Friday, January 25, 2013

Miles Morales Vs. OctoPete:The Case Of True Franchise Shake-Up VS. Cheap Gimmicks

 Bad Change                                       Good Change
The Spider-Man franchise has  had some major shake ups in recent years. With Peter Parker dying in the Ultimate Universe and Doc Ock taking over his body in the Mainstream Universe, the original web head's had a tough time of it as of late. Eh,whatever. What's done is done and in the latter's case it's inevitable that Parker will come back. But thankfully, both these major shake-ups helped me to see the true differences from a gimmick to actual change.

For the gimmick side, well, take a guess from the captions. I will go on record as saying that while I haven't read the full issue of Superior Spider-Man #1* , but from what I have read (i.e. the opening fight, the dinner with MJ, The reveal of Ghost Peter)  it seems .... mildly interesting. I will not be picking it up any time soon, though, because the entire thing is just a gimmick. A very convoluted, confusing, and somewhat creepy gimmick.

I mean, look at the premise: Doc Ock taking over Peter's body (via mind switch machine) and becoming Spider-Man after Peter dies while in Octavius' body.Ock decides to carry on Peter's heroic legacy after Peter (while stuck in Ock's body) psychically transfers memories from himself to Ock (who is in Peter's body). Oh, and OctoPete (as he will be known from now on) is trying to pursue a relationship with Mary Jane, who doesn't know that Ock is in Peter's body or that Peter died while in Ock's body. And I cannot believe I could write this paragraph without going cross-eyed.

If your eyes look like this, that's okay. It indicates that you are still sane.
Okay, I have a few questions:
  • How did Peter project his memories onto Octavius? Did he get psychic powers from Ock's brain switch machine?
  • How does no one in Peter's life notice that he's not acting like himself? They cannot possibly be that stupid. Mary Jane has known Peter for years and Aunt May has both known Peter since he was in diapers and has knows Octavius in the past. Hell, Ock tried to marry her! Not to mention the Avengers, The Fantastic Four, Daredevil, Black Cat, Wolverine, Captain Marvel, Captain America, Spider-Woman, Peter's co-workers....
  • Why is Ock such a pervert? During the earlier mention date scene, we see OctoPete staring at Mary Jane's breasts for an extended period of time. He also tried to have sex with MJ in Amazing Spider-Man #700, which would basically be rape by fraud since MJ doesn't know Octavius currently resides in Peter's body.  You keep classy, Doc.
  • Why is Peter a ghost? Shouldn't he be in heaven or something if he's truly dead? Is Doc Ock's brain switch machine actually a soul switching machine?
  • Why didn't Peter get a heroic death? If you wanted to kill  Peter, couldn't you have given him a chance to go out swinging?
  • Wouldn't OctoPete turn himself over to the cops out of guilt for killing Peter if he was actually repentant  for what he had done? 
  • It's well established in the Marvel Universe that a person can clone and manipulate bodies or build robot bodies. Why didn't Octavius just put his brain into one of those and defeat Peter instead of taking over Peter's body? 
 Okay, I'm getting a migraine just thinking about it so I'll cut to the chase: this is a gimmick. Especially since it's revealed that Peter will find a way to come back just, to me, feels like Marvel saying "Look, we all know that Pete's comin' back. This is nothing more than a cheap trick to get you to buy our comics. Let's just get through this and wait for Peter's return". And that return, hopefully, will involve Ghost Peter throwing down with Mephisto and winning, negating that damn deal he made with him all the way back in One More Day and bringing back Peter and MJ as a married couple.

But enough of things that make me angry, let's talk about things that bring me joy. And in the realm of comics there's no better joy bringer to me than the adventures of Miles Morales, All-New Spider-Man. Hell, I'll go so far as to say that the kid's the best man holding the title of Spider-Man in any medium right now. 

The transition from Peter to Miles is probably the best modern example of a passing the torch scenario done right in comics. It's not all that difficult a formula to figure out. In fact, let's just count the ways:
  1. Give the preceding hero a heroic death.
  2. Treat his memory and legacy with reverence
  3. Create a new character that's  not just a carbon copy of the deceased
  4. Give said character a good supporting cast 
  5. Allow the new character to prove himself to the superhero community (and the audience) without making them a Mary Sue.
  6. Write said character, their supporting cast and their stories well 
  7. Give them conflicts and tales that couldn't be done with the old hero. 
  8. Get an artist (or artists) who can draw dynamic fight scenes and  have the cast express emotions both subtle and big
  9. Profit
 See? It's easy as apple pie. And save for a strange geographical faux pas between issues eighteen and nineteen (i.e. changing Wyoming for my home state of Wisconsin) I cannot find any major problems with the series thus far...OK, there's that annoying "this was in bad taste" running gag from issue four, but that just ground my gears since I've seen legacy heroes and never saw and entire city  criticize someone  for carrying on said legacy.  But that's just my personal pet peeve. Bottom line is the series is really damn good. I've talked about this before, so I'm not going to repeat myself.

The point of this long and rambling exercise is this: if you're going to cause change to a franchise, cause some freakin' change! Don't just give us a gimmick and call it change. Make that change last. If you want to go big, go big and don't just give yourself an out so telegraphed Matt Murdock could see it coming from a mile away.

*P.S. I finally did find a copy at a Barnes and Nobel and read it in store.  It's not at all badly written, but it really brings my second question to the forefront since OctoPete doesn't seem to even be trying to act like Peter Parker. I keep hearing the voice of Efrem Zimbalist Jr. (the man who voiced Doctor Octopus in Spider-Man: The Animated Series) in all of Peter's dialogue, not Christopher Daniel Barnes (Peter in same said series).

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