Sunday, February 23, 2014
Post-Mortem Amalgam: "Spider-Boy Team Up"
Expectations are a funny thing. They can influence a bias on both sides; too high an expectation and you can be left disappointed, and too low and you may be made a laughing stock on the critics circuit when you give Grown Ups 2, like, B+, "better than diving into a bath of manure and maggots fast-first, at least!" You don't want to be made a laughing stock on the critics circuit, do you??
At some point, though, you have to be reasonable. No-one really likes being disappointed. It might be best to lower your expectations far through to the molten core of the Earth itself, if only to have a better time when you're being dragged to watch some film your stupid friends want to see or something. It's better to be mildly surprised than to be utterly crushed. So it's important to note that my expectations of the Amalgam line were well low. Well, well low. They may have been the lowest expectations I've ever had going into a series of comics, and I've read Freddy vs Jason vs Ash. So, let this be the story of how Amalgam Comics failed to surpass even the mildest of expectation. Oh my dear Jesus Christ, help.
Short version of Amalgam's history. After DC and Marvel's unprecedented collaboration with a series of JLA vs Avengers books, they made a label - Amalgam. This label was to do literal crossovers of famous DC and Marvel characters - instead of Superman and Captain America meeting, why not combine Superman and Captain America? Thus "Amalgam." Do you see? They hired all their best writers and artists, paid them in pennies, gave them a week or two to hand in their preliminary drafts, and sat back as both companies let more than twenty flop books populate shelves. The investment in the creative process, I imagine, went something like this: "Hey, you, artist/writer." "Yes?" "Make a comic book." "What about?" "Zzzzzzzzzzz." "...ohhhhhh."
I'm gonna start this tragic journey with Spider-Boy Team Up. Spider-Boy is an amalgam of Spider-Man and Superboy. Already your head starts to tilt to the side in a confused cock. "Spider-Man and... Superboy?" It's not the worst amalgam in the world - there are far, far worse, and I mean far far worse - but Superboy? And not Robin, or Nightwing, or... I don't know, someone with acrobatic skills comparable to Spider-Man? I mean, does that make sense to anyone else, or is it just me? Just me. Well. Alright then.
So the thing about expectations... you can usually pinpoint the moment they've been dashed. Keeping in mind that my expectations of Amalgam had carved a hole through the floor and through the ground so far down it had come out the other side of the planet, my expectations were dashed pretty much... pretty much immediately. Like the very first page, first line of dialog, first character. Everything I had expected from Amalgam... boom. Burned up into tiny ashes. It was so much worse than I ever could have possibly imagined.
"This is the last time you will interfere with the Scavulture!"
"I was just swingin' out to get a soder-cola an' pizza!"
Do I have to... should I explain how terrible this entire image is or can you figure it out yourself? Scavulture. Scarab and Vulture. I mean, no, yeah, that's cool. "My evil eye will see to that!" Yeah, no, that's a... soder-cola? Is that a reference to something? It's not, right. That's just... and why does it look like that eye laser is blowing a chunk out of the building behind them? It's just kind of burning through his webs, but there's a small explosion and it seems to be happening far in the distance. Did I mention I hate this book?
So! It's the future - 2099! The Silver Racer shows up. No, I don't know who or what the Silver Racer is supposed to be. One part Silver Surfer, one part... um... man, I don't even care. I could look it up right now. It would be so easy. I could go to the DC Wiki. I could just go to Google. I could do it right now, it would take so much less time and effort than even typing these very words. I just don't give even a single freaking shit. Anyway so that happens, and the action cuts to the inside of the Legion of Galactic Guardians 2099's headquarters. It seems Spider-Boy was in fact summoned by them, by a device called The Time Square. Spider-Boy is doubtful that any of it exists, asking, "who runs this show? Mr. Mastermind? Mysteriomen?" Jokes abound. Many laughs had by none.
Living Lightning Lad points and shouts "roll call!" and the most amazing thing ever happens.
Okay, so, some highlights: Sun Lord. Lady Bug. Dream Date. Bouncing Ball. Paste-Eater Pete. Timberwolf by Night. You understand, by the way, this is supposed to be funny. You're supposed to be laughing. And I imagine you are laughing, but it's not at the jokes. It's at the idea that someone wrote down "Paste-Eater Pete" and said "yep sir, my work here is done." Someone who got paid a pretty penny to do so. You start to realize this may not be a comic so much as some kind of demented thought experiment; like, maybe if you make it through the comic without once uttering aloud "that's fucking stupid" you get scooped up in the dead of night and sent to a government facility somewhere for a lobotomy and a glass of warm milk.
Just an aside. Can I point out how disturbing ugly every single design in this universe is? Spider-Boy is relatively inoffensive in the grand scheme of it - Dark Claw is horrific - but that jacket suit with webs on it, continuing to an undershirt with the same webs on it... it's all so embarrassing! It's frightfully clear that no-one who worked on these comics had any time to do anything worthwhile; I imagine they were given no time at all to not only create an entirely new universe but to then also write and render that universe. It's a mammoth task, the kind of event that needs years of planning to get right. It was done on a whim. It's incredibly disconcerting. Anyway, back to our regularly scheduled programming...
