Monday, December 21, 2009

Comics of Yesteryear: Todd MacFarlane's Spider-Man Torment

We are back with a few Christmas week reviews, as Super-Powered Fiction Files finally makes its full fledged return. This week we will take a look back at comics past as we travel through the Comics of Yesteryear.

In the early nineties, comics were very, very different. A speculators’ market was growing, the industry was still selling hundreds of thousands of comics, and superstar artists were taking the market by storm. Rob Liefeld, Jim Lee, and Mark Silvestri all came out of the X-books, but Amazing Spider-Man’s Todd MacFarlane was arguably the biggest of them all. So big that when he expressed an interest in writing, Marvel gave him his own new series, simply titled Spider-Man to test his skills in.

As his first foray in to writing, Todd MacFarlane’s Spider-Man: Torment could be far, far worse. Basically an overly drawn out battle between Spider-Man and the Lizard (with a little bit of Calypso on the side), the story would do early 2000’s Marvel proud for its level of decompression. It takes to half-way in to the second issue just for the primary two players to meet. From there, they just keep bouncing around the city, never fighting for more than a couple pages.

Throughout it all, the story is buried under narration so heavy even Chris Claremont would blush. His early Spawn issues may have been wordy, but they offered nothing in comparison to Torment. Check out the page below, and this is not the worst offender by far:

It seems odd that an artist, especially one as popular as MacFarlane would choose to obscure so much of his art with superfulous dialogue. But this book was an exercise in excess. I highly doubt the editor ever said no to his writer/artist. They were both too busy counting their cash.

The art is stupendous. This is probably MacFarlane at his finest, after having honed his craft on Amazing Spider-Man for years. Every page seems to ooze energy from it, even if some of the layouts may make your head wobble a bit. And I do recall this book really made me question what the Comics Coude Authority was for:

Yup, that seems code approved and child friendly.

Despite its flaws, Torment is worth having just for art and the history related to it. The first issue of this book broke records, selling more than 2.5 million copies, a record at the time. Marvel collected it in to a Premiere Hardcover earlier this year. I have yet to see it, but the company usually gives a solid level of production quality for these editions. Give it a looksee sometime when you’re in the bookstore if you appreciate good comic art. Maybe even pick that baby up. Mildly Recommended.

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