Saturday, May 27, 2006

X-Men 3: Less and More

As someone who enjoyed both X-men movies, the second more than the first, I was one of the many who was terrified by the thought that 20th Century Fox had tapped Brett Ratner to replace Bryan Singer, who had gone off to do Superman Returns, on X-Men 3. I was even more terrified by the thought that, instead of moving production back so that they could better ensure the quality of the film, the way Sony/Columbia Pictures pushed back Spider-Man 2, Fox was dead set on releasing the film in May 2006, which meant that shooting would have to wrap faster than the ink could dry on Ratner's contract. I felt something heavy in the pit of my stomach upon reading post upon post of obnoxious fanboy gloating that the new Superman would "own" the new X-Men movie, as the slang goes. It kind of ticked me off, considering that DC/Warner Brothers pissed that franchise away almost two decades ago and were finally able to revitalize it by swiping one of Marvel films' most prized directors, who, back when he had been tapped him for the first mutant movie, was a seemingly illogical choice.

When the credits rolled, however, my feelings, although slightly mixed, were still leaning towards gladness that Bryan Singer had left.

X-Men: The Last Stand, is easily a better movie than the first X-Men movie, but is also at the same time less and more than its most immediate predecessor, X2.

The story in a nutshell, a pharmaceutal company has come up with a cure for genetic mutation, causing shockwaves in the mutant community, most notably the fugitive Magneto (Ian McKellen), who is determined to take this cure and all those who push it out. Also, Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) comes back from what seemed like certain death in the second movie, but with a strange malevolence about her.

One of Singer's strong points was his characterization, although the only real beneficiaries thereof in the first two movies were Wolverine, Magneto and Rogue. Also, and I know I'm not the first person to say this, I truly felt that Singer showed a larger sense of scope, particularly in X2, than Ratner showed in the new movie. One got the whole widescreen sense of it, with visual tours de force like the opening/Nightcrawler scene, and the scene where the x-jet is pursued by fighter planes. His very strong visual sense is also clear from all the new Superman Returns trailers, and we get a very good idea of the kind of X-Men movie Singer could have made had the Fox executives not been so stingy with the budget. I guess the poor guy just got tired of fighting for more money.

That said, X-Men: The Last Stand, while certainly having benefitted from all the groundwork laid down in the first two movies, does a lot more as an emsemble piece, and as an action movie than either of its predecessors.

In the first two X-Men movies, the focus was almost strictly on Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), while other characters essentially made cameos, most notably Kitty Pryde, who was so unimportant to Singer that I think she was played by two different actresses in X-Men and X2. Here, she not only gets exponentially more screen time, but a very capable actress in the young Ellen Page to make that time meaningful. She even, for a moment, gets involved in a little love triangle, which gives the story a touch more flavor, although it's not very well developed. Others who get more screen time and nuance are Iceman (Shawn Ashmore), Storm (Halle Berry) and a welcome new addition to the X-family (on screen, anyway) in the form of Hank McCoy (the brilliantly cast Kelsey Grammer) who was only mentioned in X2.

Singer's actions scene in the first two X-films were, for the most part, godawful. All of the fight scenes of the first X-Men were an absolute joke and lent themselves quite readily to allegations of being poorly done Matrix ripoffs (which were probably right on the money). X2 seemed to offer so much more promise with that opening fight scene involving Nightcrawler, which was easily more riveting to watch than anything that happened in either of the Matrix sequels that came out that year, but all its action scenes thereafter fell sadly limp.

I read somewhere that Singer's directive to Jackman and his sparring partner, Kelly Hu a.k.a. Lady Deathstrike was to fight savagely, and not as if they were skilled martial artists. Well, apparently, Singer chose to flip the bird at about twenty years of Marvel continuity because the reason why Wolverine is the Marvel Universe's biggest badass is, besides the adamantium claws and the healing factor, the fact that he knows how to fight. Singer threw this out the window and as a result Wolverine came across as a complete and utter wuss for two consecutive movies. Maybe he was just too cheap to hire a choreographer.

Not so in this installment. There are moves. There is grace. There are, count 'em, TWO fastball specials (geekboy slang for whenever Colossus, the steel X-Man, pitches Wolverine like a fastball-hence the name-at a bad guy). There are even fight scenes involving other X-Men! There are well-timed, well-placed battles, like the first skirmish in the suburb between X-Men and Magneto's goons, including a well-cast Juggernaut, and the climactic confrontation at Alcatraz, as well as a nicely done scrap between Wolverine and a number of Magneto's minions somewhere near the last act. Also, Ratner can claim of the distinction of having pulled the X-Men franchise clear from any allegations of the Wachowski brothers' influence; none of the fight scenes look anything like the stylized violence we saw earlier this year in V for Vendetta.

