Wise Words from Al

 In: Rave > 1998
 Posted: 1998
 Staff: Al Sjoerdsma (E-Mail)

What was wrong with "Gathering" and "Final Chapter":

1)The most unnecessary resurrection in the history of Spider-Man.... made even more ridiculous because it has now happened to Aunt May twice! At least the first time they did it, it was part of the original plan, not retconned in later on. Now, seriously, can you think of anyone (after that heart-rending story that DeMatteis gave us in #400) who really wanted Aunt May back? What kind of writer decides to destroy such a story with some Norman Osborn hired actress and DNA implants?

2)The Green Goblin is defeated between issues! After going to all the trouble of bringing Norman Osborn back to life and installing him as a formidable, all but untouchable enemy for issue after issue, when Spidey finally defeats him, we don't even get to see it! I realize that the writers wanted to present a nifty shock ending of Peter being exposed to his friends as Spider-Man without giving away that it was in Norman's mind (though, honestly, how many of us DIDN'T figure this one out long before?), but that's no excuse for leaving the moment of victory out. You don't leave your action off-stage. This is basic storytelling. Those who commit such gaffes get C minuses in Creative Writing 101.

(Add to that, the discrepancies between Final Chapter 3 and 4. Since when was the Daily Bugle building ready to collapse? It sure wasn't happening in part 3 but it was mentioned in part 4 as something we should already know. Was there a part 3 1/2 they didn't tell us about? Also, even granted it's all in Norman's mind, there is an implication in his "I killed Spider-Man" ramblings, that he spoke everything he thought he spoke. In other words, even though he didn't really unmask Spidey, didn't he say "Look and see... Peter Parker is Spider-Man!" in front of Betty, JJJ, and the others?)

3) There are still huge holes left unpatched from previous stories. Just in the Norman story alone, we still haven't been told who his Green Goblin flunky was. And what's happened to Flash Thompson? And why in the world did Norman suddenly decide to risk insanity and death on a one in five shot to get cosmic power when he was doing so damn well with tremendous power already?

I guess I was wrong, but I sort of had this idea that "The Final Chapter" should answer loose ends. I mean, if you're going to close the book on the first volume of a very long comic series, you'd think you'd want to put a little more thought into all this than they did.

The sad truth is that they had 9 issues to give all this to us and they had nothing to say. There was even an entire issue in the midst of the "Gathering" that featured Spidey and some yuppy cyclists. So, it sure wasn't that they were pressed for space. They were giving space away! No, what it came down to is they had two goals in this whole nine issue run. They wanted to resurrect Aunt May (which never should have been done) and they wanted to make Norman crazy, which they could have done in 10 pages (he was already crazy, remember?). That left 8 1/2 issues to get something done... and nothing happened.

4) Even this latest storyline has unanswered questions. The biggest one is... if Norman actually got insanity from the Gathering, then what did the guy who collapsed in mental agony get? And who got the ultimate power? Again, this is an insult to basic storytelling. You can't just tell us something is so without explaining how the whole thing worked out. Amazingly, this run of issues not only didn't answer any questions for us, it actually created more!

Another storytelling faux pas I am getting tired of seeing in these books takes place at the end of this story. After the horrible dilemma of the implant in May's head (said dilemma being, "if it stays in her head, she dies... if it comes out, it triggers a DNA bomb so everyone dies") the solution is.... Reed Richards defuses it! End of story. Guys, this is the ol' cop-out. There are only so many times you can create a conflict like this and not adaquately answer it before it becomes ridiculous. Howard Mackie has already done it a couple of issues before when he presented the dilemma of what Pete should do, trapped in an elevator, with the security cameras possibly operating. The answer? A cop-out. He acts, but the cameras WEREN'T operating. What a relief. I am very much afraid that sole scriptor Mackie is becoming the master of the plot thread cheat.

Oh, and one more thing about this... if Norman has created a DNA bomb that he plans to use to kill everyone, why does he bother to try to get ultimate power?

5) Can anyone go back and look at previous appearances of Allison Mongraine and not expect the Parker baby to appear in all this somewhere? It is not sufficient to say the baby never lived and then conveniently kill off Allison. No, again an explanation is needed. If there has been no baby, then what was the bundle that Allison had? Why has she been living on a yacht in the Mediterranean? It doesn't bother me that the baby has been completely written out but there has to be some thought behind it. The answer cannot be "because the writer says so" after so much effort has been put in to get the reader involved in the mystery. (This is also what I objected to with the Black Tarantula. Why was he Spidey's toughest opponent ever? No reason I could see. Because the writer said so. That's not good enough.) It is this kind of sloppy, lazy storytelling that has disheartened me more than anything else.

You know, I just finished putting together Villain Profiles for Stunner and Doc Ock II, and to do that I had to read through a lot of the clone issues again. You know something? They were pretty darn good. You may have hated what they did to Peter (and, yes, they had some bad moments) but the ones that I looked through were interesting, exciting, and definitely thought out. You can see hints in her first appearances that Stunner is not a real person and you even get hints that she has had a weight problem. THIS is good storytelling. Since then, it seems like every issue has been written by the seat of the pants, every mystery is concocted without a known solution. Do the writers even KNOW who the new Goblin is, who the new Jack O'Lantern is, where the new Kraven is (and whether Calypso's body has been found), and so on? If they don't, they shouldn't begin to tell us about it. It makes for the worst collection of loose ends I can recall. The truth is, with the exception of JM DeMatteis' fascinating Spec. issues, I haven't read a thing in Spidey as intriguing as those clone issues were. If the clone saga has become a dirty word at Marvel, let's hope that doesn't mean that good storytelling has become one as well.

I encourage strong rebuttal on any of this from anyone. If anyone has anything positive to say about the last nine issues, I would welcome hearing from you. Because I really don't enjoy saying all these awful things about Spidey and the creative teams and I don't like feeling this way about my favorite comic series.

 In: Rave > 1998
 Posted: 1998
 Staff: Al Sjoerdsma (E-Mail)