Wednesday, January 09, 2008

The Decompression Project - Irresponsible

Yes this is the collection that contains the issue where Aunt May goes to see her therapist. That issue isn’t so great is it? I mean it starts out okay. I like the idea of looking into the character of Aunt May a bit more but then it just starts to feel a page, then two, then three, four pages too long. I found the longer that particular scene dragged out the weaker it got. Which is unfortunate.

The rest of the story has Peter trying to come to terms with his inability to make or keep his costumes. It’s a cute little sub-plot and probably the strongest aspect of this collection. Much like the previous trade about the Venom story I felt that this collection had some great basic plots but it tended to focus a bit too much on the least interesting aspects. Spidey spends a lot of time dealing with a teenage possible mutant that can make things explode – kind of like Nitro, I believe? I do love that he’s named Geldoff.

The play between Peter Parker trying to learn responsibility and express that message to this kid who really just wants to be accepted so tends to act like a reckless teenager is a decent conflict, but like the Aunt May talking to her therapist scene, the interplay tended to feel a bit too drawn out. Extended scenes are fine but this one never developed beyond, be responsible, I’m a teenager, well try to be responsible, I’m a teenager. It made me feel sort of teenagerish towards them and just want to go “pfffff” roll my eyes and ignore them until they went away.

Then the Ultimate X-(wo)men show up. There’s a funny bit with the attractive mind-reader and then your standard X-men plot where their plane blows up. I bet their airplane insurance is out of this world the way they destroy Blackbirds. Anyway, I was looking forward to a bit more interplay between Spider-man and the Ultimate X-men but again I felt a little let down by it all, although I’m happy to know that Kitty Pryde does come back to the series because I honestly think that’s a great Mary Sue relationship.

So while I just don’t quite like the choices made here on what to focus I can’t really criticize anything too much. The art is still fun and the characters really try to express themselves, the actual focus just wasn’t what I wanted to know more about or see explored. I got the point, I wanted it to move on. There were, however, two major things that I just didn’t understand. One: Why was MJ dressed like she was going to a Tarts & Vicars party or was in costume for Pretty Woman? Maybe I just didn’t go to that type of high-school but it just didn’t seem to fit in with the rest of the setting and character design which all looked their age. Two: Was there any consideration for issue breaks? It felt a lot like they reached the page limit and just stopped until next month without any attempt whatsoever to have some part of the story conclude. I know it happened in the other issues but this arc really stuck out for me, probably because I wasn’t totally engaged in the story. The name of the collection is either appropriate or unfortunate.


plok said...

If I wasn't enjoying the exercise of you following through with this, I'd say "stop now". What I missed in this one, that I got (however it was I got it, it doesn't matter) from the others before it, was a sense of payoff. This is where the...ah, can I call it the "Ultimization"? of Spidey starts to break down, for my money. In the end, all we get is a slightly -- and being honest, it's really only very slightly -- more nuanced May. We kind of get her horror of Spider-Man here, but the cheat is, that's all we get. Geldoff, Good God, he's not an important character AT ALL, he's a soggy grace note of Bendis', and in my opinion this is where the discipline Bendis has showed up 'til now starts to slip off him. I was prepared to believe, reading this as it came out, that it was setting something meaningful up -- future character bits, future action bits, whatever -- and I waited for it, faithfully, just until a certain one-panel event that occurs in a few issues, when I decided that the Ultimization principle of "setting up" had been abandoned. And then all that was left was the question "do I love decompression, or don't I?", and I decided that I didn't, and lost interest in the book completely. As far as I remember it in hindsight, absolutely nothing ever comes of the deeper explanation of May Parker's fear of Spider-Man, and the one-panel occurance I refer to -- I mean, maybe it isn't a big deal really, certainly I know many people who'd say I'm blowing it out of proportion, and in the end you may agree, but all I'm saying is that's when I stopped waiting for "payoff". And to my knowledge Bendis has not delivered "payoff" since then. I'm almost convinced now that he hasn't got a clue what payoff is...I mean I read House Of M, I've read New Avengers...

But after I read this Aunt May therapist issue, that's the first time I really doubted him.

My two cents, and forgive me for acting all mysterious, Jon. I just want to see how your reactions match/don't match mine.

Hey, thanks for doing this, it's actually kind of cathartic!

joncormier said...

No no, this all makes sense. I enjoyed reading the latest trade but when I wanted to start writing about it I was sort of at a loss for words because, well, the entire focus is on character interaction. Whenever motivation is explored it gets sloppy, and that makes it hard to write about critically. There's only so many times you can reiterate that the dialogue is well done between all the characters.