Batman: The Widening Gyre 6 (September 2010)

Maybe DC did the whole “New 52” thing so they’d never have to address the terrible developments in Widening Gyre. I’d respect them for that motive. It’s just not a bad finish, with Smith killing off a familiar DC character, but a bad issue overall. Batman breaks into the Fortress of Solitude for a date with Silver. He’s got on his goofy white snow Bat-suit. Smith writes him actual banter with the goat head guy. Then there’s the callouts to Frank Miller–Smith reveals Batman wet himself in Year One and the idiot shrink from Dark Knight shows up. It’s almost like Smith…

Batman: The Widening Gyre 5 (April 2010)

Oh, no, it’s another one with potential. Smith doesn’t resolve the cliffhanger–he just has Bruce running off to avoid it. Bruce and Silver in Aspen, even in the few scenes they have, is terrible. Their trip is juxtaposed against Tim Drake Robin narrating. Smith writes all the Robin narrations the same, so it’s bland but not terrible. Silver barely has any lines, which is great. And then Flanagan pays an homage to the sixties show and Smith has a Tim Burton movie line in the dialogue… They’re finally being as obvious as they should be. If Gyre’s just lucky fan fiction, Smith…

Batman: The Widening Gyre 4 (February 2010)

Uh, oh, there are getting to be things I like here. Smith has turned it into a domestic–Batman fights crime while Silver waits home for him. The stuff with the new goat guy revealing his face to Bruce too soon is dumb; Smith can only rationalize comic book logic so far. But it opens with a little bit about the relative lack of danger Silver Age goof villains had–before the Joker appeared (while not technically accurate, Smith sells it)–Smith’s trying things a little again. He’s treating Widening Gyre like it’s disconnected from the other Batman comics, which I do like. He still…

Batman: The Widening Gyre 3 (December 2009)

This issue’s easily the best and I’m not entirely sure why. It’s a romance montage–Bruce and Silver off in paradise during the day, Batman out at night. There’s some stuff with the goat vigilante, who Smith writes like Brody from Mallrats and that scene is awful… and Smith writes Silver awful and the whole thing of unbelievably rich people romancing is lame… But, somehow, the issue is a lot better than expected. It’s awful to be sure, but Smith’s trying something in his Batman narration. Bruce is learning. These self-observations are trite and beneath Dr. Phil, but Smith is trying. Flanagan’s art…

Batman: The Widening Gyre 1 (October 2009)

Leave it to Kevin Smith to try to make Batman sound hip. He also sounds really self-aware, which doesn’t really work for the character. I was half expecting Smith to make a gay joke, but then remembered it’s the one thing DC editorial won’t allow. This issue has Batman teaming up with Robin in flashback, then Nightwing in present, then heading off on his own to Arkham. All while Smith overdoes the narration. His Batman is desperate to stay relevant–making notes to check pop culture references and so on–while he thinks about retiring the Robin mantle. If it weren’t for Walt Flanagan’s…

Ultimate Spider-Man 56 (June 2004)

You know, when Bendis and Bagley are on, they’re really on. Though this issue is mostly just a big fight between Peter and Doc Ock, there’s a couple little things with Gwen and Mary Jane. First–and I thought foremost–Mary Jane’s mother (off panel) kicks out her father, which will have repercussions in the future I’m sure. Bendis treats it casually, but it shows he hasn’t forgotten what he’s got brewing. More importantly, there’s this little implication Gwen’s figured out Peter’s secret identity. It’s just a little thing, one or two panels–and maybe I’m wrong, but I’m hoping I’m not. Otherwise I’m not…

Ultimate Spider-Man 55 (May 2004)

The Spider-Man movie adventure continues with Kong getting a part, Gwen freaking out and Peter stalking the set. Oh, and Dr. Octopus storming the set during filming. It’s kind of a cheap issue, the kind of cheap Ultimate Spider-Man issue one feels a little bad about enjoying because it’s clear Bendis didn’t work very hard on it. He included some really funny lines between Doc Ock and his arms, he made Kong look like a moron, he made Gwen sympathetic. Bendis knows all the right notes to play here and he goes through each one. What’s strangest is how disconnected the issue…

Ultimate Spider-Man 54 (May 2004)

