40 / 481 “Sensitive Issues”
42 / 483 “A Strange Turn of Events”
43 / 484 “Cold Arms”
44/ 485 “Arms and the Men”
45 / 486 “Until the Stars Turn Cold”
Which, by chance, is almost a complete story arc, and, as a bonus, I actually read an issue or two preceding so I knew that Aunt May had recently discovered Peter’s secret identity. I didn’t know, however, that Pete and Mary Jane had separated, so it took me a couple of issues to realize that she wasn’t just off in L.A. for a movie shoot, and that when Petey misses her (uh, because he’s in the astral plane at the time) at the airport it’s a REALLY BIG DEAL.
The superhero story involves a crazed entrepreneur who decides that it’d be cool to upgrade Doc Ock’s mechanical arms and, you know, rob banks and generally cause havoc. Octavius is tricked into giving over the arms by being offered a job as a consultant to a cybernetic research company or some such. Anyway, of course, even though he’s initially overcome, Doc Ock is able to get his arms back and start kicking his doppleganger’s a$$. This happens, for once, not in NYC, but LA (which turns out to be quite convenient.)
The soap opera (which is my favorite part) has to do with how awkward it is that Aunt May now knows and Mary Jane knows, but neither of them knows that the other one is in on the BIG secret. And, of course, Peter is trying to apologize for being in the astral plane when he should have been at the airport, but MJ is having none of it. She’s getting tired of being second on his “to do” list (even if number one *is* saving the world.) And, wouldn’t you know it? The movie she’s involved in is a superhero movie (Brad Pitt as “Lobster Man!!”) and her role is to play the first girlfriend who is killed by the bad guy and makes Wolverine, er, “Lobster Man” go feral and get stronger or whatever. This plot device allows MJ and her co-star to have a lot of revealing conversations about what it’s really like to be a super-hero’s girlfriend and what might motivate someone to BE a super-hero.
I love any comic that deals with the “reality” of being a hero, so I’m a sucker for this particular storyline. And, honestly, I’m beginning to realize that I’m a big fan of the way Straczynski writes Peter Parker/Spider-Man. He lets us explore some vaguely uncomfortable issues, like, at one point the Brad Pitt stand-in says to MJ that he thinks that the girlfriend of a super-hero is fooling herself if she thinks she’s anything other than a doormat, because, really, at the end of the day, he’s going to save the world, not hang out with the girl.
And, of course, that’s exactly what she’s dealing with.
That and I love that Aunt May hates that Peter is constantly in harm’s way… it made me hyper-aware that every punch landed was going to leave some kind of mark. We see him at one point putting on make-up to disguise a facial bruise, and, of course, May notices because those things are never good at real cover-up (heck, it doesn’t always do that good a job at hiding acne, which it’s supposed to!) And, that just gets my mind going, you know? How *does* he hide all his bruises from his students/colleagues at school? (Peter Parker, if you don’t know, now teaches high school science in the inner city. Apparently the benefits of being a freelance photographer for the “Bugle” sucked more than working for the New York City School District, which is almost hard to believe….) But, anyway, what must they think, that he’s in some kind of fight club or something? That MJ beats him up?
I suspect Stracznyski deals with that at some point. He seems to like teasing out these kinds of “what ifs” which is what makes him a writer after my own heart.
Even though this issues are WAY old, if you find them in collection I heartily recommend picking them up.
Also, I’d promised a review of sorts of “Outlander” the movie starring Jesus (from Mel Gibson’s film in Aramaic) as a space alien who lands in Norway in 700 A.D. and accidentally brings with him the last of a vengeful a alien species, who just happen to look a bit like mythological dragons. It’s “Alien” meets “Thirteenth Warrior.” And it’s kind of cool.
Boing-boing or Gizmoto (where Shawn first heard of it), I suspect made it seem much cooler than the reality, but there were several bits I enjoyed tremendously. First of all, the love interest (played by MJ Parker! No, although she was a fiery red-head,) kicks some serious butthocks. SPOILER! She actually kills both aliens, not the hero. And, speaking of “heroes” this guy isn’t typical. First of all, it becomes clear that his people in general, and him in specific, are responsible for genocide of the alien race that’s now trying to eat the humans. We get some pretty grizzly images of bulldozers shoving burnt alien bodies into gigantic mass graves. I thought at this point our sympathies were meant to be stretched, that maybe after this reveal, the hero would, you know, grow some morals and decide instead of mass slaughter, he’d make some kind of peace with the poor, oppressed aliens. Nope. Worse, the visuals we get imply that maybe alien #1 is (or was,) a pregnant female because suddenly a smaller alien appears on stage. And we kill them both.
But, you know, our hero falls in love and adopts an orphan, oh, and become king, so I guess it’s all good. I also thought that our hero would inject a little modern/alien thinking into Old Norse and let the heroine, who, in point of fact, saved her people, become the queen, but no, he totally accepts the badge of kingliness and rules happily ever after, I guess.
Maybe she liberates herself in the sequel. (No, there isn’t one.)
However, there’s a cool skiffy bit where, after our dude crash lands, we find out that Earth is an abandoned seed colony, which explains why he’s bipedal and presumably can intermix with the locals, as it were. Also, he doesn’t start out speaking English (or Old Norse, as the case may be.) There are subtitles (from alienish) at the beginning and then he’s injected with language skills Matrix-style, and then everyone speaks English. Which, you know, is enough hand-waving for me, honestly.
I’m not entirely sure I’d recommend it, but it’s cool for its genre: Viking/Space Aliens. It’s certainly something to be seen.