Another of these covers, this one by Mark Beachum, who forgot the spider on his chest. My favorite part of Romita, Sr.’s border for this is The X-Men, because they look very 80s, and it’s interesting to see his interpretation. Most of the other heroes look right at home in that timeless Romita, Sr. look, but these particular X-Men look more like his son’s work. We’re off the beaten paht this month, as Bill Mantlo and Keith Giffen are on hand for a fill-in. Vince Colletta and Bob Sharen round out the team. Page 1 of this issue is this:
It’s so hard to read I have elected not to after the first 2 sentences. That font in white on black might work today, with digital files, better printing and slicker paper, but even then, they’d probably pick a more legible font, especially for such small text. This is a disaster, and I hope it doesn’t continue throughout the issue. Kieth Giffen’s art is weird and quirky and maybe not the best fit here, but we’ll see. Spider-Man is in his definitively destroyed red & blues as he swings around silently for a page and ⅓ until he happens upon a weird situation. Some cops have arrived on the scene of an old man brandishing a cleaver at some young goons, yelling that they won’t kick him out of his home.
Now this is “designy.”
I am really enjoying the look of this comic. I’m amazed this even got published. It’d never fly in ASM. The cop explains that the old man’s lived in this building since it was built, but now “gangs” have moved in, and the old man is the only one who “defies” them. Spidey asks why the cops can’t help, and they say they can’t just hang around here all the time. And Spidey realizes he can’t, either, and goes home.
And there’s the other shoe. Giffen cuts loose and makes the super pages strange and interesting, but makes sure these pages of regular people read smooth and clean. A certain breed of comics fan would deride this as bad art, but in my mind, the primary difference between “bad” and “stylized” is control. Anybody can draw any way they want, but what you’re trying to do matters. These are choices, calculated and intentional, as opposed to, say, Rob Liefeld accidentally drawing someone with 2 left hands. You can not like it, of course, but calling it bad would say more about you than about the work. But too many people in comics fandom just say anything that doesn’t appeal to them, personally, is bad, and that kind of fan generally wants whatever’s being called “realistic” at the time and nothing else, and would hate this. That’s how we wind up with comic artists who trace 3D models and pictures of celebrities making disjointed, lifeless comics and becoming stars in the 21st Century, realism uber alles. Bad attitude. Big digression! So, Peter and Blaire go back to the building to, I dunno, interview people? I’m not sure, but as everyone in the building is either a gangster or someone terrified of them, it only takes one page for things to go south. The 2 find themselves surrounded by goons, but Peter doesn’t back down, and they are let off with a warning for now. Then they go see the old guy from earlier.
That night, Spider-Man keeps watch over the building, hoping to be Mr. Castellano’s guardian angel. But a scream from a few blocks away draws him off, and as he stops a mugging, he hears sirens headed back where he came.
The goons are now planning to firebomb everyone else in the building holding out on them. Spider-Man begins dispatching them in the shadows, but when he makes himself known to the leader, he gets one of the molotov cocktails tossed at him. He dodges, but the fire quickly pickles up speed. The people are fleeing out the front door, but the gang leader is trying to find an alternate route. Spider-Man beings to toy with him, wanting him to feel as scared as his victims, popping up out of the shadows only to disappear again. A tense and well-executed sequence contrasts the gangster fleeing through the building with Mr. Castellano’s stuff burning, until…
“McFarlane eyes” 16 issues before he joins the title.
The goon runs out of the building to confess, and Spider-Man thinks it’ll take more than one old man or the power of a Spider-Man to stop what’s happening to neighborhoods. And so…
A fine little one-off. If Mantlo wanted to take an issue to talk about the evils of gentrification, I’m all for it, and Giffen interpreted it beautifully. I think a lot about Vince Colletta’s deserved reputation for shortcuts reading his 80s stuff. My first exposure to his inks was almost certainly ASM 290, which I have mentioned I really liked the look of, and still do. Vince infamously erased backgrounds, ignored figures, and simplified details inking Kirby’s legendary run on Thor. He’s known for being fast, and for chopping up one of comics’ greatest masters. A lot of people understandably hate him. But by the 80s, maybe I’m just an untrained eye, but I think he’s chilled out a little. This issue, the Silvestri stuff, the aforementioned team-up with John Romita, Jr., I think they all look great. Maybe he’d accepted he’d gotten too old to crank out whole issues in 24 hours and was taking more time again. I dunno. But I have to say, I think his 80s work looks nice.