It is obviously unfair to flog either of the first X-Men movies in order to praise this one, because Singer started this ball rolling in considerable style, but comparisons are of course, inevitable. That said, however, Ratner does an admirable job paying off some of the things Singer set up in X2. In particular, I had been looking forward to a Pyro/Iceman duel, and I wasn't at all disappointed. They gave them a meaningful, menacing run-in halfway through the film and had it all come to a head in a memorable fire vs. ice showdown.

There has been much debate on how the Dark Phoenix storyline was handled. To be honest, I haven't read those comics in their entirety, although I know, like any respectable fanboy, how it goes. All I have to say is that it would have been difficult for any director to tell the story without the Shi'ar or the alien Phoenix Force or even the Hellfire Club, all of whom played such pivotal parts in the comics, and as a result Ratner and his writers were severely hobbled. I think that under the circumstances, they acquitted themselves rather well, and the visual interpretation of the Phoenix, particularly in that scene at the Grey house, was appropriately creepy and had a more much more visceral effect than some cornball flaming bird surrounding Famke Janssen would have had. There did seem to be some influence from Lord of the Rings, though, particularly that scene where Galadriel wigs out.

All told, while there are aspects of Singer's storytelling that I miss, there is territory here that Ratner covered that Singer, judging from the way he directed the first two films, would not even have bothered to explore, and for this I am quite grateful.

That said, I am still looking forward to Superman Returns. I take solace in knowing that Superman doesn't have to know any special choreography, so at least I know there won't be any laughable fight scenes.

Thursday, May 25, 2006


About five years ago I got to work with the Presidential Commission on Good Government, the body assembled by the Aquino government to recover the ill-gotten wealth amassed by former President Ferdinand Marcos and his cronies, and to prosecute those responsible for the wanton plunder that had ravaged the national treasury for nearly two decades. One of my professors in law school, Victoria Avena, just happened to be a commissioner at the time.

It was a good time to be involved with the Commission, back then. The late Haydee Yorac was in charge, and was making it a point to staff her legal team with damned good lawyers, something that had, for the most part, been sorely missing from the PCGG's ranks since its inception in 1986. She wasn't about to take any shit from anybody, and was all about kicking ass and taking names. The famous Coco Levy decision that the Supreme Court handed down in December of 2001, which effectively took hundreds of millions out of the hands of former crony Danding Cojuangco was a victory to remember for the Commission and one hell of a morale booster.

I left the Commission late the next year, but nonetheless continued to follow its progress, especially when it experienced at least one more legal triumph at the Supreme Court.

And then, maybe about two years later, things started going to hell.

It started when Yorac left. I'm fairly sure it was the corruption she got fed up with, the fact that the Arroyo administration, or elements thereof, at least, were siphoning off the funds and resources it had taken gallons of blood and sweat to win back...for the people. It could also have been the fact that even then, the Arroyo government was already trying to cut deals with the Marcoses in exchange for their support. It doesn't really take a genius to figure out that while Yorac remained committed to doing her job, her bosses in the Palace had a different agenda, which was why she simply up and left.

Enter this new team led by Abcede. There's not much to describe, really. Suffice it to say that he wants to cut a deal with the Marcoses, and let them go absolutely scot-free, his rationale being that the government has already spent too much money chasing after them and their money. Holy shit.

First of all, what happened to the Marcoses' accountability? Their wanton rape of Filipino dignity, not to mention the economy? Pepole who are bitching about what a power-hungry harridan GMA is now have been, as I understand it, drawing a lot of flawed parallels between her and Marcos. She's bad, sure, especially as we can see from what she's trying to pull now, but I don't think we'll ever see anyone as bad as Marcos was. Strike this deal and all is forgiven and forgotten. The cronies and everyone else responsible walks off, free to enjoy their millions and live like kings while the country they butt-fucked to amass their money continues to languish in complete and utter squalor.

