Sunday, July 9, 2017

'Spider-Man: Miles Morales,' 'Teen Titans: Year One' trade paperback reviews

As I say, Cary's Comics Craze is my blog done in my time. And it's time for two more trade paperback reviews.

SPIDER-MAN: MILES MORALES VOL. 1: My exposure to Miles Morales is limited, mostly to the ALL-NEW ALL-NEW DIFFERENT AVENGERS series. But even in those handful of issues, it's pretty easy to like this young teenager.

Writer Brian Michael Bendis has a great handle on Morales' authentic voice. The dialogue is natural; Morales' grandmother sounds like the overly protective, big personality she is who is worried her grandson is "on the drugs" and Morales' reaction as Spider-Man sounds like what a teenager would say or think, given what he's experienced.

Two of the great sequences/moments in this trade (covering SPIDER-MAN Nos. 1-5) are his interaction with the original Spider-Man over the destruction caused by a demon that knocked out the Avengers and having a "nerdgasm" when getting a compliment from Sam Wilson's Captain America, all while getting a handshake.

An interesting subplot is a videoblogger geeking out over determining Morales is a superhero of color, since his ripped costume reveals his cheekbone. (She has a video of Spider-Man taking on the demon.) She is excited to know the newest superhero isn't just a man and isn't just a white dude, but that there's beginning to be diversity in the superhero community.

Morales, who is black and Hispanic, doesn't understand what the big deal is. As he says, "Who cares? ... I don't want that. ... I don't want to be the black Spider-Man. I want to be Spider-Man." What a great way to teaching living life colorblind! Bravo, Bendis!

Grade: B+

In a coincidence, I also picked up another trade featuring teens at the same time -- this one from DC Comics, TEEN TITANS: YEAR ONE. This 2016 collection reprints the 2008 six-issue limited series of the same name.

Written by Amy Wolfram, who also has written 11 episodes of the silly but enjoyable "Teen Titans Go!" cartoon (as of this post), it's difficult to tell if this is in the DC continuity. I treat it as a retro-origin story that fits nicely into the larger Teen Titans chronology in which Robin, Wonder Girl, Kid Flash, Speedy and Aqualad still work with their respective protégés.

The problem is the older heroes aren't acting like themselves and showing little regard for their sidekicks. (Yup, Batman can be an even more controlling jerk and Aquaman condescending, etc.) This prompts the teenagers to work together and they figure out each of their partners are being controlled by a demon. (What's it with demons in these two collections? Hahaha!) It's Robin's idea to not have each Teen Titan not face their protégés, except the Boy Wonder takes it upon himself to confront Batman, saying it's something he must do. This is an ongoing, but only vaguely developed subplot, delving into the angst between the Dynamic Duo that DC writers emphasized from the early 1980s and for the next decade.

In another story, Wonder Girl goes on a date with Speedy, which ends poorly when some crooks steal the Arrow Car, which Speedy borrowed from Green Arrow. Wonder Girl saves the young archer's bacon -- but in doing so, wrecks the car. Speedy, in typical teenager fashion, grumps at her and tells her he doesn't want to see her because he can't explain that 1) she undermined his masculinity and 2) trashed the Arrow Car, which was a violation of one of Green Arrow's rules for borrowing it.

This story -- just as the one in which Robin undermines Kid Flash's temporary leadership of the Teen Titans after a TV interview by taking down the bad guy -- adds little to the overall collection and only slightly more to the understanding of the young heroes' personalities.

Karl Kerschl's pencils make the Teen Titans all elbows and knees, but it's that gawkiness that makes them look like teens. Too many artists simply draw children, teenagers and sidekicks, etc. as shorter adults.

Kerschl's take on Aqualad is just plain ugly. He has a perpetually frightened expression, which reinforces his Nervous Nellie personality. On the other hand, the overall colors and inks complement Kerschel's plain but effective cartoon-style art.

Grade: B-

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