X-Men: Apocalypse (2016, dir. Bryan Singer)


Back when the first three X-Men films came out, I opted to skip the third. X-Men: Last Stand wasn’t being directed by Bryan Singer and I’d heard very mixed to negative things. My roommate at the time did see the film in the theater and tried to convince me it was the best X-Men film of the three, I wasn’t buying it. Years later, I finally saw the Brett Ratner helmed flick and was proven right. It was dreadful. Too much crammed into too small a movie. So, when X-Men: First Class, directed by Matthew Vaughn, came out I approached it with trepidation only to be pleasantly surprised. The follow up, Days of Future Past, felt like a nice compliment and I enjoyed having X-Men in period pieces. It’s very different than most of the other comic book films out now. This led to me being pretty psyched about an 80s X-Men movie incorporating the villain Apocalypse.

X-Men: Apocalypse has a lot of plots going on. It continues the ideological struggle between Charles Xavier and Erik Lensherr, it gives us the origins of our favorite X-Men (Cyclops, Jean Grey, Nightcrawler, Storm, and more), it picks up some loose threads from way back in First Class, and it features the ancient mutant Apocalypse whose plan is to…well, um…I’m not quite sure. Lots of elements work in this film, but the weakest of them all is Apocalypse, portrayed by Oscar Isaac. Isaac does the best he can with the material he was handed but it’s very generic, nondescript villainous motivations. Apocalypse wants to cleanse the earth of all humans…because why? He doesn’t like them, he believes mutants are superior, but there’s no idea given as to what would happen next if he succeeds.

Apocalypse, while I love him visually, is a very complicated character in the comics. I honestly cannot tell you a single one of his plots or plans and I have read multitudes of stories featuring him. He’s become a stand in when you need a big evil mastermind villain in an X-Men story. Characters produced by stories he’s been featured in have been much more interesting then the big baddie himself. Archangel, Caliban, Psylocke, Genesis, and more have all been touched by Apocalypse and become very interesting. I highly recommend Rick Remender’s run on X-Force that did some amazing things with Apocalypse, but mostly with the characters that surround him. The film opts to combine elements of Apocalypse, The Shadow King, and the incredibly obscure Living Pharaoh to try and make him a villain that pulls you in.

When you look at the third act climaxes of the previous films, very rarely are they world ending events. The Cuban Missile Crisis from First Class probably comes the closest. For the rest of the series the stakes and conflict are all about the future of mutant-kind. Villains plot to wipe out all mutants or trigger the mutant x-factor in all humans or unleash an army of mutant hunting robots. Hell, even The Last Stand kept things focused on one location and with a threat that only affected mutants. This is what has set apart the franchise from many of the other comic book series. To now have a finale that involves the very foundations of the Earth being cracked apart and a blizzard of CGI chaos cause X-Men: Apocalypse to feel very dissonant with the rest of the series.

Not even the Horsemen of Apocalypse are all that interesting. Storm (Alexandra Shipp) comes the closest but I suspect she’ll get more development in a subsequent film. Angel and Psylocke are cardboard cut outs with only hints of actual personality, a shame. Magneto is likely the one villain everyone will love, and I do agree Michael Fassbender brings much more to the character than we would expect from this film. However, I don’t feel that we’ve seen Magneto progress as a character since First Class. Once again, we go through the same beats of tragic loss, mindless revenge and anger, moment of clarity, and then parting ways/til we meet again. The promise of a Brotherhood of Mutants at the end of First Class was never fulfilled and the character feels stuck in a rut. Even a solo Magneto film could do a lot to grow the character because it is tiring seeing Charles and Erik argue the same points over and over.

What’s good about the film are the new kids. I previously mentioned Storm, but the rest are great as well. They don’t get enough screen time and we can hope, that if another film is greenlit, we have them featured front and center next time. Evan Peters as Quicksilver continues the actor’s track record of being wonderful in everything he does. The first act of the film is bloated with plot and they do manage to come together, it just takes a while and is hard to keep yourself interested when everything feels so disconnected. This is due in part to Bryan Singer being such a weird director. In all his films there are some really brilliant moments, even here we’re treated to some great set pieces, but they’re surrounded by really dull movies.

