Fifteen-minute Movie – Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

or, “Soooo, DC/WB doesn’t like money, I guess?”
or, “Soooo, DC/WB really hates Superman.”
or, “Soooo, DC/WB really hates Batman.”
or, “What A Long, Contrived Trip it’s Been.”

Continue reading Fifteen-minute Movie – Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

A TV/Movie Entry – Truly, Truly Outrageous

I would like, if I may, to take you on a strange journey. Let’s go back in time to the 1980s. It was a time of neon and pop music, of big hair and big egos, of memorable if lamentable fashion choices, when MTV still actually had something to do with music, and kids came home from school to watch cartoons all afternoon. I’ve already commented upon many such shows, and now here’s another. In the harmful tradition of gendered marketing, this is about a show to sell dolls that was aimed squarely at little girls who worshiped Madonna (the singer) and dressed like Cyndi Lauper – Jem.

Continue reading A TV/Movie Entry – Truly, Truly Outrageous

Storytelling Failures – The Fantastic Four

This is actually a four-in-one, which I suppose is a bit of serendipity given the source material. So there have been four (debatably) cinematic attempts at bringing Marvel’s first family to the big screen. Thus far none of these have been particularly good or successful. Why has it been so hard? In its way, The Incredibles is a great Fantastic Four movie.

Continue reading Storytelling Failures – The Fantastic Four

Storytelling Failures – Marvel’s Illuminati

This is an odd hybrid rant.  One side of the mash-up is the utter failure of the stories involving Marvel’s Illuminati (thus far) and the other side is the mash-up is that this is a retcon that I, were I tyrant-in-chief, would have not allowed under any circumstances and probably would have chewed out the writer(s)/editor(s) who suggested it.

By the way, this is spawned because the company that runs Marvel’s subscription service is fairly terrible and this is the third time my friend with the subscription has received a comic he is not technically signed up to receive.  Third.  In two years.  Yeah.  So this time instead of Ultimate Spider-man, he got New Avengers #1, which is misleading on pretty much every level.  It’s not #1; according to the recap page it’s actually #16.  It’s also not the New Avengers that I’ve discussed before and the group is not in fact even Avengers but the Illuminati.  It’s also not even new because this set of comics is up to issue #3.  That’s a lot of fail, especially considering this is not even the comic my friend subscribed to!

So, time for some backstory.  There are reasons I dropped Marvel, and this dumbass retcon was one of them.  Oh, yes, while I usually try to be measured in my criticisms and often regret being too sharp (still sorry about the Superior Spider-man thing, but how was I supposed to know the end goal was to bring Peter Parker back?), this is not one of those times.  I find the concept of the Illuminati to be so detrimental to the characters, the stories, hell, the very fabric of Marvel’s 616 continuity, I will be much less than measured…  Also, this will be long.  Long and ranty.

So anyway, a bunch of things tend to happen in Marvel that should attract the attention of certain people and never seem to.  This is both a plothole but also a fact that is almost necessary for suspension of disbelief.  Apparently, people who write comics picked up on the obvious plothole of people not talking to each other and apparently didn’t understand that is not a plothole to pick at.  They should have watched the ST:TNG episode “Tapestry;” it’s not a perfect analogue, but sometimes picking at loose threads in the continuity causes the whole damn thing to unravel, which is kind of what happened here.  While I do indeed complain that an alien invasion in the Fantastic Four should damn well get the Avengers involved, for many of the stories the fact that such groups tend to not talk to each other is the only way to believe the outcome.

Anyway, long story short (too late) Marvel writer Bendis (whom I normally like but wow do good writers sometimes make horrendous mistakes), got the task of fixing the universe, which in this case meant explaining why the hell Reed Richards never talked to Charles Xavier who never talked to Stephen Strange and so on despite the fact they logically should have.  Via a retcon in 2005, suddenly the Illuminati, a group consisting of Prof X, Mr. Fantastic, Iron Man, Blackbolt, Dr. Strange, and Namor, had existed since right after the Kree-Skrull War (abouts 1971-1972 in real time).  So this means over thirty years of comic book history was suddenly retconned to have had this group existing all the time and doing whatever it is that they do.  And what did they do?  F*#k up royal is what they do.  Here’s a brief summary of events that actually impact Universe 616.

