Friday, May 06, 2005

I was right the first time

When J Michael Straczynski gave Gwen Stacy a hitherto-unrevealed sexual liason with Norman (the original Green Goblin) Osborn, I was disgusted. However, because it was JMS, and because he'd earned the benefit of the doubt with his run on Amazing Spider-Man so far, not to mention the television achievement that is Babylon 5, I gave him to the end of the story arc to justify this outrageous plot turn.

It may have been unfair, given his B5 habit of leaving threads dangling for years before paying them off, to expect that he would resolve this story in a mere hundred or so comic-book pages.

Well, the end of "Sins Past" came and went, and nothing was resolved. The kids disappeared, after a blood transfusion from Peter saved Sarah's life, and a dose of Goblin serum drove Gabriel mad. No twist, no cop-out: We are expected to accept that these really are Gwen's kids by Norman Osborn.

And I resolved that this would be the last new Marvel comic I bought. I meant it when I said it.

Cut to several months later. The storyline was continued in another title, Spectacular Spider-Man, written by hell-no-I'm-not-JMS'-protégé Sara "Samm" Barnes. The four-issue arc, "Sins Remembered", has been collected in trade paperback. So far as I am concerned, it represents Marvel's last chance to get me back. After almost forty years of reading Spider-Man, it's hard to say goodbye.

Hm. Gwen's daughter's name is Sarah. The writer's name is Sara. Hmmmm.

When an unknown (to this genre) writer writes a story about a character who has the same name as herself, a character newly introduced into an existing mythos who gets all the good lines while the nominal star of the series gazes at her admiringly, she runs the risk of said character being thought of as a "Mary-Sue".
She's amazingly intelligent, outrageously beautiful, adored by all around her -- and absolutely detested by most reading her adventures. She's Mary Sue, the most reviled character type in media fan fiction. Basically, she's a character representing the author of the story, an avatar, the writer's projection into an interesting world full of interesting people whom she watches weekly and thinks about daily. Sometimes the projections get processed into interesting characters, themselves. Usually, though, they don't.
This one doesn't, either.

"Sins Remembered" is not a Spider-Man story. It is a year-one tale of the Gallopin' She-Goblin, Agent of Interpol. If you are not raptly fascinated by the character of Sarah Stacy, there is nothing here for you. Although brother Gabe appears, he's little more than a cardboard cutout. His function is purely MacGuffinite: Someone for Sarah to protect, someone to threaten Mary Jane, someone who does what he does because the story requires it, not because he has any discernable motivation.

Spider-Man himself appears in costume barely enough to justify the "Spider-Man" logo at the top of the cover. His function is to be supportive--and to be an utterly inept surrogate parent to the physically-mature, legally ten-year-old Sarah.

And, briefly, to be comic relief in his own book. Boy, this scene torques me. In an attempt to web-swing around Paris, Spidey knocks a gargoyle off a cornice. Because, you know, Paris is just so much older than New York City. Didn't his spider-sense get amped up just last issue? Wouldn't you think that if it isn't good for anything else, it'd warn him if he's about to land on something that isn't strong enough to hold him up?

(There's another issue abandoned: The twins, their appearance and medical condition notwithstanding, are minors. Who's their guardian? Does French law care? Shouldn't Peter care? Should I?)


No comments: