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Crabcake Confidential: Amazing Spider-Man: President’s Day Special

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Abraham Lincoln. Whether or not you agree with his policies, Barack Obama made the right choice when he chose Abraham Lincoln as his role model. You can’t really say anything bad about a man who stuck by his principles so closely that he died for his country. Unless you’re some sort of Johnny Reb, you’d be hard-pressed to name anyone else who’d be regarded as the Greatest US President. The thing that doesn’t get mentioned often enough is that Mr. Lincoln was a wiry guy who, in his younger days, liked to wrestle on his free time. I’d like to think that the classic debates with Stephen Douglas were punctuated by an impromptu no-holds barred match.

Spider-Man. Peter Parker by day, crime-fighter by night. Friendly. Neighborhood. Friend of his Aunt May, Gwen Stacy, and the Human Torch. Enemy of Norman Osborn, The Shocker, and J. Jonah Jameson. Radioactive bug bites turn him into a superhero. Alien symbiotes turn him into a super emo. Recently, a deal with the devil effectively dissolved his marriage to wife Mary Jane, much to the confusion of everyone following along in the newspaper funnies section.

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These two heroes, along with Captain America, are finally united in the Amazing Spider-Man: President’s Day Special. (Interestingly, this looks to be the Steve Rogers Captain America, who’s technically still dead. But then again, so is Lincoln, so who am I to talk?) In celebration of President’s Day, the comic is available free online at the Marvel Unlimited site. Yeah, it’s only a six page long story. The rest is a reprint of that over-hyped “Spider-Man meets President Obama” comic. From a comic standpoint, this is the equivalent of those cavity-fighter pamphlets you get at your dentist’s office. So why in the heck should I even give it a look?

Well it is written by the stellar Matt Fraction (author of The Immortal Iron Fist, Punisher War Journal, and winner of the 2007 “Favorite Newcomer Writer” Eagle Award). And, you know, the press was all gaga over that Spider-Man comic featuring Barack Obama. How come they’re not all over the story where Spidey teams up with the Great Emancipator? Are you telling me people weren’t at least morbidly curious by something entitled “Gettysburg Distress”? I mean, look at that cover! I don’t know about you, but I’m in the mood for some Lincoln badassery!

Unfortunately, this is not what happens. The comic never lives up to its glorious cover. In fact, Spidey and Abe never meet. At all. This turns into a really ham-handed effort to be goofy and somehow educational and moving at the same time.

We first see Spidey and Captain America fighting a goofy villain named Professor Abraham von Lincolnstein. Oh, and his army of “unthinking robot thieves.” While fighting these First Family-themed villains, Cap mentions off-handedly that the villainous professor doesn’t even sound like the real Abraham Lincoln. Spidey is perplexed. How would Cap know? He’s old, but he should be talking about his good times with General Eisenhower and Vice President Truman. This leads to a flashback where Cap, in the midst of a fight with the Red Skull, gets caught up in Marvel’s signature deus ex machina — the Cosmic Cube — and gets teleported back in time.

What follows in the world’s most embarrassing retelling of the Gettysburg Address. Let’s start with Cap’s line that introduces the sequence: “No one spoke. No one coughed. No one dared.” Ugh. This is not good writing, Fraction! Oddly enough, Cap pretty much derails his own starry-eyed hero worship by tossing out a piece of trivia: “His voice was high and reedy, due respect, like a Kentucky farmboy.” Yes, Matt: I read Sarah Vowell’s Assassination Vacation, too.

OK, so by this point, I pretty much lost hope that we were going to see Abe, Spidey, and Cap take on, say, The Sentinels… which is a goddamn shame. At least I could hope for a decent retelling of the Gettysburg Address, my personal favorite public speech of all time. This does not happen.

I sure that there’s a great way to portray this speech in sequential art format. It would not involve spectators looking longingly at Lincoln as if he were heaven sent. It would not involve Lincoln finishing off his speech with a squinty-eyed, smiling expression as if he were reminded of a delicious key lime pie. And it would not involve Cap reminiscing how Abe looked directly at him. Look, Cap… if Honest Abe really did see you, he’d have the friggin’ Army of the Potomac on your ass, ‘cuz you stand out like a circus clown in what’s supposed to be a dedication ceremony.

To finish it off, just to hammer the point home that this is all just a big joke anyway, our heroes sit down to have some fruit pies (in an obvious parody of those Hostess Ads). What the hell, Fraction? If the President’s Day Special was going to be a big joke, why didn’t we just have Lincoln punching out Hitler or something? Why shoe-horn, without any context, the most concise summary of why the Civil War was fought in between jokes about Silver Age villains and cheesy ads that aren’t even all that funny, really? I know that this was a throwaway gig, Fraction, but I also doubt someone like Peter David would’ve phoned it in this badly.

Still, The Webcomic Overlook predicts that Amazing Spider-Man: President’s Day Special is the front-runner to win the 2009 Eisner Award for Best Digital Comic. You heard it here first!

Rating: James Buchanan
The worst president in history

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About El Santo

Somehow ended up reading and reviewing almost 300 different webcomics. Life is funny, huh? Despite owning two masks, is not actually a luchador.

Posted on February 17, 2009, in ? Stars, action webcomic, all ages webcomic, comics, Crabcake Confidential, superheroes, The Webcomic Overlook, webcomics and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. I have always found it odd that there is a celebration for US presidents. In Canada we don’t have a Prime Ministers’ Day or anything… although I’d like to think that we could have a day dedicated to Prime Minister Jean Chretien where half the population throw pies at the other half, who then procede to punch the pie throwers in the face.

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