Wednesday, December 16, 2009

SPIDER-MAN #14 - September 1991

Sub-City - Part Two

Credits: Todd McFarlane (artist/writer), Rick Parker (letterer), Gregory Wright (colors)

Summary: Spider-Man convinces the na├»ve sewer-dwellers to take him to their leader. He discovers Morbius now rules over the rejects, ordering them to deliver him humans for sustenance. After fighting Morbius, Spider-Man finally convinces him to ask his subjects where they’re finding his victims. Morbius, who thought his victims were criminals, learns that the sewer-people consider all city-dwellers “bad ones.” Distraught, Morbius flies away. Spider-Man leaves the rejects in the charge of their former leader.

Continuity Notes: I’m assuming Morbius last appeared in one of Dr. Strange’s numerous short-lived series (I’ll guess volume…three?). According to this issue, Morbius had been living with Dr. Strange until his quest for blood began to drive him insane.

Panel Count: We’re back to a less than three panel-per-page average, as this issue has fifty-six panels.

Where’s Felix? : Felix seems to be missing this issue.

Review: Maybe this story was popular around Marvel’s offices, since Morbius received his own solo book within a year or so. You can see another Spawn prototype this issue, as Morbius is given a cloak that’s virtually identical to the one Spawn will soon wear. McFarlane does succeed in making Morbius at least somewhat visually interesting, which is a step-up from his usual appearances.

I totally forgot McFarlane made two Spider-Man villains insane. I don’t think future Morbius stories played up the insanity bit, but it’s still disappointing that McFarlane went back to the “ah, he’s crazy” motivation so soon. I remember liking this story as a kid, since it actually made Morbius’ internal conflict seem interesting to me for the first time. I think the idea that Morbius has given in to his bloodlust and is now just choosy about his victims was revived in his solo series, so maybe McFarlane ended up contributing something to the character after all. Reading this today, I see that it’s filled with terrible dialogue (“You think it’s easy for me to prey on others for survival? Then curse you!!”), and the ending is unintentionally hilarious. After learning that his victims were actually innocent homeless people, Morbius shouts, “Noooooo! What have I become?” as he flies away, reminiscent of Conan O’Brien’s future done-to-death joke character, Cody Devereaux.


Max said...

Wow - I collected the Spider-Man series until Erik Larsen left. I totally remembered Torment, The Hobgoblin story and the Wendigo story, but Sub City completely left my mind. Nice to see that he ran out of things to talk about in a little over a year. Looking forward to what you cover next!

wwk5d said...

Haven't read the issues, but it seems like it's padded out to be 2 issues long, when it just as easily could've been an issue or an annual. I do remember some of this story being printed on a t-shirt you could order (Spidey punching Morbius, iirc).

But yeah, doesn't look like a lost classic.

Mr. Fantastic said...

As bad as this was, it was ten times less cringe inducing than his mis-characterization of Ghost Rider and the possessed Hobgoblin. And these were my thoughts as I read through the series as an 8 year old child, even.

This was the issue that first made me realize McFarlane has a hard time drawing regular human heads and faces. Or rather, that he is capable of doing so but frequently decides not to for purposes unspecified. Perhaps it bores an artist of his talent to be trifled with such mundane tasks and so he takes an offbeat approach to entertain himself? In any case, I found it odd that he made these characters we are supposed to find pitiable so grotesquely inhuman looking. And stupid. And prone to urinating on themselves. On the one hand, in the first issue of this story arc, if one call call it that—and many issues of Spawn—he seems to be making a point about society's callous treatment of the homeless. Yet in the second he depicts them as inbred mental retards.

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