Second, even assuming the Marcoses agree to turn over funds to the goverment, they are hardly likely to surrender much more than the tiniest fraction of their amassed fortune. Consider that this amounted to billions back in the eighties, multiplied by all the investments they probably made with them taking inflation and interest into account. Imelda, insane though she may seem, probably wasn't kidding when she said that it amounts to trillions by now. Trillions that belong to the Filipino people who suffered and died under Marcos' tyrannical megalomania. If the Marcoses gave the government one trillion pesos, it doesn't mean a thing if they kept three or four for themselves.

Third, it is utterly asinine to complaint about the PCGG's lack of success over the last several years. Under Yorac's watch, so much was achieved because she and the lawyers under her placed emphasis on competence and integrity, concepts that seem foreign to the Commission for the rest of its existence thereafter, and for much of its existence before. The PCGG lost its cases and arguments because its lawyers were idiots and because the Sandiganbayan justices were crooked or stupid. However, by rectifying the former, they were able to overcome some of the difficulties posed by the latter.

I agree with certain sectors that say it is time to bring an end to the PCGG. Cut off its budget, its lifeline, let it die in the sun like a fish washed up on the shore. Yorac, one of the best things that ever happened to the PCGG, is already in her grave. It would be sad if this continuous display of idiocy put PCGG founder Jovito Salonga in his grave, too.

It was once a nice place to work...but that time is long past. Obviously, it's no longer interested in holding the past dictator and his minions liable for what they've done, so let the task fall into more honest, competent, and determined hands.

And as far as I'm concerned, this should be one of the nails in the coffin of Arroyo's government. For the longest time I have actually been defending the administration against the opposition (whom I still think are scum), but now she's lost at least one, probably more supporters with her blatant, unabashed efforts to cut a deal with those from whose depradations the country has yet to fully recover.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Obscure but Memorable Comics

A few posts ago I said that Marvel Comics' Civil War #1 made all other comics feel silly and irrelevant. I also said it I was pretty sure it was a passing feeling, and looking through some old comics, I see I was right.

I hardly consider myself a connoisseur of independent/creator-owned comics, but in the last couple of years two titles in particular caught my eye, and I don't regret buying them for a minute, entitled We3 and Chosen. I will review them in the order in which I enjoyed them, being, last one most.

We3, from DC Comics' Vertigo imprint, is the story of three household pets that have been turned into cybernetic killing machines by the U.S. military-industrial complex. When the military brass decides that they are obsolete and gives the directive to have them decommissioned, all hell breaks loose. What transpires over the next three issues is essentially a brutal, protracted chase that culminates in a truly savage fight to the finish.

Written by Justice League of America and X-Men writer Grant Morrison and beautifully illustrated by his X-Men collaborator Frank Quitely, the story is essentially a scathing commentary on animal testing, set in the context of some kick-ass comic book action sequences.

I don't really find Morrison to be the genius that some people say he is, but he really knows how to keep a reader's attention. Following the odyssey of this little family of oddballs is rather engaging, if not a little predictable at some turns. I also love the way he paces the story. I always had a sense of what was going to happen, but I still wanted to see how he would get there. It's not what I'd call groundbreaking, but the presentation definitely feels fresh. This is due in no small part to Quitely's nearly flawless art. Given that the three protagonists are animals who can only engage in the most rudimentary dialogue possible, it falls upon him to convey their character effectively, and he does a magnificent job.

We3 is certainly not without its problems, foremost of which being the plausibility of the science involved. It reads a little bit like Robert O' Brien's The Secret of NIMH, in which a bunch of street rats and mice became super-smart after being injected with foreign DNA, a concept which, as we now know, is scientifically absurd. There is a bit of suspension of disbelief involved here; we the readers are supposed to buy the notion that the U.S. government would try untested technology on three adult animals when they could much more easily breed animals specifically for the job. This story clearly has its origins in the notion "wouldn't it be cool if household pets were made into killing machines" but Morrison never offers a satisfactory explanation for such a conceit, which I think is necessary in a "realistic" comic book, and as a result the story can't quite transcend its decidedly comic-booky premise.

Finally, there's the fact that the creators lean on the "awww" button a little too much, meaning that they try a little too hard to call attention to the tragedy of the lead characters instead of just letting their inherently tragic situation speak for itself.

Flaws notwithstanding, however, We3 was, back when I was completing its three issues, a truly involving read from start to finish. This story, being self-contained and apparently independent of any superhero universe, came without any baggage such as continuity or pre-existing sentimental attachments to any of the characters. One really wonders where the characters are going, or will end up, even though there's some idea of where that will be.

