Brand New Day Retrospective, Part 7: “The Future”

As the first phase of this reboot comes to an end, the future is uncertain.  Rumors abound that the book is headed for a creative change, shifting to a twice-monthly title written solely by Dan Slott.

In this installment, each panelist discusses his overall opinion of Brand New Day.  The panelists will also ponder this rumor, and discuss what changes we would like to see going forward.

The overall opinion

Kevin Cushing: There are some bright spots, even some home runs, but they’re outweighed by the amount of mediocre-to-bad issues, and even the good ones tend to have some bad characterization to deal with.

Zach Joiner: Overall, we’ve seen the worst of the worst in SHED, Freak, 611, and of course OMD Part 4.  But we’ve also seen some great stories, and some great potenial for arcs that didn’t achieve that level of greatness that is nesessary for the book to continue forward momentum.  2 and a half years later, where are we really?  Peter’s living in an apartment, not Aunt May’s.  He just faced Kraven the Undead, and lost his evil bastard brother.

If I were to give this a grade? D. For ‘Damn there are times…’

I hope that we see some pick up for next year.  We don’t know what will happen (Outside of ‘Origin of the Species’ Written by Mark Waid).  Rest Assured.  Zach Joiner, JR Fettinger, Kevin Cushing, Stella, Mike Bailey, and the great Brad Douglas will be there.  Sometimes without that Zach Dude because he’s not as cool as the other kids and old man.

CrazyChris: The quality of BND has been uneven. A minority of stories I’ve read are awful, and a majority have been bland because of the writer’s mediocre attempts at mimicking retro Spider-Man stories. There has been a good story sprinkled here and there, but there hasn’t been a single great one.

Jon Wilson: Most are good, few are great, fewer are terrible.  Overall, it’s been a B+ or A- time for me and Spider-Man.

Gerard Delatour II: This is a tough one to assess.

On the one hand, I get the general feeling that Brand New Day has improved as it has progressed.  Oddly, though, the troughs have become more pronounced.  The first year was very bland, and mostly below-average, but it was never offensively bad.  Even when the stories were absolutely terrible (FREAK!), there was very good artwork to go with it.  The second year saw some better stories (including the best of the reboot, The Amazing Spider-Man #583, “Red-Headed Stranger,” and “American Son”), but a few dramatic stinkers (like “Long-Term Arrangement” and my pick for worst issue, The Amazing Spider-Man #611).  The “big” pencilers departed, and the book suffered artistically.  The third year, to date, has had a smattering of decent stories, but arcs like “Shed” and issues like the final two entries of “Grim Hunt” have continued to plague the book.

I can tolerate a middling run on other titles, but this is THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN.  There’s no reason why Marvel’s greatest, most enduring character should be mired in such a slumping, nearly-directionless mish-mash of bland retreads and uncharacteristic escapades.  This is a character and a title that should have top talent working on them, pumping out a must-read book.

If you hogtied me, put me on the train tracks with a speeding locomotive barreling towards me, and forced me to assign a grade to this entire run to date, I would have to take a deep breath and hesitantly assign a C-.  It’s not bad enough to be the second coming of Mackie and Byrne, but it’s certainly not anything I would call “good,” or even “average.”

Brad Douglas: I’d give the book an overall C+/B-.  There is no constant quality with the book.  It’s so unpredictable in the quality department.

On the twice-monthly shot of Slott rumor

Kevin Cushing: My wallet thanks you, but my love of good stories says, “Fix the problem, not a symptom.”

Zach Joiner: I don’t expect it, but who knows?  With one writer and artist, anything’s possible.  I hope that it will be more consistent than years past.  One thing that I’ve liked about the BND era is save for a couple of issues, there has been good art throughout, not always GREAT, but good.  Let’s keep that up Marvel.

CrazyChris: The rumor sounds like a small step in the right direction, but Spidey needs a giant leap.  Granted, if the book becomes unified under a single creative vision, the inconsistency problem can be averted, but on the other hand I would not want it to be Slott’s single, unified vision.  Spider-Man needs a forward-thinking writer, but Slott seems only interested in telling Spider-Man stories he came up with when he was five, using the version of Spider-Man that existed when Dan Slott was five.  Preferably, the writer would be someone not involved in the current mess, someone who can come in with fresh eyes and bold ideas.  Also, I’d rather get my Spidey monthly and not biweekly, so that each issue carries more weight and the writer has more time to come up with quality ideas.