But... gasp! It's not to the past! It's to the future! The group he meets in the slightly dystopian future (I say slightly - one thing is on fire and it's raining, it otherwise just seems fine) say that he caused a chronal collapse, and that they are sending him back to stop himself from being sent to the future. Spider-Boy then attempts a lampshade hanging (thanks, TV Tropes!) by pointing out the paradox of the situation. It's not funny. Nothing in this book is funny. Everything in this book is very, very sad.
The roll call gag is played out again in a slightly different timestream. So everyone's all different-y. Also, Spider-Boy is melting look out Spider-Boy it's your arch-nemesis the Human Microwave
Take note of the... the incredible joke there at the bottom, poking fun at retroactive continuity gaffs. "I haven't seen a reality reboot like this since the time Doc Alternity respun the Infinity Loop!" Woah, Doc, this is heavy. None of the cast here are anywhere near as dopey as before - no-one quite as memorable as Living Lightning Lad, who is replaced with 'Lectron, sadly. Actually, Living Lightning Lad... he had lightning for hair. Let's go back to that.
Aw, man. That's so fucking stupid it's actually kind of cool. Actually, he's so far the only slightly irredeemable part of this entire book, so I'll posit to you that Living Lightning Lad should become a fixture of Marvel or DC. They can fight over the rights like rabid dogs. I'd watch that. I'd watch rabid dogs fight. ...wait, no, I wouldn't. That's inhumane. I would watch Marvel and DC fight, though. "Like rabid dogs" is merely a metaphor for the intensity with which Marvel and DC would fight, over the rights of Living Lightning Lad. Make it so.
Anyway, Spider-Boy is sent back in time, where he defeats Scavulture, and finds his way to a hidden cave where he finds Kang, The Time Conqueror! Kang takes Spider-Boy by the arms, and starts pulling him apart! "Once I separate and absorb your amalgamated life energies, all realities will be mine for the taking," he cries. "Splitting headache!" Spider-Boy says. Because he's being split in half. Do you get it?
Anyway, he pulls him apart an- ...wait a minute.
That's the goddamn Spider-Man!
I DIDN'T THINK SPIDER-MAN WOULD BE IN THIS BOOK! IT'S AN AMALGAM BOOK THERE'S ONLY AMALGAMS BUT THAT THERE IS SPIDER-MAN, IN THE FLESH! I...! OH MY GOD. OH MY GOD!
Expectations are a funny thing. They can influence a bias on both sides; too high an expectation and you can be left disappointed, and too low and you may find that something so simple can tilt your entire opinion on something. Michael Bay's Transformers, for example, had giant robots in it. That's all it took for me to be okay with it. Not the sequels, maybe, but man, that first film? They were robots, dude! Robots. Big robots. I like big robots. A lot.
And here's Spider-Boy Team Up. A piece of unadulterated dreck, hanging on loose threads of quasi-humour, every page disappointing more and more, with an art style completing lacking in personality, the writing prowess of a chimp, and clearly little to no editorial oversight. It's rubbish - worse than rubbish, I'd rather burn it than throw it away knowing someone else might find it and read it. It is representative of the entirety of the Amalgam range in the respect that it is one of the most patronizingly bad comic-reading experience I've ever had.
But then Spider-Man is there. Not Spider-Boy, but like... actually, there's Spider-Man. And Superboy too but shut up it's Spider-Man. And lo if I am not a fool, I am pleasantly surprised. I am almost... I'm almost happy. Oh man, Spider-Man is here. He can save us all. He can save this comic! If he can come out of the Clone Saga dignity intact, he can salvage this trash from... oh. Oh, no.
Oh, no he was never pulled apart at all. Spider-Boy 2099 came and saved Spider-Boy. Spider-Boy lived and they pull off the mask. And it's not Kang at all, it's Chronos-Tut, The Time Pharaoh. And he goes negative. He apparently has a tendency to do that.
Oh. Oh and he's fine. And... and "tune in next issue" haha that's funny because there is no next issue
Oh man. I... Spider-Man was there. Spider-Man was there. And then he was yanked away. It was like, hey you like Spider-Man, eh? Well, yeah no more Spider-Man for you, buddy! But he was... he was there and... then he... he wasn't there but for a brief flash I was almost... I was content... it...
...fuck this comic. Fuck this comic so much.
On the back cover, there is supposedly "another AMAZING AMALGAM art pick!" Its'... I mean it's not amazing. It's... I mean it's not bad, I don't know why Spider-Boy is sitting atop a blazing neon sign, eating Chinese food as doves fly around him... but I mean it's... but guys, I
and they took him away
they took spider-man away
i liked when spider-man was there
bring spider-man back please