And then there's the art. Hooo boy, it made me sad the day Frank Quitely signed a multi-year exclusive contract with DC Comics that meant he wouldn't be drawing the X-Men or any other Marvel character for a while, but if it means he gets to produce stuff like We3 all the time, then I'm more than happy he made the jump. This guy's attention to detail is fantastic, and his characters are more expressive than those drawn by about 70% of all other mainstream comic book artists, including some of the best. He doesn't quite draw the prettiest girls around, but I'd take his moody and expressive females over Jim Lee's generic lookalike babes any day.

An altogether different pleasure came from buying and reading Dark Horse Comics' Chosen, an acclaimed and slightly controversial comic book miniseries by Civil War scribe Mark Millar and DC/Vertigo Comics mainstay Peter Gross, that purportedly asks one simple question: what if some snot-nosed kid growing up in suburban America suddenly found out that he was the second coming of Jesus Christ? Jodie Christianson, a 12 year-old just like any other, finds this out the hard way when an 18-wheeler of a truck falls on his head and he walks away without a scratch. From that point on it's a series of thrills and chills, with Jodie performing one miracle after another and making converts of just about everyone in the town with the exception of the local parish priest. It's a coming of age story in probably the most literal sense of the word, with a twist at the end which feels kind of spine-tingling in light of current events.

For anyone, and I mean anyone who has experienced puberty, this comic book is an absolute must-read. It's Stand By Me set in the 1980s with a religious/supernatural undercurrent. This story is pure fun, so much fun that it feels like a guilty pleasure sometimes. Like We3, it was a comic I avidly waited for because in this case I only had the vaguest idea of where the story was going, and while in retrospect I should have seen the twist at the end coming, the truth of the matter is that I was enjoying myself too much to play sleuth.

Millar, whose knack for entertaining and believable dialogue is almost unparalleled, is truly in his element here. Though he has openly and repeatedly professed a love for the larger-than-life characters of Superman and Captain America among others, he has shown a real knack for capturing the the small and intimate, as is shown by the way he wrote Peter Parker when he did Spider-Man, as well as his characterization of little Jodie and his friends here. I'll grant that some of the dialogue feels forced, but there are some genuine laugh-out-loud moments here, like the scene where Jodie turns water sitting in a bunch of plastic soda bottles into wine.

As for the art, let me just say that while Peter Gross is the last person on earth I'd want to draw my superhero comic books, he is the only person I'd choose to draw this project. He perfectly captures the naivete of Jodie and the sleepy little town of Peoria, Illinois with such skill that it feels like he was born to draw this book. This not a story that needs ultra-slick linework and rendering from the likes of Steve McNiven or George Perez, but one that needs a touch of innocence and simplicity, which Gross delivers.

The twist ending, which I hope I haven't given away by now, actually comes as something as a relief for some reason, more than the sledgehammer that Millar probably intended. Although I wonder if it wasn't some kind of cop-out from the way he had planned it before, this doesn't diminish the enjoyability of everything that came before it. I understand he has a sequel in the works to be entitled American Jesus. I know I'll be there for that.

We3 and Chosen are available as collected editions, and I'm pretty sure, for the more economically-minded, they're available online by now, having come out in 2004 and 2003, respectively. Whether one reads them off his laptop or a book in his lap, both these miniseries are solid arguments for respecting comic books as a legitimate mainstream art form.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

An Open Invitation

Here's a bit of cynicism for you: when a hapless commuter gets her cellphone snatched from her by some lowlife, the natural tendency of many people is, instead of sympathizing with her, to shake their heads and cluck "nag-ce-cellphone kasi sa jeep, eh." The trangression is less that of the thief who has clearly taken what doesn't belong to him and more that of the victim who left herself a little bit more open to the commission of the crime. It is downright wrong to think like this, of course; people shouldn't have to be afraid to use their cellphones, their own property, in public. It is not a crime to use one's cellphone wherever he or she wants, and at the end of the day the criminals are still the ones who run off with the phone. They aren't forces of nature; just pieces of crap. People shouldn't have to worry about these thugs swiping their things.

The reality, however, is sadly far, far removed from the ideal. In a land beset by poverty and erosion of basic human values, it's almost a given that crimes will occur under certain circumstances. It becomes a responsibility to safeguard one's self from such contingencies by taking certain measures, or by refraining from certain conduct.

