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  1. #1

    Exclamation Is JMS run actually THAT good?

    Hello guys, today I'm here to discuss a very controversial topic. I'm a huge Spider-Man fan and I've read almost everything that Marvel published about the character. Every time I listen to people talking about the best runs, lots of them mention the J. Michael Straczynski run. Now, I actually like the whole "atmosphere" about this period (I was very into Spider-Man then) and JMS is a very talented writer, but... is THE RUN actually that good or do people like it because it's a common feeling or nostalgia? Let's analyze the principal storylines by JMS and try to understand if they were really that good. Of course these are personal ideas, so I'd like you to tell your opinions!

    1- COMING HOME. This is actually a very good storyline and it starts to introduce an adult Peter Parker and his new job as a teacher. The mysterious Ezekiel and Morlun make their first appearance and, in general, characters are very well written. There are many mysteries and a "thriller" tone to it. I like this storyline, so I think this is the part most people think of when they mention the JMS run.
    2- HAPPY BIRTHDAY. A "Parker's luck" kind of storyline. Spidey has to fight a monster on his birthday. There are lots of flashbacks about earlier fights (Doc Ock, Goblin and so on) and action, so it's actually a good story. Not much happens, but I like it.
    3- CHASING A DARK SHADOW. This is where something starts getting weirder. Lots of magic elements and mystic characters are a foreshadowing of the next chapter. I kinda like this story, but it doesn't feel like Spider-Man to me.
    4- THE BOOK OF EZEKIEL. Ok, right... I don't get why people love this. Don't get me wrong: I am a huge fan of horror stories and mysteries, but... Spider-Man having mystic powers? Predestination? Why? Was it necessary? Ezekiel is a great character, but the whole storyline feels bizarre and totally out of character. I don't know.
    5- SINS PAST. Don't even get me started on this garbage. We all know this story, we all hate it. Straczynski craps all over continuity, Gwen and Mary Jane for pure shock factor. I know Quesada changed his original plans, but they were stupid anyway. The lowest point in Spider-Man history (except for... see that later). AWFUL.
    6- THE OTHER - EVOLVE OR DIE. Another horror story, and this time Spidey almost gets killed by Morlun. It's not bad, but... I still don't get this whole "everything is spider related". Here Peter gets reborn in a new body and there are giant spider monsters. Don't know about it, just feels completely out of character and useless.
    7- THE WAR AT HOME. I don't like Civil War that much, so not a big fan of this. Also, it's the prelude of the OTHER worst Spider-Man story ever. Aunt May gets shot by hitmen that wanted to kill Peter after he revealed his identity during Civil War. Like, that can't go wrong, right?
    8- BACK IN BLACK. Oh, this is great. Peter goes crazy and beats Kingpin like a pig after he ordered the shot that hit Aunt May. I love the tone of this. Yeah, there are stupid things like the black suit hanging from a building for twenty years, but seeing Peter going completely insane and almost becoming the Punisher was interesting. Unfortunately, after this... The Apocalypse.
    9- ONE MORE DAY. Right... Screw this. This is not Spider-Man. This is a middle finger to all the fans. Peter making A DEAL WITH THE DEVIL to save Aunt May? What about power and responsibility? Again, I know Quesada forced Straczynski to write this so Peter could be young again and blablabla, but this trash is still a part of his run.

    And that was it. I wouldn't consider it a fantastic run. It had fantastic moments, but awful ones also. What are your opinions?

  2. #2
    Better than YOU! Alan2099's Avatar
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    I never liked his run at all.

    JMS never seemed to click right with the characters. There personalities seemed to shift when he took over and he wrote MJ and Peter like they've suddenly had an extra ten years of marriage. Then he completely changed Aunt May's entire personality.

    He avoided the classic rogues and often seemed to use lesser ripoffs of them. He also ditched almost the entire supporting cast. Spider-man has a great supporting cast and a great set of rogues. It would be almost criminal not to use them even IF you replaced them with something else interesting, which he did not.

    Then we have Morlun. At best, Morlun was Morbius except THE MOST POWERFUL THING EVER!!!!! Minus anything that made Morbius interesting and lacking in any kind of personality.

    The Spider-Totem stuff went compeltley against the themes of the book and dragged it down.

    I'm not even going to get into Sins past and One More Day, (although I will say the idea behind One More Day wasn't a bad one, but the book itself was written poorly.)

  3. #3
    The Future is Now WebSlingWonder's Avatar
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    I actually really enjoyed his run. JMS, for me, was my introduction into 616 Spider-Man outside of Howard Mackie when I was a kid. But as I grew older and read more of his run, I realized that it was just a really solid run. He understood and focused on Peter Parker in a way that I feel like very few writers actually have. The only ones I can think of would be Roger Stern or Paul Jenkins for understanding Peter's voice, motivations, and his thoughts. Plus, he portrayed Peter like a true boss; taking on heavy hitting villains and not backing down from the fight. I loved that, and really speaks to Spider-Man's endurance as a hero. That no matter what, so long as he gets the chance, he'll fight until the end.