Singer has said he is taking a break from the X-Men, and after four films that is probably a good idea. Many people thought the lesson of The Last Stand was that only Singer knew how to handle these characters. But the real lesson came from First Class, that they just required someone who understood them fundamentally and was willing to take risks (changing the time period of the film). The X-Men are not the easiest comic book franchise to adapt to film and I think a pair of fresh eyes, that are allowed to play and experiment, as we saw with Deadpool, could produce some great films.

Comic Book Review: The Vision Vol. 1: A Little Worse Than Man

Vision Volume 1: A Little Worse Than Man

Releases July 12th, 2016

Writer: Tom King   Artist: Gabriel Hernandez Walta

“To assert as truth that which has no meaning is the core mission of humanity”
– The Vision, Issue 1

vision 01
Cover for The Vision #1. Art by Mike del Mundo.

The title character of the series shares this philosophy with his wife early on and it remains above their heads afterwards. It’s a clear reveal of what this character, who strives be more like us, actually thinks of humanity. I see it as very cynical view of our species, but that may be because of how accurate it is. The “truth hurts” they say.


The Vision, by Tom King and Gabriel H. Walta, is about the classic Avenger and the family he has constructed for himself. The Vision is not a robot; this is made explicit in a conversation between the first neighbors to visit them. Instead he is a synthezoid, a being made from synthesizing solar energy into Horton Cells, the same material used to create the original Human Torch. Synthezoids contain internal organs and a nervous system like humans, but have no need to eat or sleep. After shaking The Vision’s hand, a neighbor remarks that it felt like shaking hands with a plastic bag. What we are dealing with are like humans, but very much not humans.

Filling out the family are Virginia and their two adolescent children Viv and Vin. Looking at the covers for issues 1 thru 6 we’re shown very Norman Rockwell-esque presentations of the family but always with some drastic twist that constantly reminds us of their defining lack of humanity. In issue 1 The Vision alludes that Virginia’s brain patterns are modeled on someone he knows, fairly obvious if you are familiar with the character’s history. The children are as close to human children as two synthezoids could make: a combination of their brainwaves.

Right away writer King makes is obvious this is not going to be a series about characters in capes

Cover for The Vision #2. Art by Mike del Mundo.

and tights fighting global threats. The Vision is much less about the title character than it is about these beings he brought into the world and the hell their life is becoming. Virginia is in constant fear of how the external world will react to she and the children. She questions why they must be sent off to attend school and her husband explains it is important in their development to become like humanity.


And this is the core tension of the whole series: Can a family that is obviously not human be accepted by a society that has historically feared and shunned the Other? And in addition, can a family survive if its members are building their relationships on a series of lies? The Vision hesitantly believes the former is possible and his spouse lies on the opposite side of the argument, while fixing herself firmly in the latter category of lying to survive. While The Vision is ever stoic and logical when he speaks to his family, Virginia shows outbursts of violence and rage when outsiders threaten her children. And while Vision constantly emphasizes the need to assimilate he uses his abilities to phase through walls and fly constantly. Throughout the first volume, characters present their ideas of what being human is and then do the opposite, while claiming their desire to be human. Is being human being a bundle of contradictions? Vision may not realize it, but the readers will inevitably come to this conclusion.

It’s not essential to know the details of the Vision’s history but some foreknowledge leads

Cover for The Vision #4. Art by Mike del Mundo.

to a deeper understanding of the text. The Vision’s previous family with Scarlet Witch ended in a unmitigated disaster that has haunted the character since. By building his own family he is trying to right those wrongs, but also becoming more like his “father” Ultron, a villain notorious for building family members. From the start, his constructions are volatile, but also very human in the quickness of their tempers. Every act of violence is in the context of protecting another member of the family. And when actual death occurs there are circumstances that justify the outcomes. Virginia phases to avoid a bullet and an innocent dies. A villain attacks the family and brutally killed after he almost kills Viv. The Vision is the story of immigrants in a strange land. When violence and trouble occurs they are the first to be blamed because of their Otherness.

I haven’t recommended a comic book as strongly in a long time as I do The Vision by Tom King and Gabriel H. Walta. Of all Marvel’s All-New, All-Different line, The Vision has consistently been my favorite and one of those title you read immediately after you get the new issue. Tom King’s writing feels like a great tv show that you want to binge watch to see where these characters end up. Gabriel H. Walta’s art is simple and messy, but full of emotion. The faces of the Vision family are essentially identical but he gives life and personality to each one. Sadly, King has signed an exclusive contract with DC Comics and will be writing Batman. It’ll be great to read his Batman work, but he has stated his run on The Vision will end with #12 later this year. I’m so intrigued by his work I will be spending the summer reading through his runs on Omega Men, Nightwing, and The Sheriff of Babylon with more reviews to come.

