Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Some Quick Thoughts on Annuals

I haven't read a lot of annuals since returning to comics in the last few years. Certainly not in the way I devoured them back in the day, but I read Amazing Spider-Man Annual #37 earlier this week. I enjoyed the main story and art well enough. It was a fun, two-part tale of Spider-Man and Captain America taking place between Avengers #11 and #16. Karl Kesel’s writing really captured the sense of awe a teenaged Peter Parker must have felt meeting an icon like Captain America. And, in a lot of ways, hasn’t that always been the strength of Marvel Comics? The idea that, although these heroes inhabit the Marvel Universe, they are not necessarily commonplace and it’s still an amazing event when they are encountered. When Marvel does that, and does it well, they succeed in pulling kids and adult readers alike firmly into this world, making it all the more believable.

The first part of the main story finds Cap assisting Spidey against the Sandman, stepping in just the nick of time and leaving Spidey a bit star struck. The second half of the tale gets a little wonky as the heroes team up against the Rogue Scholars, but I rolled with it and let it take me where it wanted to go. Throughout, I really dug Paulo Siqueira’s art. It felt sketchy and rough, but in the best possible way, and Fabio D’Auria’s colors had a muted tone that served the story well.

The backup story was a bit of a letdown for me. As someone who was out
of comics during the ’90s, I wasn’t familiar with Untold Tales of Spider-Man, and as much as I’ve enjoyed Pat Olliffe’s work on Peter Parker, I wasn’t really digging on his stuff here. The Kurt Busiek story starring Spider-Man and Stan Lee is the kind that sometimes works and sometimes falls flat. Here, flat. It was 15 pages I would have rather seen devoted to expanding the main story to something a little more epic. This is an Annual, after all.

Not to get all crotchety and “get off my lawn, you damn kids,” but I don’t remember backups that felt like filler in the annuals of my youth. I remember the annuals of the ’80s as king-size versions of the Spidey/Cap tale here. Like Amazing Spider-Man Annual #16 from 1982, which tells the origin of Monica Rambeau’s Captain Marvel and guest starring the entire Marvel Universe! (That one had a couple of nice one-page pin-ups: “The Many Loves of Peter Parker” and “Imagine How Much Fun It Must Be to Work at The Daily Bugle” that felt appropriate and right at home.) Or Fantastic Four Annual #18 from 1984 with the wedding of Black Bolt and Medusa. On the other hand, this 2010 Amazing Spider-Man Annual felt kinda like a regular issue with a backup story tacked inside.

I think it's time I pulled out that '82 Spidey annual and give it another read...