Marvel Milestones: Spider-Man, Hulk... Jennifer Aniston?

Hard-working. Reliable. Consistent. Adaptable.


Undatable. (Sorry.)


Seriously, though — like Aniston, comic books survive, and there's no stronger evidence of this than last month's The Incredible Hulk and The Amazing Spider-Man. Each book celebrated its 600th issue, courtesy of Marvel Comics in its 70th year of publication.


There are two methods Marvel Comics have always employed to ensure the longevity of its characters: posing questions and offering answers. Some issues are explored, even beaten into the ground, and others are ignored, played upon, teased at and used to string the reader along.


The Incredible Hulk and The Amazing Spider-Man are two sides of the same coin. Each issue commemorates the accomplishments of what has made its title star endure decades — and does so by utilizing each of the aforementioned methods.


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The average man could probably identify The Hulk before the Secretary of State (...guilty), but what the average man probably doesn't know is that right now, in the comic books, there are actually two Hulks. It's been the focal point of the series since its relaunch around a year ago — one Hulk is the familiar mean, green, purple-pant wearing Bruce Banner. The other, however, is meaner and far from greener: he's Red Hulk — affectionately referred to as Rulk.


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(The Hulk. Only red.)


Writer Jeph Loeb and Marvel Comics have remained tight-lipped as to the identity of the character, and it was my hope that the mystery would come to a head in the book's 600th issue. It didn't. He's been an interesting villain, taking on Marvel staples like Iron Man, She-Hulk and The Thing and always coming out on top.


He's killed The Abomination, one of Hulk's oldest and most dangerous foes, and has made The Hulk's life a living hell issue after issue. After issue.


Initially, I felt #600 fell a bit flat — when one thinks about a monumental issue, one thinks about a monumental reveal. The only question the book has presented for over a year has concerned the identity of its main antagonist, and the issue would have served as the perfect place for the answer.


One of the reasons Marvel's survived so long, however, lies in the cleverness of its writers. I'll be honest: I'm not a regular Hulk reader, but I've dabbled if only to make sure I end up owning the issue in which Rulk stands revealed. (Maybe he's the Secretary of State?) It's one of the most intriguing mysteries in recent Hulk-lore and I intend to be there when the riddle's unraveled.


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With #600, the mystery only got deeper. You aren't given the identity, but rather you're shown that Red Hulk is part of a network of gamma-radiated super-soldiers. Ben Urich, a reporter, narrates the issue and offers the following: "The story turned out to be much more than 'Who is Red Hulk?' ... If all you do is focus on the Red Hulk, you're going to miss the big picture."


I couldn't agree more — thanks for the subtlety, Mr. Loeb — there's a conspiracy lining the pages of the book, and while the character's identity has been at the forefront, groundwork has obviously been laid for a much larger, more encompassing story. I know I'll be there.


Spider-Man #600 felt much more monumental, much more than just the issue following the last. Written by Dan Slott, it features the return of Dr. Octopus and the wedding of Peter Parker's Aunt May, and guest-stars a plethora of Marvel characters for all the right reasons.


To understand the weight of the issue, one must understand recent Spider-Man history. The basis of Spider-Man is that with great power must come great responsibility — if you haven't read the comic, you've probably seen at least one of the movies (hopefully not the third), and so you're probably aware of this.


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In recent years, Spider-Man unmasked himself publicly (placing all those he held dear in jeopardy) in an effort to save the life of his dying aunt, and dissolved his marriage to Mary Jane Watson in a deal with the devil.


The act spawned Brand New Day, the masthead for the series in which Peter Parker is again more of a carefree, web-slinging bachelor with a rotating cast of new villains and old friends returned from the grave. It reset the book to its status quo. Say what you will, it's my belief that it breathed new life into the series — and I've been counting down the issues until Mary Jane's return.


Which — SPOILER ALERT — she does at the end of the issue. Spider-Man interacts with Daredevil, The Fantastic Four and The Avengers, of which he is a member, all while battling Dr. Octopus — who, for the first time in years, is actually menacing.


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There are elements of Brand New Day mixed in with the Spider-Man stories of old, made relevant again, and the issue truly honors the 599 issues before it. It sets the tone for, dare I say it, the next 600 issues — not by posing more questions, but by exploring what makes Spider-Man such a compelling character to begin with.


It was fulfilling, just as Hulk was, though in a different way. The character of Spider-Man is well, amazing, and the book is as well.


So the next time you're in line for a comic book movie, perhaps Spider-Man 4, keep in mind that you may want to check out a comic book: they aren't reaching 600 issues in a world of television, film and YouTube for no reason.


Maybe it's time to give Jennifer Aniston your attention. She's been working a lot harder for your eye — and she won't try to adopt your kid.



If Brad Pitt hadn't left Jennifer Aniston for Angelina Jolie, it's highly unlikely the two actresses would ever be compared. But he did — and so, they are.

I find them both very beautiful. I think they're both amazing actresses. But there's an obvious difference, nose jobs aside: they're two different types of entertainers. One will always primarily be known for her work in television, the other in film.

Yes, Aniston's career has included film — although let's be honest: for every Marley & Me, there's a Leprechaun. But we didn't see Jolie play the same character for ten years.

While she may not have an Oscar, there's a lot to be said about an actress who can keep a character interesting for a decade. The actors and actresses in television, in my opinion, are much harder workers than those in film — and that's why Jennifer Aniston is a lot like a comic book.

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