1) They meet and decide that such men of power and benevolence should try to talk to each other and prevent another war like the Kree-Skrull War, but in secret, because that’s in no way what villains do.  Initially Black Panther is invited, but he basically tells them they’re being self-righteous [Denis Learys] and that heroes totally do not meet in secret to decide the fate of the world.  He leaves, and the others continue to secretly meet because clearly they are not villains, right?

2) They decide to go to the Skrull Empire and show off how badass they are to convince the skrulls to never invade Earth.  They promptly get themselves captured, tortured, and experimented on, until they finally escape, leaving the Skrulls with much more intelligence on the defenses of Earth than they had before that little stunt.  Spoiler alert!  This did not turn out well.

3) Tried to stop the Beyonder and the Secret Wars II.  Spoiler alert – it totally did not work.  Also, the writers of that set of stories apparently couldn’t be bothered to read the original Secret Wars II and consequently had numerous continuity errors.  Spoiler alert!  This is a trend with the Illuminati.

4) Tried to convince Marvel Boy, a Kree warrior, to protect Earth instead of take it over.  Shockingly, this worked.  It’s pretty much the only thing that did, and honestly it should not have taken Iron Man, Mr. Fantastic, Dr. Strange, Prof X, Blackbolt, and Namor to convince this kid to be a hero.

5) The Sentry is retconned into existence and they discuss the matter and Iron Man decides the Avengers will take him into their fold.  Spoiler alert!  This does not turn out well, although I concede this may not have been their fault.

6) After the Hulk smashes up a whole bunch of stuff (as he is wont to do), including Las Vegas, Iron Man tells the group (minus Prof X) that they should shoot the Hulk into space and maroon him on a deserted planet.  Namor is the only person who dissents.  Namor.  Yeah, Namor, the guy who periodically decides to destroy/conquer the surface world.  Namor, the anti-hero, is the only one who thinks it’s wrong do this action and he stands by his principles and leaves over it.  NAMOR.  Well, the others shoot the Hulk into space.  Spoiler alert!  This also does not turn out well, and it is absolutely and completely their fault.

7) Despite dissolving the group over Iron Man starting Civil War, for some reason Mr. Fantastic, who has been collecting Infinity Gems (don’t know how the Infinity Watch felt about that), gives them to his former best buddies to protect them.

8) Hey, remember that time the Illuminati shot the Hulk into space and marooned him on a deserted planet?  Well, it wasn’t deserted because the geniuses couldn’t get the shuttle to hit the right planet, and after some contrivance, Hulk heads back to Earth for revenge!  Because that’s totally what heroes do!  And instead of you know, taking responsibility for being totally unheroic douche-bags, the Illuminati end up in a big fight that managed to destroy everyone’s characters.  Except Namor, because he told the Illuminati where to stick it in the first place.  (Note – I think “World War Hulk” is an epic fail of storytelling too)

9) Hey, remember that time the Illuminati decided to preen and posture and warn the Skrull Empire that they were total badasses and instead got their idiot selves captured like chumps?  Yeah, well, with all that extra intelligence the Skrulls invaded Earth, secretly.  It sucked.

10) Hey, remember that time when Mr. Fantastic gave all his best buddies the Infinity Gems to guard?  So, naturally, someone came after those gems.  It sucked, especially since the baddie was a C-list arcanist (I don’t care who was possessing him) and shouldn’t have been a real problem.  This set of events ended with Captain America being given custody of a gem.  That actually was a good idea.  Sadly, one of the few this brain trust has come up with.

11) So in the issue I just read, apparently a bunch of universes are colliding and this could be the end of 616.  Black Panther (remember, the guy who wisely said “screw this!” at the beginning) loses all common sense (or is subject to a dumbass “creative team”) and decides to get the band back together!  You know, the one he was part of for like five minutes before he realized how stupid the idea was.  And he gets all of them, even Namor.  Well, except Prof X, since he is dead and has had his brain eaten by the Red Skull, so he’s replaced with Beast.

I’d like to pause a moment and point out of this group (Iron Man, Dr. Strange, Namor, Blackbolt, Mr. Fantastic, Beast, Black Panther), five of them have been or are Avengers, but they’re still not Avengers!!!

