Brand New Day Retrospective, Part 5: “If Thee Be My Enemy!”

Much like the supporting cast discussed in the previous installment, Brand New Day has used a combination of new villains and old ones updated for the new continuity.  In the latter case, many of these villains have been dramatically revamped.

In this installment, we look at the villains of Brand New Day, both the new villains introduced and the revamps and reintroductions of the classic rogues.

On the new villains …

Kevin Cushing: Most of them just seem like poor concepts.  Mr. Negative and the Inner Demons are first some of the worst named villains I’ve ever run across, and second they’ve done pretty much nothing.  Freak was DOA, let’s face it.  I don’t think any more needs to be said about him than already has been.  Paper Doll was just a strange idea for a villain.  I’m not sure what the intention was, but the execution came off as annoying rather than threatening.  Menace was a poorly designed Goblin knock-off, and when we’ve got so many Goblins running around out there already we seriously didn’t need another one.  Raptor I suppose served his intended purpose, since he very much did feel like a terrible 90s villain, so he fit into a Clone Saga arc pretty seamlessly.

Zach Joiner: Who here thinks that any of the new villains are going to stick?  I personally think that Mr. Negative will stick, but Ana Kraven?  Not so much.  Freak was a mistake, the voodoo Mayan-God thing was only good for the issues that they were in, Paper Doll is a one note character (sort of like Skin and Bones in Spider-Woman IV)…  Most of the characters have potential, but the problem is that we’re not seeing it.  Outside of Ana Kraven (Skittles the Penny Hooker) who have we seen since 575?

I got ya: Little to no one.  Dexter Bennett appeared just to get crippled. Whoopie.

CrazyChris: I find the new villains okay.  J. Michael Straczynski’s unmemorable villains had little staying power and were a weaker aspect of his run, so the Brain Trust only had room to improve in this respect.  As good the JMS stories were, can you really picture a magical wasp god from the astral plane as a recurring foe for Peter Parker?  I can see Mr. Negative, Paper Doll, and even Freak meshing much better with Spider-Man’s existing rogues.  These characters have so far featured in mediocre stories, but only because the Brain Trust/Web Heads/Whatever are mediocre writers.  For example, Paper Doll has unique powers and a spooky presence, but I could count her character traits on one hand.  Hell, I think I could do it on one finger.  A deeper writer could say more about her than “she’s a creepy celebrity stalker.”  And, like George Berryman said in his Brand New Day recap series, Freak could be a tortured and multi-faceted character if a great writer tried to discover those layers instead of un-ambitiously writing him as soulless drug fiend.  In sum, the new villains are decent concepts but need a writer who will think deeply about them and realize their potential.

Jon Wilson: Of all the villains introduced, the only two that seem to have had any staying power were Mr. Negative and Screwball.  I’m pretty sure Paper Doll was meant as a vehicle for that one plot, and Freak was a plot device to set up events in “New Ways to Die”.  Screwball is fun; I don’t find her annoying as a character.  What I do find annoying is that we were told in a letters column that there was more to her than meets the eye, yet after all this time, we’ve seen no indication of that.  All we’ve seen on the page is that a girl with athletic abilities is staying ahead of the Spider somehow, and that’s just weird if there’s no explanation.

Mr. Negative has me intrigued.  I appreciated the added mystery to his character that came from his Dark Reign miniseries.  His proximity to Peter’s Aunt May is an ever-present danger, and we just don’t know what’s going to happen there.  He’s a would-be crime boss with an agenda.  That’s a good classic Spidey villain concept.  I’m looking forward to more.

Gerard Delatour II: The new villains have, in a word, sucked.

The main problem is that most of them are stand-ins for other characters, playing familiar roles that could easily have been filled by already-existing characters.  Mr. Negative?  He’s pretty much a new version of Silvermane, trying to gather up gangs under his name and become the new Kingpin of crime.  Menace?  This one fills the familiar Goblin archetype.  Paper Doll?  As if Brand New Day wasn’t similar enough to the Mackie reboot already, they had to throw in a stalker plot!  New Vulture?  Well, it’s just Vulture with the word “New” tacked on in front.  These villains were thrust into plots that were clear rehashes of earlier stories, hurting their viability in the long run.  Outside of brief, mandatory reappearances, they’ve been put aside in favor of the classics.

