Monday, January 6, 2014

SPIDER-MAN/ GEN 13 - November 1996

Crossed Generations
Credits:  Peter David (writer), Stuart Immonen (penciler), Cam Smith w/Andrew Pepoy (inks), Joe Rosas (colors), Richard Starkings & Comicraft (letters)

The Plot:  While in California, Spider-Man confronts the mercenary Glider.  She injures him in the fight, leading Gen 13 to take Spider-Man to their compound.  Glider’s employer, Bartlett, has Spider-Man tracked to Gen 13’s home.  Soon, Glider, Bartlett’s son, and a brigade of soldiers face Spider-Man and Gen 13 in La Jolla.  A soldier targets a nearby school in order to force Gen 13 to surrender.  When Glider sees her daughter Alyssa has been taken hostage, she snaps and turns against her employer.  She kills Bartlett’s son, shortly after receiving a critical wound.  

The Subplots:  Peter Parker is in California on a Daily Bugle assignment to photograph the band Black Lung Disease.  Glider, in her civilian identity, is fighting her ex-husband for custody of Alyssa.  Later, while recovering from her wounds, her husband uses the traumatic incident as justification for taking Alyssa out of the country.  

Web of Continuity:  The younger Bartlett was a guard embarrassed by Gen 13 in their original miniseries (which chronicled their escape from I/O).  His father has arranged for this elaborate operation in order to assuage his son’s bruised ego.  Spider-Man was just used by Glider as a means to attract Gen 13’s attention in the story’s opening.

Forever Young:  Grunge tells Spider-Man he’s been tracking his career since he was a kid.  Freefall confirms that Spider-Man is the “grand old man of super-guys.”  Spider-Man remarks that he’s been humiliated as a hero but he’s never felt old before.

I Love the ‘90s:  Spidey makes a reference to Bob Dole’s grouchy demeanor.  Freefall refers to Spider-Man as the “Nine Inch Nails of super-guys.”  Spider-Man states that he’s not used to being looked up to by Gen X’ers.  And, finally, Spider-Man makes a Helen Hunt reference when Rainmaker creates a twister.

Approved By The Comics Code Authority:  Grunge is allowed to say “Bitchin’!” once.

Production Note:  This is a forty-eight page, prestige format one-shot.  The cover price is $4.95.

Review:  Further proof that Gen 13 was everywhere in the ‘90s, this one-shot was pretty much inevitable once Jim Lee and Marvel made nice in the mid-1990s.  I don’t think it’s too controversial to say that J. Scott Campbell was the main draw of Gen 13, and had he drawn this one-shot, it probably would’ve been one of the few memorable intercompany crossover comics of the era.  I’m sure Wizard would’ve hyped J. Scott Campbell drawing Spider-Man and Gen 13 in the same comic for about a year before its actual release.  Instead, we get Stuart Immonen as artist.  Immonen isn’t bad, but he’s still fairly generic at this stage, and I can’t get too excited over his interpretation of Spider-Man.  Today, he would probably draw a Spider-Man/Gen 13 comic that could put J. Scott Campbell to shame, but he’s not on that level yet.

Peter David might appear to be an odd choice as writer since he's never worked on Gen 13 before, but it’s my understanding that he was Wildstorm’s first choice to replace original Gen 13 scribe Brandon Choi after he left the book at around this time.  David's sensibilities would seem to suit the series, which was essentially a superhero comedy with some cheesecake thrown in.  There’s not a lot of cheesecake here, but David tries to keep the tone light for most of the issue (until he abruptly decides not to, but we’ll get to that later).  If Marvel published this today, I’m sure there would be an effort to play up the idea of Spider-Man as a “youthful” hero, so it’s amusing to see that almost twenty years ago Peter Parker was already considered too old to be hanging out with teenagers.  

The humor of the story isn’t that great, but it’s about as funny as I recall the standard Gen 13 comic from the era.   The real problem with the one-shot is the ending, as the last few pages of the story take a sudden swerve into melodrama.  Glider (a new character apparently created for this one-shot) receives an inordinate amount of the spotlight during the issue, and while she serves her role as nuisance fairly well for most of the story, the ending of the comic suddenly makes her the star.  Forget about Spider-Man and Gen 13 getting into trouble or having fun during their first meeting; instead, this is a comic about a divorcee making a horrible decision and losing custody of her daughter as a result.  And while the concept of overprotective parents does show up earlier in the story, so this isn’t totally out of nowhere, it’s an odd choice to make such a serious (and adult) topic the main theme.  Doing a Gen 13 story with a depressing ending just doesn’t feel right, and creating a new character specifically designed to explore an adult, serious issue also feels like a bizarre fit for the book.   

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