Anyway, to try to prevent the worlds from colliding, they try the Infinity Gauntlet, which doesn’t work (because the Living Tribunal said it would never work again, but apparently the writers didn’t actually know that because who could be bothered to read up on the continuity and just declared it didn’t work or else there would be no plot).  All the Gems are destroyed (which they can’t be) except the Time Gem and Captain America is rightfully upset about the whole existence of the Illuminati.  Naturally, as perhaps the only hero (big damn or otherwise) left in the Marvel universe, Cap attempts to convince them that they are wrong and so Iron Man asks Dr. Strange to wipe Cap’s memory of meeting the Illuminati, and Dr. Strange is totally okay with that, because heroes absolutely wipe the minds of other heroes to hide the existence of their secret and totally not villainous club.  Based on my knowledge of narrative structure, and the history of the Illuminati thus far, I predict this will not go well, and it will be their own damn fault.

12) And then there’s all the stuff the Illuminati didn’t do, which if not spelled out is implied by their very existence.  Every major event that occurred between their retcon and the present that they utterly failed to prevent – The Korvac Saga, the Phoenix Saga, the Dark Phoenix Saga, Inferno, the Nefaria Trilogy, Days of Future Past, the Trial of Magneto, Avengers Under Siege, Acts of Vengeance, the Phalanx Covenant, Operation: Galactic Storm, and so on and so forth.  All those major events happened despite, in theory, the Illuminati existing and, you know, talking to each other to prevent such things from happening.

Intermission – I’m going to take a moment here to quell my rage by slamming my forehead into something hard until the pain goes away or slamming back shots until the pain goes away.  Either way, I should feel better, by which I mean not on the verge of a Hulk-like rampage, not that I feel better about this [expletive] mess.

Storytelling Failures:
The two biggest failures with this whole concept are character and plot.
Character – I know that people have different character amalgams, but the Illuminati does not fit the character of any of the men involved, except maybe Namor.
a) This is NOT heroic – Yeah, so heroes don’t typically get together for secret meetings to discuss the fate of the world.  That’s kind of a Legion of Doom or Masters of Evil sort of thing.  So the only person that makes any sense to be in this kind of shadowy and morally ambiguous group is, well, Namor.

b) Dumbass! – For this to exist, all of these men would have to exercise the kind of poor judgment more typical of a caffiene-addled, hormone-crazed teenager, and that’s a bit insulting to caffiene-addled, hormone-crazed teenagers.  Sure, let’s barge into the homeworld of the Skrull Empire to show off what kind of badasses we are!  That’s totally a good idea!

c) Incompetent! – Not only are they all arrogant, terrible people, they are utterly, completely, and unbelievably incompetent!  These are people who regularly save the world and yet apparently can’t prevent terrible things from happening and cause more terrible things to happen.  Their incompetence is so complete I’m left wondering how the hell they ever saved the world to all!

Plot –
a) Unraveling the tapestry – This concept only creates plotholes.  Huge, gaping, universe-breaking plotholes.  For example, it is the job of the Sorcerer Supreme to stop magical, extra-dimensional incursions into the universe.  But for those of you unfamiliar with the Inferno, it was, briefly, a magical, extra-dimensional incursion into the universe.  The X-men stopped and Dr. Strange was nowhere to be found.  The cause of the problem was the demon-sorceress Magik.  Now, by the tenuous logic of the universe before the retcon, which is that these people don’t talk to each other, a reader could assume Strange was absent for an event he obviously should have been present for because he was off tending to some other magical, extra-dimensional incursion (so, you know, Tuesday).  But once it has been established that Xavier knows Strange, there is no logical reason why he wasn’t involved.  Because, logically, Xavier should have called in Strange for help the minute he realized Magik was a demon-sorceress.  Whether or not this would have actually prevented Inferno I don’t know, but it does make a giant gaping plothole that this was never even addressed.  And that’s just one of many examples.
b) Been there, done that – Also, heroes acting like villains?  Ooooo!!  That’s so original and has never been done before and I hope the sarcasm is screamingly obvious.  Was that really the best they could come up with in 2005?
c) Made it worse – They caused huge, earth-shattering, terrible crises!  The retcon of the Skrull Empire bluff just made the skrulls more determined to take over Earth.  Flinging the Hulk into space directly led to World War Hulk!  Did Marvel really think it needed the heroes to f@#k up this royal to create drama?

1) What narrative possibilities are created with the retcon of the Illuminati?
a) Retconning events that were unexplainable, or merely unexplained.
b) New stories featuring them.

