In the beginning…
The first comics I read were Star Wars comics. Star Wars was the first fandom I followed though no one used the word fandom in 1981. The comic books were a continuation of story, the off-screen adventures of all the characters I loved. Yet, somehow, I knew that these stories weren’t really part of the story the movies were telling (might have had something to do with the hoojib). At a young age, I had a sense of what canon is. But that didn’t mean I could enjoy those other adventures.
A trend emerges…
Over the years, I’ve dipped in and out of reading comic books. Usually, “in” after my movie fandom has been riled. Eastman and Laird’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (yes, I really did like the 1990 movie) and James O’Barr’s The Crow are notable. Unlike the Star Wars books, these were the films’ source materials. They were also darker figuratively and literally (both black and white). They actually showed some literary merit (yes, even TMNT) and some really appealing art. But one thing was missing.
The one quality I appreciate most about comics was missing from the smaller titles I was reading in the 90s. While they still expanded the stories I already knew, they went deeper, not afield. What I like about long-running comics is the changeability of their storylines. Continuity, or rather the lack thereof, is part of it. When I stepped back into comics after X-Men (the 2000 movie), I was confronted with several co-currently running versions of the X-Men universe. Canon takes on a new meaning. There are multiple canons! Characters have more deaths, rebirths, evil twins, and personal angst than a dozen daytime soaps.
My latest foray (this seems to happen once every ten years) has been Avengers fueled. Currently, there seem to be over a half-dozen Avengers and Avenger-related titles. I decided to dive in to some of the current Ultimate Comics. It picks with several global crises breaking out at once and several different lines being tied together: Ultimate Comics: Ultimates (which is more or less the Avengers), Ultimate Comics: Hawkeye (a mini-series), Ultimate Comics: X-Men, and Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man. Despite some affection for the Sam Raimi movies, I’ve never been a Spider-Man fan. Which is why I was surprised that I like the series as much as I do. It’s definitely my pick of the litter.
Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man begins after the death of Peter Parker. Our new friendly neighborhood webslinger is Miles Morales. He’s younger than Parker, the beneficiary of a lottery to a charter school and a bite from a stolen experimental arachnid. And he’s black. Miles is wowed by the super heroes around him (this is a universe populated with both the Avengers and the X-Men, as well as the recently deceased Spider-Man) and tries to do what’s right…while still being a kid who is unsure of every situation he finds himself in. Considering my recent rant about young characters, I don’t find that an annoying quality in Miles. He contemplates, he acts, he reevaluates…all to the best of his abilities and all with the sort of meta-understanding that he’s still just a kid. The art is great and I’m looking forward to the continuation of this line as well as, *cough*, Spider-Men.