Brad Douglas: I’m with everyone else and hated Freak.  I applaud the webheads for trying to come up with new villains.  But it’s kinda like throwing some on the wall and hoping they stick.  Jackpot’s has been so-so, her mini series was actually good.  Also Menance is an interesting take on the Goblin legacy.  Mr. Negative had potential, but nothing is being done with him.  Anti-Venom is a waste.  I’d like Brock back in the suit and not be an anti-hero.

On the revamps …

Kevin Cushing: First, I absolutely loved the Rhino revamp.  Instead of focusing on redesigning his look and powers, the focus was on telling a powerful emotional story, and it was beautifully told.  Those two issues made me care about the Rhino for the first time in history.  Chameleon’s revamp was also excellently told.  Forget about the controversies around that arc and just look at the Chameleon, and you’ll see a villain who might have seemed almost played out who was given a terrifying and interesting refocus.  The story was entertaining and the Chameleon came out of it a better character than he went in, which is the biggest win a revamp can have.

The rest of the revamps, sadly, were pretty terrible.  Electro’s power revamp seemed redundant, and the new look he was given is cheesier than his original costume, so what’s the point?  Sandman became Madrox the Multiple Man – flippin’ fantastic.  Dr. Octopus was given a few months to live, which we know will either end with a reprieve or result in a resurrection.  And he reacted to the news by deciding it’s best to go out with a straight-jacket, a diaper, a muzzle, and enough arms to render his name incorrect.  The less said about that the better.  Mysterio was brought back from the dead with no mention of him having been dead.  Even if his death was an illusion (which doesn’t actually work), we need at least a line of dialogue to tell us that.  The Lizard was turned into a villain who, at his best, eats children and causes people to rape each other.  I had to check the credits multiple times to make sure there wasn’t a special thanks to Garth Ennis for the idea.  And the first of these revamps – Anti-Venom – seemed to be a decision that stripping away everything good about the character and leaving only the worst parts of his 90s characterization would somehow improve him.  Maybe it’s me that “just doesn’t get it,” I don’t know.  But I do know revamps are supposed to strengthen characters, and all of these seemed tailor-made to prove that there’s no point in using these classic characters anymore.

CrazyChris: Honestly, I dropped Amazing Spider-Man around the time these villain revamps began.  The last story I read before quitting was Joe Kelly and Chris Bachalo’s Hammerhead reimagining, and the puking, the bum lady breath, and the flying clowns distracted me from considering the new Hammerhead.  I loved the back story Joe Kelly provided for Hammerhead in the first Extra, but the full story arc, combined with the Jackpot annual that arrived the same month, made me drop the title, I hated it so.  I later bought and read the Spot reimagining because that character always interested me, and while I liked the ruthless application of his powers, his mute lack of personality and the editor’s caption referring me to a miniseries for the story’s continuation promptly depleted my interest.

Oh, and let’s not forget Anti-Venom.  Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa’s story left Venom in a dark, interesting place psychologically, providing great platform from which to move forward with Eddie Brock, but New Ways to Die jettisoned all that progress for a reversion to the flamboyant, “innocent”-protecting 1990s Venom, only now covered in pus.  Anti-Venom gets my vote for worst character revamp.

Gerard Delatour II: I have mixed feelings about the revamps of classic Spider-Man villains.

First of all, I welcomed the return of the classic villains after living through the horrors of Freak, Menace, Paper Doll, etc.  I would take Doctor Octopus over any of these clowns, any day of the week.  But then we got to the actual stories …

Outside of the revamp of the Chameleon, which was an interesting take on the character, the other updates have been a mixed bag.  The Brand New Day take on the Sandman was okay (even if it was shamelessly obvious that they were trying to line it up with Spider-Man 3), and the appearances of Shocker and the Enforcers didn’t change the characters at all.  The rest, however, left me cold.  I didn’t care for the revamp of the Rhino, which seemed melodramatic, pretentious, and very obvious, and the others were a dramatic step backwards.  The new take on the Lizard, for example, has ruined the character so badly that I never want to see him used again.  He went from being Marvel’s take on Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde to a shambling, borderline-retarded monster with Rape-O-Vision.  These character weren’t broken, so why did they need to be changed so dramatically?

Brad Douglas: I hated the Lizard revamp.  Electro is ok, they gave him a similar boost in the 90s and it went nowhere.  I like the mask better than the scar.  Doc Ock, eh….. we only have 1 story with him.  I liked 600 but I miss the fat smartass guy instead of a vegetable.

Up next: The Best and the Worst