If I had to pick a favorite media-related thing this past week, my choice would be an easy one.
Was it Halloween-based? Nope. That was fun, but we tricked and or treated through rain and windstorms in my neighborhood, so when it was all said and done, I was too wiped out to enjoy the full Halloweeny experience. Once we got home, there were no scary movies, no candy stealing from my kids, either. Everybody just went to sleep! It wasn’t a bad Halloween, just too cold and wet and sleepy to be my favorite.
Was it the first episodes of the Watchmen show? I actually did watch the first one (it surprised me that I watched it, too). I’ll admit that it seems like a quality show. But yikes. It was definitely very intense and serious. I guess that part matches the source material. Definitely disqualifies it as my favorite thing though.
Was it the new Paul Rudd show on Netflix that features not one, but two (TWO!!!) Paul Rudds?!? It’s called Living with Yourself, and I managed to squeeze in the first two eps this week. It’s pretty good, too, but watching Paul Rudd trying to harm Paul Rudd brought shivers to my spine. So that one’s out. I did enjoy the Tom Brady joke that apparently the Boston Media took out of context. To quote Paul Rudd via CBSSports, “I had a feeling I have never ever had in my life, which was: Oh my God, I feel bad for Tom Brady.” Even Paul Rudd’s sense of empathy is charming. Still, against all odds, there was something I enjoyed more.
The Amazing Spider-man: Full Circle.
What is Full Circle? It’s a round-robin style creative improv relay race, only in comic book form. Let’s start with the people involved, and then I’ll explain.
The creative teams:
Part 1: Jonathan Hickman, Chris Bachalo, Tim Townsend, and Al Vey
Part 2: Gerry Dugan and Greg Smallwood
Part 3: Nick Spencer, Michael Allred, and Laura Allred
Part 4: Kelly Thompson, Valerio Schiti, and Mattia Iacono
Part 5: Al Ewing, Chris Sprouse, Karl Story, and Dave McCaig
Part 6: Chip Zdarsky, Rachael Stott, and Triona Farrell
Part 7: Jason Aaron, Cameron Stewart, and Nathan Fairbairn
Part 8: Gerry Dugan, Nick Spencer, Al Ewing, Mark Bagley, John Dell, and Frank D’amata
The order was drawn at random. Hickman and his art team were tasked with setting the initial table and leaving his portion on a cliffhanger. Each creative team thereafter was responsible for simultaneously dealing with what came before as well as resolving one plot point and setting up one cliffhanger for the creative team that followed them who would then resolve a plot point, move the story forward, and set up another cliffhanger, and so on. Once they got to the final chapter, some of the top talents in comics would figure out what the heck had happened and try to figure out a satisfying conclusion for Mark Bagley, John Dell, and Frank D’Armata to draw.
It’s a gimmick, for sure. I love gimmicks, even when they turn out terribly. I watched pro wrestling back when Al Snow and the Big Boss Man had their infamous Kennel from Hell Match.
Basically, they surrounded the ring with bored dobermans who proceeded to mate and deficate throughout a professional wrestling match. It was terrible, but I still remember it! I can’t say that about any other Big Boss Man match!
Now this comic, not all of it was successful, but none of it compared to that match. Let’s go through the parts, trying to give you a little taste, but stay mostly spoiler-free.
Part One: Hickman is great! Hickman’s Spidey is great! Bringing Back Old School Nick Fury, only with a lolipop instead of a cigar? Great! Bachalo, also great! A+
Part Two: Gerry Duggan’s writing is pretty on point, but man, oh man, is the Greg Smallwood art beautiful. It was after reading this point that I texted Andy the digital code and told him this comic is wonderful.
Part Three: Nick Spencer, as I’ve noted before, deserves his spot helming the Amazing Spider-man title, and he demonstrates why here along with the amazing Allreds. I know I said no spoilers earlier, but I’mma spoil at least one gag that shows that Spencer knows how to have fun with these characters.
Part Four: This chapter is one where things start to get off the rails. Basically, the Spidey in this story doesn’t act like the Spidey that I know and love. Eh. That’s bound to happen sooner or later with this many creative teams. I’m just as happy to ignore this chapter and enjoy the ones I liked. I like some of Kelly Thompson’s other work, so I was a bit disappointed here that her Spidey started attacking his loved ones. At this point, I regretted selling the book to Andy so hard.
Part Five: This chapter brings along a series of Spider-Hams and puts the story back on track. I’ll take it! I was back onboard for this craziness!
Part Six: Chip Zdarsky brings in Wolverine! That tracks, as Chip and Logan are both Canadians, and he’s already had his chance writing Spidey. Notsomuch with Wolverine, though. It’s fun watching Wolvie, Spidey, and Fury play bad cop, good cop, bad cop. Also, it’s worth it for this gag. Fastball specials rule!
Part Seven: Jason Aaron goes whole hog with his chapter, having a lot of fun with this What-If-esq universe. If they can make a Cap Wolf action figure, I fully expect this chapter to birth a handful of new toys.
Part Eight: This is the co-written conclusion with art by Spidey stalwart Mark Bagley. They manage to wrap the story up with a nice little bow, making sense of the nonsensical. The ending is actually fairly powerful as well, and a really nice capper to this madcap journey.
So how did this gimmick match turn out in comic book form? It was neither an unmitigated disaster, nor was it the story highlight of the century. It started really strong, got itself lost for a bit in the middle, and it managed to end on a pretty powerful high note, all things considered.
I appreciate the fact that everybody involved committed to the bit. I got to see some of my favorite writers take a crack at Spidey, some for possibly the first time. Do I want a Hickman Spidey book? Oh man. That would drive me crazy while it was happening, but once it was done, I’m sure I’d love it. The same is true for Gerry Dugan. He’s like the Roddy Piper of comic writers. I don’t think he needs a belt (aka a company anchor book like Uncanny X-Men or Amazing Spider-man) to get over, but if he ever got a chance, I can see him doing a heck of a job. The artists were a lot of fun, too. Smallwood and Allred were the standouts for me personally, but there was a lot here to love.
Heck, I even loved the extras at the end that showed the creators planning out how they were going to end the story. They just so happened to be having that conversation while I was busy having my birthday party, so I look at this book like a fun little birthday present for yours truly.
So if you’re looking for something that’s a little experimental, a little meta, and in no way possible taking itself too seriously, check this one out. The plot is literally all over the place, from space, to amusement parks, to Aunt May’s place in Queens. There’s talking pigs and talking wolves and AIM agents who might have talked if Nick Fury hadn’t gotten to them first. Ultimately, it’s 80-some pages of fun! I’m happy to see comic books not take themselves too seriously and just have a little fun for once. It’s more of the escape I’m looking for than the down and gritty Watchmen tales out there now.
Final Grade: The Amazing Spider-man: Full Circle: A-
Maybe I’m grading on the curve, but I think the fun alone is worth the admission price for this one.
Until next time, I’ll be busy trying to not punch my werewolf infected friends and family!