Having said this, it strikes me that the girl who was allegedly raped by four United States Marines acted rather imprudently, to say the least. To say the worst, one could say that she could not have asked for it more if she had painted a bull's eye on her vagina.

This is not a discussion on whether or not the rape took place; that is for the trial court to determine, although frankly, I'm fairly sure they did it, especially considering they've already gone for the consensual sex defense, which places them in an uphill battle from this point onwards, considering the eyewitness accounts that had them dumping her in the side of the road in her underwear. Whether or not they did was entirely beside the point.

The point is that this girl opened herself to this kind of situation the way people who use their cellphones on a jeep in Tondo open themselves to snatchers. I wouldn't even be talking about this if I didn't think that there seems to be a disturbing trend among young people to throw caution to the wind when it comes to their night life.

I hardly consider myself a prude; I'm not about to protest anyone wearing short skirts or tube tops or any of that stuff, but I do think that people should know how to take care of themselves. I am a thirtysomething male, but there are still places that I wouldn't necessarily go alone, given the option.

I've actually seen a young, attractive girl go to a bar, get drunk out of her gourd, and proceed to cavort with a guy who, from all appearances, she had only just met at the bar. I've read about a rather asinine practice among young people known as "speed dating" where the object is to go out with as many people in a day/evening as possible, on the rationale that "if you don't get a boyfriend, at least you make 20 new friends." I guess that's possible, assuming they don't think the girl is a player, or, to use more vulgar language, a slut.

Dating rituals are not only charmingly quaint appurtenances to one's love/sex life; they serve as important filters or screening processes by which both men and women, boys and girls are able to determine if the people they're going out with are suitable for them. By not offering one's body to someone she's just met, a girl has a chance to unearth a lot of potentially material information about him, which is obviously an impossibility if she drops her panties because she likes his mojo, or because she's too drunk to care.

By all accounts, the Olongapo rape victim was supposed to be intelligent and well-educated, so one wonders what in God's name she was doing in a bar trying to pick up Americans in the first place. That's her business, really, but that doesn't mean she couldn't have been more careful in the company she chose. Judging by decades of Philippine-American relations, it's pretty easy to surmise what American servicemen hanging out at bars in Olongapo are looking for, so unless she spent her whole life living under a rock before heading out to that bar this girl had every reason to be on her guard.

The rape itself was heinous. The men involved undoubtedly deserve the maximum penalty if they did it, and I truly hope they get exactly what is coming to them. But one cannot deny that the girl they ravished had no reason to believe they had anything but the basest of intentions. She took the least possible amount of caution going into what was already a potentially dangerous situation, with disastrous results. This does not mean that she was not raped, just a cellphone snatched from someone using it in a jeep is still a stolen item no matter how careless its owner was. But there is an important lesson to be learned here about how cautious poeple should be, especially how today's increasingly hedonistic crowd seems to be pushing the boundaries of acceptable risks.

As someone whose daughter will one day be as old as that girl, I hope I am able to impress this upon her one day.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Moving On

Today was my last day as an employee of the Supreme Court of the Philippines. I worked there, to the day, for seventeen months, a personal record. I had originally planned to stay until Chief Justice Panganiban's retirement in December, but when the newest wave of bar passers was announced I spotted an opportunity to grab work at a law firm, and so I decided to fast track my plans a little bit. The plan was to hand my resume out, without a word to anyone at work, and if it didn't work out, I could always just return to the status quo. If it did, then I'd be out of there in the statutory 30 days. The latter just so happened to come true.

I couldn't have picked a better time to leave the Court; I'm leaving on a high, at a time when the institution's credibility has been restored by three successive decisions upholding the primacy of civil liberties and clipping the wings of an administration that seems to aspire towards authoritarianism or some permutation thereof. I'm leaving without intrigues in my wake, without bad blood between me and anyone in the office, and ultimately, without any regrets. In other words, I'm quitting while I'm ahead, and it feels great.

There's something really special about having done a "tour of duty" over there on Padre Faura, and it's more than just researching and assisting in the preparation of decisions. It's more than going to work every day knowing that the hopes of many of the country's lawyers and their clients hinges on how we decide their cases. It's about being part of history as it is made. This came home with dramatic effect on my penultimate week, which I spent in Baguio, when they released the decision regarding Presidential Proclamation No. 1017, which bore an eerie resemblance to Presidential Decree No. 1081, which declared Martial Law, over 34 years ago.