2) What narrative possibilities are eliminated with this retcon?
a) The ones already presented for the 30-some odd years of events.
b) Closing up loopholes without this retcon.

3) What are the consequences in the larger universe?
a) The members of the Illuminati are no longer heroes.
b) The members of the Illuminati are $#*&ing idiots who cause huge problems like World War Hulk, do not even try to prevent problems like Inferno, and basically fail at every effort to improve the world.  They didn’t even prevent another alien invasion!

4) How does this retcon effect all events subsequent to the Kree-Skrull War?
a) The members of the Illuminati are no longer heroes.
b) The members of the Illuminati are #@$!ing IDIOTS.

In short – Is this narratively necessary?  NO!  No no no no no no no no NOOOOO!  The universe was fine without the Illuminati, plotholes and all.  This retcon actively made the universe worse!

I-I just don’t understand.  I see the kernal of an idea that someone thought, “Wouldn’t it be cool if…”  But the execution is an utter failure.  I can see this working if the Marvel Bullpen had come up with it in 1972.  Was this an effort to address the obvious plothole that these people should have been talking to each other all along?  Trying to shoehorn in a retcon of this magnitude is ridiculous, and the result is ridiculous, and I have difficulty understanding how the “creative team” didn’t see the obvious pitfalls of doing this.  I can also see the appeal of the idea of all these heroes turned villain even if that’s overdone.  But the Illuminati are incompetent.  Why take some of the most important people (and generally competent heroes) and turn them into bumbling morons?  The way these stories play out is almost more of a farce or satire of the idea of Illuminati.  Is there a joke here I’m just not getting?

This isn’t a failure like One More Day.  That was a self-contained story with fairly minor ripples in continuity (although oddly it also made a whole bunch of otherwise awesome people impotent failures).  But the idea of the Illuminati is a Pandora’s Box of fail.  As shown with the brief summary that’s been presented in this rant, there is no end to the damage that can be done.  With the Illuminati in theory existing since 1972, and incorporating characters from every major Marvel title, nothing that’s been written is safe from further meddling through this mechanism.  Any story that has already been written can be modified or completely undone.  And the result of trying to use the Illuminati to write a new story is equally problematic as evidenced by “World War Hulk.”

Seriously, what is even the hell?  What the @#$%ity #@$% was the Bullpen thinking when this idea was approved?  Where did it start and how did it end up this parade of failure and suckitude?  How could nobody see the damage this was inflicting on legacy characters and the continuity of the universe (which already has as many holes as Swiss cheese)?  What was the benefit supposed to be?  New stories?  Then tell NEW stories goddamn it and quit retconning old ones.  And tell good stories, not ludicrous revenge fantasies starring a villain Hulk as a God-mode Gary Stu.

There is not enough *facepalm.*  There is not enough *headdesk.*  There is not enough booze.  I have no words to describe how much of a failure the Marvel Illuminati is from a storytelling standpoint and from a retcon standpoint.  When a writer lacks the words to describe something, that demonstrates how serious the problem is.  I can think of words – fail, incompetent, stupid, dumbass, [expletive], waste, moronic, idiotic, poorly thought-out, ill-conceived, terrible, awful, illogical, inconsistent, horrible, contrived…

But all of these seem inadequate.  Frankly, I find this kind of thing to be symptomatic of a larger issue in the two big comic book companies – a complete lack of respect for internal logic and story consistency.  In other words, this was badly written.  And while I know there were ways to write the plot of OMD in a way that wouldn’t have been a complete failure (although I would have still hated it), I don’t think there was any way this could have worked.

In short, I think the Illuminati was an unworkable, bad idea from the start that was made worse through bad writing.  I also think no amount of good writing could possibly make up for the bad premise.

Hey, I just found the right word to describe this: UGH.

Yeah.  Just… UGH.

A Media Entry – Hole in my Soul: Scooby Doo

I am on record as absolutely loving “Scooby Doo.”  I know, I know, the show was formulaic and cheaply animated.  And yet I’ve loved almost every incarnation (I really liked “A Pup Named Scooby Doo” because it was a good parody of the rest of the franchise).  So imagine how excited I was in 2001 when I saw trailers for a live-action “Scooby Doo” movie.  Well, ‘excited’ probably wasn’t the right word.  Intrigued, maybe, or worried.  I thought how could Hollywood turn a 22 minute (or 44 minute if we’re talking about the “Scooby Doo Movies”) television show into a 90 minute full-length movie?  But then again, several direct-to-DVD full-length animated movies had already been made, so how hard could it really be?  I had watched a few and even enjoyed them, with several employing the twist that the supernatural was in fact real (to be fair, that ceased to be much of a twist pretty quickly).