    I'll echo some sentiments that the Spider-totem stuff never really went anywhere, but I count it as part of the era of experimentation that Marvel was doing. I liked that JMS tried something new instead of giving us the same. Ezekiel was an interesting and complex figure, and I loved his and Peter's relationship as it developed over the story.

    And of course, I can't talk about this run without mentioning Mary Jane. Alan2099 is correct that the supporting cast was diminished, but that was entirely purposeful: Peter, MJ, and Aunt May were the Parker family, and they needed healing and reconciliation after all the mess they had been through with "Clone Saga" and "The Next Chapter." So I love how JMS took his time and developed those characters over the course of the story. But decreasing the supporting characters, he gives more room to them for their growth.

    I will also echo the second half of the run after Romita Jr. left was also not as good as the first half, but we all know what they were building towards. Still, I count it as not only one of the best runs on the title, but also my favorite 616 Spider-Man run (although Spencer could definitely change that!).
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  4. #4
    Extraordinary Member Revolutionary_Jack's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by federicodettofred View Post
    Hello guys, today I'm here to discuss a very controversial topic.
    JMS' run has always been controversial and highly debated, back when it was released and later on. So it's not some controversial or edgy thing, or a cool thing in fact, to do a thread dedicated to bashing him.

    Every time I listen to people talking about the best runs, lots of them mention the J. Michael Straczynski run. Now, I actually like the whole "atmosphere" about this period (I was very into Spider-Man then) and JMS is a very talented writer, but... is THE RUN actually that good or do people like it because it's a common feeling or nostalgia?
    I read the run when it came out and hit the stands, and last year, I read it from start to finish, and I would say on the whole it holds up very well.

    So it's not nostalgia because I read it recently and my feelings towards it are strong as ever. Stronger in fact. When I read JMS I didn't know ASM before and had no real exposure. It was my introduction to the character. When I re-read it I had gone through a lot of back issues, and had read Lee-Ditko, Lee-Romita, Conway, Stern Defalco, Michelinie. I also read a bit of the period from just before JMS came in. His first issues were a quantum leap from the dreck that existed before.

    1- COMING HOME. This is actually a very good storyline and it starts to introduce an adult Peter Parker and his new job as a teacher. The mysterious Ezekiel and Morlun make their first appearance and, in general, characters are very well written. There are many mysteries and a "thriller" tone to it. I like this storyline, so I think this is the part most people think of when they mention the JMS run.
    2- HAPPY BIRTHDAY. A "Parker's luck" kind of storyline. Spidey has to fight a monster on his birthday. There are lots of flashbacks about earlier fights (Doc Ock, Goblin and so on) and action, so it's actually a good story. Not much happens, but I like it.
    It's kind of bizarre that you pass over many stories and ideas between these two arcs. Like "The Conversation" (ASM#37), the entirely silent issue with Peter and MJ, and of course Doomed Affairs (ASM#50). Not to mention the 9/11 issue. These issues, even if they are single one-shots are among the best and most remembered and loved stories in JMS' entire run.

    ...but it doesn't feel like Spider-Man to me.
    What does feel like Spider-Man to you then?

    Ok, right... I don't get why people love this. Don't get me wrong: I am a huge fan of horror stories and mysteries, but... Spider-Man having mystic powers? Predestination? Why? Was it necessary? Ezekiel is a great character, but the whole storyline feels bizarre and totally out of character. I don't know.
    This doesn't even describe the stuff that happens inside the story. It's certainly no analysis.

    8- BACK IN BLACK. Oh, this is great.
    At least something we agree on.

    And that was it. I wouldn't consider it a fantastic run. It had fantastic moments, but awful ones also. What are your opinions?
    Fantastic moments, some awful ones apply to any extended run on Spider-Man by a single writer. Lee-Romita's run had fantastic moments and awful ones. As did Michelinie's, now JMS, and later Dan Slott (though I'd argue the awful > fantastic in his case). Historically speaking, in the classic period, most Spider-Man runs are quite short. Lee-Ditko - 38 issues, Conway, around 40 I think, Stern had less than 30. Defalco also 30-odd. Sturgeon's law is gonna apply quite starkly the longer any writer writes on Spider-Man.

    Ultimately JMS will be remembered for his best stories and the high points of his run and not the low points. His run had two phases.
    -- Everything with John Romita Jr. as penciller (Coming Home to Book of Ezekiel).
    -- Everything after that.