Captain America: Civil War (2016, dir. The Russo Brothers)

It is an inevitability that you’re going to immediately compare Captain America: Civil War to Batman v Superman. Their core is simply heroes fighting heroes, but it is fascinating how differently they tell their stories. The obvious winner in the clash of these films is Civil War and the reason is apparent: An ideological distinction between sides is developed and debated so that when the fists fly there is an actual reason.

If you haven’t watched the previous films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) then it would make Civil War a fairly impenetrable film. Like the comic books that inspired these films, they are essentially soap operas in spandex. Despite the perilous possibility of falling into high camp, Civil War balances its over the top battles with well written and developed discussions on the nature of responsibility and consequences.

After a long run of 9/11 scale battles, the governments of the world wish to reign in the Avengers. A plan is presented that would tie the team to the United Nations. This means they would not act unless the UN passed a resolution allowing them to do so. Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr) has been feeling guilt over his role in the Ultron debacle and wants to sign right away. Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is hesitant to give his autonomy over so quickly. It makes sense, Steve is the product of a nation’s desire to create a human weapon. Everything goes south when Steve’s old partner turned Hydra killing machine, Bucky is implicated in a terrorist attack. The heroes choose sides, battles take place, and the film turns the superhero formula on its head by ending not in a battle through a city but in a brutal, and surprisingly emotional, battle between three heroes in Siberia.

I don’t think it is a coincidence that Spider-Man name drops Empire Strikes Back mid-way through the film. In the same way that Empire served to disrupt and reshape the status quo of the Star Wars universe, Civil War is out to accomplish the same goal. The purpose of the Avengers is in question. The relationships of heroes that joined together under tenuous circumstances are torn apart. The film sets up many questions but doesn’t provide answers. I suspect those answers will be the next two Avengers films the Russo Brothers are set to direct.

There are so many new and interesting elements introduced in this film. What I liked about them was that they didn’t come across as shoehorned by the studio to set up future films. Think of the Thor vision scene from Ultron and how it hamfistedly worked to get us thinking about his next film, rather than add to the film we were currently watching. Black Panther, played brilliantly by Chadwick Boseman, has a full character arc that affect the plot of the film in an important way. Helmut Zemo changes up the big bad supervillain formula the films have follows thus far. By the end of the film, it’s hard not to have conflicting feelings about his actions and their reason. Plot threads have valid conclusions while still hinting at future stories.

The one issue a film like Civil War can have is the feeling of character bloat. While new faces like Spider-Man feel like they get enough attention and development in relation to their purpose, I was a little let down by how little we learn about Scarlet Witch. Scarlet’s role in the story is fairly crucial, her actions are the inciting incident that lead to the conflict in the film. She’s fresh to the MCU, having only seen her in Age of Ultron previously. It would have been nice to see her character fleshed out more, but that would have been hard to do because of the previously mentioned overflowing cast list.

Civil War is a step in the right direction for the MCU. Critics and viewers has begun speculating as of late that the franchise’s luck was going to wear out soon, but I think there is a lot of story potential still left. The Russo Brothers are a great replacement for the Whedon-led Avengers. They directed the best Marvel film to date, Captain America: The Winter Soldier and I feel confident in their ability to give a different, more grounded take on these characters. Previously, the next two films were planned to be the two part Infinity War, a massive coming together of all the franchise elements. Recently the Russo Brothers announced the two films would not be directly connected and I think that was a smart choice. Keeping each film’s plot tight and singularly focused will keep them from falling into the trap of Batman v Superman, where previewing the next films became more important than telling a good story in the present.