You may wonder if I don’t like this movie why I’m not working on a “Storytelling Failures” for it.  Well, it’s just not worth that kind of effort.  This was mindless summer blockbuster entertainment fun.  Yes, it could be argued that’s what Man of Steel was, but that movie was trying to tell a story if for no other reason than to get people back for the sequel.  Scooby Doo was more like, well, Transformers.  The movie was meant to capitalize on a successful TV franchise and nostalgia; it was meant to be disposable.  Frankly, expecting a story that was anything but lazy and/or contrived was expecting too much.

Anyway, I wasn’t expecting too much.  I was expecting, I think, a high-budget version of one of the animated movies.  The casting choices seemed good.  I figured with all the advances in CGI technology that a CG great dane would be a fairly easy creature to render.  And I figured that since “Scooby Doo” was such a long-running franchise that adapting it to live-action couldn’t be that hard.  Even knowing this movie was disposable, I did not actually expect it to be bad.

And I was wrong.  So wrong.  While the casting choices were fine, and some of the set design was really pretty good, most everything else was completely wrong.  Here is all the movie required:
a) four friends and their talking dog stumble across something weird
b) they investigate by splitting up the group with Shaggy and Scooby (and sometimes Velma) inevitably finding the monster and Fred and Daphne (and sometimes Velma) not finding the monster
c) hijinks ensue, perhaps with a musical chase scene and a celebrity guest star
d) the monster is caught and the mystery solved
e) also, the CG dog should look like a dog

So instead I end up watching a movie that immediately splits up the group in a bout of spitefulness, doesn’t seem to have any idea what the show was about, or how the characters act, or what the hell foreshadowing means (seriously, if they’re going to get Fred and Daphne together, then why the hell was the whole movie practically spent with Fred and Velma hanging out) and to top it all off, the dog looks awful!  Good grief, the toons in Who Framed Roger Rabbit were better integrated into the movie, and they were supposed to be toons!  Also, Tim Curry declined to be the villain because of Scrappy Doo.  While Rowan Atkinson did as good a job as could be expected, well, Tim Curry is just so perfect to be a Scooby Doo villain (and has lent his voice to an animated movie) I’m sorry that didn’t happen.  Oh, Scrappy Doo, is there nothing you don’t ruin with your very existence?

There were scenes that certainly didn’t belong (like a flatulence contest between Shaggy and Scooby), but what really put the hurt on me was the spitefulness.  Freddy thumps Scooby on the nose (even though in the shows no one really treated Scooby like a dog), Scooby punches Freddy in return, they all abandon Scrappy Doo by the side of the road, Shaggy suggests abandoning Fred and Velma to the monsters, and at the end Scooby smacks Scrappy into a wall.  I hate Scrappy Doo.  I really do.  Scrappy Doo puts the hurt in my soul he’s so terrible.  But Scooby was Scrappy’s uncle, and Scrappy was just a puppy.  No one in the Mystery Machine gang was cruel enough to abandon Scrappy or cause him physical harm, no matter how annoying he was.  And Scrappy is not so awful as to actually be a villain (seriously, though, how could they screw that joke up).  Hell, I wouldn’t actually abandon Scrappy Doo by the side of the road and I feel nothing but loathing for that trope-naming hound.  The gang’s behavior all around was spiteful and unnecessary, and just makes me sad.

I theorize that because this movie was meant to be disposable that no care was given to it.  Zero [expletive]s were given about this movie, and it showed.  Even disposable media should be watchable that first time, and this just wasn’t.  Ultimately, there wasn’t much fun about this movie and some scenes were downright painful to watch.  Really, what is Scooby Doo if not fun?  In this rare case, the sequel is actually superior to the original.  Is the sequel good?  It’s passable, and more than that, it doesn’t hurt to watch.

