Comic Book Virgins: Meet Ted

With the plethora of comic book films coming out in recent years and the success of such ventures like the annual Free Comic Book Day, I thought it’d be interesting to see what non-comic book fans think of today’s comic books.

Our first experiment this time out is Ted. Ted is twenty eight years old and read a couple comic books as an early teen but wasn’t a serious collector or anything like that. He considers Batman Begins the best “comic book” movie but also has enjoyed the Spider-Man, X-Men and Superman films as well as a few movies like Ghost World and A History of Violence that Ted didn’t even realize we based on comic books.

So Ted tagged along with me for Free Comic Day in early May and picked up a couple of new titles, along with a couple books off the rack that caught his eye. What will Ted think?

Find out now:
-by Ted Kean

First off, I was mildly pissed off that Free Comic Day turned out to be you can have one free comic out of the 20 choices that were offered and I’d have to pay for any of the other titles. From what I was told about this event, I thought I was going to walk out with a swag of reading material that would last for the rest of the weekend for free. (Ed Note: Ted was never told that this was going to be a free for all where he could tear through the racks and get anything he wanted. And besides, the retailer offered the other available books for only fifty cents. It wasn’t that big of a deal). There were only two books in the free comic bin that seemed interesting; a Spider-Man book and a Wolf-Man book. So I took one and paid for the other and then checked the store out for a bit and picked up two other books. There were actually a couple of comics that looked interesting but when I figured out that two little comics would cost six bucks plus tax, I decided to stick with just the four. If anyone cares about what I have to say about these comics then I can always spring for another couple next month and do some more reviews and write them off on my taxes.

ASM “Swing Shift”
Marvel Comics

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN “Swing Shift” – Andrew nearly gained an erection as he explained that this was an original story instead of just a reprint. I didn’t know what the purpose of that statement was for then and I don’t care to ask now.

I nearly stopped reading after the first page when Peter Parker says, or thinks or whatever, “my spider-sense is tingling.” Very cheesy. All of a sudden a car that seems to fly almost squashes the birthday cake that Peter is taking for his aunt and then we get a double page of Spider-Man swinging into action saying that he’s back. I don’t know where he was, but he is back.

The double page picture was kinda cool. I didn’t like the art up to this point because all of the regular people just looked kind of goofy but this was nice. So then Spider-Man is chasing this crazy car and the passenger of the car is talking to an image on his dashboard like an evil version of KITT from Knight Rider. This is where the art starts to suck again. The guy draws a very nice looking car, but even the Spider-Man action parts seem off. Some big breasted woman in bell bottoms looked decent enough, but I don’t know what the hell she was doing and neither did Spider-Man, apparently, but she was the best drawn thing in the comic. That is except for another two page spread showing a car crash. Like I said, this guy draws cars really well.

I didn’t like the story at all. The bad guy was pretty stupid and the whole thing with Peter Parker trying to get to his aunt’s birthday and save the cake was neither suspenseful nor funny.

I have another minor pet peeve. Right after the story, Marvel does this little synopsis of Spider-Man and what’s going on in the comics. He unmasked and dressed in a black costume and his aunt was shot. In this comic he seems to want to hide his identity, he wears the red costume and his aunt is healthy. Andrew tried to explain that this might not be a story in “continuity” and I got a headache.

ASM #540
Marvel Comics

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #540 – There were a lot of Spider-Man comics at the store, trying to take advantage of the movie no doubt, but I picked this one up because I liked the cover. I’m shallow, so screw off.

I already like this comic more than the other one because the synopsis is on the first page. I guess you get what you pay for. HAHAHA. Wait a minute? He married MJ?

Spider-Man is badass in this one. His aunt is in the hospital after being shot and Spider-Man is going after the people responsible. He’s kicking these guys’ asses all over the place and throws one of them out of the window of a high rise. He ends up shooting his webs to save the bad guy before he goes splat but it was pretty cool.