Jon Wilson: If the current rumors of his taking over the book on a bimonthly basis are true, and if he can produce on schedule, I won’t be complaining.

Gerard Delatour II: While the idea is a step in the right direction, I would greatly prefer if the book wasn’t handed to one of the people most responsible for this weak run.  I like that they want to keep the book coming out at a faster-than-monthly pace, and having a single writer would eliminate the storytelling inconsistencies.  However, if they’re going to move forward with a change, they need to completely clean house.  Get rid of the Webheads, get rid of Wacker, and tell Quesada to stop hovering like a helicopter parent.

Brad Douglas: If twice monthly will put a consistent artist on the book like JRJR then I’m game.  Slott is an average writer.  He sometimes hits it out of the park, and sometimes fails miserably.  It’s hard to not be biased by his attitude towards the fans and this website, but I try to read it without those impressions and it’s very hard to do.

Going forward

Kevin Cushing: No less than Spider-Man triumphing over Mephisto, restoring the timeline, and handing the book off to a totally new creative team all need to happen to really fix everything that’s wrong with the book.  And that creative team needs to be one writer and one artist (with the occasional fill-in, of course) putting out the book once a month.

Zach Joiner: I hope Gale doesn’t ride the Delorean all over my Spider-Man Books.  Or use a Fridge.

I just wanna see MJ, Peter back together and I hope Carlie Cooper gets twacked by the Maggia.  Michele get her nose broken by MJ for pulling a gun on her and Peter, I hope the Goblin Baby crawls out of the stomach Alien Style.  I’d like to see Peter unmask and say…. GOTCHA!  I’d like to see Harry get some hair on his balls and best his old man.  I’d like to see One writer on this book.  One artist on this book and bring back Ben, written by JMD.  I’d also like to see San The Dlott quit being…. oh never mind.

As for OMIT…. I dread that day.  I may take that day off just to moderate.

CrazyChris: Obviously, I’d like a full restoration of Spider-Man’s history and character development from before OMD, so that the story of Spider-Man’s life can continue building instead of recycling itself.  Assuming that’s unattainable, I at least want the writers define a Spider-Man for the 2010s instead of rehashing the Spider-Man of the 1970s.  The great eras of Spider-Man have all strived to find their own tone, direction, and interpretation of the character.  No one can pick up a Stan Lee issue, a Roger Stern issue, a J.M. DeMatteis issue, and a J. Michael Straczynski issue and mistake one for the other because each of those writers managed to reinvigorate the character differently, with a fresh take and new direction.  Now, if you look at the more derided eras of Spider-Man, they often fall within the theme of current creators trying to recapture the magic of old eras instead of creating something new.  See, for instance, the Clone Saga (attempting to replace the mature, married Spider-Man with a plucky, youthful clone in order to rehash retro Spidey stories), the Byrne-Mackie reboot (attempting to replace the mature, married Spider-Man with a depressed, homeless, unemployed widower in order to rehash retro Spidey stories once he got over it), and now Brand New Day (attempting to replace the mature, married Spider-Man with a “disaffected man-boy” in order to rehash retro Spidey stories).  We uphold Spider-Man runs that progress the character as enduring classics, and Spider-Man runs that revert to the so-called “tried and true” Spider-tales of yore become rejected and never last.

The best place to go is forward; don’t delete character development, embrace it!  At the bare minimum, Marvel’s talent should write Peter Parker as someone who has about a decade of crime-fighting experience, is capable of maintaining adult relationships, and has already learned basic life lessons like “don’t sneak into funerals to spy on the guests for money” and “don’t break into hotels for sex.”  Peter has gone through the basics and is ready for deeper personal challenges.  Give him problems that take a little maturity to resolve, confront him with moral dilemmas that would challenge the reader as well, and, for Pete’s sake, remember to make him likable.

