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Tuesday, March 03, 2015 

Comics Bulletin's retrospective on Sins Past

Comics Bulletin reprinted a review from 10 years ago of J. Michael Straczynski's atrocious Spider-Man story called Sins Past (from the time they called themselves Silver Bullet Comics). On the surface it looks like a negative review, but there's still some pretty weak mistakes the reviewer makes:
It’s difficult to know what to say about this arc that hasn’t already been said on internet messageboards, in comics shops worldwide and in SBC’s very own reviews (often in loud, angry voices to boot). Well, how’s this: “Sins of the Past” is a well-meaning, intriguingly-conceived arc which holds real potential at the start, and features some well-written scenes of both Spidey’s superheroics and Peter Parker’s civilian travails throughout. Unfortunately, it drops a huge clanger when it comes to the details of the plot and the eventual direction that the story goes in, misjudging Gwen Stacy’s character severely, and disintegrating into an eminently predictable, derivative and uninspired Green Goblin story by the end of the six issues. But then you probably knew that. The saddest thing is that to read the impressive first couple of issues – which provide the groundwork for a decent enough superhero mystery with very strongly written and emotional character elements – is only to set yourself up for a massive fall.
I think the reviewer set himself up to look ridiculous. Even without Quesada's purported meddling, it was not well-meaning at all. It was just another overblown attempt at retconning, and adds nothing but misery to the Spider-world. There was never anything strong about JMS's writing, because his biases were so intrusive and annoying, so I don't see what the point was of defending this, save for pleasing the upper echelons at Marvel, mainly Quesada.
[...]for once, the whining fanboys had hit the nail on the head in their reaction to this story: this was a betrayal of Spider-Man; a betrayal of Gwen Stacy; and most unforgivably a two-fingers up to fans who actually cared enough about the characters’ history and significance to think long enough about the story (for, maybe, a few seconds) to realise that it simply doesn’t work.
And what's that supposed to mean? That previous complaints about JMS's premiere tale, supposedly a critique of gun violence at Colorado's Columbine school, were unfounded? Or that complaints about how Quesada was deliberately keeping Mary Jane out of town weren't justified either? I don't think the reviewer got it there either. At least he's right that this was a desecration of past Marvel history. But what he has to say about Mary Jane turns it all to rubble:
Other strong work includes JMS’s take on Mary Jane and Peter’s relationship, with the two sharing a depth of understanding and ability to carry each other emotionally which is not always apparent when the two characters interact under other writers. MJ’s complicity in past events is actually justifiable by the abused, repressed nature of the character of her younger self, and she almost comes off as stronger as a result. It’s a shame, however, that the same could not be said of Gwen Stacy.
I must shake my head. This is nothing more than a weak critique of the character instead of how past writers wrote her. Even in the early 70s, past writers were beginning to evolve her into a more mature thinking woman, so the idea she'd keep all these idiotic, defamatory retcons secret only weakens her as a character, and doesn't strengthen her at all.
If it seems like I’ve tried too hard to be balanced with this review, then maybe it’s true: indeed, the faults with this story are so severe that if you’re a longtime Spider-Man fan you’ll likely be turned off JMS (if not Spidey) for life.
He was being too balanced, and as a Spider-fan, I am turned off of JMS's writing forever. This is just the problem with comics journalism - an inability to be fully objective and say that all the guilty parties in this mess must be held accountable, and that we boycott the company until better ethics are applied. This weak approach is just why Quesada and company were able to get away with One More Day a few years later. The speculators who bought this regardless of story quality also have guilt to bear.

Anybody who thinks video games journalism is bad should take a good look at comics journalism and see what they've neglected to look over all these years.

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And Ron Marz just dissed Netanyahu.

I noticed. I'll address the subject as soon as I can.

Thanks Ron Marz for advertising this blog! Avi you have another reader.

Mike S.

Okay, Ron Marz tweeted about my comment. Guess there really is something wrong with the guy. How often does he visit your site?

I think Marz is Avi's #1 fan.

Just another example of a typical post-90s plot/writing tenure; starts out fairly well, criticisms to art/writing aside, then goes downhill the longer a person stays on a title. At least the DC and Marvel of the 90s had emotion and passion behind it, nowadays, its all pantomime or shadow puppets for conservative or liberal agendas/factoids. Whatever happened to pure entertainment?

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  • I'm Avi Green
  • From Jerusalem, Israel
  • I was born in Pennsylvania in 1974, and moved to Israel in 1983. I also enjoyed reading a lot of comics when I was young, the first being Fantastic Four. I maintain a strong belief in the public's right to knowledge and accuracy in facts. I like to think of myself as a conservative-style version of Clark Kent. I don't expect to be perfect at the job, but I do my best.
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