    The first story JMS did when JRJR stepped down was "Sins' Past".

    Quote Originally Posted by Alan2099 View Post
    There personalities seemed to shift when he took over and he wrote MJ and Peter like they've suddenly had an extra ten years of marriage.
    What scenes and moments can you give as an example to support this claim?

    Then he completely changed Aunt May's entire personality.
    Aunt May's personality has always been changed and altered over the years.

    He avoided the classic rogues and often seemed to use lesser ripoffs of them.
    Okay who is Morlun and Shathra supposed to be a "lesser ripoff" off?

    He also ditched almost the entire supporting cast.
    Not every Spider-Man run focuses on the entire parade of the supporting cast at the same time. In the case of JMS, he was taking over after Aunt May had a) died in a classic beloved story, b) revived in a third-rate incoherent story, c) on revival her character had become a grotesque caricature. Likewise, MJ was written out for a time, first killed off, and then secretly imprisoned with a stalker and had acquired baggage...so he had to find a way to update and revise that, and emphasize on Peter's family and the people he loved more than anyone.

    Talking about "muh supporting cast" is a cheap and easy claim but it's also fundamentally meaningless.

    The Spider-Totem stuff went compeltley against the themes of the book and dragged it down.
    How exactly?

  5. #5
    Extraordinary Member Revolutionary_Jack's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by WebSlingWonder View Post
    I actually really enjoyed his run. JMS, for me, was my introduction into 616 Spider-Man outside of Howard Mackie when I was a kid. But as I grew older and read more of his run, I realized that it was just a really solid run. He understood and focused on Peter Parker in a way that I feel like very few writers actually have. The only ones I can think of would be Roger Stern or Paul Jenkins for understanding Peter's voice, motivations, and his thoughts. Plus, he portrayed Peter like a true boss; taking on heavy hitting villains and not backing down from the fight. I loved that, and really speaks to Spider-Man's endurance as a hero. That no matter what, so long as he gets the chance, he'll fight until the end.

    I'll echo some sentiments that the Spider-totem stuff never really went anywhere, but I count it as part of the era of experimentation that Marvel was doing. I liked that JMS tried something new instead of giving us the same. Ezekiel was an interesting and complex figure, and I loved his and Peter's relationship as it developed over the story.

    And of course, I can't talk about this run without mentioning Mary Jane. Alan2099 is correct that the supporting cast was diminished, but that was entirely purposeful: Peter, MJ, and Aunt May were the Parker family, and they needed healing and reconciliation after all the mess they had been through with "Clone Saga" and "The Next Chapter." So I love how JMS took his time and developed those characters over the course of the story. But decreasing the supporting characters, he gives more room to them for their growth.

    I will also echo the second half of the run after Romita Jr. left was also not as good as the first half, but we all know what they were building towards. Still, I count it as not only one of the best runs on the title, but also my favorite 616 Spider-Man run (although Spencer could definitely change that!).
    There's so much more to what JMS did in his run that nobody talks about. What I loved on re-reading his run, is his cameo-style. From Coming Home onwards, JMS specialized in scenes and bits where you had panels with bystanders poking in for a walk-on bit and this was hilarious. He did it effortlessly right through his run. And no writer before quite did it as effortlessly as he did.

    Also the comedy in his run is great. It hasn't dated at all.

  6. #6
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    People who don't like the totem stuff generally misunderstand it. The point of it was that Peter's Spider-Man had become mythical. Whether or not it's true is irrelevant - the fact there are people who believe it to be true is what is relevant.

    It is also meant to parallel Peter's life as Spider-Man to his life as a high school teacher. Point is that Peter has fully reached adulthood and there are now people looking up to him (younger people especially) the same way they look up to people in real life.
    Last edited by Kaitou D. Kid; 09-04-2020 at 08:08 AM.

  7. #7
    Extraordinary Member TheCape's Avatar
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    Is a solid run, i like the focus in Peter, MJ and May and althougth the Spider-Totem stuff was weird, i did enjoy it, mostly because the book really needed something different at the time and the way that it was handled during the JRJ era was fine for me, until The Other anyway. Still has some weird stuff that make me raise my eyebrows, but it is a solid expirience.
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  8. #8
    Incredible Member Laufeyson's Avatar
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    JMS to me is the anti-thesis of Dan Slott and Roger Stern which is he really shit the bed with character, but his story is solid. What won him over to some fans is how he approached MJ and Peter's points of view. In a way he really great at writing that point of view of Peter and MJ that fans would love. But if you dissect the character a bit, you know, deeper, then you will get that he doesn't really know his characters and that is portrayed with how wrong the sound of some of his characters are.