The rest of the issue is really Spider-Man in the black costume going apeshit on people, even breaking some guy’s arm who pointed a gun at him. The dialogue is great. Where I felt like a bit of a half-wit reading the other book, this one seemed aimed at more of an adult audience. It’s that or I was dumbed down enough by reading “Swing Shift” that this seems like Hemmingway. There is a really cool part where Spider-Man is looking for a bad guy in a crowd and concentrates using his spider-sense to pick the guy out of a crowd without uttering “my spidey-sense is tingly.”

The art didn’t offend me, either. No one was distorted or crazy looking and even Spider-Man looked like a man except for in a couple “show off” scenes. The only thing I didn’t like were the way the guy drew Spider-Man’s eyes. I don’t know how to explain it without seeming like as big a geek as Andrew but they seem slanted. Oh, and this guy doesn’t draw cars as nicely as the other guy.

The opening synopsis brought me pretty much up to date with what I needed to know to enjoy the comic and for the most part it was entertaining and easily accessible. I don’t know how a guy on the run like Spider-Man is supposed to be able to go to the hospital to see his aunt, but I’ll suspend my disbelief. I didn’t get the Mr. Fisk reference at the end but it’s implied that Spider-Man knows him pretty well. So help me God, I may actually ask Andrew to pick up the next issue to see where this new ass kicking Spider-Man goes.

MZvAoD #3
Marvel Comics and Dynamite Entertainment

MARVEL ZOMBIES VS. ARMY OF DARKNESS #3– Before Sam Rami made Spider-Man cool, he made magic with The Evil Dead. The cover of this book has a zombified Spider-Man fighting Ash from the Dead movies. I had to check this out.

Again, there’s a first page synopsis to bring people up to speed. The story is pretty ridiculous. Ash has been transported to Marvel and almost all of Marvel’s heroes and bad guys have been infected and zombified. Ash is teamed up with one of the few heroes who isn’t possessed and they go off to try and fix things.

Zombie movies are always stupid fun and Ash is one of the coolest characters ever. Having them mix up with Marvel’s characters actually works.It shocked the hell out of me that this was my favorite book of the mix. The fights are gruesome and there’s plenty of blood and guts to be had, which surprised me since these are Marvel’s characters. Although truthfully, there aren’t any characters that I’d heard of. The aforementioned zombie Spider-Man that was on the cover? Isn’t in the damn book. The only person I knew other than Ash was Howard the Duck but the way he disposes of a zombified Howard the Duck made the trip to the comic shop worth it.

I can’t really take the writing seriously. Do you blame me? It’s fun. Ash is in character. There’s plenty of mayhem and violence and I couldn’t really care less about the main story and the hunt for the book of the dead. I don’t recognize the characters but they get killed in fun ways and the art is really, really good.

I think the art is what makes the book, actually. The story here is just like a pitch. Zombies with Ash and Marvel people. Go. Okay, sure. Whatever. I don’t care if the thing was written in French. This is where the comic part works, because the art sells the book for me. I could go back and look at the pictures over and over and still pretty much figure out the story, except for the multiple Ashs. The characters all look great and there’s a dark shading on the entire comic that gives it a more sinister edge. Great, great art. And not a car in sight.

Now Andrew can pick up two books for me.

Image Comics

THE ASTOUNDING WOLF-MAN #1 – I know I’m reading a comic book but that doesn’t mean I want it to look comic booky. Is that a word? I’ve seen comics where the characters look like actual human beings, not monsters or aliens or crap. This is a monster book, but even the human beings all look distorted and cartoony. It was really difficult for me to get into the story because I was distracted by the art.

It takes away from any suspense when I’m not scared of the big bad wolf man because he looks like a mess. As far as the story goes, it’s a werewolf story. A guy wakes up in a hospital after an attack and weird crap starts happening to him. He wakes up in strange places sometimes naked or in shredded pants and actually reminds me a bit of my uncle Roger, only Roger isn’t a werewolf; he’s an alcoholic.

The one moment in the comic that was sort of interesting comes on the last page where I guess a vampire is coming along to train the werewolf. But I’m not really interested in finding out what happens next.