Storytelling Failures – One More Day

I covered this a bit (okay, a lot) already in my earliest entries.  But since I started this particular format, I think it might be useful to revisit this story and provide a more formal critical analysis as opposed to my angry rantings.  That said, there may still be angry rantings because my hatred for this story is as intense the burning of a thousand blue suns and the hole it leaves in my writer’s soul is like the supermassive collapsed supernova that sits in the center of the Milky Galaxy consuming all that ventures too close to its ever-hungry maw.  No, I will NEVER get over this.  And I tried out Brand New Day, I really did.  And because I personally hate this story much more than say, Man of Steel, I may get a bit more personal here than I normally do.

Right, for those that don’t know, the mini-series “One More Day” was the end of writer J. Michael Stracynski’s run on “The Amazing Spider-man” comic book and the one where Joe Quesada (then Editor-in-Chief) decided since he was deeply unhappy with life, the universe, and everything, that he would make all Spider-man fans deeply unhappy as well (at least, this is my working theory; I have no proof as such).  Quesada, being the worst kind of villain, was convinced he was setting right what once went wrong, which was that Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson got married.  Yeah, because that is the one fundamental flaw with the continuity of the Marvel Universe…  But I’ve already stated the dangers of trying to fix what one perceives as broken.  In the aftermath of the Civil War (ugh) in which Peter Parker revealed his secret identity, one of his many enemies took a hit out on him (duh) and his 187 year old Aunt May got fatally shot.  In the course of four issues (the latter two heavily re-written by Quesada himself), Peter and MJ trade their marriage to Mephisto for Aunt May’s life.

1) Characters:
a) Peter Parker – I’ve mentioned before that writers have a hard time letting little Petey grow up and be an adult.  I thought that JMS was actually trying to move Pete into a more adult direction.  I should also confess I loved Babylon 5 and when a friend told me he was the lead writer on “Amazing Spider-man,” that was enough for me to start picking up the comics.  JMS got Pete and MJ through a rocky time in their marriage and I thought it was well done and well, quite adult.  I understood why they were having difficulties and I thought the ultimate resolution was appropriate and even poignant.

Peter has a hell of a guilt complex.  Every bad thing that happens is his fault, even when we the audience know that is not the case.  But hey, that’s part of why he’s my favorite superhero even now.  I understand that kind of misplaced feeling of responsibility, and I don’t even have superpowers.  I would guess pretty much everyone has an incident in their life that they look back on and feel they just didn’t do enough or just weren’t there when they were needed.  The nature of being willing to love is to risk the loss of that love; and when there is loss, there is regret no matter how misplaced it might be.

That said, I understand that Peter would be upset that Aunt May got shot by an assassin’s bullet meant for him.  I understand he would blame himself and frankly in this case that blame is not entirely misplaced (see the section on plot).  But he does nothing but behave like a whiny teenager in this entire series.  He’s in the anger stage of grief and I get that, but there’s no character arc.  There’s no growth.  He’s angry and selfish from beginning to end, which is so obvious other characters comment on it!  If I recall correctly, even Aunt May’s spirit tells him to let her go, and he ignores her because it just hurts too much.  I’m going to steal a line from my favorite comic book review in his review of DC’s “The Rise of Arsenal” – “Your pain is NOT SPECIAL.”

b) MJ – She barely shows up in the series and I am mad at what was done with her character.  I never saw MJ as a hopeless romantic.  To me, part of the reason she and Pete got back together was that she had made peace with him being Spider-man.  MJ cares about Aunt May as though she were family (her Aunt Anna was friends with Aunt May).  But MJ is the one who talks Peter into taking the deal (OMIT makes it even worse).  She’s the one who tells him their love is so strong and great that it can overcome the power of Mephisto and even God.  *facepalm*  Riiiight.  That just does not fit with her character.  She loves Aunt May, but she loves Peter more.  She married him knowing full well he was Spider-man from the beginning and all the risk that entailed (yes, despite many writers portraying her as just constantly worrying).  To marry a superhero implies, to me, a certain strength of character.  The storyline up to OMD in which the two reconciled their marriage showed that strength.  This was a pretty big character change.

