Wednesday, August 17, 2011

FROM THE LONGBOXES: Amazing Spider-Man by JMS & JRJr - part 2

It's new comics Wednesday, so here's another piece from my writing over at the In the Mouth of Dorkness blog. enjoy!


First go read part I, then come back.


Peter, bloodied and severely bruised, goes to Ezekiel to accept the offer of sanctuary this enigmatic businessman with eerily similar spider powers had proffered earlier. But it is too late. Morlun has touched Spidey and can now track him no matter where he hides. And, despite having extra-normal powers – or maybe for that very reason – Ezekiel declines to assist Peter in his battle with Morlun. If he did that, Morlun would be able to latch onto his scent, as he’s done to Peter, and he would come after Ezekiel next to leech him of his own totemistic powers. Ezekiel has too much to lose. He can’t forsake all he’s amassed for a fool’s errand.

So Spider-Man returns to the maw of destruction created by Morlun, and he must save a young child from this primal force of nature before going on the attack with his fists and his webbing. Nothing stops Morlun, and Peter realizes he needs to get some breathing room. But he stays within his enemy’s field of vision so that Morlun will remain fixed on the prize and not go after anyone else.

But first, in a nice touch by JMS, Peter calls the school to tell them he won’t be in. Too often, questions within the hero’s private lives (such as why would Clark Kent not be missed from the Daily Planet if he was off in space for weeks at a time as Superman) are never confronted, let alone answered. Having Peter do this in the middle of a battle not only firmly establishes this new status quo in Peter’s life, but it is also another example of JMS exhibiting Peter’s conscientiousness, which is a hallmark of the character.

Then the battle continues, with Morlun devastating Spider-Man in his relentless onslaught. Hardly able to move, after Morlun smashes him into a building with a lamppost, Spider-Man snags the bumper of a car with his webbing and lets it drag him along the paved road in order to get away, if only for a moment. Once he’s put some distance between himself and Morlun, Peter takes a moment to call Aunt May and tell her how much he loves her. He realizes it may be the last opportunity he has to do this.

And then Morlun is on him again, driving Spidey toward the docks.

But out of nowhere, Ezekiel knocks Morlun down from behind. With the enemy momentarily confused, Spidey and Ezekiel pour it on, bloodying Morlun’s nose before he regains his edge and sucks the energy from Ezekiel, who falls into the bay. Morlun, having quenched a bit of his thirst, leaves Spider-Man to look for his friend, content in the certainty that he will feed on him soon enough. And he returns to his aide, Dexter – a human liaison who wished to be close to power and has been helping Morlun make his way through New York – in order to prepare for the final battle.

But this altercation gives Peter something he hadn’t had before. He takes the bloodied timber from the dock and examines it at home. In so doing, he discovers that Morlun’s cells are made up of an amalgam of every kind of animal cell – the purest forms of DNA Peter’s ever seen. That is why Morlun needs to feed on a pure totemistic life-form, so that he can recharge those cells before they break down.

And that’s the key for Peter. He needs to dilute the purity of his Spider powers. To do that, he considers seriously Ezekiel’s earlier question: “Which came first, the radiation or the power?” Which is to say, did the radiation give the spider the power with which Peter was infected, or did the spider already have that totemistic power and inject Peter with it when it knew the radiation was going to kill it?

So, Peter injects himself with that same radiation, in order to dilute his totemistic purity and give Morlun something poisonous to feed on instead. And when Morlun tries to take Peter’s spider force, he burns with the radiation. Spider-Man now has a weapon, and with every punch he pours more radiation into Morlun – weakening him, changing him, making him vulnerable.

As Peter pounds on Morlun, he realizes that just defeating him isn’t enough. Morlun is a primal force that cannot be stopped in any conventional manner. Only through such an extreme scenario as this one, in which Peter injects himself with a near-lethal dose of radiation, is there any hope of defeating him.

Peter realizes Morlun must die. But can he do it?

And then Dexter, Morlun’s aide, comes out of the shadows and shoots him, wrenching the decision away from Peter. Part of Dexter’s services to Morlun included providing sustenance for the centuries-old vampiric being. It may have made Dexter feel important at first, but it hurt – a lot – and the toll it took on him was overwhelming. So, seeing his opportunity to be free, Dexter takes it.

And we, and Peter, will never know if he would have made that ultimate choice. It is a question that will haunt Peter for a long time, and it’s a perfect, emotional ending for this initial story from JMS and JRJr.

Except that this wasn’t the end. There still needs to be a cliffhanger, a reason for readers to come back and buy the next issue. There has to be the denouement. And JMS provided one helluva denouement.

When Peter had called Aunt May earlier to tell her he loved her, she had offered to pick up his clothes and take them to the cleaners. But, with Morlun on his trail, he didn’t have time to answer then.

So Aunt May decides to go to Peter’s and pick up his clothes – always wanting to do for her nephew, it makes complete sense. Peter is sleeping, and had taken no time to put away his tattered costume when he arrived home earlier. He is so exhausted from his battle with Morlun, that his spider sense does not warn him of Aunt May’s arrival.

And she sees his bloodied body and his Spider-Man costume, and realization hits her like a lightning bolt from a clear sky.

But that story is reserved for another day.


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