Peter’s life should always have a direction, a goal.  In Lee’s run, he was trying to get through school.  In Stern’s run, he was in graduate school.  In the 90s, he was trying to build a family.  In JMS’s run, he was trying to make his school’s community better by helping his urban students.  The writers need to figure out what Peter Parker’s life trajectory is in THIS era, make it something we haven’t seen before, and put him on course.  It wouldn’t hurt to see Peter succeed at something, for once, either.

If Peter’s life is to have a cohesive direction, the book’s guiding vision needs to, as well.  Ideally, Marvel would publish one monthly Spidey book by a single creative team.  Because Marvel likes to make money, I’ll settle for a main monthly book and one or two secondary titles.  With one person writing the core title, we don’t have six writers pulling the character in different directions (mostly variations of “backwards”) and keeping him from progressing.  Art defines a comic as much as writing, so, in order to maintain a unified vision for Spider-Man, let’s have some consistent art, too.

Because comic professionals comment on our articles every now and then, I’ll impart some advice to any who might be reading: stop arguing on message boards.  While the internet might not represent fandom as a whole, there’s a good chance that people willing to while away time on a Spider-Man forum are your most passionate readers.  We are people you want on your side.  We’re the people who keep those casual, non-internet fans you claim to target updated on of the world of comics, and we’re the ones out there trying to win new converts.  We’re the ones actually reading those Newsarama interviews you do and relaying the content to others.  Right or wrong, we’re your direct line to your universe of potential readers.

I can think of a writer who everyone loved before Brand New Day.  Everyone respected this person and he showed up on EVERY list of desired writers to replace Straczynski.  The fans got their wish, but that good will has vanished because this person made a hobby out of diving into internet threads and competing in mudslinging matches with his own readers.  Does he make valid points, occasionally?  Do the message board posters frequently overreact and exaggerate the level of hostility he actually displays?  Yes and yes.  However, that doesn’t matter because it makes him look bad just participating in these fights, just putting himself in an antagonistic position.  You can never change the mind of the people you’re arguing with, and spectators will only see you as abrasive.  Why would you do that to your relationship with the most potent potential proselytizers of your work?

In the information age, the sense of community between fans is just as important to the overall experience of reading comics as the work itself.  Comic professionals should use that community to enhance the experience, not make it bitter.  There will always be abrasive, unfair, factually-incorrect, idiotic, self-entitled assholes on the internet saying the work sucks.  The best thing for professionals to do is disengage from them.  Focus on the good, build on the community instead of fighting it, and folks will WANT to like the work.  That is all.

Jon Wilson: It’s hard to say.  I’d like to see tighter editing on the Peter Parker side of the story, with the different players in his field showing up and being relevant more frequently.  Theoretically, I’d like to see Mary Jane as a more frequent player that can move beyond a constant reminder of what they had together.  The problem with that, though, is that’s exactly what she would always be in real life.  When you have a multi-year intimate relationship with someone and that ends, it takes a lot of time to move past that, and many never do because it’s not easy.  But I think the story would need it eventually.

Gerard Delatour II: The only thing I want is a return to solid, engaging stories.  Married or unmarried, monthly or twice-monthly, I just want a book that’s good.

For the first half of his run, J. Michael Straczynski told a story that I didn’t care for conceptually, but I loved the book anyway.  Why?  It was a story that was expertly told.  I’m not a blanket hater of Brand New Day, despite being a big fan of the marriage, because I’m capable of separating the concept and the execution.  I can “get over” a concept I don’t like when the issues are so good.  The problem is, when the execution is lacking, I have a much harder time accepting the concept.  It becomes a case of, “they changed X for this?!”  I wasn’t a fan of bringing back Bucky, but the first 20 issues or so of Brubaker’s Captain America run were so good that I came to accept it.  (The rest of the run … well, that’s a different editorial altogether …)  I can accept an unmarried Spider-Man if they give me a legitimate reason to like the book.

Brad Douglas: 1 writer, 1 artist, twice a month.  No bullshit mini series to cash a buck.  And make MJ a girfriend or a larger part of the book.

Up next: Well … damn.  There is no next part!

We hope you enjoyed reading this as much as we did writing it.  It was a labor of love.

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