Comics 101: The Mighty Thor

The story of Thor really begins in Norse mythology. Thor was the son of Odin, king of the Norse gods. He wielded a powerful hammer named Mjolnir and was married to his fellow goddess, Sif. His greatest adversary was his half-brother Loki, the trickster god. Thor had grown too proud in the eye of Odin, and his father decided to banish Thor to Midgard aka Earth so he could learn what it was like to be mortal. Thor’s soul was placed in the body of crippled med student Donald Blake, and all his memories of godhood were taken. And for a few years, Thor lay dormant inside of Blake, until Blake takes a vacation to Norway and witnesses a fleet of aliens landing nearby. Blake scrambles into a nearby cave where he discovers a plain wooden cane. When he accidentally strikes the cane against a rock it transforms into Mjolnir and turns Blake into Thor.

Donald Blake defeats the alien invaders as Thor, and returns to the States to run his medical practice with help from nurse and love interest Jane Foster. Loki, Thor’s ancient nemesis, learns that his brother has returned and begins to dispatch mystical villains to challenge him. Among these were The Absorbing Man (whatever material he touches he becomes), The Wrecker (a construction worker turned behemoth), and The Destroyer (a mindless suit of armor powered by infinite cosmic elements). It was Loki who was responsible for driving the Hulk mad and bringing together Thor, Iron Man, Giant-Man, and The Wasp to stop him. This group would serve as the foundation of The Avengers. Odin decides he wants Thor back amongst the pantheon and orders him to return to Asgard, home of the Norse Gods. Thor refuses which infuriates Odin and drives a wedge between the two. Thor would also occasionally team with his father’s favorite son, Balder to battle enemies like Surtur the fire demon. Thor also has allies in the Warriors Three (Volstagg, Fandral, and Hogun), a trio of great adventurers with very differing personalities.

A turning point came for Thor when Nick Fury, the director of SHIELD, had the god investigate a mysterious spacecraft. The ship is the home to the Korbinites, an equine like race of people who are on the verge of extinction. The defender of the Korbinites is a man named Beta Ray Bill, who battles Thor, proving himself quite powerful. Thor loses the grip of Mjolnir and reverts to Donald Blake again. Bill manages to life the hammer, a feat only accomplished by those of great power and becomes an alien variant of Thor. Thor and Bill become allies and battle together against Surtur and his army of demons who storm Asgard. Odin is killed in battle and Thor remains in Asgard to take his father’s throne. During this period, the magical forces of Norse mythology began leaking into Earth. Bill and Thor would do battle constantly to keep them back. Thor would eventually learn Odin was being held captive by the Egyptian gods and do battle with them, rescuing his father. Thor learns Loki behind this trickery and kills him, so Heimdall, the ruler of Asgard at the time banishes Thor to earth again.

This time Thor is bound to the body of Eric Masterson, a construction worker in New York City. This would not last very long, but Masterson would keep some of the god’s power to become Thunderstrike. Thor would next bond himself to Jake Olsen, an EMT, and would find himself running into his old love interest Jane Foster again. Odin would die for good this time in battle with Surtur again, and Thor would take the throne. Only this time, he grew mad with power and began to impose the gods’ will on Earth. Thor would marry his long time enemy, The Enchantress, and she would bear him a child named Magni. Eventually, Thor realized he had been driven mad and attempted to use his power to reverse time. By changing the timeline he brought Loki back from the dead who amassed an army of giants wielding hammers made from the same mystic Uru metal that Mjolnir had been forged from. In the final battle called Ragnarok in Norse mythology, Loki and Thor did battle, ending with the complete destruction of Asgard and the gods.

It appeared Thor was gone and years passed. Then Mjolnir fell from the sky, creating a massive crater in Oklahoma. Many try to lift it but fail, until a stranger to the small town arrives. This is Donald Blake, long separated from him alternate persona. He wields the hammer and with its power seeks out the mortals in whom his brothers and sisters’ souls have gone to. Asgard is rebuilt on Earth, as a floating city in the Oklahoma wilderness. Loki also returned, this time in a female form, and became part of the Cabal, a shadowy collective of villains seeking to fool humanity into turning their backs on the heroes. Loki convinced his allies to go to war with Asgard, believing with Thor taken down she could become the ruler of the gods. In the last minutes of the Siege of Asgard, Loki realized what she had done and tried to stop her allies, only to be killed. Thor realizes he is not the one to lead his people, giving that title to Balder, and joining up with a newly formed version of the Avengers.

