Friday, 16 May 2014

Spider-Man Blue Review (Jeph Loeb, Tim Sale)

Jeph Loeb – the man who made having no ideas into a decades-long career in comics – brings his bafflingly successful approach to Batman over to Spider-Man. His approach? Tell stories that have already been told! With Batman, it was the fall of Harvey Dent in The Long Halloween, and Robin becoming his sidekick in Dark Victory; with Spider-Man Blue, it’s tangentially about the death of Gwen Stacy – but crucially, Gwen doesn’t die in this book. She’s also barely in the book. So wait… what the hell is this about?! Absolutely nothing.

The setup is: Peter’s feeling lonely on Valentine’s Day and decides to talk to the long-deceased Gwen via a tape recorder about the good ol’ days (even though MJ, his wife, is elsewhere in the house). That’s it. There’s no story. There’s really no point either. There’s a half-assed story about some shadowy villain hunting Spider-Man but it’s little more than a reason for Loeb to shoehorn in some boring superhero fights between the, ahem, “romance” (plus the “mastermind” villain reveal is totally arbitrary and idiotic).

Peter fights the Rhino, the Vulture, and the Lizard (this is another Loeb staple: throw the hero’s rogues gallery at him in stages for no reason). He meets MJ. He moves into his first flat with Harry. Gwen’s in the background some of the time. Flash joins the military. Peter and Gwen hook up. That’s it.

That’s it?! Yeah. Because Loeb doesn’t know how to tell stories, he just throws characters together aimlessly and hopes that somehow a plot will emerge – and, what a surprise, it doesn’t. No, Spider-Man Blue is just a cheap excuse to shamelessly wallow in sentiment. Spider-Man’s “blue”, get it? ...

So that must mean this book really pushes the Peter/Gwen angle hard so the reader gets a strong sense of why Peter feels so pained about her absence? Nope! Gwen is barely in this book even though she is the reason for its existence; she and Peter are rarely alone and never share any meaningful moments. Their first meeting, their relationship, her death – it’s all missing. If anything, this book’s about Peter and MJ’s early days - there are actually more scenes between Peter and MJ than there are Peter and Gwen!

What is the point of having a book where Peter moons over Gwen’s death if we get no sense of their relationship? None. Because Loeb already knows the reader knows Gwen was important to Peter going into the book, he doesn’t bother doing any work here to portray why even though that’s the most important thing – the only thing really – he needed to write about.

The only idea we get as readers that Peter and Gwen were important to one another is the scene at the end when they smooch for the first time. If all you knew going into this book was that Peter and Gwen were once in love but now she’s dead, you leave the book knowing exactly the same as you did going in. No more, no less – that’s how lazily written this book is!

What Loeb gives us instead is a few glimpses of Peter staring at Gwen going “wow” before MJ shows up and he says “wow” to her (seriously, that’s an actual scene!). Because even though the book supposedly reveals how and why Peter and Gwen fell in love, based on what we see, they “fell” for one another because they’re both attractive young people and their entire “romance” is purely superficial and based on looks. Doomed, star-crossed lovers? Nah, just a pair of horny, good-looking young people! How “tragic” that they don’t get to bone each other anymore!

It’s not even a fun read – it’s the most generic, bland Spider-Man book you could ever come across. The superhero fights are dull and meaningless, the soap opera is played out, beat for beat, the same way that it has for the last 50+ years. It’s a totally irrelevant, horribly overlong Spider-Man book that offers nothing insightful or substantial to the reader.

I kinda liked Tim Sale’s art which is drawn in homage to early Spider-Man comics by Steve Ditko and John Romita. It’s the only plus about the book, but it’s not enough to make reading this worthwhile.

Spider-Man Blue blows!

Spider-Man Blue

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