c) Mephisto – depending on the writer, Mephisto is as low in the cosmology of the universe as just a ruler of a hell, or as high in the cosmology as the very incarnation of Evil itself.  Even if he is not the devil, the difference between him and the devil is only semantic.  Stan Lee himself took the name from Mephistopheles in Faust (and says so).  I won’t say Mephisto doesn’t have an interest in romance.  The first time he showed up was to corrupt the Silver Surfer by kidnapping the soul of his beloved and trapping her in hell.  The purity of the Surfer proved too much for Mephisto to bear (so that part of OMD about righteous souls is right), and he returned Shalla-Bal and released the Surfer.  But caring about Spider-man’s marriage?  Mephisto is not a hopeless romantic either.  And his whole, “I like pain” rationale is just lame.  Lame.  Oh, sweet baby deity, Quesada made the devil laaaaaame… *headdesk*

d) May Parker – Spoiler alert.  The little redheaded girl is the daughter that MJ is unknowingly pregnant with, and in an alternate universe, is Spider-girl.  She is my favorite character but I think she acts mostly as an author avatar (for JMS that is) because she points out exactly how selfish and self-centered Peter is.  Sometimes the way this reads I feel like JMS has made Peter Parker into Joe Quesada and as May Parker is bawling out Quesada for this terrible story.  May Parker is truly the hero of this little comic book of horrors.

2) Plot – The plot is very straightforward but fundamentally flawed, but considering it’s an editorial mandate, I’m not sure it could be anything but fundamentally flawed.

a)  The end of the marriage could have been accomplished in multiple ways.  They could have gotten separated or divorced.  That would have made more sense.  But the evil mastermind behind this plot could not allow Peter and MJ to separate or divorce because that meant they could reconcile at some later date.  No, the marriage could not simply end; it had to be erased from continuity.  Everything that happens is to push forward this mandate.

As an aside, looking at DC, it appears Quesada is not the only villainous, power-hungry dumb-ass of an editor who believes marriage totally sucks dude and it’s like totally lame for a superhero to be like married and stuff.  ZOMG!  What if they like had a kid and then the comic would be all, “Dude, I can’t be like a hero because I have to like pick the kid up from school or whatever.”  Laaaaaame!  *facepalm*

b) The wrong person got shot.  If MJ got shot that would be a dilemma.  Peter forced to choose between the love he shared with MJ and the life of his beloved?  That rings true, emotionally.  But Aunt May?  There is no dilemma here.  There is pain, yes, but not a dilemma.  Aunt May is old, really old, like really really old, and in much of the story leading up to OMD, she told Peter not to worry about her and that she was old but she was happy with her life.  Her being shot is awful, and no one wants to see a loved one die, but Peter and MJ chose to become a new family.  They have hopefully years together and Aunt May by all indications was at peace with her life.  If Mephisto had come to Peter when he still had Aunt May’s blood on his hands then I could see Peter making the wrong decision and accepting the deal.  He makes mistakes like that and with the pain and shock so raw that would be human and forgivable.  But taking the deal after a day or two to calm down?  Not so much.

c) Who trusts the devil!?  He’s the devil!  He’s red and demonic with powers to bend space and time!  Why in the hell (pardon the pun) would Peter and MJ believe a single word he uttered?  He is the Lord of Lies.  He is the Incarnation of Evil.  Consider briefly the movie Ghost Rider.  Johnny makes a deal with the devil to save his father, and the devil complies and cures Barton Blaze of cancer.  Then the devil kills Barton in a terrible accident the next day so Johnny has no pesky emotional ties.  Or go back to the original story of Faust.  Do know what happened to him?  He got his brains splattered against the walls of his room.  That is what happens when you make a deal with the devil!  The devil screws you!

I-I just don’t have enough *facepalm* to express my frustration and rage.  There may not be enough *facepalm* in the world (no, not even in The Naked Gun 33 1/3).  This is almost the stupidest thing in this comic mini-series, and there is a lot of stupid in this (see below).  ARGH!  He’s the DEVIL!

d) Peter is unfathomably stupid.  When he turned against the pro-registration side in the Civil War, he took MJ and Aunt May away from the safety of Tony Stark‘s security measures and put them up in a crummy hotel.  He didn’t even skip town!  Sure, he’s broke but MJ has money.  Even he realizes he’s been unfathomably stupid after the fact.  Of course, neither MJ nor Aunt May had even the barest resemblance of common sense enough to tell Peter, “Hey, this is unfathomably stupid!”  Also, when the whole day turns weird, Peter doesn’t realize it until Mephisto reveals himself, because the precocious child, the insultingly stereotyped game developer, and the mysterious rich old guy who offers him a ride don’t seem any way odd.  *facepalm*  *headdesk*

e) Everyone in the story seems to be telling Peter to pick MJ.  Even the alternative hims, especially the rich one, tell him that life isn’t worth living without someone to share it with.  Except MJ, I guess.  Grrr.

f) Full of contrivances.  See 4).