It doesn't matter that I had nothing to do with preparing momentous decisions like the three successive ones that came out of Baguio this past month. It's enough for me that I was there and that I was working in the same office. It's not about the ability to take credit for anything, it's about knowing one was there to witness something special. I now have the vaguest idea of how people felt when they watched the Berlin Wall come down. Well, maybe not, but the point is I know now how special it feels to be in the right place at the right time.

That time has now passed, and it feels only right to move on along with it, but it's been one HECK of a ride.

Onward and upward to new challenges and milestones!

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

A Comic Book That Truly Speaks

Recently I've made film reviewing a regular staple of this blog, eschewing every thing else such my political opinions, personal experiences, and even my quips on comic books. Lately, however, I haven't seen any movie that has truly tickled my fancy, and the last movie I saw, Mission Impossible III, is not even worth taking the time out to pan. I will say, however, that in view of the damage his public persona seems to have inflicted on the grosses of his vanity projects, Tom Cruise should stick to making good movies from now on.

This post marks a return to my comics commentary for what I feel is a very special reason: Marvel Comics' Civil War #1.

Here in the Philippines and in the United States, the topic of civil liberties has, of late, been a rather sensitive issue. Here, it's been a question of how far the President can go to quell civil liberties in order to defend her tenuous grip on power, and there it's been a question of what the United States government won't sacrifice in their hunt for the terrorists who are allegedly threatening the American way of life.

The beauty of Marvel Comics characters, perhaps more than any other, is best appreciated when they are written as metaphors for the human condition. Spider-Man symbolizes the uncertainty and frustration of youth, the Fantastic Four stand for the love/hate relationship shared by most families, Iron Man represents humanity's growing dependence on technology, and so on and so forth. Ultimates writer Mark Millar plays this card to spectacuar effect in this miniseries.

The first issue in a nutshell:The New Warriors, a D-list group of superheroes, are the stars of a reality show that has them traveling across America in search of scumbags to beat up. In a suburban Connecticut town, they happen up four major supervillians who've only recently broken out of prison and are lying low, one of whom happens to be Nitro, who has the power to generate powerful explosions. They ambush the villains, and Nitro blows up, killing the Warriors and several hundred residents of the town. The bereaved residents of the town demand a response from the U.S. government, and that response is the Superhuman Registration Act, a piece of legislation designed to make superheroes publicly accountable for their actions by turning them into federal employees. Superheroes are uneasy over its implications, as exemplified by an attempt by SHIELD, a government super-spy agency, to subdue Captain America, which ends in the latter's escape.

When the hype for this book came out, the tendency of fans and naysayers alike was to act dismissive towards the title. For my part, my main hook was that Steve McNiven would be drawing this book (and he doesn't disappoint, either). When I read this book, however, I confess that all my fears turned out to be unjustified.

The commentary on sacrificing civil liberties "so that people will feel safe again" WORKS. It is intelligently written, although the treatment of the two different sides of the issue is not as even-handed as Marvel would have liked us to believe before. Still, the presentation is entirely credible, even if a little flawed, and the comic book, as a whole, works as both a superhero book AND political commentary, although admittedly not terribly in-depth.

I love the way Millar and McNiven painted in shocking detail the tragedy of Stamford, Connecticut, and then right away, posed the question "do you crack down on every super hero just because of one errant group?" It's been years since the Marvel metaphor has been used to such devastating effect. "Because there could be terrorists among us, do you remove our right to privacy?"

The masks and secret identities in this story stand in for people's private lives, their e-mail, their secret thoughts and opinions. The rage of the people whose loved ones died in the explosion mirrors that of the families of the 9/11 victims. Not even when they put Spider-Man right in the heart of the 9/11 tragedy did Marvel put its finger so squarely on the pulse of a nation at war with itself.

As ridiculous as this sounds, reading this comic book has made every other comic book on the market, including some that I am buying and enjoying, seem absolutely inane, and devoid of any relevance to humanity whatsoever, with the possible exception of Millar's Ultimates. This is probably just a passing feeling, but it was surprising nonetheless, considering I've never felt this way about a comic book before.

I know comic books do not have the mainstream acceptance they once had and that not a whole not of people invest time and money in them other than the select cache of geeks known as fanboys, but for the first time I find myself saying to anyone who reads this: I highly recommend this book. It's something quite different from anything that's ever come before it.