Event Fatigue: Second Coming

Second Coming
Written by Zeb Wells, Mike Carey, Craig Kyle, Chris Yost, Matt Fraction
Art by Ibriam Roberson, Esad Ribic, Greg Land, Terry Dodson

If you are wanting to jump into some of the most dense, hard to navigate continuity in comics today then look no further than Marvel’s X-Men titles (New Mutants, Uncanny X-Men, X-Men Legacy, X-Force, X-Factor). The X-Men characters have always seem to occupied their own little corner of the Marvel Universe, only occasionally linking up with characters like the Avengers and Spider-Man. So, when an event goes down amongst the mutant community its always very self-contained but rarely simple. The most recent event, Second Coming was all about the rebirth of the mutant race. Five years ago, Magneto’s daughter, Scarlet Witch used her reality bending powers to erase the majority of mutant powers from the face of the earth, leaving only 200 mutants left. Over the next few years, some of these mutants died and the creeping fear that their species would be wiped spread over the community. That is until one new mutant was born.

The X-Men rushed to Alaska, where the new mutant registered on their computers. Other competing groups of mutants, and anti-mutant hate groups were their competition. In the end they learned the mutant was an infant whose powers manifested at birth, defying all the medical knowledge that had gathered about mutant genes. Present day was deemed too dangerous for the baby girl, named Hope, so Cable, Cyclops’ warrior son from the future, took the baby with him on a roulette journey through time, staying one step ahead of their enemies. Once Hope was fifteen, she decided that she wanted to return to her time period to rejoin her people and learn what it was to be a mutant. Her arrival alerted Bastion, another time traveler and cyborg who was programmed specifically to wipe the mutant race from the Earth.

Since Cable had left, Cyclops had established a haven for mutant on the island Utopia, off the coast of San Francisco. Here they fended off attacks from forces that wished them dead, and Cyclops formed X-Force, a black ops team led by Wolverine that drew first blood on their enemies. This would be seen as a complete 180 from the dream Professor Xavier hoped for, so Cyclops kept it secret from the majority of mutants, even his long time lover Emma Frost. When Cable and Hope dropped on the East Coast, expecting the X-Men to still be there X-Force was dispatched, along with staples Storm, Colossus, and Nightcrawler. A battle on the freeway ended with Nightcrawler being killed and Cyclops’ bloody secret being revealed. Storm was disgusted, and Beast could no longer consider Cyclops a friend or ally. Hope and Cable eventually got to Utopia, where Bastion erected an impenetrable globe around the island and San Francisco. Portals opened inside, releasing Sentinels, mutant-killing robots on the population.

X-Force went on one final mission to the future, where these Sentinels were being dispatched and destroyed the Mastermold which made them. In the present, Hope unlocked her power and completely disintegrated Bastion and his forces. Cable, who went with X-Force, realizes that they are unable to return to the present unless he allows a technovirus that has plagued him his entire life to be unleashed. By allowing his body to become non-organic he hold the portal open and X-Force jumps through. Once on the other side Cable’s body crumbles and Hope is left to mourn the death of her adoptive father. A bonfire memorial is held that night on Utopia to the mutants that fell, and it is here Emma Frost witnesses the source of Hope’s power: The Phoenix Force. Suddenly around the globe hundreds of mutant genes are activated in humans and the mutant race is saved. Emma realizes in this moment that Hope is the reincarnation of Jean Grey, Cyclops’ late wife and that its only a matter of time until Emma loses him to her.

This series would be near impossible for someone without a dense familiarity to enjoy. I’ve read over four hundred issues of Uncanny X-Men in my life and it was still tricky for me to follow. It’s also built on seeds planted by Brian Michael Bendis five years ago in The House of M event, wherein Scarlet Witch erases a ton of mutants. It would also be a tricky event to follow if you hadn’t read the most recent two year long Cable ongoing series which followed the development of Hope. AND if you hadn’t read a few arcs of the recent two year X-Force ongoing you’d not understand why everyone freaks out when they find out what Wolverine has been up to with Cyclops. In many ways, this is the definition of a completely new reader inaccessible story. I think there’s definitely a place for rewarding loyal readers by pulling in a dump truck load of plot points, but the X-Men rarely open their doors for new readers to easily jump on. The next event has already started, the SAME WEEK Second Coming ended! While the latest event, Fall of the Mutants, is a little more accessible, it still makes me wonder what happens when the current fans die. They aren’t doing a good job of nurturing new fans.

