from a new CD. Halfway to the comic shop on a Wednesday afternoon. Minutes away from your favorite show’s season finale. Ya’ll know what I’m talking about. We all want the same thing, to finish something we’ve been excited about, and just bask in the knowledge that it didn’t suck.

So, the giant Marvel logo comes into focus, the opening credits start rolling, and cut into the graphics are a series of Alex Ross paintings that immortalize key moments from the first movie. It seems like such a small thing I know, but it said something, before any of the characters even appeared onscreen. This was nothing more than a “previously” blurb, something that could’ve easily been constructed from production stills, but the filmmakers still went out there and attempted to change the game a little bit, bringing some intelligence to the table, and right here is when I stopped being nervous. Struck by how appropriate and obvious the whole idea was, and wondering who thought of something so cool. Before the first frame, Spider-Man 2 was proving to be thought at work.

Nothing is here without reason. Nothing is here without effect. Nothing is here without pay-off. This is everything you could ever expect from a summer blockbuster, a dramatic action epic with equal parts brawn and brain, controlled and dictated by heart and soul. Tobey Maguire’s depiction of Peter Parker takes on added depth with this second chapter, a look of bewilderment and confusion following him through one torturous episode after the next, and what makes it so relevant is that it’s the look we can all recognize. That powerless response when the world just piles it on for no apparent reason, when it doesn’t matter how much we’ve planned, or how hard we try, sometimes life kicks us in the teeth, and doesn’t even have the common decency to apologize for it.

A co-worker spent five minutes complaining of the unrelenting misery and angst that Parker is forced to endure, but I had to forgive him, because he just didn’t get it. Over the course of two hours, the purest essence of the Peter Parker/Spider-Man dynamic was on display, and just like the opening credits suggested, it happened that way because the people that made this movie gave a damn. They could’ve phoned it in, dropped some half-finished, half thought out bullshit and cashed the check. They cared, and whether or not you actually enjoy the movie (though there is an incredible chance you will) that’s gotta be commended. The movie spends one scene ripping your heart out, and spends the next throwing you out of your seat, after watching some perfect Spidey movement rendered perfectly with CGI brilliance. Just an impressive, smart piece of work that might make me a little less nervous about the next sufficiently hyped piece of entertainment that comes my way.

 


Apples/Oranges-

Last week’s X-Men column generated a lot of mail, emerging from both sides of the debate, and fueled by a common sentiment that I might’ve neglected to mention in my argumentative haze. Personally, I think Joss Whedon is a genius. Straight up, I’ve got the Firefly DVDs, a few seasons of Buffy, and an eternal grudge against the WB for canceling Angel, so my criticism was aimed only at the work, and not the creator.

But that criticism garnered more mail than I’ve received in a long while, so I’m thinking of returning to the issue after Whedon’s run concludes, and then we can put New and Astonishing head to head, right here in this very column. Presuming I haven’t been
fired yet.


Before/Now-

Invincible #13 (Robert Kirkman/Ryan Ottley)

Invincible has officially become my favorite teen superhero book, rightfully snatching the title from Ultimate Spider-Man. Yes, I just made a direct comparison to a Bendis-written title, and gave the edge to the competition, but seriously, have you read Invincible lately? Writer/creator Robert Kirkman devoted six issues to showing us what this story was about, and devoted the next six to showing us what it was really about, sleight of hand operating at its highest and most insidious point. People say that books are unpredictable, that you honestly have no idea what will happen next, but in most cases, that’s bullshit, and I know, because chances are, I probably said it about some book at some point. But we really know what happens next. Things eventually return to normal. Status Q is embraced once again at long last. The magic of the creator-owned title is that its status quo will never be compared to that of a previous writer (ex. Whedon to Morrison), or to a previous incarnation (Ultimate to Marvel Universe), but only to itself, a distinction that Kirkman has been putting to impressive use lately, proving that Invincible is not most cases. It’s what I just said it is…the most entertaining, kinetic, and bold teen superhero epic available.


Wide/Awake

Sleeper Season Two #1 (Ed Brubaker/Sean Phillips)

I want to talk about this book real quick, but I have this sneaking suspicion that you already know what I’m going to say about it. Anyone that was following the column around the time that Wildstorm was releasing what is now known as the first season of Sleeper, probably remembers that I was fairly fond of the series. Now, that season two is just getting started, maybe we should switch it up a little, try a different approach. Here are a few reasons NOT to buy Sleeper Season Two.

Those multi-layered personalities from the last season (ex. Holden Carver, Miss Misery) are back again, and I know how such complication bothers some of the readers, because seriously, why would anyone want to read a comic more than once? Another concern involves the aforementioned undercover operative Holden Carver having gone “native,” trapped in a disguise that only one man could get him out of, which is really silly when you think about it, because Holden has superpowers right? He should just take down all the bad guys and be done with it, because that makes more sense. Oh, and did I mention that the one man I was just talking about, the black OPS bad-ass that can get Holden out of this whole mess, just woke up out of his coma, and now he wants something from him? Someone should really tell Brubaker that comas are only good for dramatic effect on soap operas and Lifetime movies. Oh yeah, and Phillips’ artwork is just dark. Dark for absolutely no reason.


Start/Finish

Thanks for dropping by this week, and seriously, go see Spider-Man 2, go read Invincible and Sleeper, and come back in just seven short days. Might even be ready to talk a bit more about these two creator-owned projects I’ve been prepping in relative secrecy. We’ll see.

Peace,

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