3) Setting – New York City is home to the highest concentration of superheroes in the Marvel Universe.  This is acknowledged and then in most contrived fashion completely ignored.  See 4).

4) Narrative structure – all elements are present, but the set-up takes a long time.  I think this is supposed to be primarily an emotional story, but it’s still annoying when it takes until the third issue for the plot to really get going.

a) Contrivances!  Nothing but contrivances!  From beginning to end the narrative structure served only as the barest framing device for the contrivance that was passed off (badly) as a story, the sole purpose of which was to erase Peter Parker and Mary Jane’s marriage.  Any effort JMS put forth to tell a real story was obscured by editorial mandates. *headdesk*  Here’s a short list of contrivances.

– It’s magic; it doesn’t have to be explained.
Dr. Strange can’t heal a bullet wound although he can send Spider-man all through space and time asking for help and astrally witnessing the fatal shooting of Aunt May.
– Dr. Octopus can’t heal a bullet wound.
Dr. Pym can’t heal a bullet wound.  You know, the guy who can shrink himself and anything else can’t figure out how to extract a bullet from an old lady without causing further harm.
– Dr. Doom can’t heal a bullet wound.  This is a man who has a time machine and could in theory send Spider-man back in time to prevent the fatal shot.  This is also a man who is a good enough sorcerer to fight Mephisto (he doesn’t win but he doesn’t die).  He lives for doing favors like this for superheroes.  But alas, he is useless.
Mr. Fantastic (also a doctor) can’t heal a bullet wound.  Everything Doom can do, he can do better, except the sorcery.  But no help there.
– The X-men, who have a mutant named Elixir on the team whose sole power is to heal ANY wound, can’t heal a bullet wound.
– None of these people think to pool their abilities together (i.e. Pym extracts the bullet and Elixir fixes the wound).
– Mephisto gives a flying flip about Peter Parker’s marriage in the first place.
– Absolutely nothing else in the entire world changes.
– Except Harry Osborn is alive again.
– It’s MAGIC, damn it.  It doesn’t have to be explained.

There’s also not enough *headdesk* in the world for this.  That is just a short list and I’m sure if I wanted to pick out every single contrivance this entry would be ten times as long and I’d probably do permanent damage to my forehead with all the *headdesking.*  It’s not worth this.

b) Plot holes.  So many contrivances open up a ton of plot holes.  But since this is long enough, the biggest plot hole (which is akin to saying “the dustiest table in Pompeii”) to me is that fact Mephisto cared about their marriage in the first place.  Oh, sure, he gives some half-assed explanation about enjoying human suffering, but that’s way too petty for Mephisto.  He usually has grander plans.  But even if that were the case, a marriage weak enough to be traded away as it was weakens its value to Mephisto.  This is just lazy.  It would have been easy enough to provide a better explanation than “I like your pain.”  Hey, I thought of one – Mephisto knows that Spider-man or his daughter would one day be a threat to a truly grand plan of his and erasing the marriage is the only way to prevent that.  See?  In fact, that could help close the other gaping plot hole (akin to “that other sucking chest wound”) which was that NO ONE could help Spider-man.  If the complete lack of aid was all due to the machinations of Mephisto (he occasionally has reality-warping powers or maybe it was all just an illusion), then that would make sense.  Would it be good?  Probably not.  But at least it wouldn’t have been so damn lazy.

Conclusion – contrived and lazy.  The world was contorted and the story was merely a means to an end, which ultimately didn’t matter as long as the end was achieved.  And boy, did that lack of caring show in every single aspect of this mini-series.  Would this have been a story I liked?  Probably not.  But it didn’t have to be a bad story.  I’ve read good stories I did not personally like.  This could have been one of those.  But no, the villainous mastermind behind this abomination of storytelling didn’t give two flying figs about the story.  He wanted that marriage erased.  It was erased, and OMIT was a half-assed attempt to quell the fan rage.  It didn’t work. The sequel to a contrivance meant to push an agenda was no less a contrivance meant to push an agenda.  The story failed on every level because the villainous mastermind didn’t care if it succeeded.