Back Issue Bin: Marvels

Superhero comics are traditionally told from the point of view of the beings of great power. From time to time we glimpse the man on the street reacting to the “gods” battling above his head. In 1994, writer Kurt Busiek and painter Alex Ross united to create a ground breaking mini-series that would influence comics books still today. If you know anything about comic books in the 1990s, you know that it was the boom and bust period. X-Men #1 sold a million copies, a group of upstart creators left Marvel to form Image, DC gimmicked the hell out of the Death of Superman. There was a cynicism that underlined the majority of material being released. Alan Moore’s Watchmen and Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns had really colored everything that came after them, but were interpreted for all the wrong elements. It appeared the average comic creator saw those texts and thought “higher levels of violence and sexuality”, instead of “tightly crafted storytelling and manipulation of the genre tropes”. Busiek and Ross decided to take readers back to a time when heroes were objects of wonder, not agents of destruction.

Marvels was originally released as four prestige format books. Each book focused on an era of Marvel Comics history, not paying attention to any sort of real time continuity. Issue one is the story of the World War II era heroes (Captain America, Human Torch, The Submariner). Issue two was a look at the beginnings of the Silver Age in the early 1960s as well as the anti-mutant sentiments beginning. Issue three was the invasion of Earth by Galactus. And issue four was the story of the Death of Gwen Stacy, a moment that marked the end of innocence for the Marvel Universe. All four issues are told from the perspective of photographer Phil Sheldon. Sheldon works for The Daily Bugle, and is even a casual acquaintance with young upstart Peter Parker. Sheldon lives in New York City with his family and is front stage for the rise and fall of the “gods” of his lifetime. This human perspective adds so much and the events being revisited even if you are a long time Marvel Zombie or someone totally unfamiliar with the key moments in the universe.

In many ways Marvels is the story of why people have faith and how they lose it. In the Marvel Universe, World War II is much different due to the participation of superheroes. Captain America in particular is a Messianic figure, saving the world from the Nazis, and “dying” while in battle with his arch-nemesis. His subsequent “resurrection” by the Avengers in the 1960s is the Second Coming for people like Phil. Mr. Fantastic and The Invisible Girl are like a royal couple when they get hitched atop the Baxter Building, an event Phil gets to cover for the Bugle. There’s definite parallels between this couple and the Kennedys, as well  as the optimistic Camelot atmosphere around them both. There’s also a story about anti-mutant hatred that is an obvious metaphor for the civil rights issues that were ongoing during the 1960s, and Phil even brings up the strange contradiction between a people that so easily accept The Avengers yet revile The X-Men.

Marvels is one of the first comics I read that elicited a strong emotional response from me. Its a story told by men who were children when they first read the original stories, and are now retelling them with a mixture of childhood nostalgia and tempered adult reality. The mix is what makes Marvels such a poignant story. Phil’s daughters grow up in a world of wonder, where men and women really can fly, and the good guys defeat the bad guys. Phil came of age during The Great Depression so this is the dream he always wanted for his family, the opposite of the cards he was dealt. When the moment comes that the Silver Age ends, and the Marvel Universe begins to head down a darker path, Phil is worried. Where the mini-series ends is a beautiful moment, Phil choosing to hope that the goodness he has come to believe in will always be there. If you are looking for a superhero comic that works as a perfect counterpoint to stories like Watchmen, this is definitely it.

Comics 101: Spider-Man

Young Peter Parker, high school science whiz, is bitten by a radioactive spider and gains the relative strength of a spider, as well as at the ability to scale walls and a “spider-sense”. Using his scientific expertise, he constructs web shooting gauntlets. At first, he uses these powers to make money as an amateur wrestler, but after a judgment he makes causes the death of his Uncle Ben. Living true to the motto of “With great power, comes great responsibility”, Peter becomes Spider-Man, fighting crime while being vilified by his employer, The Daily Bugle. You know the basic origin, so lets get into some of the details, shall we?

