Monday, October 3, 2011

Trade Waiting – Astonishing Spider-Man & Wolverine

Astonishing Spider-Man & Wolverine was a recent miniseries, and one plagues by delays, so that means far too many people missed out on it. A shame because it’s one of the most fun books you’ll read this year. It’s insane how much fun Jason Aaron packs into these pages so hit the jump to see why I thought this was so damn cool that you all have to go out and buy it now.

Astonishing Spider-Man & Wolverine

Written by Jason Aaron
Art by Adam Kubert

This book cold opens on Peter Parker and Logan living in prehistoric times. They’ve been there a while. They’ve settled in. They’re about to die, along with all the dinosaurs and other life struggling to understand the asteroid that will cloak the planet in an arctic winter. This is how Aaron chooses to settle us into the book.

The mysteries Aaron introduces this early into the story generally carry through the rest of the mini, and any steps toward resolution only seem to unearth new and intriguing concepts to ponder. Aaron isn’t about drawing any straight lines for the audience – this is a time travel story and he relishes in the curved lines of narrative he can throw into the mix. If you need to read this book more than once then he probably feels his job has been done. And his job has been done, and well, because you’ll want to read this book more than once.

As masterful as this feels as a story, I get the feeling Aaron also had a checklist of crazy business he wanted to fit into this book and he makes it all happen while all you can do is sit back, ogle, and smile. A bearded caveman-style Spider-Man, check. A dino-Devil Dinosaur, check. Doom, the Living Planet, check (seriously, a knock out concept you cannot miss!). A Phoenix Force bullet, check (and what comes from that is even cooler but I won’t drop spoilers here). A diamond encrusted bat that sends people through time, check. This book bounces from idea to idea and yet at its heart Aaron crafts a fun and meaningful buddy romp. The juxtaposition of Spidey and Wolvie is a fun set up to exploit and Aaron does a brilliant job here. The inner monologues reflect each other in their synchronicity even when the thoughts stem from very different places.

BEHOLD, Doom, The Living Planet

There is a clear sense that this book was created to entertain. There is also a very clear understanding that this book certainly does entertain. The manic glee on the pages took me right back to that feeling of reading comics as a kid. I’d be bundled under a blanket on the couch, or hiding up in my room, and I’d be marvelling at the insanely cool stuff happening on the pages. Thor turning into a frog, Wolverine being blasted to shreds by a Sentinel, Hulk wearing a tuxedo. These were the images that defined so much of my childhood and here we get so much more of that. The places this dynamic duo go, and the ways they interact while there, and the things they do, are so awesomely mind-blowing. These are the pages upon which childhood fantasies are writ large. This is the tale you can hand to any new reader who has yet to feel the awe only comics can bring and watch them smile for days. It’s the sort of water cooler comic you can discuss “Chris Farley Show”-style about all of the fantastic moments. This is a comic that wants to be a comic, completely and without fear.

I honestly believe you do not need to know a thing about comics, or these characters, or the Marvel U, to enjoy this book. It certainly doesn’t hurt to know what a Cosmic Cube is, but to be honest, as a kid I would have read this and then been turned onto reading a whole bunch of other stuff to better understand why the Phoenix moment was so bad ass, and who the Orb is. It’s not a bad thing when you can use a character or concept well in your book but also hint at more the reader can go hunt out. I mean, as a kid this sort of thing would have sent me scrounging through back issue bins for months. Now, you only need the internet, some Google Fu, and you can be up to date on most of the information in minutes. Life is not that hard.

The art from Adam Kubert is spectacular in places. Those places? They’re called the pages. The greatest sequences are obviously the action-oriented ones, but there’s a class to the way he draws Peter and Logan. The lines are simple, or at least always feel that way, and yet the pages come to life so effortlessly. This is a book that’s stunning in its craft and also bombastic in its sheer levels of comic pleasure.

Verdict – Must Read. If you are out to have a comic you can sit down with and enjoy every time, this is your guilty little pleasure. It’s right in the title, this book is ‘Astonishing.’ You’ll laugh, you’ll cheer, you’ll love it. If not for yourself, then buy it for any person you like and want to make smile. In one trade, Aaron and Kubert have distilled the sheer pleasure and level of amazement only this medium can bring. If you can’t enjoy this book you need your pulse checked, and your body pillaged and sold off for medical science. Go, now, order it.

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Cuda B. said...

That Doom the Living Planet page is the reason I put this book on my 'to read' list. I picked up issue one and plan to get the collection in due time.

Also, Marvel definitely needs to get Kubert on another mini as soon as possible.

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