It’s another Bendis setup issue, complete with a text piece from Peter recounting current events. Actually, he doesn’t so much recount events as explain he’s finally happy (though Mary Jane’s not allowed to see him) so what could possibly go wrong. Immediately following those happy thoughts, he finds out about a Spider-Man movie. Bendis ties it into Spider-Man 2, I think, since the first once missed the Ultimate boat. Aunt May has also left for a week–trusting Peter and Gwen, which seems unlikely. It’s an excellent departing scene, but ignores recent events. The kids at school want to be in the movie,…

Ultimate Spider-Man 53 (April 2004)

Bendis misses just about every chance he’s got this time. It’s not a bad issue, surprisingly good, actually, but he misses all the great chances. He doesn’t, for instance, let Peter beat the shit out of Mary Jane’s dad. It’d be a hard scene to do, but I’ll bet Bendis could handle it. Or when Peter–in costume–rescues Black Cat. She’s in her civilian identity and it could have been a strong encounter. But Bendis doesn’t. He abbreviates it. This arc, had Bendis cut out half the useless action scene a couple issues ago and lengthened the finish here, would have been really…

Ultimate Spider-Man 52 (March 2004)

At least there’s a lot of action this issue so one doesn’t concentrate on Bagley’s strange version of “sexy girl” art. Bendis actually spends a page, alongside Peter scaling a building, to write up a bunch of narration. And it’s the best thing in the issue, even though it’s only necessary because of the lengthy, unfulfilling fight scene. He covers Peter’s self-awareness about pursuing Black Cat with Mary Jane at home. But there’s also some about the adventuring. When Peter gets to the top of the building, he’s upset the fight’s over and he’s alone. That observation is a little one, but…

Ultimate Spider-Man 51 (February 2004)

Mark Bagely’s attempts at drawing sexy, scantily clad women–Elektra and Black Cat–are mildly disturbing. He’s not good at it; he’s also not good at designing their Ultimate costumes. Visually, this issue is atrocious. As for the story, it’s not bad. Bendis is clearly setting up throughout the issue–a big fight between the three–and everything else seems back burner. Even Mary Jane and Peter, which Bendis does cover… but he gives it less space than the Black Cat stuff. For example, the opening scene bringing the Kingpin into the story is totally useless. It’s filler. Ultimate Spider-Man probably would be a lot better…

Ultimate Spider-Man 50 (February 2004)

Not a good issue. The stuff at the end, with Mary Jane’s dad flipping out and May and Gwen off to the rescue, that stuff is good. The stuff with Peter and Mary Jane, kind of good. It’s all a little redundant, especially since Bendis and Bagley just got done with their terrible Ultimate Black Cat introduction. For a while, when Bagley was concentrating on Black Cat’s eyes (in very Cooke Catwoman googles), I didn’t think her costume was going to be inordinately exploitative. I even got hopeful Bendis would have fun with the bad luck powers. I was totally wrong about…

Ultimate Spider-Man 49 (January 2004)

And here comes the secret identity stuff. Kingpin is going to find Peter out! But wait, doesn’t Peter know Nick Fury? Can’t they do something? Nick Fury would move heaven and earth for Aunt May but not against Kingpin? That story’s a lot more interesting than the one Bendis is going to tell, I’m sure. Otherwise, it’s a pretty good issue. Jonah realizes he’s been wrong and he tries to be a reporter. There’s a funny fight scene with the Enforcers. It’s way too long, but it’s funny. Bendis once again tells some of the story in the opening recap, this time…

Ultimate Spider-Man 48 (December 2003)

I just love how Bendis handles Ultimate Kingpin and Peter. I know I’ve already said it, but it’s even better this issue. The relationship between the two obviously has to do with Peter’s idealism, which is just the inherent lack of reality of superhero comics. Bendis, with Bagley’s art beautifully working against it, is trying to bring some gravitas to Ultimate Spider-Man. He’s not doing it with a dark story or whatever, he’s doing it with politics and corruption and Jonah being a really shallow guy. It’s a great issue. I don’t remember the last time the comic was so impressive, actually.…

Ultimate Spider-Man 47 (December 2003)

Bendis introduces three new plot lines–the Kingpin is back, too many people know Peter is Spider-Man and the Bugle is backing a mayoral candidate who’s out to get Spider-Man. Well, maybe not a mayoral candidate. I wasn’t paying too much attention. To stay true to his form, Bendis will likely tie these three plot lines together, which doesn’t make much sense. In a lot of ways, it feels like Bendis doesn’t know what he’s doing here. But he’s at least doing it in good scenes. He excels at the Bugle stuff, even when people are being quiet, and he also excels at…

Ultimate Spider-Man 46 (November 2003)

This issue is a prelude to Ultimate Six, with Bendis focusing on Sharon Carter and her take on the last time Spidey fought Doctor Octopus. Turns out Ultimate Sandman was there too. Bendis can get a little mileage out of it being an untold tale, but the comic’s fairly limp. Spider-Man’s outgoing personality comes across as forced and unlikely. Carter is an awful protagonist for the comic, alternating between unlikable and mentally unstable. Of course, Bendis understands she’s a weak lead, so he gives Bagley maybe six double page action spreads to do. The best part of the comic is probably Flint…

Ultimate Spider-Man 45 (November 2003)

The famous therapy issue. I remember it was a big deal when it came out because Bendis all of a sudden treated Aunt May like a real character and not a pawn to occasionally put in danger. He does a great job with the issue, especially the back and forth with her and the therapist. It also gives him a chance to hold up Ultimate Spider-Man and look at it from a different angle, to give the reader a chance to feel like the series exists a tad more substantially. Sadly, Bagley isn’t up for the job. His art’s about as good…

Ultimate Spider-Man 44 (October 2003)

Bendis opens with a lot of action–resolving the previous issue’s falling out of a plane cliffhanger–but Bagley does a couple double page spreads and it flops. It’s not tense, it’s not exciting. And it seems perfunctory. This issue isn’t about action, it’s about Peter meeting the X-Men. On those lines, Peter hanging out at the X-Mansion while May freaks out about him sneaking out of school, it works pretty well. Bendis tries to hard on the science talk between the Beast and Professor X, but he does a good job showing Peter vacationing into the world of professional superheroes. Or whatever the…

Ultimate Spider-Man 43 (September 2003)

Bendis redeems himself (for now) with this issue. He turns the X-Girl guest stars into a decent story. Peter’s shocked to discover other superheroes–more famous ones, maybe–admire him. It makes for a good realization. But Bendis also drops him into what’s more of a present day sci-fi adventure. It helps he and Bagley still have Peter half in costume, half out, but when he falls from the X-Plane, it perfectly sums up the character. He’s half in this super world, half not. It’s so sublime a moment I can’t imagine they intended it. The rest of the issue is subplot stuff. Gwen…

Ultimate Spider-Man 42 (August 2003)

Thanks a lot, Bendis, I was really liking this issue–even with Geldoff’s eurotrash hair–until it turned out the whole thing’s just a set-up to bring in the X-Men. Or the X-Girls. Whatever. The issue opens with Peter heading over to confront Geldoff, who he’s heard is blowing stuff up. It then turns into Peter (in costume, obviously) trying to understand Geldoff and explain the great power, great responsibility thing. The conversation turns heated a couple times and Bendis handles it. He handles the store robbery Peter adverts as an example of it all. Then he brings in the X-Girls to save the…

Ultimate Spider-Man 41 (July 2003)

In some ways, less than nothing happens this issue. Bendis resolves the previous issue’s cliffhanger, but without a Geldoff confrontation. The name’s a Pink Floyd reference, right? Anyway, Peter, Gwen, Liz and Mary Jane run for it and basically have a talking heads adventure. It’s a comic about nothing and it’s utterly fantastic. Bendis gets to play Gwen and Liz off each other, but also have Gwen orbit around the quieter Peter and Mary Jane interaction. It’s great scene writing from Bendis. Ultimate Spider-Man is like a touching, sincere and often rather well-written sitcom. Just a serious one. Like Flash Thompson. Bendis…

Ultimate Spider-Man 40 (July 2003)

What’s a Geldoff? Bendis skips Peter’s angst this issue, which still deals with the aftermath of the Venom arc. Instead, he concentrates on the practical. What’s Peter going to do about a costume? For an Ultimate Spider-Man comic, there’s actually a lot of scenes. There’s stuff at school, stuff with Peter trying to get a costume, stuff at home, then stuff at the party. But there’s a lot going on in those scenes. Bendis is laying a subplot with Flash, he’s still working through the Mary Jane breakup and he’s got a lot of great friend stuff between Peter and Gwen. She…

Ultimate Spider-Man 39 (June 2003)