Early on, Peter juggled high school, work as a photographer for The Daily Bugle, and Spider-Man. J. Jonah Jameson, the Bugle’s publisher took a particular relish in vilifying the webcrawler. Peter pressures himself to  bring home his share of money for his widowed Aunt May, while she attempts to set him up with the neighbor’s niece, Mary Jane Watson. Not wanting to be set up, Peter avoids this for awhile (multiple years in our time). Some of Spidey’s early villains were The Chameleon, The Vulture, The Sandman, Doctor Octopus, Electro, Mysterio, Kraven the Hunter, and of course Green Goblin. Peter also dated Betty Brant, J.J.’s secretary in his senior year of high school, but eventually fell for Gwen Stacy once he got into college. A major turning point in Peter’s life revolved around Gwen, an event that would change him forever.

The Green Goblin had figured out that Spider-Man and Peter Parker were the same person, while Spidey was unaware of who the Goblin was. To hit Spider-Man deep, he kidnapped Gwen and held her captive atop the George Washington Bridge. The two men battled and Gwen plummeted off the bridge. Spidey dives, firing a web to catch her leg, but the jolt of the web’s tug causes Gwen’s neck to jerk back and snap, killing her. Enraged, Spider-Man hunts the Goblin down and in the process of the battle, the villain is impaled on his own glider. During his grieving period, Spider-Man is secretly cloned by one of his professors, and battles himself, as well as is tricked by a clone of Gwen. Peter believes his clone is dead, but the clone lives, taking the name Ben Reilly and leaves NYC for the next few years. Peter finds himself in the arms of Mary Jane Watson and the two become inseparable for a long time.

Aftre graduating from college, Peter becomes involved in a secret war on the moon between Marvel’s top heroes and villains, organized by a being called The Beyonder. While on the moon, Peter ditches his red and blue duds, for a sleek black and white costume which he is unaware is a living organism, a symbiote that enhances Peter’s powers but also increases his rage. Back on Earth, Peter is becoming increasingly violent and gets help from Mr. Fantastic to separate himself from the symbiote. Peter returns to normal, but the symbiote eventually escapes its containment, and finds Eddie Brock. Brock was a reporter for the Daily Bugle who has falsified facts in an effort to break a big story. He gets caught in the lie by Spider-Man, and Brock grows to hate the hero. The symbiote detects this hate and merges with Brock to become Venom. Venom plagues Spider-Man with a cannibalistic brutality, but eventually creates his own nemesis by accident, the even more brutal Carnage.

Peter and Mary Jane get married, but their happiness is short lived when Ben Reilly, his clone returns to his life. It turns out there were a few clones made, including Kaine, a violent version of Peter who uses his sticky wallcrawler hands to tear the skin off people’s faces. Spider-Man battles his evil clone and eventually Ben takes up the identity of the Scarlet Spider. The Scarlet Spider’s career is cut short when he is suddenly and brutally killed by the original Green Goblin, returned from the dead. As a way to strike at the core of Peter, The Goblin aka Norman Osborn causes Mary Jane to believe she miscarries, while he actually kidnaps the child to raise as his own. Life continued down this bleak path, with M.J. and Peter separating, Aunt May taking ill many times, and Peter struggling to maintain his personal life. The Kingpin learns of Spider-Man true identity while imprisoned and hired a hitman to take Parker out. Instead the bullet hits Aunt May and Peter searches for help from heroes like Doctor Strange and Iron Man.

Mephisto, Marvel’s version of the Devil, appeared to Peter and MJ with a deal. Aunt May would be saved if Peter allowed his life with MJ and the memories of it to be taken. Peter refused to make such a deal, but MJ agreed to it, knowing Peter would be heartbroken if Aunt May died. In a flash, their marriage was gone, Peter was a high school chemistry teacher, still photographing for The Daily Bugle and MJ had left New York years ago. J. Jonah Jameson has won the election to become the mayor of New York City, while Norman Osborn achieved the highest level of power in American defense.

All of Spidey’s enemies have evolved over the years as well, most tragically The Lizard, who was Peter’s mentor Dr. Curt Conners, has submitted to his mutation and devolved permanently into a mindless reptilian creature. Most recently, Peter has been hunted by the vengeful Kravinoff family, the heirs of Kraven the Hunter. They have killed and tortured characters whose powers are related to spiders (Spider-Woman, Arana, Madame Web) to lure Peter into a trap. He was even reunited with Kaine, his surviving clone along the way. It culminated in the ressurrection of the dead Kraven and a massive battle with Spider-Man. In the end the Kravinoffs failed and were driven out of NYC. Kaine sacrificed himself to save Spidey and the adolescent Arana became Spider-Girl.