    Not to mention, he brings out Spider-Totem which is the worst idea at that time ever and Morlun is just an idiot. I mean Morlun is just Morbius but he is really uninteresting because he never actually bothered to write Morlun's characters. But what helped the Totem and Morlun storyline is JrJr who gave the best art job that he ever did and how awesome the fight between Morlun and Spider-Man is even if when you think about it, it doesn't make sense. But, if anything from my manga and anime times teaches me, people love those nonsensical things like that. Including me of course. I love shit like that.

    I think all of this really echoed because he really had a great idea, and his skill as the writer far exceed those of past Spider-Man's writers and the ones succeed after him which helped him really a lot during writing even the worst idea ever created. And to maximize that, there is filter too which is his editor is really good, but the moment he had a little bit freedom in his writing which is the moment during Deodato Jr took over the drawing, that's the moment his downfall apparent. Because he starts to go overboard with his idea, like what happens to his Superman. His idea sounds great at his first glance or the most idiotic ever, but it's still readable because of his skill as writer is top class.

    Still, even after all of that, I can still count him in solid top ten best writers of Spider-Man even if his greatness is happening because he succeded after such a horrible run by Howard Mackie and Bryne. Though i didn't say his run is bad, some stuff like 9-11 stuff are great, but even then I really can't enjoy reading his story much.
    Last edited by Laufeyson; 09-04-2020 at 08:06 AM.
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  9. #9
    Extraordinary Member TheCape's Avatar
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    mean Morlun is just Morbius but he is really uninteresting because he never actually bothered to write Morlun's characters.
    That the weirdest comparison that had seem, Morbius was a tragic monster as far as i remember. Morlus was just a wall that Peter had to punch, wich is why he shouldn't have come back but is too late to complain about that, he served his purpose.
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  10. #10
    Extraordinary Member TheCape's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kaitou D. Kid View Post
    People who don't like the totem stuff generally misunderstand it. The point of it was that Peter's Spider-Man had become mythical. Whether or not it's true is irrelevant - the fact there are people who believe it to be true is what is relevant.

    It is also meant to parallel Peter's life as Spider-Man to his life as a high school teacher. Point is that Peter has fully reached adulthood and there are now people looking up to him (younger people especially) the same way they look up to people in real life.
    I think that if The Other hadn't happened, people wouldn't mind that part of the run as much.
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  11. #11
    The Future is Now WebSlingWonder's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Revolutionary_Jack View Post
    There's so much more to what JMS did in his run that nobody talks about. What I loved on re-reading his run, is his cameo-style. From Coming Home onwards, JMS specialized in scenes and bits where you had panels with bystanders poking in for a walk-on bit and this was hilarious. He did it effortlessly right through his run. And no writer before quite did it as effortlessly as he did.

    Also the comedy in his run is great. It hasn't dated at all.
    I will definitely agree on that. I remember once scene in #50 where Peter takes MJ to the side to talk, and an older couple was like, "Meshugge". I never knew what it meant, but it was hilarious to me.
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  12. #12
    Extraordinary Member Revolutionary_Jack's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Laufeyson View Post
    In a way he really great at writing that point of view of Peter and MJ that fans would love. But if you dissect the character a bit, you know, deeper, then you will get that he doesn't really know his characters and that is portrayed with how wrong the sound of some of his characters are.
    Can you actually go ahead and dissect, you know deeper, to explain in full what you mean?

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Laufeyson View Post
    I mean Morlun is just Morbius but he is really uninteresting because he never actually bothered to write Morlun's characters.
    The point of Morlun is that he is a force of nature and not a character in the same way that Kraven or Morbius are. The fact that Spider-Man was able to beat him is JMS' way of saying that Spider-Man is mythical and can stand up to someone like Morlun who has lived for hundreds of years. You couldn't really have made that point if Morlun was different or if you used a standard Spider-Man rogue.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheCape View Post
    I think that if The Other hadn't happened, people wouldn't mind that part of the run as much.
    That storyline was also a mess for editorial reasons. JMS admitted this himself.

    The way it is presented in the first part of the run, it is no different than what Grant Morrison would say about Spider-Man.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheCape View Post
    Is a solid run, i like the focus in Peter, MJ and May and althougth the Spider-Totem stuff was weird, i did enjoy it, mostly because the book really needed something different at the time and the way that it was handled during the JRJ era was fine for me, until The Other anyway. Still has some weird stuff that make me raise my eyebrows, but it is a solid expirience.
    If someone made a list of the most universally despised Spider-Man stories ever. OMD and Sins Past make that list along with Clone Saga and Year One, and Totem and The Other are maybe in the 20 worst stories ever. While I give him credit for Back In Black, 9/11 character development and a few others, OMD, and Sins Past were stories that personally angered me along with BND Clone Saga and Silk, and for that reason alone, I give him a Grade of D.

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