It’s a talking heads book and not a bad one at all. First Peter talks to Nick Fury (either Nick lies to him or Ultimate Origins is a retcon),then he talks to Eddie’s roommate, then he talks to Curt Connors. Peter’s unhappiness and indecision doesn’t make much sense until you remember he’s just a teenager. Bendis takes the issue to drive home that point. In the finale, in what shouldn’t be a good moment, Peter is calling out to an unseen figure–presumably Venom–offering to help. The naïveté of Peter’s offer at first seems contrived, but it’s Bendis making it clear how–even with…

Ultimate Spider-Man 38 (May 2003)

It’s a lackluster finish. The issue reminds of the big fight issue with the Green Goblin, only with–in addition to Peter’s self-depreciating narration–Peter’s dad narrating it from a video tape journal. Now, the video tape journal thing was big in the eighties. It’s a perfect device for a movie or TV show; I’m not sure why Bendis used it, instead of an actual journal (which seems more likely) here. It does give a “voice” to the issue. Venom is a monster, not a villain. Eddie occasionally pops up, says something dumb, Peter says something quippy and the fight progresses. The narration grounds…

Ultimate Spider-Man 37 (May 2003)

How many scenes do this comic have? I think four. But the second is a continuation of the first. Peter wakes up from a nightmare–one where Bagley’s art seems like Clayton Crain has CG’ed over it, which is a nightmare in and of itself–and goes to Mary Jane’s. They talk. So, scenes one and two. Scene three, Eddie Brock eats a cleaning lady, which makes Venom happy. Scene four, Peter is at school and Venom comes over to play. Bendis gives Peter enough internal angst it could be a Russian novel–he heads out to get eaten by Venom because he deserves it…

Ultimate Spider-Man 36 (April 2003)

And, almost immediately, it gets less impressive. Bendis wastes an entire page on a really bad monologue of Peter revealing himself to Eddie (and lying to him, which at least implies Bendis wasn’t napping through the scripting this issue). It’s not a bad comic, but it’s more of Bendis taking an issue to do what he could have in eight pages. He’s also being reductive with Eddie’s character; once he’s revealed to be a bad guy, the interesting parts of his character evaporate too. Bendis squishes him down to be two dimensional. Still, there’s a nice little moment with Peter and Gwen.…

Ultimate Spider-Man 35 (March 2003)

Bendis compresses about two years of eighties Spider-Man comics into this issue. Peter likes the black costume, he goes on varied night out of crime fighting, then discovers the costume’s dark side and zaps himself with electricity. The zap causes the suit to release him. He ends the issue passed out, in a painful coincidence, on his parents’ grave. Someone should have thought about it–either Bendis or Bagley–because it’s a family plot and there’s no room for May. Otherwise, the issue’s quite good. Peter’s in Manhattan for most of it (I think) and Bagley gives it an almost quaint, movie set feel.…

Ultimate Spider-Man 34 (March 2003)

Bendis does really well again this issue. Eddie and Peter’s friendship develops naturally, Gwen makes a fine, believable third. But then everything falls apart towards the end. Not bad enough to drag the issue down, but the narrative simply does not work. Peter’s watching his dad’s tapes and gets so upset about the Venom Project getting sabotaged, he runs off to try the serum on himself. It’s a mess. Bendis doesn’t handle the anger right (or maybe it’s just altogether unbelievable). It’s such a strange turn of events I thought I’d missed something. The finale, the Venom suit taking Peter over while…

Ultimate Spider-Man 33 (February 2003)

Brian Michael Bendis sure does like his coincidences, doesn’t he? If Mary Jane hadn’t broken Peter’s heart, he never would have found the boxes with the Venom Project stuff. Here’s what’s funny–Bendis makes it work. He gets emotionally honesty out of every scene in this issue, whether it’s Aunt May and Gwen hanging out or Peter and May watching the family videos or the introduction of Eddie Brock. Bendis introduces a character full of baggage from the reader (Ultimate or not) and immediately establishes the character in a conversation. There’s no Spider-Man this issue–definitely no Venom–yet the pacing, with Peter narrating his…

Revolution on the Planet of the Apes 2 (January 2006)

The problem with Revolution reveals itself in the backup from Templeton and Gabriel Morrissette–it’s supposed to be cheeky. It’s hard to describe the comic as anything else. Sure, it’s a direct sequel to Conquest but who cares? It’s also a direct prequel to Battle so the series is of little consequence. To fill in for the pointlessness, Templeton and O’Brien are cheeky. It’s all a “wink wink” joke for the reader, who presumably likes Planet of the Apes… but not enough to want a real comic book series of it. Almost all of O’Brien’s logic is bad too. The setting of Conquest…