Friday, November 2, 2012

Spider-Man: Death of the Stacy's (comic)

Writer: Stan Lee, Gerry Conway
Artists: John Romita Sr., Gil Kane
Collects: Amazing Spider-Man #88-92, #121-122

Time for a rough truth; a lot of old comics, especially from Marvels Silver Age, do not age well. As influential and groundbreaking as the work may have been at the time, the sad fact is that those comics were done in a style that is so far outdated that it's almost painful to read. Stan Lee, great as he was for the time, is probably one of the worst offenders; and while Gerry Conway isn't nearly as bad, he's still a writer of that time period and that particular style.

I've always had a problem reading old Stan Lee comics. Stan Lee wrote in the most verbose way possible, constantly having characters describe things clearly depicted in the artwork and narrating the hell out of the slightest action. It's not like he had incompetent artists, either; hell, here he has John Romita Sr., an all time great. Such was the strength of Romitas art that if you ignored the narration or speech and just followed the art you could get a clear picture of the fight anyways.

The problem, for me, is that I find myself struggling with all that redundant prose. I'm easily bored, especially with things I already know, which is why I've always had a rough time with old timey comics. On the other side of the coin, I don't want to just skip it because what if I miss something important or cool in the dialogue? That constant struggle always irritates me. A lot of people complain about how quickly you can read through a comic these days, but they forget that there are several very good reasons no one writes like this anymore.

So for all the strength of the stories - and the emotional beats contained within - their age shows, making them difficult reads today. Marvel is not like DC - they're fairly uninterested in retelling stories - meaning this will probably always be the official version of the Stacy family's death. That's probably a good thing for these comics, because - and your mileage may vary, since you may well have more tolerance for material this old - in this day and age the importance of the stories are about all they have going for them.

One last note about this whole thing and it pertains to Gerry Conways forward. He admits outright that he killed off Gwen Stacy because he wanted Mary Jane with Peter Parker and saw his shiny new job writing Spider-Man as his chance. Considering how iconic the story is now, one can always make the argument that he made the right choice, reasons for it aside. But does his reasoning reek of bad fanfiction or is it just me? Male writer kills off female character because he doesn't like her and she is in the way of his preferred pairing? That's about three quarters of internet fanfiction right there.

The Score: 6 out of 10

I can't say I had a good time reading this. I hesitate to give it lower, because it's an important story and, well, despite how much trouble I had enjoying them, these comics come from a different time. Don't let me scare you off if you want to read the Death of the Stacy's. Sixties comics simply don't agree with me.

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